By: Cassidy Hobbs
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Johnston County Cooperative Extension
Growing up, my diet was pretty horrible. The fridge was always stocked with a 2-liter bottle of soda, sweet tea, and occasionally fruit drinks, but never water. White bread was the only bread in the house. We never had fruit on hand, and vegetables consisted of corn and potatoes fixed many ways. For breakfast, we looked forward to “monkey bread”, french toast with lots of syrup, or Poptarts paired with soda. I’m all about balance, but that was my every day.
Some readers are thinking “what’s so bad about that?” Others are probably feeling sick thinking about the lack of nutrients and overload of starch and sugar in my diet for the first 18 years of my life.
I never had a weight problem growing up. In 6th grade, I began having migraines three times a week. I then began to have major acid reflux and digestive troubles. Acne arrived and dermatologists couldn’t solve the problem. The problems continued into my second year of college. I saw specialist after specialist which always ended down a dead-end road with no relief. Once I began learning what a proper diet looks like during my college courses, I started cleaning up my diet a bit and exercising, I began to feel some relief. The migraines regressed to headaches and the acne cleared up a bit. Over time, I realized how important fiber is in the diet, and how sugar is associated with numerous health problems. After two weeks of cutting out the sugar-sweetened beverages, eating mostly whole grains and more non-starchy vegetables, the headaches reduced to only once a week. My adult acne and reflux disappeared, but most exciting of all was that my digestive problems disappeared!
I’ve been told numerous times that if I had a weight problem while trying to figure out the root of my health dilemmas, the doctors would’ve asked more questions about my diet and found the problem sooner. I have worked with many people during the first year of my career. Sometimes people are defeated in their journey because they haven’t lost the weight they have strived to lose for years. I like to ask them about their blood pressure, glucose readings, or cholesterol levels. Nine times out of ten, participants tell me about their improvements or being able to take less medication and having more energy. That is what matters. Health isn’t always a number on the scale! Making small changes can help you live a healthier lifestyle, and it doesn’t have to be all at once. Limit your added sugar consumption to no more than 24g for women and 36g for men (American Heart Association). Make at least half of your grains whole grains, and look for “100% whole grain” on labels. Eat more fruits, non-starchy vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Choosing one thing to focus on each week can help you along your health journey.
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