Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One more little chunk of history before moving on...

In my previous post about my trip toward local whole foods, I omitted one gigantic factor in my life: my disability.

I was born with hip dysplasia. It was too tiny to be noticed as a baby, and it fixed itself enough that by the time I was ready to learn to walk, my bones could handle the stress. But as I reached my preteen years and the sudden physical and hormonal growth that accompany it, the bones in my legs began to bow. From the hip to the knee, the bone now bows outward, and from the knee to the ankle the bones bow inward, giving my legs an "S" shape.

I dislocated my knee for the first time at age 9. The other knee went soon after that. Back in the 1970's there were few options for fixing recurring knee issues like mine. Microsurgery hadn't been invented yet, the now-common arthroscopy was not even a glint in the orthopedist's eye. So, they did what they knew to do: rebuilt tendons, cinched ligaments, moved muscles. Thirteen surgeries later, I cried "UNCLE!" The surgeries were not helping, and now I was battling arthritis from the constant assault of the joints.

All this has very little to do with my eating proclivities save a few points. One, that during the years of surgical intervention, I actually ate very little food and drank a great deal of water. Hospital food was never a big hit with me, nor was the take-out Mom would call and ask Dad to bring home for dinner. The pain meds left me constantly nauseated and masked any hunger I would have felt. But I was constantly thirsty. I kept a clean gallon milk jug full of delicious Rocky Mountain water next to my bed. It would go empty twice a day. That's a lot of water for a hundred pound kid! So you could say that one of my good habits was instilled early. To this day, I drink about a gallon of water each day as a baseline.

During pregnancy, the hormones circulating in my bloodstream made me positively "high" and giddy. The pain in my legs all but stopped, I could move very comfortably and felt great. But within a week of giving birth, the hormones changed and my joints stiffened, became swollen and hot to the point I couldn't walk for several weeks. I really didn't mind, after all, I had this new person to get to know! But the lack of exercise made my pregnancy weight cling to me. Each subsequent child added 20 pounds to my frame. When the child would wean and I could get back on strong pain and anti-inflammatory drugs, I generally lost about half of that weight again, as a result of nausea, lack of appetite and just being able to move.

Then the two C-sections that gutted me like a fish, ruining the rock-hard abs I had worked so hard to develop as a young woman, knowing that a strong core would help my knees. Weight began to pile onto my middle, a very bad place for fat to sit: balancing where my already precarious knees would have to adjust to it.

Now in midlife, I have good, bad and in-between days. A good day means I can stand and walk for nearly 30 minutes with minimal pain. A bad day finds me in a recliner or bed on pain meds. This leaves me with several mealtime options. 1) Eat out. Sink the budget and our health, this option is by far the easiest in the short term. 2) Eat extensively pre-processed food because it requires less prep time for me standing at the sink and stove. We're talking frozen entrees and nutritionless breakfast cereals here, make no mistake. 3) Eat food that is processed slightly less, do a little more of the cooking and thereafter, hurting. 4) Eat whole, local and mostly raw foods, paying more and working more for each meal; hoping that the short term cost in dollars and pain is balanced by a long term gain in health.

But, lucky for me, these options can vary from week to week, day to day and even meal to meal. I don't have to choose one to stick to forever. Lucky for me because I'd choose the course of least resistance: the extensively pre-processed road known as the Standard American Diet.

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