• Erica

Figuring Out Healthy Life?

Updated: Mar 23, 2020


Fresh kale

Figuring Out Healthy Life is a blog about my personal journey to changing my lifestyle and that of my family's. I will offer my point of view during this transition and the lessons I'm learning along the way. I will also offer tips to ease the transition to a healthier lifestyle that I have encountered or used along the way. I am a physician, an anesthesiologist to be specific, and I take care of people each day with chronic diseases. Many of the diseases can be prevented or improved with a better lifestyle. That simply. However, many people do not know the toll that an unhealthy diet takes on the body, or those that do know, find it too complicated and overwhelming to change their ways. Several chronic diseases are lifestyle-related, meaning people can get them by living an unhealthy lifestyle. These include heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers to name only a few. I know you're asking why in the world would an anesthesiologist care so much about diet-related health. Our diets have a tremendous impact on our health. I did not even really appreciate it until my oldest daughter, who seven at the time, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease a couple of years ago. I knew that it was unhealthy to eat certain things, and I thought I had a decent grasp of what was considered healthy. However, I did not gain a full appreciation of how much it affects our bodies until I started learning more about diet-related health. The cause of Crohn’s disease is not entirely understood. They believe there is a genetic component, as well as an environmental component. At the time of her diagnosis, I was not aware of anyone in my family with Crohn’s disease. It turns out that my husband may have had a relative with the disease; although, that relative has since passed away from other causes, so it is not entirely clear whether this person had Crohn’s or not. It is beside the point. She has Crohn’s disease and will have it. A short time after her diagnosis, we had a consultation with a registered dietician. She explained to us that there are foods that cause inflammation and foods that combat inflammation. Wait, what? This was not a topic I remember discussing in medical school. Nonetheless, I was very intrigued. At this time, I was already a vegetarian and had severely decreased the meat intake in my household. I had developed a vested interest in what we ingested because I started the journey of educating myself on the effects of our diet. It all happened by accident. I had been talking to my husband about potential business ideas. He told me we should watch this movie called What the Health that he heard about through other’s discussions. I had never heard of the movie but watched it and was intrigued nevertheless. I understand the presentation of some of the information was controversial, but with never being a big meat eater, I decided at that time to become a vegetarian. Around the same time (may have been the same day but before watching the movie), I also ordered a book called The China Study. I also found this book on accident while searching for healthy food books on Amazon. In reading the book, my interest in diet-related health grew even more. In the barest bone explanation, the book explains studies on why a plant-based diet is the healthiest. It goes into the links between our diets and several of the diet-related diseases that plague so many people today. It also goes into reasons why a plant-based diet may not have been pushed in the past. After watching the movie and reading the book in such close proximity, I was very, very intrigued by our diets. I immediately tried making all of us only plant-based. I tossed all of what I could identify at the time as junk food out of our pantry and stopped serving meat. Needless to say, that quick transition did not go over well with the entire household. Following the meeting with the dietician a short time after starting my mission, my interest only grew. I started reading nutrition labels. I mean really reading them. I started paying close attention to what was in the list of ingredients. I began to realize that I had no idea what I was previously feeding my family. Not to mention all the drive-through stops on busy days. Which, by the way, we are a family of six. So the drive-through or pizza man provided meals more times a week than I would have liked to realize for sure. However, with a group of frustrated forced plant-based eaters, I decided that this transition into a healthier lifestyle would take more time. I decided to back off a little and allow everyone time to get onboard. I am married, but I keep saying I did this or that because it took my husband some time to get onboard. I was frustrated at the time, but I totally get it now. It is not that what we were eating tasted bad. It was coming to the realization that it was not good for us. It was coming to terms that we had to make a change, a change for our daughter, for our family. He is totally on board now. He had to do it in his time. At this time, we cook every day. We, basically, have to cook all of our meals. It was a daunting task starting off, but it’s getting easier. While my husband used to do most of the cooking, it’s pretty much mostly me. It is overwhelming changing your dietary lifestyle, and I think he is still in the "stunned" phase. So basically, I am a vegetarian who does not eat dairy but eats seafood and eggs on occasion (making me a pescatarian). The rest of the family eats seafood, eggs, and poultry on occasion. Our diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, seeking organic as much as possible. We have meat maybe 1-3 times per month. We avoid highly processed foods and of the processed foods aim to eat mostly minimally processed (like pre-cut or frozen produce). We have 4 kids, a 12-year-old son, a 9-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old daughter, and a 2-year-old son. Our 12-year-old is having the toughest time adjusting out of all the children. He cannot wrap his head around how eating the food he finds delicious can be bad for his health. We are determined to get through to him, however. We continue to have conservations with him about why we've made these changes and have been allowing him to have some control over his transition. He is coming around now. Our oldest daughter has Crohn’s, and while the other kids can have a piece of cake or scoop of ice cream at a birthday party, she cannot. She has a really tough time in these situations (even when we offer healthy replacements) because she wants to fit in. It is so tough as a parent to see her hurt like that. I’ve tried to allow her to taste a little here and there; however, her body always lets her know when we feed it something with which it does not agree. When we stick strictly to our diet, she feels completely better. I am hoping that maybe one day, she can control her symptoms with diet only, no medications. I have read about people who have and met a person who has learned to control this disease with diet alone. That’s our goal, which I feel will get easier as she gets older and has more understanding about what is going on with her body. As for our youngest 2 children, I am hoping, with the early exposure to healthy eating, it will only get easier with them. They eat like typical young kids, picking at food somedays and devouring it on others. So here we are on this journey. We have by no means perfected the healthy lifestyle. Have most people? I want to invite you along on this journey and share with you what I learn along the way. I hope you join me! I hope this blog inspires you to strive for the healthiest version of yourself as well. I enjoy a career where I have the opportunity to help people every day; however, I have this desire inside to help way more people than I do right now. I really hope to touch as many lives as possible. Thanks for reading!


Always striving to help,


Erica


For more helpful health information, check out www.getfitward.com, then venture under the Fitward Guide tab!

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