I have recently started seeing a Naturopathic Physician to get some extra help in moving towards finally curing my seasonal allergies (more on this in a bit), and we got into talking a bit about my past and the type of lifestyle I used to live. The fact is, that I worked at McDonald’s for a number of years during high school and university, and ate there fairly frequently. I basically went through the menu so many times I got sick of it and started making my own inventions. Oh ya, and you would not believe how much diet pop (American translation = diet soda) I would drink, and other fast food I would eat. Strangely enough, I also met my wife working at McDonald’s although she was the smart one a hardly ever ate there, except for McFlurries which were way cheaper than Dairy Queen. My Naturopath said wow, take a second and look where you were back then, and where you are now, it is a huge 180 from McDonald’s to #JERF, smart exercise, and more things to come.
That conversation really got me thinking about it, and both my wife and I have come a long way with regards to a healthy lifestyle. I will note though that she always seemed to intuitively know what to eat to make her feel good, and those things for her are what we now would call “real food”, or as most of you out there may call it “paleo friendly food”; but sadly, she was always told these things were not good for her and she should be eating something else – I definitely played a part in this particularly after graduating university when we began to try and follow a “healthy” Standard North American (since I live in Canada) Diet – Sorry Love :-).
I have also had people ask and suggest that I write a little bit of a blog/story about my journey to this type of lifestyle, so here it is. I have also decided that since: “our past does not define us, how we deal with our past and our actions in the now and future define us” I will also write a bit about my plans for the future, but be warned that they are not specific even though I really wish they were.
The Younger Years
In general I had a pretty good childhood as an only child, middle class family income with a house, 3 cars, a basketball net, and a few really close friends. In my younger days, I would play outside for hours doing every sport you could probably think of, road hockey, basketball, baseball, golf, football, bike riding, croquet, frisbee, rollerblade, fish, hike, run, jump, but not soccer, never soccer :-). I also played competitive basketball, baseball, and athletics (track) up until I started university. I was pretty good at most sports, but never really had the drive or ambition to put in enough effort to really succeed beyond high school at any of them, which is something I had been seriously regretting until quite recently. This all sounds like a fairly good foundation for a healthy well rounded individual, and for the most part it was since I do consider myself pretty well rounded with a pretty laid back personality.
However, I was sick very often as a young lad with frequent colds, sore throats and most of all, ear infections. I can’t even tell you how many ear infections I had, and unfortunately, when you have an ear infection, guess what the doctor gives you…that’s right boys and girls, antibiotics. So, as a fairly young child I had multiple courses of antibiotics, multiple times per year – sorry healthy gut bacteria, but it wasn’t my fault :-(. I am serious though, this probably messed me up real good, and fortunately for me it didn’t lead to something devastating like a severe autoimmune disease such as MS, but it likely did cause, or significantly contribute to my battle with seasonal allergies since my mid grade school days. Now I am not one to lay blame here, but my parents did smoke until I was 10 and clearly there is a link with antibiotics and gut bacteria issues so…I know it’s not your fault mom, dad, and family doc, but just saying 🙂
The Middle Years
Now as I was saying earlier, I worked at McDonald’s for about 5 or 6 years total and this occurred in later high school and University, and yes, I did actually eat there as much as possible although I avoided the fries later on because I thought it was healthier that way. When I didn’t eat there, my parents made home cooked meals with decent food ,for the most part (minus my mothers burnt meat cooking), but after dinner I would stuff my face with ice cream or chips or candy. Looking back, I do recall significant bloating and gas issues probably related to the junk food and/or wheat. During this time I was also, what I would now call, addicted to pop and diet pop, and the variety of foods I would eat when I went out for dinner consisted of chicken Cesar salads and bread sticks.
On the bright side, one of my favorite food memories as a kid was bacon and eggs on Sundays at my Nana’s house. She was the one who taught me to cook my eggs in bacon fat – thanks Nana, you da best, and you would be proud of my egg cooking these days! Fast forward back to high school, and me bringing some of my friends back to my house at lunchtime….me: “does anyone want any bacon and eggs fried in bacon fat”…them: “no way”…me: “oh well, I will eat the whole pack of bacon on my own with some eggs”. That is no joke, I ate that whole pack of bacon and grossed out all of my friends. Now eating a whole pack of bacon is likely not ideal for anyone, but I was a growing teenager, and it was definitely better for me that all that crap junk food.
In the end, during this time I thought I was healthy, I was still thin, I thought that bloating and gas were just normal, and I had absolutely no clue that seasonal allergies could be related to the food you ate. So onward into university, continuing the junk food trend, and fortunately I lived at home during university or I probably would have been even worse off food wise with residence cafeterias and all. Considering I was a kinesiology undergrad, I did stay active going to the gym, doing some personal training, and playing pickup basketball, thinking I was just counteracting all the bad food I was eating. Little did I know it really doesn’t work that way and I was just making it harder on myself for the later years when I would want to make a change and get really healthy.
The Later Years
So once I graduated university, my wife and I decided to move across the country from Ontario to Vancouver BC, we were both personal trainers at the time, and really began trying to eat “healthy”, so we went from prepackaged meals like sidekicks to whole wheat/grain pasta and breads, oatmeal, turkey bacon, etc. We also devised a delicious pizza crust recipe with whole wheat flour and flax seeds, and this may be one of the only foods I could actually say I miss. Oh ya, and we used margarine, but only from the container that said “olive oil”, because it didn’t have any trans fat…which is crap! Again, I have to give credit to my wife here because she would say she likes rice pasta better, and I would tell her to eat whole wheat pasta, and she would only eat part of her bun at a restaurant, and I would make fun of her (not rudely). Little did I know she had it way more right than I did. After a couple years in personal training and clinical kinesiology, I transitioned into the insurance industry at a desk job, and from here my addiction to pop skyrocketed, diet pop mind you, but really, what’s the difference right? I would literally drink 2-4 cans of diet Pepsi each day – holy Moses
Even with this effort to be healthier, I still had the gas, bloating, and allergy issue. I also had a really hard time going for more than 2 hours without eating as I had a tendency to get a bit shaky.
From Paleo to JERF
Deciding to try the “paleo” thing started one day when my wife brought home “The Paleo Solution” by my man Robb Wolf. The reason that this registered with her was that 1.) she was having some weird side abdominal pains that a physician told her might be due to some of the food she was eating and gave her a list of such foods, and 2.) The first chapter of the book resonated with her since Robb talked about the frustrations with ill parents and not being able to help. So fast forward about 1 or 2 months, and I had already moved into almost a solid strict “paleo” type diet. I don’t know why, but it felt quite easy for me, and I may have pushed a bit too much change on my wife a bit too fast in this respect.
Currently, between the 2 of us, we have read all of the major “paleo” lifestyle books, and I personally have read so many blogs (and still do) I can’t imagine listing them all. As we have progressed in this lifestyle for over 2 years now, I have learned a great deal, and very much realize that everyone is a different individual and will do well on their own type of diet (as long as they really know what that is). I think the problem with “paleo” is how people who do not understand it think of it. They think it is a fad diet, or only for crossfitters, or something that is sustainable, or that you can’t eat carbs, or that you can only eat meat, or that it is just like Atkins. It is very unfortunate that this is the case, and if people would just take about 30 seconds to read a proper reference on this stuff they would realize it’s really about individualization within a framework of just eating real food, and this isn’t even mentioning the non-food aspects of a Paleo lifestyle. So at this point I am still content enough to say I am paleo, but I am starting to lean more towards saying I live a modern ancestral based lifestyle, or a lifestyle full of JERF. I am very proud of myself, and although some of you out there may think that this is not a very motivating story, it is to me. No, I did not overcome some devastating disease or lose 100lbs, I did lose about 10lbs initially though, and then put about 7-8 of those lbs back on, and through the course of it all lost about 5-8% body fat, and currently sitting at 10%! However, looking back recently at where I was at, I have come along way from only eating burnt chicken breast covered in BBQ sauce; chicken cesar salad; McDonald’s Wendy’s; A&W; and way too much pop, to eating #JERF which includes all types of vegetable, meat, organ meat, lard, butter, coconut, dark chocolate, and so many more things I can’t even think of right now. People say the type of lifestyle I live is very restrictive, but for me it is way less restrictive and way more satisfying than my previous life. I honestly and truly enjoy the food I eat and the way it makes me feel.
Unfortunately though, it is not all perfect. Yes, in many ways I feel much better and healthier than I did before, but my new lifestyle has not cured my allergies, not even close :-), and after trying many things on my own, I have finally turned to a naturopath for help. Stay tuned for my next post on the outcome of these appointments and my focus for the future.
The Barefoot Golfer