I love food. I haven’t really written about some of my experiences with my new eating habits yet, so this post will be focused on that.
Before I go any further, I should say that any of the opinions expressed are based on my experiences and that I believe that different foods, lifestyles, diet choices will effect each individual differently and I am in no way saying that there is one way to eat or live. Everyone has to do what makes them feel healthy.
You may remember that over the past year I’ve had GI issues, as well as living a pretty nutso lifestyle (especially during the school year), my diet habits were pretty average for a full-time student, part-time worker. They were far below average for an athlete. I knew this, but I didn’t really believe that putting more effort into my nutrition would really change all that much. It seemed like a lot of extra work to cook real meals, especially when I hardly had time to eat and when I did my appetite was lacking; replaced by nausea and pain. This in turn caused a lot of stress- because while knowing my diet was crappy, I couldn’t see how changing it was going to fix anything- which became a never ending loop.
I have to admit, I never used to believe that food had a major impact on things. I knew it was an important aspect of health (energy in = energy out, etc etc), but I didn’t attribute it as much to things like sleep, focus, skin health, fitness, mental clarity, and stress levels (to name a few).
Well, I know different now.
I’ve never had a “unhealthy” diet, always getting all the recommended servings in a day, usually a little over in dairy, veggies, and grains. The healthiest I’ve eaten (before now) ever was probably when I was living in NZ, for a couple reasons: 1. In general the culture there eats fresher, healthier foods (smaller portions, more fresh veggies/fruits, and lean proteins), and 2. I was broke and living off family hospitality majority of the time- and I am blessed with a family of great cooks.
I’d had people recommend trying cutting out certain things from my diet, to see if it made a difference. I’d try here and there, but if I didn’t see a change in a few days I’d write it off and continue back to my regular eating. In March of this year, the Naturopath I’d consulted for the GI issues (which seemed to come and go unpredictably, confusing doctors all over the place), suggested I try cutting out gluten, yeast, dairy, and sugars. I actually decided to seriously try it this time (I do sometimes listen to doctor’s suggestions). While I had a lot of people in my life ask a lot of questions, I had just as many show so much support and give great advice while making this a habit. The first few weeks were rough, my body had to go through withdrawal, I had to learn how to grocery shop (not sure I ever knew how in the first place) and I had to make a bigger effort when it came to meal prep and cooking.
What are some of the differences I’ve noticed?
- Clearer skin
- Improved quality of sleep
- More energy
- Better focus, clarity, and general enthusiasm about everything
- Less anxiety and worry about little things
- Better performance (riding, working out, general life)
- Decreased mystery GI symptoms
- Weight loss, and a leaner look
Can all those things only be attributed to diet? No, probably not. It’s a combination of things. Health is just that. It’s everything in your life put together to make a whole concept. It’s multidimensional, drawing from physical, mental/emotional, economical, and social aspects, and it is a dynamic process. It has to be, our bodies and minds need different things as our lives change. Doing one thing like changing your diet is a step towards a healthier lifestyle, but it can’t be the only step along the way. What I eat has had a huge impact on pretty much every aspect of my life, and it has worked along side all the other things I do to improve my health.
I’m very much a believer that our bodies tell us what we need, and that variety is important to overall health. A friend told me when I started to make changes to my eating habits to “eat as many (natural) colours as you can, and always mix it up”. How fun does that sound?! But she was right, the foods that are naturally colourful are usually the tastiest, and also usually pretty good for you. That being said, if you’re eating all of one colour/thing all the time– you probably won’t feel very good.
So, saying that, do I still eat “unhealthy” things sometimes? Um, yeah. But sometimes is the key phrase there. Do I stick to a strict diet plan (ie, no gluten, no dairy, etc etc)? Not really, I follow a paleo based idea but sometimes I have dairy, and sometimes I have gluten. I eat what makes me feel good. Majority of the time that is a array of fresh, organic foods- little starches, lean proteins, fresh vegetables, small amounts of fruits. Nothing processed, nothing high in sugar, no gluten, small amounts of dairy. One day last week, when I was in a particularly negative mood, an entire box of KD was eaten. Did I die? No. Did I regret it? No. Did my face break out? Yes. Did I feel bloated and tired? A little. Did I feel better anyway? Yep.
Dieting is a word that I don’t associate with this post. Dieting would imply I’m doing all this to lose weight. I’m not. The weight I have lost wasn’t the goal. Fad diets are well known for drawing people in, working briefly, but never lasting. Why? They aren’t adherent to real life. They come along with unrealistic ideas of body composition changes, and reaching a certain goal in a specific time frame. They’re almost impossible to stick to, and when people “cheat”, they cheat big because they feel deprived of all the “tasty” food- kind of a all-or-none thing (“I haven’t had this in so long, so I’m going to eat ALL the calories this weekend”).
Diet has to be a lifestyle choice, not a 4-6-week quick fix to get that body you’ve always been dreaming of. There is no quick way to achieve a healthy lifestyle, and there’s no magic wand to wave to make your body look like the body you idealize. It’s a life-long process, and everybody will react different to changes made throughout that process.
So, there’s some of my experience along my pathway to healthy living, and a little opinion thrown in there too. I hope something in there has given you something to think about. What have you tried to change about your lifestyle? Was it worth it? How do you view health and nutrition? How does food impact other parts of your life?