To the average outsider, I’ve gone crazy.
I’ve thrown out most of the food items in our pantry, [properly] disposed of all household chemicals, and *gasp* chucked a large portion of the makeup I had been hoarding in the bathroom. I obsess over food labels and ingredient lists, and watch food documentaries like they’re going out of style. News over bee deaths and GMOs in our food make me shake my fist in the air in dismay.
So what has possessed me? Let’s go back a few years.
In 2009, I had a non-eventful, healthy pregnancy which resulted in the birth of our first (and only) son, Aiden. My first thought after doing a quick inventory of all fingers and toes was, “He’s healthy. And beautiful. And perfect.”
In his second week of life, his perfect, newborn skin went from soft and pale to red and rough. I naturally assumed it was baby acne. I made the appropriate changes as a precaution–I switched our laundry detergent and applied pediatrician-prescribed lotions. As the months passed, my husband and I started to suspect it was something else. When we brought it up to the pediatrician, she told us that allergy tests could not be done until Aiden was a year old, as he had not been exposed to enough foods as an infant. So we waited. And watched helplessly as he suffered.
His face and mouth were red and itchy, and he was constantly trying desperately to scratch at it. We kept his nails short and put him in baby mittens, but still he would rub and rub to try and get relief. Sometimes the mittens would fall off, and he would break skin, bleeding. We would swaddle him so he wouldn’t scratch his face at night, sometimes holding his arms down until he would finally find solace in his sleep. As a parent, this was incredibly painful to watch.
When Aiden was a year old, the allergy test revealed he had multiple food allergies. Wheat, dairy, and egg. This provided both the answer and solution to his suffering, but still came as a shock. I really didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what to even feed him, because I was scared of feeding him the wrong thing. I remember feeding him frozen mixed veggies for lunch many times because even the idea of cooking was daunting.
You see, I never really had an interest in learning to cook growing up, and eating out was just a part of life at this point in my life. I thought I was eating healthy because I would pick up fruit and salads at the cafeteria at work. It’s embarrassing to admit, but at that age, Aiden didn’t really have much of a say–so my husband and I would get takeout for us, and make something for him at home: rice, potatoes, veggies, and lots of tofu. We had made immediate changes in both my diet (as I was nursing) and his, but unfortunately, I hadn’t changed much else. I was forced to read ingredient labels to avoid allergens, but would ignore the ones I didn’t recognize. Azodicarbonamide? Propylene glycol? Cellulose? It was all very overwhelming. And hard to pronounce.
Craziness a.k.a. changes
That all changed earlier this year, when I saw a friend’s post on Facebook about Food Babe’s petition for Kraft Mac & Cheese. It was shocking that the Mac & Cheese sold by Kraft in the U.S. contained Yellow #5 and #6, yet in the U.K. they produce and sell the same product without these harmful artificial food dyes. I thanked Aiden’s allergies that he wouldn’t be able to eat something so toxic, even if he wanted to. But it still bothered me. Every day, kids in the U.S. are unknowingly eating boxes and boxes of this stuff. So I participated in the petition, and subscribed to her blog. I learned about the benefits of juicing and buying organic, GMOs, refined sugar, processed foods, and being aware of the chemicals I’m putting on my body and allowing in our home…and all of it was eye-opening. For some reason, this was the right time. Reading the blog spurred me into action, and I started making immediate changes.
It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I learned to read ingredient labels. I switched out the processed, pre-packaged crap we were eating for organic, wholesome food. We go to the local farmer’s market to pick up our produce each week, and I’m getting better at cooking. (Well, it’s debatable, but I’d like to think I am.) And yes, I’ve engaged in other crazy behaviors like throwing out perfectly good (but toxic) mascara and getting rid of any and all chemicals–because that nastiness doesn’t belong in our home. At times, it reaches raging-lunatic proportions when I browse Non-GMO Project verified products, or study lists of GM food derivatives for fun.
Thankful for food allergies (that’s right!)
This past weekend, we were at Whole Foods picking up groceries and I overhead a little girl demanding to go to McDonald’s, and her mom was caving. I feel for that mom. It’s an uphill battle against the pink slime they call Chicken McNuggets and hamburger meat, and the fried cancer sticks they sell along with them. Moments like those remind me that Aiden’s food allergies have been nothing short of a blessing in disguise. Thanks to his allergies, I’m much more aware of the foods we’re putting into our bodies, the products we’re using on our bodies, and switching out toxic chemicals for natural alternatives in the home (hello, baking soda and vinegar!).
So yes, I’m a bit crazy. I have my son to thank for my craziness (in more ways than one!), and for what will be a lifetime of healthy choices. I wouldn’t have it any other way.