It’s been a gradual change, over many years. There was never a goal (lose 10 pounds, have a smaller waist, have lower blood pressure) or diet (low carbs, no sugar, Paleo): only learning and living based on my knowledge and what makes me feel good. Upon reflection, I realize that I am now eating a very healthy diet in comparison to how I used to eat (and compared to how many others eat). I love it!
I’ve watched popular documentaries (and some less popular ones), taken online courses, and read books – and I’m still going. This is my new obsession, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, if ever! I’m conscious of the fact that not everyone will want to eat the way I want to, but I think it’s important to share what I’m learning because this may possibly be the most important knowledge any human being has. The saying, “You are what you eat” means so much more when you really stop to think about what you’re eating. I hope I can inspire at least one person to question their eating habits and perhaps even make some positive changes.
First of all – Why?
I feel amazing! There are so many variables that could be affecting my mood and energy levels. But I have noticed a general trend – that I feel better, have more energy, and poop better now that I’m eating better. I “treated” myself to an Oreo smoothie the other day. It wasn’t a treat in the end. I felt like shit after. Complete and utter shit. My head hurt, I was low on energy, I was unsociable. I wanted to take it back and have a tea (or even a beer) instead! Of course, it may not have been only the sugar causing these negative effects, but it certainly played a role. That’s what sugar does… When we’re not accustomed to having it.
Let me give you another example of the effects of bad diet. A few days ago, I began my summer travels. I packed a container of chick pea/veggie salad for the bus ride and ate the remainder of the food in my fridge. It was a long bus ride (4 of them, actually) switching back around the Guatemalan mountains, so I was naturally feeling a little nauseous when I arrived at my destination. For the next couple days, I didn’t know where I’d be staying each night so I didn’t want to buy a lot from the market, and I also didn’t have the energy for it. This feeling of “blah” lasted several days, compacted by unfulfilling sleeps. I knew I needed a good night’s sleep and some good, fresh food. I forced myself to the market yesterday, knowing that once I got some good food in me, I’d feel better. I was right. Last night’s decent sleep helped, and now I feel amazing. I had a good breakfast, lots of fruits and veggies throughout the day, and am feeling alive and energized – like myself again.
It really is quite simple – take care of yourself, and you’ll feel (and look) amazing!
Convinced? Okay, let’s begin. These are the evils:
- Sugar. We should be consuming less than 24 grams of sugar per day. Do you know how much most people consume? No? Well, I don’t either… But it’s a hell of a lot more than that!!! One bottle of Nestea contains almost that much sugar alone. And that’s on top of the sweets and foods that appear healthy like flavored yogurt and fruit juices that we eat and drink. If you’re curious about this, I suggest you watch That Sugar Man. A healthy Aussie eats the same amount of sugar as an average American… But he gets it all from “healthy” foods – no junk like ice cream or candy. The effects are pretty amazing! The documentary will have you questioning how much sugar you eat and considering making a change.
- Processed foods. Almost everything I used to eat was processed, and I bet a lot of what you (or someone you know) eats is processed. If it has a nutrition label, chances are it’s not very nutritious. Real food has no labels. Think about the process food goes through to make it into those packages. Think about what’s added to them to make them more profitable, more tasty, more addictive. Think about how much real good food – nutrients – make it into those packages. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the answer is not a lot, if any. Even things like fresh-squeezed juice aren’t as great as they could be. I’m beginning to learn that a lot of nutrients in fruits and vegetables comes from the parts that don’t get juiced – the skin of a veggie or the white stuff of an orange, for example. I know there are some juicers that are better than others and I’m certainly no expert, but I am certain that, unless you’re using the best juicer at your house, you’re missing some nutrients.
- Lack of fruits and veggies. Plant-based is the way to go. I’m seeing a lot of convincing arguments against eating meat and other animal products. Add to it the treatment of animals during processing – I certainly don’t want to contribute to that. Here in Guatemala, I suspect the processing of chickens is much different. It’s more like someone has a backyard full and slaughters them himself, before bringing them to the local market to sell fresh. I have some research to do about the process here, but I do feel better about eating the occasional chicken here than I do about buying the highly processed, factory-produced chicken we get in Canada/USA. If you’re curious about the treatment of animals in the slaughter/preparation process, I highly recommend you watch Food Inc. and Vegucated. Incredibly informative, and very powerful stuff.
- Overconsumption. Why on earth do we eat until we’re full? In Spanish, they say “ya, no tengo hambre” (I’m no longer hungry). In English, we say “I’m full”. Interesting. Why not stop when we’re no longer hungry? When we have the energy we need and feel great? Eating until we’re full causes what we might call a “food coma”: low energy, feeling bloated, etc. There is absolutely nothing about a food coma and overeating that is positive. Why do we insist on putting ourselves through this? Food should be energy, not coma-inducing.
So what are my eating habits now?
I’m not a pro. I’m just an average girl learning about food, nutrients, and the body. Hopefully by sharing some of what I’m doing, I can demonstrate how simple this can be (it can be a lot more complicated if you enjoy cooking a complex meal or spending lots of time in the kitchen. I don’t, so my diet should be easy enough for anyone.) I don’t concern myself with a set number of meals per day, though I do tend to eat around 4 or 5 times a day, with snacks in between. Meals are light, and thus eating is more frequent. I eat what I need, when I need it, and no more. Have a look at some food:
Some of my favs that don’t have pictures:
- French toast with real maple syrup (DO NOT eat high-fructose corn syrup – that stuff is horrible for you!), strawberries, bananas
- banana and natural peanut butter (where the only ingredient is peanuts), sometimes on fresh, whole-wheat bread
- fried veggies: zucchini, eggplant, peppers, white onion, carrots, all sauteed in olive oil and tossed in curry powder. I recently discovered that using coconut oil adds an extra amazing flavor (especially since I don’t have the curry powder now).
Between small meals, I might snack on fruits (or veggies) like grapes, celery, mini plums (never saw these amazing things until Guatemala!), and dark chocolate made with honey (I’ve begun experimenting with my own homemade, but there’s also a local place that makes chocolate with honey).
Any bread is definitely, without a doubt, fresh-baked whole-wheat and/or whole-grain. I don’t know much about bread, but I know whole wheat/grain is infinitely better than white bread and anything pre-packaged. Some might say that bread isn’t necessary, even whole-grain. Sarah Hallberg advises against any grains in this TEDx talk. An interesting video.
Someone unaccustomed to eating this way might think these dishes lack flavor, but I’ve noticed my taste buds adjusting to what I eat. Natural foods, without much added to them, taste delicious. I’d easily take plain old vegetables over cheesy, deep-fried, or salt-filled foods that are typically thought of as tasty.
I’m not perfect… Yet!
There’s still so much more to learn. I’m currently researching into insulin, leptin, and all that goes with it. While I’ve gained a ton of knowledge and made some positive changes, I still have so much to learn and there is so much I can do to further improve my diet and healthy lifestyle. As with any good inquiry, the questions keep on coming. Right now, these are the questions I still have:
How does coffee affect me? Should I try to stop drinking so many cappuccinos?
How does milk affect me? Should I try to stop drinking so many cappuccinos?
What are other superfoods, and how can I easily implement them into my diet?
Should I continue eating bread and pasta, or can these be cut out for a healthier me?
What nutrients am I missing out on and what foods should I be eating in order to get enough varied nutrients? (Right now, I’m certain I’m not getting all the nutrients my body needs. This must be fixed.)
All this is quite intriguing, and I’d love to share more knowledge if you’re curious. I hope, for now, I’ve had some small effect on your thoughts about food. I’m just one person in a world full of voices, but I hope your voice also echoes healthy (eating) habits.