Kool-Aid, Pop Tarts, Jello, and Broccoli

I was a very skinny kid. I got made fun of for it, just like a chubby kid gets made fun of for being 'fat.' It was just as painful. My mom had me to the doctor's office frequently, pointing out how all my bones stuck out and I didn't eat enough. She suggested to him that I be put on 'tonic' which was something like a liquid vitamin supplement I think. It smelled like iron. It tasted like sh*t. 

I grew up in the 60's and 70's - at the onslaught of convenience foods. Everything was coming in wrappers, boxes and cans. Almost all of our food came out of cans and boxes. My mother thought it was just awesome. And I certainly didn't know any better. Breakfast was Trix and Lucky Charms with orange juice out of a can and mixes with three cans of water (I think). Lunch was a bologna sandwich on Wonder Bread and some vegetable out of a can and Kool Aid to drink (my family didn't like milk, so I wasn't forced to drink it either, unless I was at someone else's house). For dinner, it was almost always something fried, usually in some animal fat with more canned vegetables, more Wonder Bread and margarine. For snacks, I would come home from school and eat things like a half of a jar of olives or maraschino cherries or......broccoli. I know, weird. Right?!

I was sick...a lot! Throughout my childhood I had influenza, stomach bugs, and colds often. I had both kinds of measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever, and a host of others that I can't remember right now. I remember getting penicillin shots in my butt at least once a year. (Now I'm allergic to penicillin...hmmm....) I got all the vaccinations that were recommended at the time. But I was sick often. 

I really didn't enjoy eating all that much until I became a young teenager. I started gravitating toward hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, and vegetables! Yes, vegetables. I would come home from school and fix myself a box of Birds Eye frozen broccoli, or cauliflower or asparagus or green beans. Broccoli was always my favorite. With cheese sauce. Mmmmmm....I'm having a moment recollecting that smell and taste right now. That was heaven to me. At least I liked vegetables. But I loved sugar too. Not chocolate. Just sugar.

My mom loved food and was very overweight - obese for sure. I am ashamed to say that I was embarrassed by her when friends came around. Don't judge. I said I'm ashamed. Anyway, she would have bowls and bowls of various candy (mostly chocolates) sitting around all over the house. Just sitting out, for anyone to take at any time. This was proof that I was a very strange child. I wouldn't eat the candy. It would just sit there until company would come over (which was quite often) or my mom would eat it.  My mom would always say, "I can tell when you've had a friend or two over, because the candy level would go down." She never had to be concerned with me eating it, even though it was right out there for all to be enticed.

My dad was sick all the time. He had been hit by a car and was injured very badly when I was almost 3. He was in and out of hospitals with all kinds of problems. We spent a lot of time in hospitals while I was a child. He struggled just getting through the day most of the time. When I was 9, he became very ill and we eventually learned he had pancreatic cancer. He died when I was 10. 

My mom also was not well, She was obese and eventually got Type 2 Diabetes. She had to take insulin twice a day and still couldn't keep her weight down, even if she would begin to. She wobbled and swayed back and forth when she walked. She couldn't do anything physical. She didn't even like to walk to the car. Her knees were bad from holding up all that weight. She sat most of her life.

Watching both of my parents' health fail when I was so young had an impact on me. I wanted to be healthy and never have any of those things happen to me, but I didn't know how to even begin to learn about health and wellness. Back then, it wasn't what it is today. We are continually learning and un-learning about it.

Back then, we didn't even hear about how bad sugar was for you, so I was still taking in a lot of it. I had a soda every day - at least one, usually more.  I continued that pattern, pretty much eating and drinking what I wanted and liked, until I had my first child. I finally gained weight! Too much weight! 60 pounds to be exact. I was elated that I seemed 'normal' and actually had some weight I needed to take off. But how? I never had this problem before. I was only 21 years old. It was pretty easy by just eating less and not eating so many desserts. I exercised too, which was also pretty easy. I took it all off and was back down to a size 0. Crazy, huh? But was I healthy??? Nope.

As time went on, more kids came. I put on weight with each child that was born. My largest dress size was a 14. That was very big for me, as I am relatively short in stature and small framed. I had four kids and was a frumpy, chubby mom that didn't exercise. I could see where this was going. Remember my diabetic mom? I had used diet plans such as Weight Watchers and Adkins after the births of my children. They worked well for losing weight, but I was beginning to have more and more symptoms of autoimmune problems, only I didn't know that's what it was. I was beginning my 40's with a lot of issues. By the time I was pregnant with my daughter, I wasn't feeling all that great. My weight wasn't too bad, but I just didn't feel well.

After she was born and we received her diagnosis, I started researching like a mad woman. I became an overnight expert on Down syndrome. I wanted to help her all I could. I found out that people with Down syndrome over-metabolize certain nutrients. This extra chromosome really plays havoc with their bodies. I began to supplement my breast milk with extra nutrients, like selenium, magnesium, vitamin D, and at night, tryptophan to help her have a better sleep. 

While I was obsessing about her health, I was neglecting mine. By the time I was 45, I was dealing with type 2 diabetes, diverticulitis, thyroid issues, being overweight, tired, grumpy and feeling hopeless. In the forthcoming posts, I will tell you some of what I learned about what food can do for us and how it can be our medicine. 

I am now on a health journey that has been quite the learning experience. This journey began for my daughter and now includes me - and you - if any of this applies. I decided to get a nutrition coaching certification and at least try to help others by sharing what I've learned, not only in school and research, but just in life. I no longer have diabetes, diverticulitis, or am I overweight. I have more energy and the mood swings are gone. The thyroid is getting healed completely by diet. I am on no medication. Food IS my medicine! 

In the coming months, I'll be offering coaching packages for people who want the one-on-one experience to help them or their children with Down syndrome get healthier. Until then, enjoy Phoebe's videos and my blog and feel free to 'like', 'share', or 'comment.' 

No Kool-Aid for these girls! No Pop-Tarts either! 

No Kool-Aid for these girls! No Pop-Tarts either!