Originally published by Bett Harris on Medium April 13, 2019
I grew up in the ’70s when everyone consumed white bread, butter, and milk at every meal.
As a young girl, a meat-and-potatoes type meal rarely appeared on our table. For me, breakfast consisted of sugary cereal and milk, and lunch included a sandwich or french fries from the cafeteria at High School. Dinner almost always came from a box or can. No one in my family ate fruit.
This way of eating became ingrained in me.
As a teenager, I worked after school at a take-out restaurant, similar to the drive-in burger stands of the ’60s. As an employee, I ate for free so I indulged in all types of fried foods, pop and ice cream. During college I tended tables, and fast food became my mainstay. Taste, affordability, and accessibility drove my food choices.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
By age 35 my body began to break down. My body sustained too much damage as a result of years of unhealthy eating. I tipped the scale as obese and had arthritis due to wear and tear on my joints from extra weight. I tried a variety of different diets hoping I could reign in my eating and lose weight. I had some successes but I always seemed to fall back into my comfort zone.
3 steps forward. 2 steps back. Repeat.
I zigzagged back and forth and up and down with foods I ate and my weight over the next few years. I did a lot of research into diet and health and applied everything I read. Some things worked, and some things…not so much. I kept what worked and tossed the rest.
By age 45 I had established a healthy diet and weight. Despite years of zigzagging, I finally got to a healthy weight. Most of my joint pain disappeared, and I felt strong and alive for the first time in a very long time. For a few years, I enjoyed optimal health.
That changed when stress came knocking.
At 48, I entered a very stressful period in my life. Over the next 7 years, illness and eventual death of 3 of my 5 siblings knocked me off my game. Emotional, mental and physical stress from caregiving and dealing with the loss of my loved ones challenged me like never before.
2 steps forward. 3 steps back. Repeat.
I found my new-found health in jeopardy. It started one day as a burning on the outside of my right foot. It progressed to include burning, pain, and tingling in both feet. I eventually received a diagnosis, Small Fiber Neuropathy. Doctors performed tests to rule out some common causes like Diabetes, Celiac and Lyme Disease, all of which came back negative. As it turned out they could find no discernible cause for my condition. This meant no medical cured, only treatment.
I don’t like to take medication, I never have.
As my grief settled and I had more time to devote to me, I began to zigzag my way back to health. I have always opted for natural remedies and sought natural healing. I began to apply and reapply all I had learned and practiced over the years. Over time I reclaimed my health again. Today, my symptoms are gone, and I have maintained a normal weight for 2 years. Three key habits formed the basis of my recovery. I share them here so you can begin your journey towards optimal health.
1. Eat a variety of raw and cooked vegetables and fruit
Eat as much and as many fruit and vegetables as you want. It’s essential to fill up on these healthy and natural food as much as possible. By eating natural food, our body is supplied with the best possible raw material to use to function and rebuild. Eating fruits and vegetables is the single best investment we can make in our health.
I see my health as an investment, not an expense.
2. Limit processed foods (sugar, carbs, dairy, junk, and fast food)
The more we limit any or all processed foods, the more we experience better health. We must consume healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, as they supply all necessary building blocks for the body. However, the choices we make here will decide how quickly our health turns around, and how effectively we gain and maintain health over time. This may be the hardest habit to break but it can be done.
3. Fast. Yes, I said STOP EATING!
There’s a lot of current research today that supports fasting. Some professionals suggest fasting every day by not eating for a least 16 hours. That allows 8 hours a day for food intake. Others suggest day long and even week-long fasts. I suggest you start gradually by allowing a shorter and shorter time frame for food intake until you can fast for a full 16 hours. Do some research to determine your best method for success.
The habits above are simple and adaptable to all lifestyles. Start small and stay determined to apply these habits every day. If you commit to making small changes each day than like me, you will zigzag yourself right into optimal health.
ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL BEFORE MAKING ANY LIFESTYLE CHANGES.