Fixing My Fuel Part 1

It is an interesting thing when you realize that you are making yourself sick, that a doctor told you this a long time ago, and that finally after being mostly sick for 10 or 15 years, you are going to finally do the very simple and easy things your doctor told you to do 15 years ago to make yourself better without drugs or, truth be told, very little effort.

15 years ago, I had a depression issue. Still do sometimes. It’s funny too – not depression, but that I am prone to it. I have a beautiful wife and son, great family, great friends who try to stay in touch as best as we all can. I have a good job and make great money these days too – me and my family want for very little at all. I was always a happy kid according to my parents.  I am about 6 feet tall, not bad looking (not nearly Brad Pitt or Denzel or whatever male lead you like either, but certainly serviceable), and tend toward fairly easy muscle gains and athleticism. I am of at least average intelligence, remember pretty much anything I read or look at once, and can recall obscure facts at will. I had lots of friends (still do, although most of them are on the other coast now due to a recent move way West). I had a couple of nice doggies and my own apartment for most of college. I had a great job – didn’t pay much, but then I didn’t need much either. I had a good social life, played in a couple bands, hung out and did a lot of the same things most happy people in their early 20s do – study a little bit, work, beach, party, travel a little, etc. But I never felt good.

I felt okay most of the time. But never really good. Probably a lot of this had to do with the fact I smoked regularly, usually between half a pack and a pack a day of lights. I probably drank too much too, but generally couldn’t afford to overdo it mostly. I also never really had more than one or two terrible hangovers, and most of those crappy feelings could be traced directly to the cigarettes and not really the booze so much. But a lot of it DID have to do with flour.

Flour???

I have always had some weird problem with flour and sugar, and I’ve noticed it from a young age. When I was a kid, we ate meat, veggies and fruit, some bread – like one sandwich/two piece per day at most, and not much else. Junk food was a big no-no in my house (except for the occasional Tasty-Kake box – it’s a PA thing), and we almost never drank soda. We grew our own food in a garden, and my mom canned it for the winter. We ate very healthy food, and I’m convinced that this diet allowed me and my brother both to enter gifted programs in early elementary school, prevented us both from ever having cavities or broken bones, and contributed in a big way to how we turned out academically and intellectually. We both entered kindergarten knowing how to read, and he even entered a little earlier than he should have because he was cognitively ready. Then in middle and high school, I started staying at friends’ houses on the weekends and eating less and less of this good stuff, and more crap. Around this time, my parents also divorced, which meant weekdays with dad were pretty under control diet-wise, but we asked for Chinese take-out and pizza at mom’s, which is what we ate there. Kind of funny in a way, because she still ate healthy and made that available; we just made other choices and she indulged probably to make sure that she felt she was providing what we wanted after the divorce. Then I went to college and it was even more downhill – due to budgetary constraints, I ate lots of boxed mac and cheese, pizza, subs, frozen microwavable crap, and a bunch of other garbage that has no real counterpart in the natural food world. So I got sick.

I got sick a lot. I got lots of colds and stuff, but I also got mentally ill. Depression was a major issue for me at this age, and also some anxiety that would manifest itself in various ways. I bounced from doctor to doctor, but they all just wanted to talk about it and throw a pill at it and then tell me to get more exercise. Here’s the thing about that: I walked to class, walked to work, walked my dogs after work, and then walked to whatever I was doing in the evenings. I walked probably 2 hours per day. I generally weightlifted 2-3 times per week most weeks, I skated and played hockey in the parking lot in front of my apartment, I hiked and biked and swam on the weekends, and I really couldn’t figure out how to get in any more exercise. I exercised on average 2 or 3 hours PER DAY because all of the things I liked or had to do relied on it. So I knew that wasn’t the issue, and there had to be another issue. I found out there was some depression in my family, and some substance abuse issues as well, so for the time being, I chalked it up to faulty wiring that I couldn’t do anything about. So I resigned myself to the pills and that was it.

But I didn’t get better. I got worse.

Anti-depressives made me feel worse. I got weird motion sensations and little shocks and tingles I never had before in my extremities. I gained weight and became tired and lethargic all the time, which makes it a lot harder to stay active and even harder to feel good. My head became cloudy and muddy, and I had mood swings worse than when I was just depressed (like a lot of men, my depression wasn’t so much sadness as it was anger and constant fatigue). So I quit those and decided to go it alone.

Then I met the doctor who really changed my life. More on him next post.

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