“I was your typical American kid. Growing up in Alabama I was raised on real southern fare: meat n’ three, and the three usually consisted of mac n’ cheese, mashed potatoes and butter beans with bacon. Boxed pasta meals were a staple and very few vegetables made an appearance on my plate. For breakfast it was Count Chocula, Apple Jacks or Frosted Flakes all with a teaspoon or two of sugar sprinkled over the top! Once the cereal was gone there was the equivalent of a milkshake left to spoon out of the bottom of the bowl. My mom’s idea of a hot breakfast back then was a piece of white Wonder bread spread with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and placed under the broiler long enough to toast. I absolutely loved sugar. Soda, candy, chocolate, snack cakes, chocolate milk, slice n’ bake cookies, Hostess hand pies… I ate it all, often and in huge amounts.
I was always thin and very physically active, constantly involved in sports so never worried at all about gaining weight or my health until my early twenties when I went off to college. I gained the freshman 15. Once I left school and got into production I just kept gaining. After the birth of my first child I was at my heaviest. I felt pressure in my stomach and chest even when simply tying my shoes. I felt fat and experienced frequent acid reflux. It was January of ’92, and knowing there was an upcoming family 4th of July pool party I was expected to attend, I already felt the future embarrassment of taking my shirt off.
So, I turned over a new leaf, hoping to lose the weight by July. I started running, cut back on the amount of food and sweets in particular. During a normal day I’d eat things like a can of tuna and some crackers or a bowl of french onion soup and I’d run 15 miles a day three times per week. I dropped from my original 220 lbs. to 165 lbs. by February. I went to the doctor for a check-up and he said he was shocked.
Shortly after I had lost the weight I walked to the drugstore and ended up having to crawl back to the house with sharp pains. I had kidney stones due to a calcium build up from my milk intake. After that, I never drank milk again, but because I isolated the problem to milk I didn’t stop eating cheese or other dairy products. I pretty much stayed what was considered thin, but I’d had back issues since my early 20s. I associated the issues with being in production, lifting and such. I noticed that my back didn’t bother me when I ran, but times would come where I didn’t run for months, then I’d gain weight back and my back would bother me again. I attributed it to the weight gain and lack of exercise.
In my late 20s, my father went to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack, but I never really made the connection of his illness to what he was eating. From that point until my early 40s I gained, I lost, and gained again and was embarrassed by how I looked again. I dealt with joint issues, back issues and fatigue. The thought of heart disease crossed my mind from time to time because after all, my father suffered from heart disease, so assumed I was more than likely destined to suffer the same at some point. I had absolutely no clue that a conversation over business would soon take me down a path I hardly knew existed… and that’s where the Eating You Alive story and my Whole Food Plant Based journey began. More to come later!