I have been a parent for three years. This seems like a long time, but in reality I am still a “baby parent”. I’ve gained a lot of experience in my three years but I am the first to admit that I don’t know all that there is to know about parenting (and probably never will). Some days I just wing it, other days I hunger to learn new tips, but everyday I always make what I feel are the best decisions for my kids.
Growing up in Minnesota or what I sometimes refer to as “the processed food capital of the world” – General Mills, Pillsbury, Cargill and a number of other food manufacturers are based here – I ate the Standard American Diet. Pizza pockets, lunchables, Little Debbie’s and fast food. These were mostly treats, however and not consumed on an everyday basis. However, as I got older these convenience foods became more and more a part of my daily diet.
When I got pregnant with Kuya I was elated. Filled with joy that I was going to be a mother and almost equally as joyful that I could now eat whatever I pleased in whatever quantities would satisfy me and my growing baby. The freezer was always stocked with two different flavors of ice cream, I made sure to fill my work drawer with chocolates and anything that would gratify my sweet tooth, and when those late night cravings hit Nic and I would make a nightly run to In-N-Out, Taco Bell or whatever “Kuya” was craving.
Given everything that I was eating during my pregnancy I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that I had borderline gestational diabetes. I didn’t quite make the full-on diabetes group, however because of my numbers my doctor still suggested that I see a nutritionist and have myself monitored. To be honest, I was a bit annoyed because I was young and felt that I was perfectly “healthy”. However, when I look back now I truly believe this was a blessing in disguise.
As my pregnancy went on my blood sugar levels got worse. I learned so much from my nutritionist about food and how it works with the body. However, once Kuya was born and I no longer had signs of insulin resistance I went back to eating the way I had prior to my pregnancy.
When Kuya was able to eat solids we fed him what we were told to feed him and what most kids in America ate – purees as a baby, whole milk after 12 months, yogurt, frozen pizzas, processed cereals, cookies and crackers. As I write this I feel a sense of embarrassment and regret at what I put into his little body at such a young age. I have to continually tell myself that I did not know better then and that at least he is eating real food now.
When I got pregnant with Sissy Boo I started to think more about nutrition and did not want to have the same experience I did with Kuya. I watched what I ate while still having the occasional treat and this time around I did not have gestational diabetes. I had an extremely easy labor and delivery and definitely credit these differences to my diet.
In order to lose the baby weight after Sissy Boo I decided to go on a sugar detox. In addition to the baby weight, I am and maybe always will be a sugar addict. Put a piece of cake or ice cream in front of me and it will likely be gone in a matter of seconds. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by going on this three-week detox.
During my detox I started binge watching Netflix documentaries about food and the processed food industry. Because of this my life completely changed. I wondered how I did not know all that I was learning during this time and why that information was not made more public. I started the sugar detox as a normal meat eating 30-something and by the end of the detox I decided to try a more vegetarian whole-food plant-based diet. Since then our entire family has been eating almost exclusively this way.
Our Plant-Based Life
The way we now eat is very different from the way Nic and I were raised. With that said, our families don’t always understand our new lifestyle. We both have lost a lot of weight from not eating meat and to some it may look like we are starving ourselves. Despite the misunderstandings we both eat as much as we want and are the happiest and healthiest we have ever been in our lives.
Two weeks ago, Kuya had a febrile seizure. It was the most traumatic experience a parent could go through and I wish it on no one. I have to admit that I wondered myself at the time whether it was the our diet that caused the seizure. Once at the hospital the doctor and nurses stated that febrile seizures are extremely common among young children and happen when kids have a fever that spikes really fast. When this occurs the brain cannot communicate to the body quick enough what is going on and therefore the child goes into a seizure. I was relieved to learn that the seizure had nothing to do with Kuya’s diet.
When I told my family about the seizure most of them just wished him well. However, one of my them had mentioned that I needed to feed him and that he’s too young to be on a diet. Of course my mama claws wanted to come out and lash back with how horrible this person ate and that this person has no idea what real food is. However, I took a second to be mindful and realized that I thought the same way just three years ago. I couldn’t be mad at someone who didn’t know what they don’t know.
A Continuous Journey
I don’t know all there is to know about food and nutrition, but I do know that processed foods are bad for you, factory farm meat is equally inferior and that sugar in excess can literally kill you. I know that our new way of eating has cured a number of our illnesses and ailments including acne, eczema and even behavioral issues.
I understand that becoming plant-based and now mostly vegan is a choice that Nic and I made for ourselves but it is a choice that affects our entire family. While Kuya and Sissy Boo are young they will also eat this way. However, we do not hold them back if they want to try meat or eat treats that we may not otherwise give them when we go out. When they are older and if they decide to follow a different diet we will accept that. Our hope is that even if they choose something different the core of their diet will still be whole foods.
I never intended to start on this path and this lifestyle. I honestly believe that this journey found me. As the poet Prince Ea says in one of my favorite videos, “Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives”, “Martin Luther King never had a dream – that dream had him. People don’t choose dreams, dreams choose them…so do you have the courage to grab the dream that picked you?” I guess I did and I will never stop dreaming.