I grew up in a house where the types of food we ate were extremely important. My sister is developmentally delayed (meaning her brain never developed beyond a two-year old’s brain) and epileptic. We never had sugar or sugary foods in the house, no sweeteners of any kind, we did have raw honey and maple syrup, but even those were used sparingly. My mom shopped for groceries 60% of the time at The Big Carrot (Toronto’s version of Whole Foods), and the rest of the time at a neighborhood health food store and occasionally at a regular grocery store. Exercise was also important, as my mom used to get up at the crack of dawn five days a week to workout.
As you can imagine, at a young age I became hyper-aware of the benefits of eating well and exercise. Although, my friends never really enjoyed coming over, because we had nothing fun to eat, but every now and again for birthdays and holidays, my mom bent the rules.
Mom’s Cancer Diagnosis
The one thing that changed everything was when my mom was diagnosed with cancer in November 1996. She always included a few supplements into her diet, but when she was diagnosed, she became addicted. I’m talking at least 50+ supplements a day! After an 8-year battle, together with the stress of my sister’s epilepsy and her addiction, she passed away in February 2004.
Until today, it’s hard to accept my mom’s death, because truthfully she didn’t have to die. However, as with any addiction, it’s hard to help the person if they don’t want to help themselves. This prompted me to investigate how vitamins and minerals affect our bodies. Here is just one of many articles that lay out which vitamins and minerals can be toxic at high levels. I know that many doctors, nutritionists, and trainers promote the benefits of some vitamins and minerals for overall health. However, I didn’t take one vitamin or mineral for years and always had a good bill of health. Only recently did I add vitamins when I started drinking breakfast smoothies and added this protein powder two to three times a week after a workout.
My Endometriosis Diagnosis
In early 2007 I discovered I had endometriosis. If you’re not familiar with this disease, “Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects at least 6.3 million women and girls in the U.S., 1 million in Canada, and millions more worldwide. It occurs when tissue that lines the uterus (tissue called the endometrium) is found outside the uterus.” (Source) This can cause all types of issues such as, pain before and during periods, pain during sex, infertility, fatigue, etc. Between 2007 and 2011, I must have changed my diet half a dozen times. I was a pescatarian for a year, a vegetarian for half a year, a vegan for a couple of months, ate red meat two to three times a week for months, and on and on. I also developed cysts, had trouble getting pregnant and many times felt miserable.
Then in late 2011 when I was in Miami for several weeks and had to manage my spending, I changed my diet again. After doing some research earlier that year about inflammation in our diets and how it effects endometriosis, I decided to cut out 80-90% gluten, sugar and carbohydrates from my diet, and try and eat as organic as possible. Even though I exercised regularly, mostly running, I started doing more high intensity, interval training, such as what they do on Bodyrock.tv. Before I went to Miami, I went for my regular check-up, as well as checked on my cysts. Still had two ovarian cysts from mid-2009, each measuring 2.5cm.
Cut to September 2013, two years of remaining on this diet and exercise regimen, I went to my doctor for my full check-up, including blood work and ultrasounds to check on my cysts. To my shock and hers, my two cysts at 2.5cm each, were now one cyst measuring only 1cm! The rest of my check-up also came out better than normal. My doctor was so impressed she had to ask what did I do. I just said I cleaned up my diet.
Understanding Clean Eating
I realize that “clean eating” is different for everyone. Vegetarians and vegans believe they have clean diets, people following the Paleo diet believe they are eating clean, people eating only organic foods believe their diet is clean. This is how I look at it, with the amount of pesticides used to produce the food we eat, 9 times out of 10 you are better off eating organic. Sticking to a diet that is a mix of fruit, vegetables, grass-fed meat, antibiotic-free poultry, wild fish, some raw dairy, and healthy fats (butter, avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc) is key. A dash of legumes, such as black beans, and a dash of grain, such as quinoa, are ok, although I probably have them twice a month as a maximum, because it’s just better for my system.
As for the whole vitamin and mineral argument, I only know what they did to my mom. If the choice is a green juice with fruit and vegetables high in vitamin C or 1000mg of vitamin C, I would say have the juice. Vitamins and minerals in pill form at the end of the day are foreign to the body and your body needs to use a lot of energy to break them down. In the form of a clean, high quality protein powder mixed with water is probably better than pills, but still debatable.
Does eating clean take more effort, you better believe it does! But it’s worth it. I know what it has done for my health, general well-being, energy levels and keeping my endometriosis in check. If your health matters to you, then start doing something about it today.
Some of my go-to resources: