Do you often feel sluggish and exhausted and can’t figure out why? Do you suffer from moodiness, tummy aches and/or just not feel good sometimes? We all go through the ups and downs of life and it’s natural, but have you ever thought that your diet and food consumption may be contributing a major part of your distress?
I’ve recently encountered friends and family members that are at a changing point in their lives where they want to try something different, change their diet and experience new food and cooking techniques.
Well the first thing is.. congrats! The first step is always the hardest and your attitude and enthusiasm with stepping in to this new change is what is going to carry you through.
The second thing is.. you’re not alone. Don’t think that this is something you have to figure out on your own, and that you need to be an expert. With any type of change, there are bound to be mistakes, but its okay. It is part of experimenting, and over time you will get into a rhythm and be able to be aware and listen to the needs of your body. Let your friends and family know what you are doing, so they can be supportive. Make sure they are real friends that care about your well being, not ones that will make fun of you or convince you to stop caring for yourself (and instead try and convince you to go through the fast food line or pick up a cigarette again like its no big deal). It IS a big deal, so try and surround yourself with people that can respect this.
Finally.. be careful of overindulging yourself with too much information. The Internet especially has an overabundance of knowledge, often stuff that contradicts each other. Don’t get overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion and what’s right for one person may not be right for you. Even different medical doctors and professional “experts” think they have the magic answer, but the bottom line is you are the only one that knows your body and feelings best, so you are your own best teacher. Even the things I’m going to recommend below are just suggested guidelines of what’s worked for me. I don’t expect you to follow exactly what I do (unless you want). I only know what’s personally worked and like to share my experience if it can be of value and help others.
A few questions you may be asking:
• Should I go gluten free? Dairy free?
• What about a Paleo-diet?
• Should I stop eating meat? Carbs?
• Are processed foods really that bad?
• Etc. The list goes on forever!
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. However, here is my personal regimen..
I am not “free” from anything and do not follow a strict fad diet regiment.
If you do this, you are placing yourself into a box. In those times that you decide to take a bite of food that isn’t in alignment with this “box,” then a cycle of guilt and feeling bad about yourself can come up, which can spiral into more out of control eating and giving up. I aim to simply follow a lifestyle of eating whole, nourishing, balanced foods.
I consider myself gluten and dairy “aware.”
This means I am not completely 100% free, however, I do like to limit my intake because I notice how it makes me feel when I have these ingredients and when I don’t. Growing up I used to drink milk everyday. The dairy industry does a superb job of marketing itself as the main ingredient that provides the #1 source of calcium, and uses scare tactics (if you don’t drink enough milk, you will suffer from osteoporosis or bone loss). The fact is, there is actually way more calcium in a serving of dark hearty greens, such as kale, collard greens, and chard than in milk (the darker the green the better).
Throughout my teens and 20’s I suffered from acne. I tried every acne face wash and cleansing product on the market and my best friend even bought me a Proactive care kit for Christmas one year (the one from the infomercials). I washed my pillowcases, scrubbed my face endlessly, and nothing worked. Finally, I decided to stop drinking milk. After about 2 weeks, I noticed that my face started clearing up. It was crazy! I realized that the congesting nature of drinking milk everyday was coming out through my pores. After going “milk-free,” there was a drastic difference in my face. Today, I still don’t drink milk, but sometimes, I just can’t pass on a fantastic piece of dessert that I know is loaded with cream, butter, milk, gluten and sugar. I just know if I eat that piece, I’ll have a zit monster to deal with in the next few days. Sometimes it’s worth it.
I eat meat.
I love vegetables. In fact I eat vegetables everyday, and I think people should absolutely eat vegetables everyday and incorporate it as a main part of their meals. However, I am also a carnivore and always will be. It makes me happy. Animal protein gives me strength that can’t be substituted with protein supplements, tofu, nuts or beans (I am a huge advocate for nuts and beans, which will be discussed below).
Although I’m an omnivore, I do not eat meat everyday. Rather, I eat it on average 3-4 times a week. This means I give myself 2-3 days minimum to cleanse and eat meals that incorporate more vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, rice, quinoa, etc. Meat can be a tricky topic, and when I do eat it, I buy it fresh and try to buy organic whenever possible (sometimes its not possible). In terms of cured meats, like sandwich meats, sausage or bacon, I always look at the salt content. Buy meat products that have the least amount of salt and preservatives in it. If it’s loaded with a huge list of ingredients, especially with big names you can’t even pronounce, its better to stay clear. The simpler, the cleaner, the better.
Incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans.
Instead of reaching for that box of Oreos, how about biting into a nice, luscious peach or fig? Fruits are naturally loaded with sugar, and can give you a feeling of satisfaction that a box of cookies can never live up to. The box of cookies gives you a short term high and thrill, but soon you come crashing down hard and feel both full and empty at the same time (it’s a catch 22 to feel both full and empty, but this is the deceitful nature of many processed foods).
Did you know that scientists get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to develop chemicals in labs to put in foods that are meant to alter your taste buds and flavor palate? Certain companies want you to become addicted to their product, so you will keep coming back for more. The greed for this type of power, control and money is very discouraging. Don’t be a slave and victim. Don’t let others tell you what to eat via commercials, billboards and ads. Choose for yourself. If you can grow it in a garden or raise it on an honest farm, it’s probably safe. If it comes from a lab, it’s probably best to stay clear.
Don’t go crazy and don’t be hard on yourself.
There will be times when you’ll want to throw in the towel and go back to your old habits. That’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you go back to a greasy grilled cheese on white bread stuffed with potato chips and sour cream. Don’t dwell.. just keep moving forward. We are human and we aren’t perfect. The bottom line is balance and keeping in tune with yourself.
Every time you eat something, ask yourself:
• How is this making me feel?
• Do I feel energized?
• Do I feel sluggish?
• Do I feel bloated?
• Do I feel de-hydrated?
• Do I have to go to the bathroom right away?
• Am I constipated now?
Be conscious and aware. Drink lots of water. Slow down. And most importantly, be thankful that you even have an opportunity to question your eating habits. Many people around the world struggle, are living in poverty and work endless hours just to have a few tiny morsels to put in their mouth or into the mouths of their family. The fact that you have an option to eat, is one that should never be taken for granted. Always remember to be grateful when a plate of food has been presented to you.
Stay tuned for my next article… “How to Stock a Healthy Kitchen Pantry on a Budget.”
by Kristin Bach