In 2011 I was diagnosed with Uterine Fibroids (they are tumors, in your uterus, caused by hormone imbalance), by 2012 they were causing me major health problems. Extreme stubborn anemia, my hair was falling out in patches and I was constantly fatigued. Oh, I had other health issues. Stomach cramps/gripes, and indigestion after almost every meal and weight gain... chale I had started some small gym tins to try and get a hold of it.
I got inspired and informed to clean up my diet
That summer I watched a bunch of "food as medicine" documentaries on Netflix and I decided to radically change my diet. My plan was to heal myself and avoid surgery to remove my uterus, I didn't want to have a hysterectomy. But I have two doctors/surgeons in my family and they were furious! I'd already had an incident where I almost had a stroke/died once from low blood iron, and they both thought I was crazy for not just having my uterus taken out. I just didn't believe that removing the whole organ was an answer! Anaa mi boa? Adɛn?!
I started out with a seven-day Juice fast. My skin became baby glowy, digestive issues were gone, I had never felt so 'light' and 'regular' in my life! I lost 15lbs that week. Over the next few months I generally followed the China study diet outlined in the "Forks over Knives" book/documentary. My own version was to eat primarily vegan and try for 60% -75% raw food. I pegged 100% whole foods and very little refined sweeteners (I sweetened with fruit) and no refined oils (I used some nut butters or nothing).
How I cleaned up my diet and took control of my health
This process can be overwhelming but here's how I approached it. I basically took all the meals I ate before and asked myself five questions:
- Are there any refined parts of this that I can eat whole instead ?
- Are there any cooked parts of this I could eat raw instead?
- How can I sweeten this without refined sweeteners?
- How would I make this food without the refined oils?
- Can I make a more nutrient dense version of this dish/ ingredient?
There were so many ideas I got from just doing this for each meal that I want to share as well. Because uterine fibroids are caused by estrogen dominance, I also stopped putting my food in plastic containers. Many plastics contain substances that mimic estrogen in our bodies, storing and heating food in plastic means we end up with those substances in our bodies. I still avoid plastics. I use mason jars and a number of 2-cup glass bowls with plastic covers that went on sale at the dollar tree for a while [like these
]. I switched to only natural body lotions/ oils and dropped soy milk for almond milk. I will try to explain how and why I made all of those choices over the next few months.
Lots of big healthy substitutions BUT I made it delicious. Choa wey e no dey jɔm no dey the menu top! One thing I do not mess around with is my flavors! I figured out how to make all of it taste good. And repeatedly I shared my meals and people said "If eating vegan tastes like this, then sign me up!" The shift/ change was really hard work for me, but less than three months later I had lost another 25lbs. I made Ghanaian foods, Nigerian foods, Italian foods, Korean foods, Indian foods, Chinese foods and new delicious fusion recipes that popped up from my five questions. Basically how do I eat for wellness and keep it delicious?
What I'm doing now
The fact is guys, I've come a loooong way from those Forks over Knives diet days. My current diet is more pescatarian/flexitarian and I am clear on what foods do what for my health. I focus on reducing inflammation and trying to load in as much good nutrition as possible. I still try to keep my food whole, I stay away from processed or refined foods. I eat grass-fed organic beef once in a while but most weeks I don't eat any animal protein at all. I still have a focus on delicious. I need my food to taste good! As they would say in Ghana, no bend no curve... if the taste no dey I no go chop! :-)
I still struggle to find the line sometimes and to stay on the wagon so these days my focus is on lining up the life circumstances that promote my best nutritional wellness. It isn't always easy but I'm winning way more than I'm losing and I know that by reaching out to share and grow with you all I will get even better at this.
Others who have gotten healthy too
I know a few other people who cleaned up their diets, got healthy and lost a lot of weight. We'll be hearing from them as well on my blog because they have been such an important part of my journey.
1) Two of my girlfriends, twins, who learned about inflammation and food sensitivities and cleaned up their diets over a year or so preceding my journey. Having their example ahead of me helped me as well.
2) My roomie for a while, former military with a neuromuscular disorder who decided to get off prescribed steroids, eat clean and lose the weight and inflammation she was living with. She was vegetarian when we started and she got healthier even though she started to incorporate seafood into her diet. Just no artificial and processed foods. She improved her health and lost a lot of weight. She still manages her nutritional wellness with all the roadblocks that go along with that.
3) One of my closest girlfriends who was forced to eat healthier when she developed a chronic cough potentially from mold exposure when she went to work in Los Angeles (she just managed her condition with diet, she was always skinny! Lol)
4) My dear friend a trainer, engineer and bachelor who I shared the documentaries with who also started to increase his consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. He lost a lot of weight and increased his activity levels. He too has ridden the rollercoaster that is healthy eating in a sea of processed and empty foods and hangs on for dear life since he travels a lot with his work contracts.
Not one of us have had a straight path or stayed eating perfectly the whole time. However we all still walk this journey managing our diets and our health. I will be sharing all the growth we've achieved together as well because I think many of you wil be able to relate to one more than the others.
Bringing it to you
I believe in cooking my own healthy meals but I don't believe in spending my life cooking. I set up lots of systems to make my cooking and eating healthy easy; even though I eat well, I do not cook everyday. I will be sharing stories and recipes about the dishes I made, how I plan and manage my meals, and I'll publish cheatsheets to make healthier meal choices easy as well as various stories and experiences with the tips my friends and I have used to make it easy to manage our health and weight in the long run.
Lastly, but very importantly, I don't believe in the big diet transformation/overhaul that I did. That is what we see in many documentaries on nutritional wellness but it isn't as helpful for long term change. I believe instead in taking one area, meal group or food group and spending time really building your knowledge base in that area. Our collective experiences have taught me that the better long term approach is to develop new eating habits according to your mental transformation, only as you grow your knowledge and only one or two areas at a time.