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The Perfect Diet

So here it goes.  A moment of truth…and shame.  Since I was about 15 years old I’ve been a chronic dieter.  And as a result, I’ve done a lot of damage to my body by depriving it of the essential healthy fats and other nutrients that it needed to be nourished.  And even worse, an imbalanced body like mine was utterly unable to support the healthy mind and spirit needed to really love myself.  The worst damage was done in the time leading up to my wedding when I began a 1000 calorie a day diet.  If I’d been just eating big bowls of vegetables and lightly steamed greens it might not even have been so bad, but I wasn’t.  I was incorporating the nutrition-less, empty calorie ‘diet’ foods like Weight Watchers meals and diet sodas.  And the awful thing, was that after 9 months of eating like this, depriving my body of any nourishment, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and I wasn’t really losing that much weight.  I struggled to keep up my exercise routines because I had no energy.  I think I lost around 12 pounds in total.  I went to see a dietician at my local GP practice and her “sage” professional advice, after looking at my diet diary was to swap butter and olive oil for margarine and suggested that perhaps I should reduce my diet to 900 calories.  Yep, you heard it.  She wanted me to remove the small amount of healthy essential fat I actually WAS getting in my diet and replace it with toxic, hydrogenated, free-radical spread…I mean margarine.  Even I knew that was wrong, so I ignored her and continued with what I was doing.  It was only later, after the wedding and honeymoon, when I started thinking about wanting to become pregnant that things really changed and I realised the damage I had done to myself through deprivation dieting.

And now I’m ready to share with you the perfect diet.  Are you ready?  Here it is………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….there is no perfect diet.

There is a perfect diet for you, but there is no perfect diet that will work for all of us.  And here’s why.  It’s really complicated.  It’s because, get ready for it, we’re not the same person.  That’s right.  I’m not you and you’re not your neighbour John, or Sally who works at the supermarket.

Do I wish that we could all use the same diet and exercise formula and get the same results?  Yes, of course I do.  But genetics doesn’t work that way.  We each have different DNA (aside from identical twins, but even they express those genes in different ways) and so we don’t all have the same number of genes.  There is no perfect or ideal number of genes, so its not a competition.  But it does mean that some of us may lack enzymes which are essential for different body processes.  (Bear with me here, this will come back around to diet.)  You may have heard of the MTHFR, COMT or BRCA genes.  MTHFR and COMT enzymes are essential for methylation, which is used to control gene expression.  Women who lack these genes will have difficulty becoming pregnant and maintaining pregnancies.  On the other hand, the BRCA genes are tumour suppressing proteins and Angelina Jolie made the BRCA I & II genes famous when she had prophylactic surgery undertaken to remove her breast tissue, ovaries and fallopian tubes because of her high genetic risk for getting this cancer.  So what I’m getting at here, is that we don’t all process the world around us in the same way.  And we have to love our bodies for what they are.  The lack of this gene or that gene doesn’t make us imperfect, but it does make us realise that we may have to take certain precautions to avoid higher risks for foods, toxins and lifestyles which our bodies are simply unable to handle.  For me, the incorporation of a moderate amount of healthy, organic full fat dairy, like non-homogenised milk and raw butter, was incredibly important to feeling good again.

Okay, so I started eating healthfully again.  I got skinny right?  Wrong.  I started eating normally for like the first time in years, and my body had no. clue. what. to. do.  I mean I’d basically been telling my body – in prehistoric terms – that I was going through a time of famine and so when it started getting a normal amount of food, and I’m talking like 1500-1700 calories here, it thanked the god of rain for sending it a time of plenty and it decided to store every calorie it could.  As fat.  Yay.  But the good news was that all this healthy food I was now eating allowed me to maintain a really healthy pregnancy and produce a really healthy baby.

So a year and a half on postpartum, no I’m not skinny.  I’m not where I’d like to be, but I’m okay with how I look.  I fit into my size 8 jeans and that will do for the time being.  I’m still breastfeeding my daughter and I’m grateful to my body for all its been through and for the beautiful daughter its given me and still helps to nourish.  I continue to support my  thyroid health through diet and the use of therapeutic essential oils, and that is helping me enormously now.  So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve very slowly found the diet that is right for me.  And actually, it isn’t a diet at all.  I’ve learned that I can’t eat too many sugars (argh!), one cup of coffee a day does me good (but more than that doesn’t) and that I am one of those people who can eat full fat dairy but that I definitely can’t process gluten (as much as I like to tell myself I can when I see a croissant winking at me from the bakery window).  However, for you, dairy may not be your friend.  Or you may not be able to tolerate coffee at all.  Some people have issues with one of their liver enzymes and can even build up high levels of mercury from eating something as simple as salmon, whereas the next person processes it perfectly well.  Juicing diets and green smoothies could actually do you a lot of damage if your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally.  And I haven’t even touched on how your gut flora fits in to all of this.  The list goes on.  Bodies are funny old things, aren’t they?

There is an easy and shorter – but more expensive – way to learn all of this about yourself.  You can get genetic testing done and enlist the help of a reputable nutritional therapist.  They can help you to understand your test results and to recommend bespoke  adjustments to your diet and lifestyle which will support what your individual body is able to do, and to avoid what it isn’t able to do.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to tell you that a Slim Fast shake is the perfect diet solution for you.  But its not.  Not for anyone.  And the one bit of generic advice I can give everyone is to get the toxic chemicals out of your food, cleaning and skincare regimens.  Eat organic, biodynamic or non-sprayed foods.  Use natural skincare.  Clean your home and office with natural cleaning products.  (They work just as well, by the way, and they cost less.)  Yes, we do have livers and yes, livers were designed to remove toxins from our bodies, but no one’s liver was designed to handle the amount of chemicals we eat, breathe and slather onto our skin every day in today’s world.

So whether you choose to go the slow route of figuring out the right diet for you, like I did (and continue to do), or if you opt for a faster route with the support of a nutritional therapist, I hope that above all you prioritise learning to love yourself and love your beautiful body.  I found the support of my Young Living essential oils incredibly helpful in both an emotional and physical capacity over the last 9 months of this process.  But I guess what I’m saying is be gentle with yourself, be kind to yourself, eat beautiful foods and move in ways that make you happy.

Changes

Baby AnnouncementMy recent birthday was a remarkably warm Indian Summer afternoon and I sat in the square outside Spitalfields Market, eating Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes with my friend Jane.   It occurred to me at that moment that things would never be the same again.  And I’m not just talking about being able to resist the rather tantalising looking, yet e-number crammed rainbow cake I’d seen in the bakery earlier.

It all started with my visit to the 20-something substitute midwife a couple of weeks ago.  “You look fantastic for a pregnant lady in her 40’s” she said to me…on the day before my 36th birthday.

I had always been mistaken for being younger than I actually am.  Never older.  So it hit me hard.

Was this the beginning of how it happens?  Getting a Claire Balding haircut, buying a minivan, joining Pinterest?  (Oh God, I just joined Pinterest!)  Next thing you know, boom, you’ve got crows feet and find yourself in tears at the Creme de la Mer counter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt great throughout most of this pregnancy.  A little sick at the beginning and perhaps these days, at week 22, I move at a…slightly slower pace.  I desperately am fighting pregnant lady waddle, but am not sure how much longer I will be able to fight that off as my whopper of a baby continues to grow.

I sit here in my living room as the builders upstairs listen (and occasionally sing along) to Latvian radio.  We are converting our second bathroom into a nursery.  A nursery!  I remember when we were house hunting.  We’d see nurseries and think “that would make a great second bathroom!”  I’m excited about this nursery and its future occupant.

But I really do miss having a second bathroom.

Organic Mothers – They Raise The Bar For The Rest of Us

Sweet Potato Fries (image from http://www.mccormick.com)

My best friend looked at me with a mix of guilt and fear in her eyes as she put down her toddler’s lunch in front of him.  She was still 9 months pregnant with all 10lb 4oz of her second son (whom I now affectionately know as Sausage) whilst still running around after her demanding 2 year old son, and she looked guilty – she was feeding her child hot dog and fries for lunch.   She began to over explain herself, “The hot dogs are made from organic turkey, and I get them from the farmer’s market.  And the fries, they’re organic.  And they’re made from sweet potato.”

Now, frankly in her condition, she could have handed the kid a tube of raw cookie dough and I probably wouldn’t have blinked.

There are some things that women without children, such as myself, will never understand.  My otherwise meticulously groomed friends suddenly start resembling mad women you might see rummaging through the value bin at Lidl on Old Kent Road.  “I have no time to wash my hair,” they tell me.  I don’t understand that.  How can you have no time to wash your hair?  Put child down.  Get in shower.  Wash hair. Dry off.  Pick screaming child back up.  But apparently it’s true.  There is no time to wash your hair and until you have children, you just don’t get it.   This is what they say, and I believe them, because there but for an (as yet) unproductive uterus, could be me.

And so, I find it amazing when my best friend, at 9 months pregnant, is still able to manoeuvre herself, her bump, and her demanding 2 year old into the car, drives down to the farmer’s market, fights the crowds and queues for an organic hot dog to feed to her son – who will probably only eat half of it before wandering off to watch Theodore Tugboat or something.  That’s dedication.  That’s love.  And that’s looking after the well-being of your family.

And if she has no time to wash her hair – who cares?  I believe her.