I feed my kids fruits and try for veggies. I try to choose clean products for them. So why am I not doing this for myself? This past (brutal) cold and flu season knocked me on my tush. I was sick for two weeks and had a lot of time to think about how I have to change.
For me, flu turned into bronchitis. Why was I so much sicker than the rest of my family? My 40th birthday is around the corner. I’m starting to see changes. As you get older, your body doesn’t just bounce back like when you’re younger.
When I was in my 20s I ate whatever I wanted — so. much. junk! I was a fast food, pre-packaged master. I didn’t use enough sunblock. I chose whatever cheap beauty products smelled the best. I still didn’t get sick and my youthful body was able to keep going. But that damage adds up after time and I’m seeing the effects now.
The damage: Two years ago my doctor almost put me on cholesterol medication. I got chunks of precancerous skin cut out of my forehead and ear. (That hurt.) I have chronic inflammation all over, with pain in my back, neck and bleeding gums. I need a lot of sleep — like 9 hours. And my poor diet made my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms and cycle worsen, making it difficult to conceive.
In my 30s I made progress, but it was a “two steps forward and one step” back kind of thing. One day I went crazy and cleared out everything chemical in our apartment. Then a month later they started creeping back in. The toxic products seem to work better, even though they harm your body. But it’s hard to switch when you don’t see the immediate damage.
Then I had kids. Of course I wanted the best for them. I started out buying all organic, but it was expensive! So I went in phases of buying it sometimes and not other times. I thought I was buying them clean, natural products, but now I know a lot of them weren’t. (More on that in next Tuesday’s post: Is your makeup toxic?)
I was making effort for the kids, but I was still using bleach toilet bowl cleaner, shampoo that lathered up for days and eating convenience food.
I also have a myriad of medical issues in my family history. As I sat sick in bed I realized I was playing with fire. I’m predisposed to many things, I’m introducing toxins to my body daily with my products and not eating a fraction of the vegetables I need to heal the damage I have done.
Preventive care is the best care! Maybe you can relate to my story. Maybe yours is similar. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and not have to see the harm from your choices to change.
So here’s what I’m doing: Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been doing big changes at our house in three phases. You can see how much I’m learning in video form in my Instagram story highlights under “clean eats” and “clean beauty.”
1. Throw out all toxic cleaners and products.
I didn’t have too many many harmful cleaners (I normally use vinegar and baking soda for everything — and a secret ingredient!). So I tossed the strong stuff I bought when we moved. Other people’s dirt is gross.
Then, without any kind of research I bought a bunch of “safer” replacements — shampoo, eco toilet bowl cleaner, natural dishwasher detergent. But it was all toxic too!!!
The “plant-based, natural” toilet bowl cleaner I bought has a toxicity level of 8 out of 10! Eight! How do I know? Let me introduce you to two websites that can help measure toxin levels in our everyday products.
Product comparison apps
How to use the sites: You can enter the product in either of these databases and see the score. Think Dirty has more household products listed and is available only as a phone app.
If your product is not in the Skin Deep database, you can use the “build your own report” function. This database is available online and as a phone app. You can scan barcodes on items from both phone apps.
It’s important to note the lowest level is 0 on Think Dirty, and the lowest level on Skin Deep is 1.
Prepare to be shocked! Popular brands advertised as natural aren’t quite as safe as we think. Mrs. Meyer’s brands go up to a toxic level of 8, and my beloved Burt’s Bees has a few products measured at a 6. My favorite Ecos “all-natural” laundry detergent is a 6!
One thing disappointing thing is that there doesn’t seem to be one line with everything at a level 0/1 toxicity level. Brands have some options at all levels of toxicity. So you could buy the baby soap at a level 1, but buy the baby lotion with fragrance and you’re at a 5. Even the scent can change the score!
Fragrance is the toxic game changer. It boosts otherwise safe products up to the top of the scale. If it smells strong, it’s probably harmful. I am basically avoiding all fragrance now as much as possible.
I’m skeptical of everything, it’s in my nature, so am using both of these sites and compare the same product to make sure it’s safe for my family.
Clean household products I am using after research:
These products are all level 0, according to Think Dirty.
Clean products for kids
Here’s what I found for the kids. A couple notes: They love the watermelon flavor toothpaste. The hair gel does not work as well as the super-scented stiff stuff, but a whole lot less toxic!
I’m still testing my own non-toxic beauty products and deodorants to see what works best. I’ll have a post on my non-toxic recommendations here soon!
2. Eat an organic, plant-based diet.
It wasn’t all that difficult to throw out the few household products I have and replace them. But retraining my body and brain how to eat would be harder.
My thoughts about food were all wrong. I was looking at food as 1) an expense and 2) a burden. So I was trying to spend less, but we all know less expensive food has less nutrients. I don’t enjoy cooking, so I was opting for easy dinners (think cans and preservatives).
Now I’m beginning to see food as medicine and fuel. God knew what our bodies would need and he gave us those things. Years ago my friend Ashby posed a simple question to ask about each thing we decide to eat:
Is this food going to help my body or hurt it?
Food rich in antioxidants, fiber and micronutrients repair cells, reverse chronic illness caused by lifestyle choices and help the body function as it was meant.
Helpful food documentaries
I watched about 10 documentaries on health and went on information overload. I was specifically on the hunt for movies focused on what I can do to better my health, not the movies that only terrify me with meat and dairy and chemical consumption. Does that make sense? I know what’s bad now, I want to know how to get better!
Here are three movies free on Amazon Prime that have a lot of knowledge to offer:
Food Matters: This documentary contained a great deal of valuable information you don’t often hear. 51 percent of our diet should be raw food. Even lightly steaming vegetables changes the compound, loses nutrients and your body cannot absorb them immediately into the bloodstream. Malnourishment takes many forms, including depression and chronic illness. You can be eating a lot, but still be malnourished in the minerals your body needs. Vitamins C helps with stress, adrenaline and even kills cancer cells in high doses. Niacin helps depression and alcoholism. There are only a handful of minerals, but many things that can go wrong when we don’t have them.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead: Follow a man trying to cure his rare autoimmune disease by drinking only fresh juice for 60 days! I confess, I bought my juicer after watching this!
It Takes Guts: This documentary explores the function and importance of microbes in our body. It looks into the possible connection with increasing your microbes and losing weight. “The largest change to our diet in recent years is not fat or sugar intake, it’s our drop of dietary fiber.” One scientist did a study on his own son. He fed him McDonald’s for 10 days. His microbes went from 6,000 to 3,500. “Microbes that live in the colon go hungry when we choose things such as sweets or fast food. They can loose diversity. You get a general inflammatory state in the body and is one of the major causes of obesity.” The number one source to improve microbes is leeks. One cup of lentils has four times more fiber than the average American eats in a day. Chickpeas also make a shift in the microbiome.
Visually seeing pesticides being sprayed on plants in the documentaries and hearing that those chemicals can remain in our system indefinitely was enough to convince me to shop organic. I think I buried my head in the sand for a long time on this one and decided to ignore it.
I had to adjust our food budget to shop exclusively organic. You know I’m honest about money topics and don’t shy away from real numbers. This first month I spent $700 on groceries. That’s a lot for a family of five! But I was buying new condiments and restocking the basics and protein. I also buy some things for my in-law who live in our guest house.
Now that we have the basics, that number will hopefully go down. This includes toilet paper, paper towels, products and vitamins. I find that if I make one trip to Costco at the beginning of the month, I can supplement the remaining weeks with $100 at Trader Joes. And that is all organic and mostly fruits and vegetables.
Some people say buying so much produce is too expensive. But it’s cheaper than heart surgery, monthly prescriptions and repeat doctor visits!
I watched four documentaries on juicing and decided that was what my husband and I need to get adequate greens in our diet. Neither one of us naturally reach for healthy food and fall short of the recommended fresh greens.
Fortunately, Marcello has been on a mission to lose weight since the New Year and was on board with changing our diets. Personally, I am not making these changes to lose weight, I’m making them to refuel my nutrient-deprived body.
We went on a three day juice cleanse, but still ate fish for dinner. Now we are having one juice a day to supplement our meals. I bought this juicer for $59 and it works great!
Eating a plant-based diet
We are not on a diet. We are not following any specific plan. But it looks something like this:
- Fruits and vegetables are the bulk of our diet (eating them raw as much as possible)
- More legumes, nuts, seeds
- More fish
- Meat only a few times a week (preferably white/lean)
- Fresh juice once a day
- Drink lots of water
- Limited dairy
- Little to no gluten
- Avoid convenience food and refined sugar
- No food dye (especially for the kids)
That’s it. It’s nothing shocking. They are things we already know we should be doing. I’d like to share some new recipes and summarize all the information I gathered, but this will have to do for now.
I cheat. And that’s ok. If I’m too rigid, I know I won’t stick with it. When I’m out or we have people over (I’ll try not go crazy) but for the most part I’ll eat what they’re eating and serving!
Results so far
We’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and I am already experiencing results. My body is happy!
My joints don’t hurt and aren’t inflamed. This is a big deal! Before, I would toss and turn all night because my back hurt and wake up stiff as a board. Since I have started doing this I all of a sudden noticed that I hadn’t moved all night! And my muscles weren’t tight. And this started before I began exercising. This means less chemicals taking ibuprofen and no chiropractor visits!
We have more energy. I literally sleep an hour less at night! I’m giving my body the nutrients it needs to heal and digest more easily. When I’m eating steak, cheese and bread for dinner that takes a massive amount of work and energy to digest. Also, like I said, my joints aren’t inflamed so I’m not tossing and turning in bed!
We’ve lost weight. Marcello has lost 17 pounds in a month and a half changing his diet and running a few times a week. I’ve only lost a couple of pounds, but I’m already in my normal weight range. Several people have told me I don’t need to be doing this, I’m already thin. But thin doesn’t mean healthy, let me tell you!
3. Get an exercise routine.
I’ve come a long way! I’ve cleared the house from toxins. I’ve completely changed my diet and view of food. Exercise is next!
I don’t know why I haven’t been working out. I used to love it! But after I had three kids in four years I didn’t have the energy. So now I’m completely out of shape, and let me tell you that out of shape people do not get excited to work out and just how bad things have gotten! Ha!
But I’m going to do it. No more excuses. I have a plan.
I have started working out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 30 minutes. I put an alert in my phone!
YouTube workout channels I’m loving
Do you have any free workout suggestions? I’ll take ’em!
So that’s where I am. It’s the beginning of a healthier lifestyle and I’m so excited about it! Something is different this time and I’m not going to take any steps back.
I think the key is finding healthier choices that are obtainable. I’m going to eat mostly plant-based, but make allowances for parties and occasions. I’m working out more regularly, but I know me, I won’t do it every day. So my goal is three days.
Look for my non-toxic makeup recommendations next week. I’ve done so much looking and testing!
How about you? Have you ever heard of these product databases or have any awesome workouts to share?