I have always eaten a primarily vegetable and plant-based protein diet. When I got pregnant, I had intense cravings for red meat, dairy and sugary foods. Being a firm believer in listening to the body’s cues, I gave into those cravings and consumed vast amounts of pork (including bacon), beef, cheese, butter, whole milk, ice cream and cake during the entire pregnancy. As a result, I gained nearly 80 pounds and my total cholesterol level went from being optimal to being borderline high. Having a hereditary predisposition to high cholesterol, I knew that I needed to take swift action. Here is what I did:
1. I Said “No” to Fat Laden Foods
It was plainly obvious that fat laden foods caused both the weight gain and the elevated cholesterol levels. Although I was breastfeeding and still craving those types of foods, I reduced my portions and choose healthier options. These options included leaner cuts of meat, skim milk and sherbert. This helped to control the weight. Once the cravings disappeared, I was easily able to eliminate these foods entirely and the weight began to come off by itself.
2. Garlic on a Daily Basis
I have always eaten a lot of onions, scallions and garlic. Garlic is known to be a powerful antioxidant, a natural antibiotic and thought to assist in lowering cholesterol levels. I resumed several cloves of fresh or cooked garlic on a daily basis. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do while breastfeeding: my newborn smelled vaguely like garlic.
3. Red Wine in Moderation
My husband and I always loved our Cabarnet, Merlot and Bordeaux. However, during the pregnancy, I avoided alcoholic beverages altogether. Once I delivered, I resumed drinking red wine in moderation. I did not know it at the time, but it turns out that red wine contains resveratrol and saponins. It is now believed that both of these ingredients have cholesterol lowering properties.
4. Exercising with Baby
I had read about the bond that is formed between mother and child when the newborn can hear the mother’s heart. When my baby was not sleeping or napping, I carried him around in a sling-type pouch. I was able to do most housework and took long walks with my son in the sling. I think that doing various activities while carrying around his weight really helped me to tone muscles and shed pounds faster.
5. No Medication for Me!
There are, of course, medications available by prescription to help lower cholesterol levels. All of my life, I have tried to avoid any type of over-the-counter or prescription medication. In my mind, medication of any type simply was not an option while I was breastfeeding. Through dietary and lifestyle changes, I was able to lose the weight and get my cholesterol levels back to the optimal range. It took approximately eight months.
This was my one and only experience with high cholesterol. At age 50 now, the doctors who I infrequently come into contact with are amazed at my numbers and general excellent state of health.