I love food.
I'm obsessed with it. :)
BUT I have to be.
In 2003, when I was an eightteen-year-old baby fresh out of high school, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, which is an autoimmue disorder in which your body attacks what you consume as it would with any kind of virus or bacteria, thus causing inflammation of your digestive tract. It was once described to me as having sunburn in your intestines. : /
I've been lucky; I haven't had a bad case, just a few flare-ups here and there over the years. This was more than a usual blessing because I didn't have insurance from the time I was 19 to 25, so I wouldn't have been able to afford treatment if it had been worse over the years. (Thank God for my campus's health center when I was sick!) Anyway, Crohn's disease is funny because it encourages moderation of or prohibits consumption of foods you would think of as "healthy:" raw fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, legumes. (It also includes obvious things like fried food and sugary treats.)
Ironically, these were the types of things I was eating in spades when I started getting symptoms of Crohn's Disease; I thought eating "healthy" would make my body feel better and fight off whatever was making me sick. But these things are harder to digest, thus causing your body to fight them off that much more.
I was only in the hospital for three weeks and three days when I was diagnosed, but I had been sick for about a year before that. Still, I was able to recover much more quickly and ended up getting more fit in the hospital than I had been since I was in elementary school. I say "only...three weeks and three days" because I met an eight-year-old girl my first week in the hospital who had already had her colon removed (called a coloctemy) and was using an ostomy bag. When I saw what she had already gone through in her short life and had faced it with such bravery, I quit my belly-aching, counted my blessings, and got to work to getting better.
I was very careful about what I ate when I was released from the hospital. Not only was I still gaining back weight I had lost, but I was also on long-term steroids that did a number on me. I did my best to follow the food pyramid, to eat cooked vegetables and fruit, to avoid seeds and nuts and whole grains and fast food. The first time I had fast food after I got better was when we were moving houses. Boy, could I tell a BIG difference!!
As I was recovering, I grew much stronger in my faith and trusted that God was going to use my disease to bless me if I relied on Him. I don't believe that God causes disease or pain. Instead, I see it as being part of the world in which we live, and so we must strive to not give in to it, gathering strength from God to grow closer to Him during the process. I may be completely wrong; I am no theologian. I know we will suffer in this world, but I don't think God causes the suffering itself.
In my case, this is why I believe this to be true:
"Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good."
This is what was promised to mankind after creation:
"Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'"
When I came across these scriptures while I was recovering, I thought, "God has promised that I can eat the very things my body is attacking. Then this disease cannot be given to me from God. So, goodness, I am going to eat what He has promised me!" Of course, I chose to eat things like raw veggies and almonds again, but this time in careful moderation.
I have been lucky and blessed. I am fairly healthy, and, since I met my husband, I have been striving to become even healthier because we encourage one another to eat right. Fortunately for me, he has always loved vegetables and fruits; our shared vice is our love for sweets, but we have learned to eat those in moderation, too, even if we hoard them. ;) Zach was allergic to beef when he was a child and chicken as an adult for awhile, so we tend to eat mostly grains and vegetables for our meals. He is such a blessing to me in my cooking and eating. He is always grateful whenever I cook and is willing to try the new dishes I make...or the ones he dreams up. As he says, he is the visionary...and I carry out his visions such as the best black forest cake he envisioned that we...er, I made a few years ago. *haha*
Other than when I was a toddler, I had always been a picky, picky eater. I loved fresh fruit, but I was sooooo picky about vegetables. I would eat carrots and celery, but they had to be raw. I loved potatoes in every way possible, except scalloped. Corn was wonderful, too, but it's one of the hardest things to digest. Forget about green beans, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, etc. I liked okra and squash, but only if it was fried. (I am a Southern girl after all!)
After I started getting well, I became more adventuresome in eating and would try almost anything as long as my tummy was happy. This has led to a passion for cooking (and eating, too).
Like everything else, you get stuck in a rut sometimes, and I don't think I am nearly as bold in trying to vegetables as I once was eight years ago. Since last summer, I have been attempting to try new recipes that incorporate vegetables I think I don't like, ones I once liked but now I don't, or ones that aren't mainstream like bok choy. (Now, I see bok choy everywhere, but I've never had a dish with it--at least not to my knowledge. *lol*)
Rather than being overly ambitious, I decided to set one healthier lifestyle goal, one that I would be more likely to incorporate to my life because I am already working on it: I plan to eat one new-ish vegetable/legume (or fruit, in rare cases) each week.
Here are some I've already tried:
German red cabbage (and sauerkraut, too!)
Did you know parsnips taste like stronger carrots? They're carrots with some muscle. ;)
green cabbage (I'm also learning to like cole slaw again. I tried this Southern Fried cabbage recipe last fall, and Zach loved it. I actually made this cabbage dish with the last thing on my list and peas--which I used to refuse to touch--for dinner last night. GO ME!!!)
pears (So what if I poached them?)
leeks, as in potato-leek soup (This stuff is hea-ven-ly. *contented sigh*)
blueberries (So what if I marinated them in sugar and lemon juice and put them in ice cream?! A fruit is a fruit is a fruit. I don't care for raw blueberries, but I do love them in ice cream. Sue me...or Ben & Jerry's. ;)
And this is what I made this week: ROASTED RED BEETS!
1/2 lb. beets, peeled and sliced into six wedges
3 tsp. olive oil
generous pinch of salt
-Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pour oil and salt into a sealable plastic bag, add beets, and toss to coat.
-Line a baking pan with foil. Pour beets into pan. Place rosemary on top and seal foil tightly. (I made a packet by folding the long sides over one another and then rolling up the ends.0
-Bake for an hour or so until dinner. Serve piping hot!
I was surprised by how tasty the beets were. I expected them to be very sweet because they smelled that way while cooking, but they were more savory. Zach said he had only ever had beets out of a can, and they were sweet; I told him I thought my mama loved pickled beets, which is probably why I always thought they were disgusting. I will definitely give this dish another try (maybe with a little less rosemary next time). I've also heard that beets are GREAT in cake...and will give them a nice rosy beet-pink color!
Good luck to everyone out there seeking to become healthier as we are ordained to be! Thank you, Ashley, for continuing to inspire us everyday!