Summer is over and so is my hiatus! Back to schedules, early rising and the grind. I don’t mind the brisk weather and the leaves changing color, but afterwards, I go back to longing the glistening glory days of summer. This time of year is always hard for me. My mom passed on September 5th 2013. It was right after I dropped my daughter off for her freshman year of college. After I returned, Mom ended up being taken by ambulance to the emergency room and then straight to the ICU. She never recovered. That was the final blow to her already weakened and frail body.
I began to think about this awful time in our lives after I dropped my daughter off for her senior at college. The same memories haunt me. What if I didn’t leave three years ago? Could I have helped avoid the awful carnage? These memories start at the end of August. They start to become more prominent as September 1st hits. Then it is the countdown to the 5th. Each day becomes a bit more uncomfortable. Each day the sadness and the reality that she will never return sinks in further. Each day it reminds me of the terrible disease that robbed her of the golden years and wreaked irreversible havoc on my family.
This “havoc” I speak about is cancer. To many families, their “havoc” is heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or other chronic debilitating diseases that strip people of their dignity, leave them in constant pain and despair, forcing them to miss milestones and pull at the heart-strings of family members and loved ones. The havoc that struck from out of nowhere. One day healthy, and the next day your life is changed forever. Sometimes the end is sudden, but more often than not, it drags out and their final days are days you want so badly to forget.
Like many, my mom prided herself on eating “healthy”. We rarely ate processed foods, she cooked a lot, she hated diet drinks and she was on no medications. In fact, when she used to go the doctor at age 79, they thought she had dementia. Her diagnosis came from left field and it was the largest punch in the gut I ever received. How can this be? My dad died of cancer six years prior. He was a heavy smoker for most of his life, quit for 35 years and ultimately died of lung cancer.
It is now, after they are both gone, the two pillars in my life, the foundation on which my life was created is forever gone. It is now my responsibility to carry on and honor their legacy. I want to do this by ensuring that no one ever suffers this kind of loss.
I’ve spent the last three years reading and studying every book and article I can get my hands on as well as listening to as many podcasts and documentaries my ears can handle about nutrition and its effect on the body. I started volunteering for organizations where their mission is promote the agenda of healthy eating through evidence-based science. Do we really know what healthy eating looks like? Do the foods that we think are healthy are in reality destroying us on the inside?
Interestingly, what I’ve noticed is people’s resistance. It just seems so logical to me now, but as my husband pointed out, it wasn’t on my radar until relatively recently either. To most, this completely destroys every idea they have about food- how to eat, what to buy, what to cook and most importantly, their memories of food in context of holidays and family gatherings. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a foodie and someone who likes trying new foods so perhaps the change wasn’t as hard for me. For most, change is hard. Change attacks their beliefs, their way of life and their values. It doesn’t matter if it threatens the very existence of themselves or their loved ones.
We are talking about highly educated individuals who have been completely duped by the system. We’ve been brainwashed to believe what is written on nutrition labels, what our doctors tell us (even though most doctors had no more than a semester of nutrition in med school), what we read in the papers and what we hear on TV. There is so much misinformation out there and we do nothing to seek out the truth over something that we actually do have control over- what we put in our mouths and on our children’s plates. We all had to write research papers in school where we needed to defend our opinions and more importantly, we had to back up our research. What I mean is checking sources. Are they credible sources? Are they relevant?
But somehow, when it comes to the one thing that is essential to our vitality, we flat-out accept what is written. Very few actually question a professional by asking to see the data behind their claims. The food industry draped a heavy curtain in front of our eyes. Once that curtain is lifted, there is no going back. I now know too much. I want so desperately to share what I’ve learned, but what I’ve realized is that most are not ready to hear what I have to say. They aren’t ready to question those sources and they take it as a personal attack on their beliefs.
For almost a year, I couldn’t imagine giving up certain comfort foods. I couldn’t imagine shopping differently or cooking differently. Holidays would be different and going out to restaurants would be different. Dining with your friends is different as it is always brought up in conversation. “So, you don’t eat any meat? Do you eat fish? Fish is very healthy. Eggs? Egg whites? Dairy? No Dairy? I could never give up cheese. Where do you get your protein? Oh, that’s too hard, I could never do that.”
I often just smile and answer the questions and try to choose my words very carefully while on the inside I want to stand on my chair and scream on the top of my lungs that I’m not the crazy one. It’s too hard? It takes too much time? Think about how much time we spend doing things that are “important” to us. We obsess over what we are wearing, spend time getting our outside looking well, but we have no time to invest in what we put in our mouths? We spend hours researching and obsessing over the safest car to drive or the best washing machine. We even think about the best shoes for our feet and what are the best sunglasses for our eyes. But yet we don’t worry about what we are feeding our families. We have no idea the effect on our bodies and we have no time to invest in our food. We give that responsibility to others such as corporations and some doctors that do not always have our best interests in mind. What I want to say is that you may be fine now and maybe you’ll be ok the rest of your life, but stop and look around you. How many of you have experienced loss and/or suffering because of one of these diseases?
AND NO, THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENETICS. Because of your genetics, you may have a higher predisposition towards a disease, however you have the power to change your genetic destiny. We do not have take high blood pressure meds or cholesterol meds at any age. Unfortunately, these diseases come out of nowhere, or at least that is what we think. You see, these diseases have been lurking in our bodies for years, if not decades. It only decided to introduce itself to you because now it can control a part of you. You have the power to stop it dead in its tracks. Many have said to me that we will all die anyway so it doesn’t really matter. While this is technically true, I don’t think any of those people really know what it is like to suffer from one of these diseases.
My dad always said to me that what you have in your brain, no one could ever take away. My brain is so full of information that I need a secretary to help organize all my thoughts. Everyone has his or her strengths and I think one of mine is information. I just have a knack of finding information, albeit some of it may never have use for anyone, ever. I will continue to honor my parent’s legacy and I will continue my quest to ensure that people learn the real truth about taking control of their health. In the meantime, I will descend from my soapbox and go back to sourcing delicious, nutritious plant-based recipes.
L’Chaim – To Life