I think it’s time for me to tell the story of my health journey again. Periodically, I talk about what all has happened in this wild ride of life, but it keeps changing as time keeps marching on and I continue learning about things. I’ve also never talked about my entire journey from the beginning, so today I’m doing that.
So, to start from the very beginning means talking about how I grew up. Up until I was 3, my mom was a stay-at-home Mom while my dad worked. She was pretty strict about vegetables and me eating healthy (or so I’ve heard – I was 3), so I was a skinny, little kid. I did begin having skin problem when I was 2-ish, but it was never super serious.
Then, around 3, my dad retired, we moved to a remote piece of land near a small town (from a big city), and my mom decided to go to work, and I spent the days with my dad. Dad wasn’t big on any health stuff. I had hot chocolate, French toast, candy, PB&J sandwiches, and other junk food every single day. There was A LOT of meat and even more refined carbs and even more sugar. My parents also got associated with a group that had potluck dinners every 1 or 2 weeks, and I would eat my heart out. To put it bluntly, I was fat. I was always at least 30 pounds overweight, and when I got into high school, I was about 60 pounds overweight.
From the age of 7, I began exercising, and from the age of 10 on, I began counting calories. I did it sporadically, however, so I never really lost a lot of weight. No matter how well I would eat, there was always junk food and candy available, and I was encouraged by a lot of people to eat as much as I wanted. Most of the people I interacted with were older, and they all adopted me as another grandchild, so they all seemed to have that grandparent instinct to give me a cookie. Over the years, my skin problems got worse and worse, and my parents took me to see a plethora of dermatologists. I’ve lost track of how many, but there were at least 10. When I was in late high school, my skin couldn’t get any worse, so I began having some intense eye allergies. They were red and itchy, and whenever I slept they would get swollen and secrete liquid that would dry my eyelashes shut.
When I graduated high school, I decided to go to a college a few hours away. For the first time, I wasn’t living and eating with my parents. That first year, I actually lost weight. I loved going to the gym, and I was making smarted food decisions. I made it down to 135, which is still at the upper-end of a healthy weight for me (I’m barely 5’3″), but I looked good and felt healthy for the first time in my life. I was so excited when I wore some jeans that I hadn’t worn since middle school.
My second year at college was a bit crazier. I overloaded my class schedule and got a full-time job. Needless to say, there was no time for the gym anymore, and I was way too stressed to make any smart eating decisions. I gained back all the weight I’d lost plus some more. I was pushing 200 pounds. (All this time, I didn’t really pay attention to my skin, but from what I remember, my eye allergies were much worse during my second year of college.) The year ended when I had a brain aneurysm and ended up in the hospital.
I actually had an AVM (which is like a spider-web of veins that shouldn’t be there) with the aneurysm within. Then, during the craniotomy to remove the AVM, I had a stroke which left me nonverbal and unable to move at all (like, I couldn’t even swallow my own spit). I stayed in the hospital for months doing rehab. (Being so stressed in college didn’t cause this, but all the stress likely sped up the process of me forming an aneurysm.)
After my hospital stay, I moved back in with my parents for a few months until I got married (best decision ever, may I say). My days were filled with therapy appointments. Although I was back in the environment where I had gained so much weight, a few things had changed. During this time, my mom and I had heard about whole-food plant-based (WFPB) eating. We definitely weren’t doing it correctly, but it was slightly healthier than the diet we’d originally been eating, and because of my stroke, I was unable to eat as quickly as a normal human (at this point, I was eating slower than a sloth), so I actually lost a lot of weight. I didn’t pay attention to the scale at the time, but I’m pretty sure I was somewhere around 120. I also didn’t pay attention to my skin at the time, but I remember that I didn’t have any problems with my eye allergies.
After a few months of living with my parents, I married my husband and moved to live with him (this was in late 2017). My diet was still a poor version of WFPB. While I have successfully stayed at a healthy weight for 3 years (I was nearly underweight for a while), my skin problems got worse and worse.
By early 2019, my skin problems had gotten so bad that I decided to drastically change my diet. All the doctors I had seen up to this point barely helped, and I had tried every home-remedy I could find. Nothing helped. I revamped my diet, ate a better version of WFPB, and I cut out all of my topical ointments. My skin actually got better. (During this time, I visited my general practitioner. She tested my cholesterol and tried to put me on medication. I didn’t know it at the time, but having high cholesterol and not having done anything to cause it is almost always a sure sign of inflammation.)
By the end of 2019, my skin was healed, and I began eating A LOT of cheat foods (white sugar, cheese, other types of dairy, etc.), and eventually my skin got worse again.
My skin was bad, but manageable until late 2020 when I got pregnant. During the beginning of the pregnancy, I could only eat cold food or have to lay in bed with stomach pain and nausea all day. I began eating a lot of fruit and desserts sweetened with maple syrup since that’s allowed on a WFPB diet. However, I was consuming way too much natural sugar, and I developed and overgrowth of Candida (a type of fungus in the gut microbiome). Having too much of this type of fungus made my skin problems just explode.
Once again, I decided to revamp my diet. For a few weeks, I followed a strict Candida-protocol diet, then I moved to the eczema-healing diet that healed my skin in 2019 (but that diet made it easy for me to cheat), so I eventually moved to my own Monkey Diet that has actually been healing my skin even faster than the eczema-healing diet. I’m still eating more cooked foods than I outlined, but I’m also transitioning and still have leftovers from before. I’m going to eat them, but I just put them in a salad as one of the toppings, so I’m still eating about 60-70% raw. I would ideally be eating 85-90% raw, but once I make the transition and learn some more recipes, my raw numbers may go up.
By the way, can we talk about pooping for just a minute? When I was little and eating such an awful diet, I only pooped once every 2-3 days. (I think my body needs more fiber than a typical person to move things along, because I lived on a farm and had fresh veggies often). Now that I’m eating most of my food raw and having so many fruits and veggies, I’m pooping 2-4 times every single day!
I know that a fair amount of people wouldn’t like the idea that my Monkey diet is almost plant-based but not quite (3-4% of the diet is animal protein), but I’m with Michael Pollen on this one: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.