Mother attributes change in diet to ‘saving’ toddler posted by Ottawa Sun

Michelle Vodrazka

 

Mother attributes change in diet to ‘saving’ toddler posted by Ottawa Sun

 

As a fitness model, athlete and Canadian figure competitor, the svelte and muscled Michelle Vodrazka considered herself a healthy eater.

“I had been working in fitness since I was 18,” says the Orléans mother of four. “We ate in the way that we thought was healthy: low fat and low calories.”

She’d feed her family snack foods such as low-fat yogurt and dinners such as pasta with tomato sauce.

“Now, I think of foods like that as just so much wasted real estate,” she says.

The change came three years ago when her youngest daughter got sick.

“Shortly after her first birthday, the connection we had with Noelle started to disappear,” says Vodrazka. “She smiled less, her laughter became infrequent, her eye contact diminished and she slowly lost her newly acquired words. We became helpless bystanders as we watched the light in her eyes disappear.”

Little Noelle started dragging her right leg behind her and began losing her balance. “Then her left arm started hanging at her side almost uselessly,” Vodrazka recalls.

“It was absolutely terrifying. I knew in my gut that something had gone wrong, but I knew that she was still in there.”

While they waited frantically for a diagnosis and medical help, Vodrazka says she “went on Google for about five hours a night” looking at alternative and conventional medical advice and possible treatments.

“I found a lot of advice about changing kids’ diets. Research didn’t seem to support that, but I thought. ‘What have we got to lose?’ ”

Vodrazka cleaned out her kitchen cabinets and changed Noelle’s diet drastically, cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar. She also started packing as many as nutrients as possible into the whole family’s diet, cutting out empty calories and loading up on greens, fruits, vegetables, roast chicken, salmon and so-called “superfoods” such as avocados, raw cocoa, goji berries and camu camu powder.

“Within 10 days I swear that I caught her eye for a few seconds,” recalls Vodrazka.

After 18 months — which also included speech and occupational therapy and supplements suggested by a doctor — Noelle was back, says her mother.

“All of those symptoms disappeared. She was happy to cuddle and kiss. I think a lot of it was the food. We were feeding her brain so it could work properly. Who knows how many nutrients we don’t even know about are missing in processed foods.”

Vodrazka is quick to admit that no one knows for certain what was wrong with Noelle and that she’s not saying that what worked for her would work for anyone else.

But she is so convinced of the value of a nutrient-dense diet that she has now taken several diploma courses, counsels patients in her off hours and has just come out with a cookbook because she wants to reach more people than she can through one-on-one counseling.

“When I look back now at what I thought was a pretty healthy diet, I cringe. Noelle’s battle compelled me to start feeding my family better and to take ownership of my own health. I used to have gut issues and skin issues. I feel better now. I used to get hypoglycemic, I’d have crashes. Now I feel the same at 2 or 3 p.m. as I do at 9 a.m.”

And the woman who admits she never really enjoyed cooking now revels in her time in the kitchen.

“Cooking is meditative for me now. I love knowing that I’m making healthy things for my family. It’s not about counting calories, it’s about counting nutrients.”

Michelle Vodrazka’s top 14 health-changing habits

Choose only one change at a time, advises Vodrazka. “Pick something easy — almost too easy. Keep it up for two weeks. Be patient and don’t expect perfection.”

  1. Start your day with a healthy smoothie.
  2. Eat three servings of vegetables a day.
  3. Try a new healthy recipe every day.
  4. Eat a serving of protein at every meal.
  5. Record what you eat in a food diary.
  6. Eat a large salad for lunch.
  7. Go to bed at 10 p.m. each night.
  8. Be active for 30 minutes a day.
  9. Eat sitting down without distractions.
  10. Eat only until you are 80 per cent full.
  11. Make your dinners from scratch.
  12. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
  13. Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  14. Bring your lunch to work.

Help Yourself to Seconds

What: A new book with tips for healthy living and more than 120 recipes, by Michelle Vodrazka of Orléans.

When: Released last week.

How much:
About $30.

Where: Chapters.Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca

Meet Michelle: Michelle Vodrazka will be signing copies of Help Yourself to Seconds at Chapters in Gloucester Centre on Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, from noon to 4 p.m. each day.

 

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