As women we can be sensitive about our weight. Often people assume that it’s mainly women struggling with weight loss. However, I was the total opposite. I wanted to gain weight. I would look in the mirror and try to figure out where this skinny figure came from. I didn’t understand. I was always on the small side, but I still had curves. My 5’ 3” frame use to even out nicely at around 120 pounds. Now I was in the low hundreds, and I worried that soon people would be calling me Olive Oil.
Rewind to the beginning. I grew up in a Muslim household where I was accustomed to having dietary restrictions. Of course, we ate no pork, and also no red meat, no shell fish and a few other things. And although I admired how youthful my mother looked and how disciplined she was with her eating habits–eating one meal a day and fasting once a month– growing up, I figured I was young, I didn’t have any weight issues and I stayed active, so I was all good. I would snack a lot and, outside of my religious restrictions, I ate pretty much what I wanted.
I ventured off to the college still juvenile in my eating habits and was now in a situation where I needed to make smart choices. Of course, I didn’t. And by the end of my first year in college, I was just three pounds shy of the “Freshman 15.” Cereal for dinner. Pizza for lunch. Buffalo chicken fingers and milkshakes during after hours. I was eating more than I ever ate at home, and late night studying and socializing had me eating later than usual as well.
But senior year things changed. Before my school year began, I had already lost a few pounds over the unusually hot summer due to a hectic work schedule and the emotional distress of almost losing a friend to violence. However, I was sure that after just a couple months of a greasy and starchy college diet, I would gain it back in no time. But, I didn’t. And as the school year went on, it didn’t get any better. Going through a rough break up while working two jobs and keeping up with classes was taking its toll, and much to my dismay, I lost more weight.
A year later, I still hadn’t gained my weight back and I couldn’t understand why. I tried everything from protein shakes, vitamins, to flat out eating more junk. Nothing seemed to work. I was frustrated and unhappy with my weight. People’s comments made me even more self-conscious. Some admired my slimmer figure; some insisted that I eat (as if I wasn’t). I just wanted to feel and look healthy.
I was always a believer in holistic care; so finally, I decided to go see the homeopathic doctor that a few people in my family had gone to. A no nonsense, honest and straight-from-the-hip kind of guy, during my first visit he probed me about my eating habits. “What do you eat?” he asked. As I started going down this lists, he stopped me. “I asked you that because you look like you’re not eating.” Embarrassed, I hoped he didn’t think I was suffering from some sort of eating disorder and could help me figure out what was going on.
After performing a thorough, but non-evasive examination, he informed me that my thyroid was hyperactive and I was also anemic; both of which can contribute to weight loss. He went over the difference between real foods (fresh) and processed foods and told me to focus on eating the former. He also instructed me to stay away from foods with wheat/gluten (a common food allergen for many). He gave me a few whole food supplements to take over the next few weeks and I was to drink three cups of raw milk a day; which, he explained, is substantially more nutritious than pasteurized milk and is not filled with hormones.
“Wait, raw milk?!” I thought. I didn’t even drink so-called regular milk, so how was going to bring myself to drink that; I was sure it had to be nasty. Also, I wondered how I was going to stay off of wheat when it seemed to be in everything: breads, pasta, not to mention my favorite snacks.
Excuses aside, I did it. I forced myself to drink the milk, take the supplements and avoid wheat. Surprisingly, I actually began to like the taste of raw milk. It was fresh, slightly sweet and seemed to give me lots of energy. I returned to my doctor a few weeks later looking and feeling much healthier.
This time he scratched sugar out my diet.
“Great. Just take all the tasty joys out of my life!” I whined to myself. But while I stumbled a few times, I tried my best to follow his instructions because I knew it could only benefit me. At my next visit, my doctor advised me to do a three week detox program to help to cleanse my body and remove toxins. As great it sound, I wasn’t sure if I was up for the challenge. The detox package came with a protein shake and cleansing supplements. The first week I could only drink the shake, and eat fruits and vegetables. The following week lentil beans, rice and fish could be added.
After one day of protein smoothies, salad and grilled asparagus, I was thinking “I can’t do this—I’m hungry!” But I hung in there. I realized I was mainly craving sweets and snacks and not necessarily food, and after the first week I felt more energized. There were a couple trips to the grocery store, where I was lured into the bakery by the smells of fresh pastries and cakes, and I relapsed on a sugary treat. However, I kept a food diary, so even when I slipped up, I could record how eating certain foods affected me.
Now, nine months since my first visit with my Homeopathic doctor, I feel better than ever and have finally gained some of my weight back. My diet, as well as my perspective on food, has changed quite a bit. I drank at least a glass of raw milk each day and do my best to stay away from wheat and sugar; fighting the cravings by eating an assortment of tasty fruits and healthy snacks. The road to embracing holistic care and eating healthier was not easy. Many times during this process, I had to weigh the pros and cons of going out to eat, learn to be much more disciplined with my eating habits, and not to mention, try to explain to friends why there are 1950s style glass bottles of milk stocked in my fridge. In addition and unfortunately, the healthier foods are usually the most expensive. So, it also was not cheap. However, I reasoned that if I’m going to spend money on anything, it should be my health.
While my path may not be for everyone, anyone that is considering holistic/homeopathic care be sure to do your research and get the guidance of a licensed practitioner to figure out what’s best for you. It will definitely be a challenge, but all you need is the will and the changes you have to make will be well worth it. And, you never know, you may soon find yourself becoming a Whole Foods “junky” and craving things like hummus and gluten free crackers…like I am right now.