The other day I was talking to a colleague of mine while going over some ideas for design changes on our company’s website. We started getting sidetracked since we’d been going over the same concept in different color schemes for the last hour and a half. Our conversation went from color schemes to Netflix, to his son and wife, to our favorite places to eat around Northern VA, and to our general hobbies outside of work. I asked him if him and his wife had finally gotten a chance to watch Atypical on Netflix, and he said no, and then  he asked me “you have a food blog don’t you?” I glanced down at my notes and said “uh yeahhh, I do actually, but it’s not just about food I guess.” His question kind of caught me off guard, you see, I don’t really like talking about anything related to myself or my life in the “real world,” with any of my coworkers or anyone in general. I’ve never been the type of person that’s comfortable talking about myself, or what I do for fun on the weekends or in my spare time. I find it a bit uncomfortable and somewhere in the back of my head there’s a little bug saying “they’re just going to think you’re weird or lame so don’t say anything, plus talking for an extensive period of time drives you mad.”

However, when he asked me “well why did you start it? I know there’s this whole vegan craze going on nowadays, is that why?” I laughed because for once I actually had a lot to say as to why I started this blog and why I’m an advocate for natural health, alternative medicine, wellness, organic foods, and a clean diet. I talked his ear off for 15 minutes which is record time for me unless I’ve guzzled a glass or two of  wine. I figured he probably isn’t the only one who’s wondering the same thing, so why not write about it?

Alright you’re going to have to strap in because we’re hopping in a time machine and traveling back to the year 1999. Back to the year when Britney Spears (one of my favorite people on the planet) was known as the queen of pop, back to when kids were squeezing purple colored ketchup onto their school hotdogs and nuggets, back to when scrunchies and butterfly clips were the craze, back to much simpler days. I’m 5 years old in 1999. I live with my mom and dad in this stunning 18th century colonial style home in Alexandria, VA. We live about a 10 minute walk from Old Town Alexandria, VA and 15 minutes away from the Pentagon. I live in a great neighborhood, I’m a kindergartner at Charles Barrett Elementary school, I have lots of friends, and parents who adore me. How couldn’t I be happy at 5? You see at 5 years old I hadn’t really understood the concept of a deadly disease or even death for that matter. I don’t think most 5 year olds do.  At 5 years old all I knew was that my daddy was sick and would often times be at a doctor’s appointment of some sort, but that’s all that I could really grasp at the time.

My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996, and doctors had given him 6-12 months max. Prostate cancer is known as one of the easiest to kill if it’s caught in time, but his had slowly begun to spread. His only option was chemo but he immediately refused. My dad was a bit of a hippie, an environmental biologist who firmly believed in the power of nature and God. He told his doctor he would find another way, but chemo wasn’t the route he was going to take. Anyway, at that point even with chemo his chances of survival were still pretty low. His doctor must have thought he had just signed his death wish refusing the treatment. C-A-N-C-E-R is a scary scary word. Walking in for a routine checkup  just to leave finding out that you’ve got about a year long expiration date if you’re lucky can’t be an easy pill to swallow for anyone. I don’t know how he took the news, I wasn’t there, I was two at the time so I honestly don’t even remember. I imagine he was heartbroken but certainly NOT defeated. My dad was always a warrior, a man that would fight tooth and nail for whatever he wanted.

Now you may be asking yourself “okay well how does this pertain to you and your passion for natural health?” Well you see, if you’re like my dad and you’ve just been told you’ve got cancer and you’ve just told your family that you’re refusing chemotherapy, and that you’ve only got a few months to live, you’re bound  to make some serious lifestyle changes if you have any hope for survival, and if you change your lifestyle, your family’s lifestyle will change too. Luckily for my dad, my mom was a bit of a health nut before she ever met him so it wasn’t hard for him to ditch the cereal or junky processed foods he had been accustomed to since he was a youngster.  My mom is from Ecuador, a teeny country in South America. In Ecuador organic food is all they had. You didn’t drink soda, or eat cereal, or chips, or anything processed. You ate what you grew on your land, and you grew to be old and healthy. Fun fact: my great grandmother was 109 when she died, and I think her long life had a lot to do with her diet- zero herbicides, pesticides, GMO’s, refined white sugars, nothing processed, etc HOORAY!

My dad firmly believed that changing his diet and his lifestyle could suppress or even reverse the spread of the cancer, and in some ways it did. We began going to alternative medicine conferences as a family, switched to a primarily vegetarian all organic diet (which means I’ve pretty much been a healthy eater all of my life because I was a toddler at the time), grew a majority of our own fruits and vegetables in our backyard, and really focused all of our energy into being as healthy as we could be (not that I really had much of a choice). Time went on and he lived past his 12 month death sentence, past 24 months, and so on. His doctors were flabbergasted to see him standing, and as healthy as he possibly could be living with the hell-sent disease. My father frequently traveled to Mexico, and South America with my mom and I to receive the natural and alternative medication he was unable to receive in the U.S.

As a kid I remember absolutely hating the food my parents would make me eat. I hated the fact that they would juice carrots and greens for me every morning before school because it tasted god awful, in fact I used to rush to the bathroom and flush it down the toilet. I hated the fact that I didn’t get to eat school lunches. I hated the fact that if I were ever invited over to a friend’s house I could never stay over for dinner because I wasn’t allowed to eat their food. I hated the fact that I’d have eat before my classmates’ birthday parties or bring my own food, I hated all of it. I wasn’t allowed and to drink tap water, or drink soda, or juice, we didn’t shop anywhere else other than Fresh Fields (now known as Whole Foods), hey we didn’t even get a microwave until 2008, can you believe that? This led my classmates to believe that I was snobby and stuck up, but they simply didn’t understand. I grew a lot of resentment towards my parents because they increasingly became more and more paranoid and focused so much of their lives on food, and I always felt like the odd man out in front of my peers and embarrassed when they would tease me and call me “organic girl,” a name that carried on through high school for a bit.

Fast forward to 2003, we’ve moved from Alexandria to a smaller city further North and I’m in the third grade. I’m the new kid in school, and I didn’t even start school until 3 weeks later because we were busy moving to be closer to my dad’s sister, so you can imagine how awkward it was for me to walk in to a brand new school nearly a month late. My mom and dad walk me to class and the teacher asks my new classmates to welcome me. Not a single one of my classmates is looking at me, they’re looking at my dad with intimidation in their eyes. “Woah your dad is a giant,” exclaimed a boy named Jason as soon as my parents walk out the door. “I guess,” I say. I guess he was a bit of a giant, at 6’9″ he towered above everyone, especially over a bunch of third graders. I only bring this up, because that’s how I’ll always remember him- as a big friendly giant.

A few weeks into my new school year and I’m making friends, my parents are still insanely controlling about our family’s eating habits, but after all of those years I’m used to it. Anyway, life doesn’t seem so bad at the time. However, my dad hasn’t really been feeling well, and he’s been in and out of the hospital for the last couple of weeks. He’s lost a lot of weight very quickly, his skin is pale with a yellow tint, he seems out of it every time I talk to him, but after dealing with a sick parent you kind of get used to it. Of course the drastic lifestyle change helped him tremendously, but that didn’t change the fact that he still had the cancer living in him and of course, there were days where everything was 100% normal, and there were days where he didn’t feel well at all. But like I said, I was used to it. This time it was different, weeks went by and he had been in the hospital for a while. I missed a lot of school because we wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. The cancer had spread quickly and aggressively, and there was nothing we could really do for him at that point. Chemo wouldn’t help, medication wouldn’t help, it was too late. My dad died shortly after being admitted into the hospital for three weeks.

I continue to write this as I wipe my tears, because the pain of losing a parent doesn’t ever go away, you just learn to cope with it. My dad lived for 7 years after his original diagnosis, SEVEN! Those were some of the best 7 years of my life and I’m forever grateful. He was told he had nothing more than a year to live, but he lived for 7! Whether it was due to a miracle, his dietary changes, or both, my money is on his decision to pursue alternative medication and consume nothing but wholesome healthy foods, and I am eternally grateful for the natural resources our mother earth continues to provides for us.

My dad would always tell me “Maycita, I think I got this sick because when I was your age my parents didn’t care about food. As long as we had something on the table everything was fine. There were never any discussions about nutrition, or being healthy. We really didn’t care. You should be thankful that your mother and I care so much about you and your health, and one day when you’re older you will thank us.” Boy was he right. At 23 years old I am so thankful to have grown up in a home that placed such a high value on eating well, and caring about what you put into your body. I witnessed firsthand the power of natural foods, and healing through food. I am forever grateful and in a way indebted to my mom and my dad for enforcing a healthy diet, and healthy lifestyle choices, and I will continue to pass everything I learned from them to my kids, and hopefully my grandkids because I plan on living to 110 at the least. 😉

So I urge you all to educate yourselves on what you eat. You may be young now, but it catches up to you eventually. I’m not saying you’ll get sick, but I’m saying we are all a mere product of what we eat, break down, and absorb. Life is beautiful, the human body is beautiful, treat it with as much love and respect as you can. Of course I slip up and have my cheat days, and eat poorly every once in a while, but I’m only human. But back to my original point- why I started this blog. I started it because I’m deeply passionate about good food and good health, and I want to share my life experiences and hopefully inspire others along the way. I believe in the healing powers of food, I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You can’t expect to pound down a bunch of processed foods every single day, a pack of cigarettes, soda, etc and expect to be in great health. I get so excited to see how mainstream eating organic and locally grown foods has become. Some of you may think I’m crazy, but the time is now!

**Disclaimer- I am not a physician, I’m just talking about my life experiences and in no way shape or form encourage anyone to stop listening to their doctor(s) in regards to replacing their medicine. Please speak to an actual physician prior to making any drastic dietary changes for medical reasons**