Dana West, R.D.
Dana’s Start to a New ME!
I love food, nutrition, health, and helping individuals regain health and fitness. I also love God and my family and having fun. If you are around me for any length of time you will quickly learn these are my passions of life.
I can’t help but love food, I’ve been literally surrounded with it my whole life; I basically grew up in the kitchen. One of my earliest memories is sitting in my highchair, rolling out bread dough and making unique bread formations! My Mom was a health-conscious vegetarian who was also an excellent cook and she instilled health principles in all three of her children as best she could and taught us the various effects food can have on the body.
Vegetarianism was only in vogue among the hippies and Seventh-day Adventists, when I was growing up. I remember kids playing with us when Mom would call us in to eat and Mom would always invite them to join us. They would ask, “What are you having?” At first, they expected answers like pot roast, fried chicken, etc. but she would answer, “Special K Loaf” or “Haystacks” or “BBQ Fri-Chik”. They looked at us funny and either say, “No thanks”, or shrug their shoulders and say, “Ok”. But all who took her up on the offer enjoyed the meal.
Often as we grow up and start thinking and acting independently, we somethings throw away some idealizations of our parents and I was no exception. I started going over to my friends’ homes and partaking of their rich and kingly meats and delectable desserts.
But I had a problem: for as long as I can remember I could go no longer than four hours without eating. I always carried food with me in case there was not food right when I “needed” it. I was eventually diagnosed with severe hypoglycemia. I also suffered from heart dysrhythmia, fibroids, cysts, kidney stones, frequent infections, terrible emotional PMS, irritable bowel syndrome with chronic diarrhea (that always presented itself at the most inopportune times and with great urgency) and I frequented the doctor’s office often for many undiagnosed problems or symptoms.
But I loved my “good” cooking with lots of fat and sugar! And even though I eventually became a dietitian and knew all about food and its effects and the physiology of digestion, it was so easy to rationalize and underestimate the amount of unhealthy food I was actually consuming. Besides, I would comfort myself with the idea that I really ate quite healthfully compared to most people.
But that comparison did not give me health. The raw, honest, truth was to say no to sweets and rich foods was a near impossibility for me. So, I continued with my rich diet and hypoglycemic episodes and other female problems until I met the man I would eventually marry.
Marty struggled with food allergies to the point that I called him “allergic to earth”. If it was a food with a common name, such as corn, potato, chicken, etc. He was allergic to it. But as a dietitian I was going to “fix” him!
After much research it was decided the best way to beat his allergies was with a 100% total plant-based, unrefined diet. But as a bachelor he didn’t like to cook. I started developing recipes that omitted all the foods he was allergic to, yet still tasted good. I learned to cook with teff and amaranth, spelt and kamut, quinoa and millet before they came into vogue. The diet had no animal products or any refined foods, sugars, or oils; only whole, real, plant foods. Of course, I started eating the food I was preparing for him. And do you know, I took notice that I no longer had anymore hypoglycemic episodes, I felt great, and all my other female problems went away, as long as I ate only whole foods. But after about three months Marty and I gave into that cool, smooth, creamy delicacy on a hot summer day in New Mexico when we saw a Dairy Queen. And you know how it goes, once you fall, well “ya might as well keep fallin’”, and so in time all my problems came back with a vengeance. We “yo-yo’d” between a S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) diet and then back to a total whole food plant based (WFPB) diet. And the yo-yo continued for about two years but we never stuck with the WFPB program for longer than three months at a time and we always fell off the wagon with ice cream.
By the end of two years, I was totally convinced the WFPB diet was the way to go for me, but how was I going to stick with it and say no to ice cream and cheesecake (my favorites)? The victory finally came a year after Marty and I had been married. I told God, “I know this is the way I need to eat for my best health but putting this knowledge into action is a totally different ball game. I can’t do it! But You have promised You will give us strength to do all things. That’s what I need.” I dedicated my food to Him for one whole year. And I started on my Birthday so I would know when a year was over. (You know how we are! I am no different.)
I told my husband my plans and he was very supportive. On my birthday he bought a watermelon and put candles in it for my cake. And he bought me a Bible for my present and I began starting a New ME!
From day one my blood sugar was perfect and diarrhea was gone, heart rate normal. I felt good and God was faithful. I made three months then four and five...and in the fifth month I found out I was pregnant! (Doctors had previously told me I would not carry a child without surgery. But now I was pregnant!) So, when my birthday came around a year later, there was no way I was getting off this program for the sake of my baby. When I delivered my daughter, Dawn Ashlee, there was no way I was stopping the diet, because I was going to breastfeed her.
I was on the diet for over two years by the time I weaned my daughter. I hadn’t had one health problem the entire time. The only doctor I saw during that time was my obstetrician. Now you would think, wow she has enjoyed perfect health for over two years, she never saw a doc except for the pregnancy. She should be convinced this is the way to go forever, right?
But I had only committed to one year and had actually done the WFPB program for more than two years (by the grace of God). I had been ‘really good’, and I ‘deserved’ to have a special celebration, Right? Does it sound familiar? This is how we relate to food isn’t it? Did I have to celebrate with food? No, but that is exactly what I did. The day I officially weaned my daughter after 13 months of breastfeeding, I celebrated my God-given health with health-destroying ice cream and cheesecake! And pretty soon I was back eating my danishes, cakes, cookies, caramels, cheese and butter; and what do you think happened?
My hypoglycemia came right back and I began to have female problems again. Was there a lack of knowledge? No. We all know better than we do, don’t we?
Three months later my sister came to visit and saw how I was eating and exclaimed, “I thought you didn’t eat like this anymore.” My whole family had been watching me and noting my progress without saying a word. It was then that I realized, this is more than just about me, this was involving my whole family and their health choices. My lifestyle and diet choices were influencing my husband and daughter as well as my extended family and friends.
That night, I knelt down by my bed and recommitted to God, not just my food for a year, but my whole life. I promised Him that as He continued to prosper me in health, I would help others find and experience the same health and vitality He wishes to give us all. It is He Who can help us overcome the factors that take us over the edge of self-control and make us rationalize. He can help us with our emotional and reward eating. He can teach us how to eat to live and not live to eat.
Since that time, my career has focused on helping others, not just physically and nutritionally, but also introducing people to the Power Higher than ourselves that can actually help us gain the victory over appetite.
You do not have to be a victim of sickness and disease; you can control and even reverse disease by making a few simple changes in the way you live: how you eat, drink, think, sleep, and exercise – Your Lifestyle.
Are you ready to jump in and Start A New YOU™?
With Jesus all things are possible!
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. IT shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones.” - Proverbs 3:5-8