Not Just A Tortilla In My Belly
As a child, I thought that nutrition was any food that I ate!! Growing up all the food that I knew was Mexican food, beans, rice, corn and flour tortillas also dairy and breads….. “Mmmm pan dulce” (sweet bread). Boy did I love bread. For the holidays we would make buñuelos which are fried sweet flour tortillas, capirotada which is a Mexican bread pudding. “Mmmm, delicious.”
My mother always worried my siblings and I ate something in the mornings. She would often say (in Spanish of course) “ Mija! Eat something even if it’s a tortilla, so that your stomach isn’t empty.” For this reason I adopted the idea that nutrition was any food that I ate. I have to say, my mother did feed us pretty healthy. She has always made her foods from scratch and includes fresh vegetables. She has always had a thing against canned foods and processed meats.
When I moved on my own and went to college, my mother would call and ask if I was eating and again reminded me to at least eat a “tortillita,” (little tortilla) in the morning. Being a college student and working at the same time I had no time to worry about cooking! I made sure I ate, but everything I had was convenient food! Can you say microwaveable foods?
If I was in a hurry and ate donuts or cookies for breakfast, I felt at peace. I was taking my mother’s advice. Wasn’t I? My main breakfast for years was cereal. In 2009, after years of searching for answers to symptoms of weakness, blurry vision and mind fogginess, a few weeks after my youngest brother passed away from a seizure, I was finally diagnosed with Lupus (an autoimmune illness). 7 years earlier, my sister was admitted into the hospital due to a dangerous Lupus flare, which was causing kidney failure. Luckily she overcame it and with time she learned to manage her flares.
I was still learning to manage my flares and was experiencing tough ones at work. On a good day I bragged to my coworker about how healthy I fed my child. I prided myself on not giving him any soda and watering down his drinks and how I gave him plenty of milk and yogurt!!!! He stopped me right there, he mentioned to me that I was doing wrong by giving him so much dairy!
I was appalled! “Are you crazy!?” “How dare you tell me how to feed my child!” He stayed calm and nodded suggesting that I too should cut dairy out of my diet and see the difference it would make in my Lupus flares. He advised that I read up on casein and learn how it affected humans.
“But I eat cereal every day!!!!” I couldn’t see myself cutting milk out. He must have made sense, because that’s all I could think about on my drive home. As soon as I arrived home, I began my research. After researching I was determined to change my milk consumption. I soon changed to Silk coconut milk. Immediately I saw less flares, but it wasn’t a sufficient change.
During that time, my brother Abraham had changed diets 3 or 4 times and this time he was on his Paleo diet. He was convinced that this was the right one. He had the idea that our illnesses, including my brother Bello’s seizures, had to do with how we ate. He didn’t rule out other environmental factors, but knew nutrition was a major player in our health. I felt like this was a bit ridiculous. “Helloooo food is nutrition!” But I couldn’t help to notice that he seemed more focused than before and he had lost so much weight. Changing to the Paleo diet meant changing my entire way of eating…..
This meant eating exclusively meats and vegetables.. No beans, no rice, and no corn…did I mention no bread. “Are you kidding me? No cookies or breads?” This seemed impossible to do. But after having enough of feeling sick and weak, I decided to give Abraham’s advice a try. I began slowly as he suggested. The first step was to try gluten-free and see if it made a difference for me. I understood that diets are temporary and they are meant to achieve a quick but short-term effect. I wanted to feel great all the time. I tried it for a month and realized the grand difference. I decided that this was going to be my way of living and not a diet!
I’ve been gluten-free and milk free for over 6 years. It is a work in progress. Now I know that nutrition isn’t just a tortilla in my stomach. There is much more to it! It means understanding how what we eat affects us. The good news is that there are gluten-free alternatives to all your favorite food…well most of your favorite food. What I may feel like I’m missing out on doesn’t compare to the focus and clarity that I enjoy today!!!