Eating the Weston Price Way
I just ate a chicken sandwich.
Not so unusual, right? Americans eat them everyday.
Except with this sandwich, there was no bread, just lettuce and tomato. And the chicken was pastured — not corn- or soy-fed. And it was drenched in home-made mayo. And instead of chips I had nuts. And a side of homemade probiotic-rich sauerkraut.
This is how I try to eat now: in accordance with the philosophy of Weston A. Price. I’m not always successful. I am a mom to two small kids and sometimes the choice isn’t between eating well and eating poorly, it’s between eating or not eating at all. So yes, I do drink my morning coffee. And I had polenta the other day. But I try to be cognizant of Price’s principles, and I try to incorporate them into my and my family’s meals.
Why? It’s certainly not for convenience. And it’s not as though I have a lot of free time I’m trying to kill. It’s because this way of eating — whole, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and pastured animal products — has made me healthier than I have ever been in my life. More energy. Less digestive upset. No more canker sores.
For years I struggled with minor and not-so-minor health problems. Endometriosis was what the doctors labeled the horrifically painful cramps that accompanied my period every month starting with the onset of menses. So I was put on the pill at age 15. Irritable Bowel Syndrome was another label given to bouts of gastric upset, bloating and almost violent diarrhea that left me enervated and depressed. The doctors suggested drugs; we compromised on fiber capsules.
Lots of drugs were always prescribed. I had surgery for my endometriosis and was told I should go on a very powerful drug that mimicked menopause and would bring on hot flashes and migraines. No, thanks.
No one, not one single doctor, ever asked me what I was eating.
So what was I eating? Well, I was mostly vegetarian. Sometimes I was more strict than others, but there was very little meat in my diet, almost no dairy, and certainly not full-fat dairy. What I did eat was grains. For breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in between. Bread, pasta, cereal, crackers — you name it. Wheat especially. And loads of sugar. Sugar gave me the energy I was craving, and it also gave me extreme highs and lows in my moods. But I couldn’t quit it.
Every once in a while I would “crave” burger, and like an alcoholic sneaking a drink I would slink off to a diner for a massive intake of fat, protein and iron. Sometimes I would slip bacon into my order at a breakfast joint. But mostly I was proud to be a quasi-vegetarian. That was the high road, right? Meat is murder!
It took me years to realize that not eating meat was murder too — self-murder.
It started with my desire to “cure” myself of endometriosis. I couldn’t imagine a lifetime of curling up on the bathroom floor each month in agony. I bought the book “Endometriosis: A Key to Healing Through Nutrition.” This information-rich tome scared the crap out of me. It was packed with science and the science was saying what I was eating might be causing my problems. I shut the book and put it on the shelf and popped some more pills when the pain came.
Over the years, I would take it down and skim it, trying to wrap my brain around a diet free of cookies and pasta and cake and croissants and all the things I considered wonderful in life. I read “Going Against the Grain” and found it fascinating, compelling and scary. But I still couldn’t pass up on the bread products. (It didn’t help that I lived in France at the time.) I just couldn’t seem to do it, even when my mouth was aching with canker sores, or my gut seemed clenched in a vice. I took comfort in food. I was a good cook, a really good one, and when things weren’t working in life I could measure and stir and bake and broil and something wonderful would emerge.
Along with the joys of giving birth to my children came other odd problems: almost crippling rheumatoid arthritis in my hands, hyperthyroidism that led to dramatic weight loss. Afflictions seemed to come and go.
I knew my body was telling me something with all these various problems, I just wasn’t sure what. As I was doing research on hyperthyroidism (like many I have a PhD in Google), I kept coming across two things: the Paleo Diet and the cookbook “Nourishing Traditions.” I read up on the Paleo diet, but quickly realized I could never adhere to such a limited way of eating. Then I took “Nourishing Traditions” out of the library. By bedtime that evening, I had ordered the book online and made a commitment to try eating this way. A few months later I joined the Weston A. Price foundation.
As Dr. Paula Bass said at a recent meet-up, “If you want to eat well, just eat the Weston Price way.”
The information contained in that book made sense to me on a visceral level. It was as if someone had given me the key to decode all the mysterious links between food and health that had been swimming incomprehensibly in my brain for years.
It’s been a great, albeit sometimes scary, experience so far. I have been saying good-bye to old habits and old foods. And when I meet up with them again, as I did over the holidays, I immediately feel the negative impacts — on my mood, my waistline and my digestive system, for instance. The hard part for me has been coming out of the closet. We live in a country where experts tell us to poison ourselves in the name of health, and truly healthful eating is seen as destructive and ignorant.