8. Who or what did you say goodbye to this year? How did this separation affect you? What did you learn from it?
MSG. Monosodium glutamate. I've made a point not to buy anything with MSG in it. I learned this past year that it is a neurotoxin, known to cause headaches in some individuals. I learned from a nurse that it is a cheap additive that will make anything taste good - even dirt. Because of this, MSG can be linked to obesity rates because it makes unhealthy food seem extremely palatable to the consumer.
Because I am prone to headaches, I felt that cutting MSG from my diet would be a positive change. It definitely has been. Saying goodbye to MSG has meant the purchase of less junk food, less processed frozen food, and less impulsive food purchases. It does mean that I'm more likely to buy name-brand products, too - Lay's Potato Chips don't contain MSG, while our store brand's comparable flavors do contain MSG. I know there is still a lot of junk in my diet (processed sugars and diet sodas, for example), but I feel like eliminating MSG has been good for me.
Over the past year, my headaches have been few and far between. There are fewer "random" headaches -- the majority can now be traced to seasonal or hormonal changes (or a missed can of caffeinated soda). I don't want to let anyone think that I was completely cured by eliminating MSG - I still get a couple headaches a month, but it's far better than the 4-10 a month I had before. I also visited urgent care twice last fall because of these headaches. The second visit sent me home with prescriptions for 10 days of amoxicillin followed by a five day azithromyacin course, and I noticed a marked decrease in my headaches after that. Honestly, though, it wasn't until the MSG was cut from my diet that I really, truly felt better.
Of course, it isn't completely gone. I'm sure MSG is in a lot of the food I eat when we go out. I know it is in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, which is one of my favorites. I don't think it's in the organic version, so we might start eating that in our house instead. However, the important lesson I learned this year is that saying goodbye to junk in my diet can yield some major results. I'm thinking 2012 will see another "bad for me" item phased out of my diet, but I'm not quite sure what. Given the recent concerns about BPA in canned soups and tomatoes, I think canned foods might be next.