A few days ago I turned 57. I feel fantastic. In fact, I feel better now than I’ve felt in my entire adult life. Why?
Five years ago I made a radical change in the way I ate. After years of vegetarian/vegan eating, I gradually developed a variety of health issues. No matter how ‘good’ I was, I never really felt very good: Chronic fatigue, arthritis, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, poor digestion, horrible gut aches & gas, kidney issues, headaches, weird aches & pains, slow healing of cuts, and more. I kept gaining more weight each month, in spite of an austere way of eating. I had given up sweets in my 20s, all milk products in my 30s, and yet my immune system was a wreck, with constantly returning migraines, bronchial issues & viral infections. I also lacked motivation & focus. In my 40’s I began to suspect gluten & other grains to be a problem as well.
I’ve been gardening for a long time, and as I started looking into and incorporating what I learned about permaculture, I also began to realize that no matter what I did, I couldn’t grow enough grains & beans in my Urban Garden to support my family throughout the year. So eating those things might not be sustainable for me. I also realized that all the Vegan dogma about meat vs agriculture only applies to Industrially raised meats, and doesn’t actually take Industrially raised grains into account, and on the whole, all industrially raised foods are wasting resources and destroying our land, groundwater, the economy, and lives.
Around the time I turned 50, I read a book by Charles Eisenstein called The Yoga of Eating. It’s a very interesting read that advocates learning to trust our instincts and our desires, to recover our authentic appetites, to let go of Dogma and learn to truly nourish ourselves on all levels. It’s a short book, but very thought provoking, especially if you have a history of eating disorders & self-judgement (I do). This book was a game changer for me, not just regarding food, but regarding all kinds of choices I make on a daily basis.
Eisenstein asks, “What are you saying ‘yes’ to?”
I’m saying yes to growing as much of my own food as I can, and nourishing myself, my family, and friends on simple traditional meals. I can build health in my garden by adding certain elements (like mulch & compost) that encourage biodiversity in the soil: Bacteria, fungi, and other supportive life forms that symbiotically help the plants to flourish. I can do the same thing in my gut, the soil of my body, by making and ingesting homemade cultured foods, because health really begins with a healthy gut, and a healthy gut is a microbiological miracle of symbiosis that enables your body to absorb nutrients and thrive.
I’m saying yes to a healthy local economy, animals who are allowed to do their natural animal things, whether it be grazing, pecking, or rooting, with humane lives & as little suffering as possible. Locally sourced food supports the economy, the earth, and quality control. When you buy a side of “grass fed” beef from the guy that lives outside of town, you are supporting his family & his community. He’s just another person like you. You’re also saying “yes” to a lifestyle that supports real people, living real lives, making quality choices. No middle men.
I’m saying yes to taking responsibility for my own health, the health of my little piece of Earth that is my Garden, which I call Terri’s Airy Fairie World, and this has also led me deeper into Permaculture and it’s principles. I am my own Science Fair Experiment. Counting my body as Zone 00, and using the first principle of Permaculture (Observe & Interact), I discovered that if I remove certain foods from my body, I experience excellent health. If I re-introduce those same foods (always one at a time), like clockwork old symptoms re-appear. Remove the foods that are suspect and health returns.
This process takes time. I’ve been doing this since I was in high school, when I realized that every time I ate bacon I got a 3 – 5 day migraine. This discovery initially led to my decision to no longer eat pork, and to become a vegetarian. Many years later I realized that the pork wasn’t the problem, it was the nitrates in the processed pork that caused my headaches.
This year I observed & finally accepted that all Nightshades are out for me. When all the Paleo people started saying “Potatoes are ok now!” I quickly discovered that potatoes are not ok for me. They cause major problems for my feet and hands (you can’t blame everything on gluten & dairy). Over the course of the year I’ve tested green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, chilis, tomatoes. They all cause the same problems, with varying degrees. My plantar fasciitis returns with a vengeance, my achilles tendons swell up painfully, it’s like the muscles that allow me to roll up to the ball of my foot while walking are temporarily paralyzed, so I can’t walk right, & my ankles swell and stiffen. That’s not all, and that’s just my feet. It effects my hands as well, and being a musician, I can’t have that! When I don’t eat nightshades, all of these symptoms miraculously go away. Some doctor would probably say that there is no scientific evidence to verify my claims, I’m just some crackpot hypochondriac. Whatever. My body is my verification. That’s enough for me!
The amazing part? Every body, like every fingerprint, and every snowflake, is unique. Some people can eat anything & everything. Good for them. I hold no resentments. Enjoy!
I flourish on rich meaty bowls of homemade soup loaded with well cook root veggies, greens, oniony things, and some animal protein. I eat eggs, meat & veggies from mostly local sources. I like food that is mostly Savory. Occasionally I eat something mildly sweet, like a custard, rich with gelatin, eggs, and coconut milk. I know that coconuts don’t grow anywhere near St. Louis. Tea doesn’t grow here either, and I love full leaf black teas….sigh…nobody is perfect, and we don’t have to be.
Call it Paleo, Primal, Ancestral, AIP, or whatever…
I’m saying “no thank you” to guilt, dogma, processed foods, and poor health.
If you aren’t experiencing robust health, I encourage you to be your own Science Fair experiment! You’ll be amazed by the things you learn from and about your body!
I eat well. I feel fantastic, strong, energized, creative, and I’m grateful for my health.
Here’s today’s breakfast: uncured fresh bacon, sunny side up eggs, and sautéed brussels.