By Sari Huhtala
Moms intuitively know the nurturing their babies need for healthy growth – many breastfeed knowing breast is best for a healthy start and, even if it means being sleep deprived, they never lose sight of that. Yet, when it comes to intuitively knowing what is best for their own nourishment, moms often fall short.
When it comes to priorities, most moms are placing their own health down at the bottom of the list. One falls off the health bandwagon just to keep up, particularly when one is juggling a family of seven kids – three of whom are triplets and two with disabilities and health concerns. Life can get crazy. And it did, for Stepheny Palmer, a 34-year-old North Bay, ON resident, until she realized the missing piece of the puzzle was self-care and nurturing.
Palmer, who runs Growing Up Green in North Bay, chuckles, now one year after making a switch to real food, how it hadn’t dawned on her that she was addicted to sugar and all the while feeding her inflammation and pain, which was rooted in a diagnosis of fibromyalgia nine years ago. She wonders now how she could go day in and day out sipping Pepsi for breakfast and lunch, skipping dinner only to munch on chips and dip after tucking the kids into bed at night, and never really make the connection between feeling crummy and the foods she ate or didn’t eat, for that matter. Maybe that’s what happens when mom is operating on auto-pilot.
For Palmer, fibromyalgia could be a catch-all term for a symptom that surfaces when one forgets to nurture oneself.
“Sugar has been my crutch for the past 10 years as a parent, when in reality it just caused me to crash and I would feel worse. I was having Pepsi for breakfast and lunch and junk for dinner. That was my life for years because I had to keep juggling.”
She and her husband spent countless days in and out of hospital after the birth of the triplets 12 years ago, and now, with a four-year-old with chronic health conditions, life is still a juggle, but easier to manage when one is feeling healthy and energized, says Palmer.
It was one year ago on Valentines Day that Palmer made the decision to bump herself up to the top of her list of priorities, plunge into a healthy eating cleanse, get back to basics of real food and real nutrition and turn her health around. Along with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, she also has permanent soft tissue and muscle damage in her back from four separate accidents and suffered from chronic migraines.
“I had abused my body for a very long time and it was time I made myself a priority. If I don’t take care of myself now I’m not going to be here for my children tomorrow.”
“When was the last time you took the time to really listen to your body? I was just in a habit of taking medications to manage symptoms because I had to take it. I wasn’t aware of how I was feeling. I was in robot mode.”
This journey of self care really started to take hold two years ago for Palmer when her son joined a soccer team and one of the moms who was helping to coach, she noticed, was so full of vitality she could very well be a poster child for healthy moms on the run.
“At the time, I was taking a handful of pills to manage these diagnoses. I was just a chemical factory and I had never even thought about it. And yet, there was this woman in front of me who was this energizer bunny – she had three young children and a baby and was waking up a four a.m. every morning and she never looked tired or acted tired.”
“I started to spend more time with her, and the other moms who were into health, and I had a thirst to know more, so that I could feel that way too. I had my mind set that I was going to do whatever necessary to find my health again.”
She started with a real food cleanse – eliminating dairy, wheat, processed foods, whole grains and sugar and only consuming organic vegetables and fruits and wholesome foods.
Going cold-turkey without sugar was challenging – it created detox symptoms that led to the shakes and sweating, she says. She had also decided if she was going to detox then she would stop popping daily analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs and nerve pills that inhibited nerve receptors.
“When I started to cleanse I thought to myself “You’ve got to start eliminating the medications. You’ve got to figure out what your body is capable of.”
After the 10-day cleanse period she was off 80 per cent of her medications and a whole new self emerged.
“It took everything to move just from the bed to the Lazy Boy when I started the cleanse. I thought I was going to die. I did get through it, and finished my cleanse, and was feeling amazing. I had energy that I didn’t even know existed. I wasn’t craving things that gave me a temporary fix. And I had a craving to go running.”
Amazed at how her body felt and responded to the clean, real food, and no longer experiencing migraines or pain, she’s continued on this healthy path for the last year, sometimes slipping, yet always aware when she does, simply because she has learned to listen to her body.