When I decided to change up the way I ate, I had no idea how many people would make me feel like I’m “missing out” or that I am depriving myself of delicious food or desserts. It’s interesting to me, that when someone makes the decision to eat healthier just because they want to feel better, it’s almost frowned upon…..and I’ll make my points why I feel this way as you read on.
For many years, I ate certain foods (diets) to maintain a nice body. I was always a very thin person growing up and stayed active with soccer, softball and skating so I didn’t really have any issues in terms of weight. When I entered my 20’s and had my babies, I was very aware of what could happen to my body as I’d heard so many mom’s say, “I never lost the pregnancy weight” or “I’m still holding on to 20 pounds from my last pregnancy”. Well, the thought of carrying extra weight scared me so after my first baby, I was making sure to count calories and get out and walk the day the doctor said it was ‘ok’. And I did this with my 2nd baby as well. I nursed each of my babies which helped aid in weight loss and I was thrilled to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight just 2 weeks after their births…..and dropped even another 5-7 pounds after that!
As my little toddlers grew, my marriage didn’t. I wasn’t in the best marriage at the time and without getting into much detail, I used food as a tool to cope with the sadness I felt. I didn’t use food in the way you might think though – it was controlled. It wasn’t about just eating to mask the pain or to comfort myself. It was the only thing I had control of in my life and I made sure it was controlled to a fault. I definitely couldn’t admit it at the time but I can say now that it was anorexia and/or bulimia. Sadly, one days “meals” consisted of a bag of microwave popcorn (no butter, of course) and maybe at the ends day, I might have a diet coke. The next day might have been coffee and fat free yogurt….and maybe a couple of pretzels at night. Now those were the days I controlled — then there were the days that I “binged” and the funny thing is, my “binging” was eating a real/normal meal….one that I made my children and at the end of eating that meal, I felt like I had lost control because I ate the whole meal, that I would make myself get rid of it. In all honesty, that only happened a handful of times but I clearly remember thinking as I was trying to “rid my meal”, “What the hell am I doing?!?” and thankfully that was the last time I went down that road. However, my diets were still in line with what the scale said. So I tried all the latest and trend diets — low cal, low/no fat, all carbs (no fats)….cabbage soup – oh my gosh, you name it!
I’m going to fast forward just a bit — once I made the decision to leave an abusive marriage, I gained a little more respect for myself and started “uncontrolling” (I know, that’s not really a word….) my food. BUT it wasn’t like I thought health was any part of eating again…..it was still about maintaining a good body. I ran daily & I started eating better but at that point became a vegetarian. I believe that was the most unhealthiest I had ever been. Meals consisted of lots of pastas, cheeses, pretend meat and soy based products. I put on a handful of pounds and felt very sluggish for a good part of my day. I also dealt with insomnia for a good portion of that period of my life.
I meet and marry my best friend! We become an instant family and end up having my 3rd child and I slowly climb out of the slump of trying to control my weight as my hubby loved me just the way I was. I didn’t feel like I needed to be “arm candy” and what was the most surprising to me was, once I stopped paying so much attention to what diet I needed at the moment, my body just kind of stopped playing games with me….or was it the other way around? It’s very clear that the circumstances around you can wreak havoc on your body – and I don’t just mean in appearance but I didn’t have so much anxiety, sleepless nights, tummy issues and inflammation.
NOW! That was a little back story but here we go with my decisions of my food choices today — About 45 years of age, I started seeing signs of menopause (peri-menopause) which seemed quite early but from what I read and talked over with other people that had gone through it, I was clearly starting the process. One thing that stuck out in my mind was the damage I had done to my health with all the crazy, silly diets I put myself on….or the lack of food/nutrition for a period of my life in my 20’s and I wondered how my bones/body would hold up to “the change”. And that’s when I started paying attention to health and fueling my body properly to get through the change and give me a long, energetic life! My physical appearance wasn’t quite as important as what was going on, on the inside …and my food choices were made to properly fuel and not to make sure the numbers on the scale remained at a certain number. Wow! Was I in for a surprise!
I started eating a diet that consisted of properly sourced proteins, lots of greens/veggies, healthy fats and fruits. I steered clear of sugar, processed food, grains, legumes and dairy. When one of my friends heard what/how I was eating, she said, “Sounds very much like a Paleo Diet”. I didn’t want to hear “diet”! I was trying to just eat real food and didn’t want it to have a label as most of my adult life, I had tried so many fad diets and those diets were to help aid in weight loss or maintenance so hearing the word diet scared me. As I did my research on the paleo lifestyle (and that’s what I call it so I don’t label it as a diet), I realized that I was eating very much the same way – however I did still eat soy, which I gave up immediately after reading why I shouldn’t be consuming it. I began feeling so good! My little tummy issues that seemed to play with me from time to time, vanished & I became very “regular”, if you will. My insomnia that tormented me for a handful of years was gone! I began falling asleep when my head hit the pillow and woke up feeling so refreshed! And here’s the kicker: my peri-menopause symptoms subsided. What? How can you suddenly stop a body from naturally doing what it does? Well, I didn’t stop it……but my body isn’t reminding me on a daily basis that it’s changing. I’m going through the change without all the side effects (so far!…..) After all these great improvements in how I felt, why would I want to go back into eating the way I ate? This “diet” made so much sense! Eat real food! Duh….. 🙂 Fueling to nourish our body and get the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients to keep our bodies thriving was the way to go and in turn, I felt great AND my body never looked better!!!
The scale didn’t really change in terms of numbers but my body leaned out. Obviously I was holding on to stored fat so once I started eating healthy fats (because for many years, fat was the devil!), my body started using it for energy. So the little fat layer that I had over my muscles, was now being used and burned….and now you can see those little muscles that were there all along but being covered. My tummy didn’t have bloat anymore so now it had the appearance I had longed for when I kept my calories to less than 1000 per day! It’s amazing that a mindset of eating to fuel instead of eating to keep under a certain weight or so you can fit into a size 2, does to your body naturally. And again, I felt (feel) so good! I don’t have a mid afternoon slump and my body just goes until I lay my head on that pillow…..and then I sleep like a baby!
After all of these positive changes in my life, I have no desire to eat anything that wouldn’t be a positive effect on me or my body. I began asking myself when offered a piece of cake at a party, “What will this do for me?” Well, it will probably taste yummy at first bite, then my buds will want more…..so I’ll have another few bites but then what? I may feel sluggish, I will probably get a sugar high, then dip later …will I get bloated and have an upset stomach?” And eventually, I say, “No thank you”. Now why do I get ridiculed after years of “No thank you’s”? I have heard, “Oh….come one! Live a little!” or “Why do you deprive yourself of an occasional treat”? and the list of questions or comments go on. I don’t feel as if I’m depriving myself. I actually don’t miss it —- at all! I don’t miss pizza, or fast food, or the cakes at parties. I feel that my body is getting exactly what it needs and is fueled properly, so it doesn’t really crave things that will only be a temporary fix. And btw, I have given in and had frozen yogurt with my hubby and felt the tummy issues arise shortly thereafter so I honestly don’t think it’s worth that 5 minutes of indulgence to feel the discomfort for a couple of hours later. I do have a sweet tooth so I make my fair share of sweet treats at home or have a square of dark chocolate (omg…I do love my dark chocolate!) But it’s never an issue or something that I HAVE to have or something I crave. I honestly like to bake ….so more often than not, it’s about hanging out in the kitchen but once the recipe is complete, I am satisfied with the process so indulging isn’t abused.
When people shout out that they are on Weight Watchers or Nutri-System, you hear the praise of others but when people hear that I don’t eat grains or that I don’t eat dairy, they give me a look of, “So, what do you eat?” It’s almost as if I’d be less criticized if I put myself on a fad diet. Though, I do hear some people calling this “caveman” diet a fad…… I disagree. I don’t think there is anything faddish with just eating real food! It just makes sense.
So when I get asked, “Can you have this?” if we are out and about or at a get together, I say, “Yes….I can. But no thank you.” I bring food along with me to gatherings or I just simply ask restaurants to ‘keep it simple’ and/or add more veggies and hold the pasta or rice. I used to feel compelled to explain my rational but not anymore. I’m feeling great, I look better than when I was in my 20’s, I sleep amazingly and am full of energy……I have no desire to give in to things that don’t make sense to me and if I offend someone because I won’t partake in their dessert or bring my own food along, I am sorry. I feel this is a way of life and I honestly feel that everyone should eat this way (on their own levels because we all have our own shade!) but giving up processed and fast food should be on everyone’s list of things to do. Aside from feeling better, we may rid disease and prevent health issues from arising. Food serves a purpose. There is no such thing as junk food….there’s junk and then there’s food. Eating real food sustains you and keeps you going! And it will actually lessen your cravings for the wrong things because real food is satisfying. I choose to eat this way because in my opinion, it works and I will say it again…..it makes sense. Food with a purpose is my tagline and I stand behind it 100%. So yes, I can have ‘that’, I just choose not to and I’m okay with it!
(Thanks for reading my babbling post. My intention is to inspire people to make decisions based on their own needs and to stand by them. I know it’s hard to hear comments about why you are or aren’t eating certain things but it’s our body and we know what works best 🙂 )