On 02 January 2015 I had an epiphany of sorts when, almost as if a light had come on, I made a major decision to change my life. At the time I was in the midst of a personal crisis, that had been loaded on top of several other crises. I was barely able to keep breathing enough to plough through each day, let alone make a major decision. Despite that I made the biggest decision that I had made for a long time and that was the decision to take back control of my life. My life. My responsibility.
I underwent The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) exclusion diet protocol in 1985 (1) which involved a few-foods diet until symptoms settled, followed by food challenges, then a modified diet excluding only problem foods. Lastly, there was moderation of the diet up to my level of food tolerance.
Some of the food challenges raised my blood pressure.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a medical condition in which blood pressure pumping through the arteries is elevated compared to what is considered normal. It is a major risk for coronary heart disease and can lead to long-term complications such as vision problems, or kidney disease. My own father had uncontrollable high blood pressure and died of stroke in 1974 age 49 years. His mother and aunt also had strokes.
By my late twenties, my red-meat-centred, full-fat dairy, white bread and sugar-treats diet of my childhood had changed. Food swaps after my father’s heart attack meant more chicken and less red-meat, skim milk instead of full-fat milk, oil instead of butter, and fatty foods only eaten socially. I also restricted sugar, confectionery and chocolate. I based my diet around foods high in fibre with wholemeal breads, added bran, and fruit. Thus in the early 1980s, when I started out on motherhood, I had preconceived high ideals on a healthy diet for myself and healthy foods for my children. I believed if I fed my children mainly wholegrain cereals, vegetables and fruit; if I avoided excess fats, salt, sugar and refined cereals; then good health and well-being would naturally follow.
How wrong I was.
My second son was a failure to thrive, suffering chronic diarrhoea and repeated wheezy chest colds from the introduction of solid food. Referred to a paediatrician at 15 months, a series of tests ruled out sinister problems, and he was diagnosed with food allergies. He initially improved on a restrictive diet excluding milk, eggs and wheat. However, he had frequent relapses and it would be another two years before I had the complete answer for him. Needless to say, this was an emotionally distressing time as I battled sleepless nights, guilt-choked days and a socially-crippling diet. Continue reading “My food history # 6 – critical moments … high blood pressure”→
The diet advised to our family after my father’s heart attack swapped foods, rather than restricted food types. Instead of butter for spreads, we used soft margarine. Instead of beef dripping for cooking, we used safflower or sunflower oil. Instead of full-cream milk and full-fat cheese, we used skim milk and cottage cheese. Instead of beef, lamb and sausages we ate chicken and fish. Grilling of meats replaced deep-frying. There wasn’t much difference in advice given for cereals, fruit and vegetables. The same British diet pattern remained. Cereals for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. Meat or fish and three vegetables for dinner. Fruit for snacks. Occasional celebrations. Continue reading “My food history # 5 – Fighting fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar”→
There are some defining moments in my life that have become etched so vividly in my memory that I can feel the events exactly as if I was still there. Where I was. The time of day. The clothes I had on. The colour of the wallpaper in the hallway. The shakiness in my mother’s voice. Such was the night my father had his heart attack and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. The slow-motion event was replayed four years later after his stroke. That time my father did not come home. It was January 1974. My father was 49 years old. I was one month shy of my twentieth birthday. Continue reading “My food history # 4 – critical moments – my father”→