Friday, April 20, 2012

Malnutrition in America

It has been said that Americans are overfed and undernourished. I'm the poster child for the truth of this statement. Like all sweeping generalities, there are exceptions, but right now, every single state in the nation has an obesity rate of more than 30% of its adult population, so the things I'm about to say will probably ring true with at least some of my readers today.

We are blessed with food in abundance that few other nations of the world can rival. Our grocery stores are filled to the brim all the time, and if they're out of something, a new shipment will come in at midnight. However, much of that food is boxed, canned, and processed, all of which reduces its nutrient value. We get plenty to eat - and some of us get more than enough to eat - and yet our bodies are not receiving the kinds of nutrition they should. Pesticides on our produce break down the nutrition. Antibiotics in our meats break down our nutrition. When we take a look at what we're eating and we break it down to a cellular level, many people are not getting the nourishment their cells need to function properly.

I said I was the poster child for this - let me explain what I mean.

I was raised eating whole grain bread, cracked wheat hot cereal, apples, carrots - all good, healthy stuff, right? But we didn't eat meat very often, or other sources of protein. When I got older and was out on my own for meals more often, I did start to eat meat, but only once in a while - I still enjoyed bread products, and I have always enjoyed sugar, so that consumption went up as well. I married and got pregnant for the first time, and was told by my midwife that I was so severely anemic that she couldn't agree to deliver my baby unless I got my iron levels up because I'd bleed to death. She got me eating protein and iron every single day, and I was able to get my levels where they should be in time, but I'd had no idea how depleted I was until she told me.

Fast forward about eight years. The bones in my feet started popping out of alignment, and my chiropractor was kept very busy putting them back in. I spent a month completely off my feet one summer because the swelling in the foot simply would not go down, and it was impossible to put any weight on it without excruciating pain. Come forward in time to last fall. I experienced the same symptoms, and this time went to a new doctor, who found a hairline fracture in the foot. I have no doubt the foot was fractured the previous time, too - it felt exactly the same. I spent about six weeks totally off my feet, trundling around in a wheelchair - which was kind of fun in some ways, and kind of not in others - and eventually healed up.

Fast forward again to March 8th of this year. I stood up from my desk chair and went to change the laundry. I had taken maybe three steps before I felt something snap in my foot. Yes, the same foot I broke last fall. Yes, the same foot I most likely broke a few years ago. I called my doctor, who told me that I not only broke the foot, but I had damaged the tissues as well. He put a cast on the foot and told me I could be in it for up to eight weeks.

Two nights later, I was lying flat on my back in bed with my foot in the air, and I lifted the leg a little to adjust it on its pillows, and felt something snap in my ankle. I had just broken a tendon, lying in bed, barely moving.

How? How does a person break a bone walking out of their bedroom? How does a person break a tendon lying in bed? The kind of tissue damage I have right now usually accompanies a running injury or a severely twisted ankle - at the very least, an injury that comes from saving a child from a speeding train and thereby becoming a hero and making the pain worth it. How had I injured myself so severely when basically all I did was stand up?


With my lifetime diet of grains and no protein, fruits and vegetables but no calcium, I had depleted all my bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissues. Eating large amounts of grain spikes your insulin, which attacks your bones. By not balancing my diet with enough protein, I hadn't given my body the ingredients it needed to create muscles and tendons. If you were to look at me a year ago, weighing three hundred pounds, you would not have said that I was malnourished. You'd laugh and probably snort a little. "Oh, sure, she's malnourished, all right." Kind of like Ursula in The Little Mermaid, I was wasting away to practically nothing, but I was obese. I was eating the foods that made me fat, and I was not eating the foods that could build me up. And the saddest part? I didn't know it.

Me at 300 lbs.

I've had several good long talks with my doctor, and he has explained all this to me and helped figure out the status of my body and my nutrition. He has put me on some really good supplements to build up my bones and ligaments, and I've changed my diet drastically. I'm not perfect, but I'm a great deal closer to it than I was a year ago.

So, what happens from here on out? I'm out of the cast and I'm now in an ankle brace. I can put some weight on the foot, but I'm not walking by any means. And I just might break the foot again if I'm not careful. I can rebuild my body and I'm in the process of doing it right now. But it will take time. It will be about a year before my bones are strong, like they should have been my whole life. We're also working on getting my muscle core strengthened through diet and exercise. I'm basically starting from scratch, and someday I will be strong. For right now, I still have to be careful. I've broken the foot twice (and I believe three times, although I don't have documentation for the first time) and with it taking a year to rebuild my bones, I could break it again in a month or two months or nine weeks. This is one of the consequences I'm experiencing as a result of an entire lifetime of malnutrition.

I'm sharing this story for two reasons - first, because people keep asking me how I broke my foot. Well, I broke it standing up. The second reason is that I'm hoping to inspire you to take a look at your own nutrition and make sure that you are getting the proper amounts of everything you need. I didn't realize how bad off I was, and I wish someone had told me. My mom thought she had raised me to be as healthy as possible, and she's now having guilt because she didn't know. The fact is, a great many of us are in the same boat. We think we're doing everything we can, and yet, we may be missing something important, and we may end up finding it out in a very painful way.

So please, take good care of your nutrition. Make it a priority. If you take supplements, do some research and make sure they're good for your body and aren't just pretty pink pills. Eat enough protein. Eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Listen to the signals your body gives you. I've had my wake-up call - please let this be one for you so you can start to prevent things from happening to you instead of having to go through them for yourself.I'm not saying that you'll start breaking bones and tendons - your body and mine are very different, and you'd likely not experience the same things - but there are so many illnesses and conditions that come about because of lack of nutrition, and I don't want to see any of my friends suffer in that way. Eat right, take care of yourselves, and let's stay healthy together.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Does Tristi Eat?

I've been asked lots of questions in my life, everything from how to homeschool to how to write a book to how to keep balance in everything. But no question has been asked me so regularly as, "What do you eat?"

It's true that my new diet is perplexing. We've all been raised to eat according to the food pyramid, and the thought of doing anything contrary to it is kind of out there. It's also true that my new diet is working. I haven't been able to weigh for almost a month because I broke my foot, and getting on a scale with a cast on would probably make me fall off the scale and need a cast on the other foot, but the last weight I have to report is a loss of 84 pounds, and that's really significant. Not only am I losing weight, but my overall health is a lot better as well. (I mean, except for the whole car accident thing, and then the whole breaking the foot thing. But those are totally unrelated.)

So, what do I eat?

Simply put, I eat meat, eggs, vegetables (except potatoes and corn), nuts and seeds (except peanuts), and some raw dairy. Now that my pancreas is doing so much better, I do have an occasional piece of fruit, although when I first started, my pancreas was so inflamed that I didn't eat any fruit at all.

It really is very simple.

Every meal or snack has some protein in it, whether it's an egg, a piece of chicken, a handful of almonds. I also have a good dose of vegetables on the side. I drink lots of water. I don't count calories. I don't measure portions. If I'm hungry, I eat. I don't worry about fat grams because I'm eating the healthy fats. And the weight's just falling off me. Almost in chunks on the floor. I've done this without exercise, because I haven't been able to exercise for a long time (see above mention of car accident, and above mention of broken foot). This has all been through diet and nutrition, and I'm not losing muscle mass because I'm keeping my protein up.

So now let me break it down a little more to give a broader idea.

Breakfast - when it comes to breakfast, we've all got it in our heads that we're supposed to eat different foods in the morning than we do at any other time of the day. I don't know why we think that, but we all talk about "breakfast foods." I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast as I would at any other time of the day.

Any Other Time of the Day - here are some of my most common meals/snacks:

A baked yam with a little sea salt and butter (no butter substitutes)

A chicken breast baked with herbs and seasonings

Nice big green salads with any variety of vegetables in there, with sugar-free dressing (no sugar substitutes, either) and without croutons - I like having some egg and some chicken in my salads

Turkey, beef roast, lean hamburger, steak

A taco wrap with all the taco makings rolled up inside a lettuce leaf

A hamburger wrap with all the hamburger makings rolled up in a lettuce leaf

Vegetable soup from scratch - take a wide variety of carrots, celery, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, etc, and dice, then simmer just until tender/crisp - don't cook until the color's gone! Throw some canned tomatoes in there, and season with lemon pepper, oregano, sea salt, and throw in whatever meat you've got - can make more of an Italian soup or Mexican soup or what-have-you with what you add in there.

Meatloaf without the crumbs. Delicious!

A handful of olives and a few slices of pickle.

Sunflower seeds.


Almost any kind of fish, baked and seasoned in any way you can think of, or pan seared.

Chicken sausage (from Sunflower Market or Whole Foods) sliced and cooked up with green peppers and onions.

It takes a little getting used to at first, I'll admit it - but now, it's not hard at all. People keep asking me if I'll be on this diet forever, and the answer is, yes, but with modifications. As time goes by, I'll add a few more things to the list of foods I can have, and down the road, I will be able to cheat a little from time to time. The thing to keep in mind is that I'm not doing this to lose weight, although it's the most noticeable benefit, and believe me, I'm tickled to death about it. I'm doing this to heal my body, and so I want to keep things in balance and not throw my body out of whack. When someone is losing weight and they eat a piece of cake or drink a Coke, they can get back on track right away and that indulgence might not ever show up on the scale. But I'm pulling sugars out of my body so my pancreas can heal, and I'm pulling caffeine out of my body so my adrenals can heal, so my ability to cheat is different from someone who is losing weight, if that makes sense. Cheating is not the end of the world for someone on a diet, but I'm still balancing on the edge of health and illness, so the ramifications for me are different.

So! That is the story of what I'm eating. Yes, it's different. Yes, it has been hard. But you're talkin' to a girl who liked to eat Zingers for breakfast, who weighed 300 pounds a year ago, and who was a whole lot more sick than she thought she was. If I can get my health under control, believe me, it can be done. Your path might be totally different from mine, as everyone has different challenges, but this is what's working for me.

And if you'd like to meet the man who has been helping me and my family change our lives, you can learn all about him here: