It's true. I can trace most of my interest in nutrition and healthy eating to my struggle to have clear skin.
Like so many other American women, I thought I was done with teenage acne after high-school. Not so. My sophomore year of college, my face began erupting, not into little forehead zits like in junior high, but into giant cysts all over my cheeks that left nasty scars. My quest for clear skin spanned about 4 years and went something like this:
- Tried all the typical over-the-counter acne cures I had ever heard of - lotions, soaps, creams.
- Started looking into environmental factors: did I need to stop sleeping on my face? Should I stop leaning my chin in my hand in class?
- Found an "acne diet" book that advocated all low-glycemic-index foods. Did my best to cut out potatoes, bananas, mangoes, white flour, tried to avoid sugar (this was nigh impossible in college). Tried to eat some fish, but avoided fat, just as I had my whole life.
- Broke down sobbing several months before my wedding, crying to my mom that I just didn't know what to do. She suggested Tetracycline, a low-level antibiotic that you take everyday. It helped a lot. It also made my skin incredibly sensitive to sunlight (bad when you live in Colorado), and probably destroyed a good bit of my intestinal flora.
- Stopped the Tetracycline because of terrible, persistant sunburns while working at high altitude for a summer. A mentor who had had skin cancer became concerned about the burns, and when she heard about the antibiotics, she was concerned about that too. She suggested finding out if I had toxic heavy metal levels, like a friend of hers who had developed acne. I never tried this...who knows?
- Read Never Be Sick Again by Raymond Francis. While I now disagree with some of his nutritional stances, it was the first time I had ever heard of whole-body health beginning at a cellular level. This idea was so powerful - if I took good care of my cells, the effects would eventually show on my skin, right? Well, no luck yet.
- My husband and I read The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin. I recognized many concepts of cellular health in this book from #6, and its biblical foundation resonated with me. This was the beginning of my Traditional Foods understanding. I tried a few recipes (and started using butter instead of margarine), but I was still in college and wasn't motivated enough to eat differently from all my friends! I did, however, start aiming for whole foods.
- Got pregnant. Honestly, this was the first time I had had even remotely clear skin in almost 3 years, I guess because of the hormone changes. I also started learning about the detrimental effects of artificial flavors and sweeteners on babies in the womb, and I suddenly had a great reason to eat whole foods!
- Einstein was 4 months old when my husband gave me a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Falon for Christmas. Ever since, I've had some successes and some failures trying to incorporate the principles of Traditional Foods into my family's eating. I learned about Cod Liver Oil, which for me has been a magical acne-fighting cure-all, and more recently, wheat grass juice, which has helped significantly as well, I assume just by increasing my whole body's health.
Looking back, I wish I could have those 3 years of my life back: the low self-esteem, guilt over what I was eating, hating to have my picture taken (and deleting all Facebook photos my college friends posted of me), and self-doubt. But the knowledge the experience brought me is worth it, I suppose, and the remaining scars are a lovely reminder of why I go out of my way to eat the way I do, and to provide healthy food for my children.