Eating healthy (for the first time)

 

I am SO excited about food. The colors, the taste, the texture and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I successfully execute a meal. The problem was: I couldn’t taste or appreciate my food and I didn’t even know it! I was raised in the 80’s when a healthy diet in my household meant “light, fat-free” everything. I substituted chemicals, colors, and poison for real food to cut calories and fat. Diet soda was severely dehydrating me and caffeine caused years of sleepless nights. For years I woke up in the middle of the night for hours and had less productive, tired workdays.

I was blessed to not be sick on a regular basis but looking back I am amazed that I wasn’t constantly sick. I thought I was being healthy. I wasn’t–I was coating my taste buds with chemicals and thought I disliked amazing foods like mangoes, oatmeal, maple syrup, green tea, and bananas. The truth was I just couldn’t appreciate anything that I wasn’t addicted to (sugar filled diet food) or couldn’t truly taste. Like most young women my age I did not know how to cook–just how to use a microwave and toaster. Frozen waffles, chocolate “diet” bars, and diet soda fueled my days.

Moreover I was hungry CONSTANTLY. My days were consumed with charting what I ate, how many calories I was allowed, and all I could think about was my next meal. I would eat “healthy” six days a week and on my cheat day I indulged gorged myself on fatty, sugary junk. My weight was where I wanted it but I was starving. I was irritable and unfocused. To be completely honest I was great at exercising regularly and I knew I should increase my calories but not knowing a formula for exactly how many extra calories I could consume I made my poor body starve even more than usual… Eating “healthy” was an all or nothing game for me. Either I was completely strict about limiting food or I went overboard with fast food and junk. Either way my body was gaining very few nutrients besides the daily banana I made myself eat to stave off my leg cramps from exercising. Not good–I know–but during my latest “off” phase where I wasn’t psychotically counting calories I was given the opportunity to change my life; my mindset, my paradigm concerning nutrition, my constant hunger and dissatisfaction with a large part of my life.

My younger sister contacted me about trying a 10-day challenge where we would eat non-processed foods in abundance. There was a website that explained the “rules” and it was filled with recipes, tips, and great advice. I spent hours on www.100daysofrealfood.com and other real foods websites & really thought about where I was at health-wise and where I wanted to be. I’ll admit that I was smitten with Lisa Leake and all the great information she shared. I felt like she was reaching out to help, educate, and inspire. I can be stubborn to a fault and if she had come off as preach-y or uneducated I could have said no. But she was amazing and I started copying recipes and planning for 10 days without sugar, fake sugar, store-bought bread or tortillas, diet soda, store-bought pasta, and lots of other “staples” in my pantry. I started cooking (scary, I know) and baking and not only did EVERYTHING turn out perfect but suddenly I wasn’t eating as much and I wasn’t hungry all the time. After one day of headaches I was free from diet-soda. After a week I started tasting things in an entirely new way. I loved the fresh fruit, the homemade bread, and I realized that I prefer maple syrup in my coffee to artificial sweeteners. Homemade tortillas with slow-cooker re-fried beans (recipes are on her website) are easy, filling, and 100 times tastier than fast food. Dark chocolate whole wheat brownies and maple pecan ice cream definitely did not leave me feeling deprived and on a “diet.” Peanut butter banana smoothies are a perfect way to start the day. I gave up my diet soda and actually didn’t substitute coffee to feed my caffeine addiction. I started drinking green tea; hot and cold. I started researching French cooking and found delicious, healthy, chemical-free recipes that were inexpensive. I started altering my old recipes with relative ease and never compromised on flavor or quality.

When I used to think about eating healthy I definitely used the excuse of “its too expensive” whenever it was convenient to justify fast food for breakfast. Eating healthy does not have to be ridiculously expensive. Drinking water instead of soda, cutting out fast food & eating out expenses dramatically, not purchasing store bought pastries, bread, candy, or any other dessert type item frees up a ton of money for buying quality foods for our household. Not only have I stuck to this but so has my sister.

We have started a new chapter in our lives and I am so glad we are doing it together. You might have noticed that I said I cut out eating out expenses dramatically. So have I eaten fast food or at a sit down restaurant? Yes to both–My sister and I met up with friends from out of town and the location we picked to eat was closed. We ended up eating at a fast food place. I tried to be smart by ordering a grilled chicken sandwich but I did suffer through a very upset stomach. We also decided that it was safe to try breakfast at a local restaurant that uses whole, local ingredients with much better results. Eating a cheese, tomato, and mushroom omelet with homemade whole wheat toast did not upset my stomach or send me over the edge craving bad foods the rest of the day.

Think about all of these things–research the preservatives, chemicals, coloring agents, and added ingredients in your foods.  Consider fueling your family with nutrition & make time to cook; you won’t regret it!

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