So during my workout exploration, I mentioned my need to rein my nutrition in and I assured you that I wouldn’t make you go along on that journey with me. Well… I lied. I’m not going to do a day-by-day report by any means, but I wanted to share my experience with this in case it could help someone else.
I lost 30 pounds a couple years ago, and have maintained a 25 pound loss for over a year now. I am not overweight, nor really out of shape by most standards. I eat pretty well, and I work out regularly. All in all, I’m pretty healthy. But the truth is… I’m an addict. That’s right…
Hello, I am a food addict…
But here’s the thing, my addiction is not to just food in general, it’s to particular foods- specifically cheese and sugar.
There are studies that show that cheese has heroine-addictive properties and I believe it with every fiber of my being. I’ve tried to cut it from my diet before and it was like stripping me from my meth dealer. I started to say things like “life isn’t worth it if I can’t have pizza”. Crazy much? But it was an honest reflection. I believed I could never give up cheese so I created a story that it just wasn’t what I wanted for myself because pizza is the best thing ever! With sugar, I made the same diet-affirming statement in regard to brownies. “Life’s too short to deprive myself of brownies.” Seriously?! Ugh!
Thinking about this really started to piss me off. I got angry at myself. I don’t like feeling like I’m dependent on anything. Oxygen, water, sunlight, and food in general- that’s one thing, but to seriously be so addicted to a food item that I would put myself through harm to continue eating it and not only that, but defend the action? Unacceptable.
It may be a fact that life is short, but the truth is that my life will be a whole lot shorter if I continue treating my body like this. Even worse, I could live for a very long time, but I’ll be sick, overweight, in pain, or just overall not feeling well and I’ll only have myself to blame. I don’t want that for myself. A change had to be made.
I decided to go to a whole foods, plant-based diet in its entirety, which automatically removes cheese and also includes the elimination of refined sugar. I have been a vegetarian for the better part of the last ten years, and for the longest time, two of my three meals a day have already been vegan, with the third being vegetarian. I have many reasons for the complete transition, which I’m not going to get into as this is not meant to be a platform for veganism, nor is it meant to be a debate. I don’t want to hear dumb questions about where I get my protein from people who obviously don’t do any research, or statements that I’m going against human history and/or nature which is also stupid if you actually know anything about the history of man. I’m not trying to push this on anyone; it’s just what I have chosen as the best option for me as a sustainable lifestyle rather than a fad diet that would have me lose weight at first, only to gain all of it back plus some later on. This is about lifetime health. So with that said… moving on.
Maintaining my diet up to this point hasn’t been difficult really at all, but truth be told I have relied pretty heavily on processed stuff for breakfast and lunch (i.e.: ready to drink vegan shakes, protein powder… things like that), but I do cook most of my dinners regularly. I am asking myself to get rid of the dependence on all of the processed options and prepare all of my own food from nature’s own resources. Making the decision to do this is great. It totally makes sense; it’s the healthiest possible option. The execution… not so great lol. It’s tough. But what I’m realizing is the hardest part is just the front-loading, the planning ahead. Luckily, planning is my jam. If I could make planning my job, I’d be filthy rich, but alas, that’s not my life right now. Maybe I’ll figure that out another day. Anyway, making sure that I have enough stuff on hand that I don’t feel the need to make poor choices is the first step and is proving to be a struggle.
I wanted this to be a transitional process as I know that trying to overhaul my life overnight is not only unrealistic, but also extremely overwhelming. However, I am going to start out going gung ho because I want to see where my difficulties lie and do the best that I can initially, but with the understanding that it will take time and that I will probably screw it up somewhere along the line.
Goal 1- The main goal starting out is going completely vegan, not ingesting any animal byproducts (i.e. dairy, eggs, etc.). As I previously mentioned, this isn’t a huge leap. I’m already vegan two meals out of the day so it’s really just planning properly for my third meal to make sure it doesn’t have any of those things included.
Goal 2- Nothing processed. Once I remove processed foods, this should also eliminate added refined sugar and since I’m in charge of the cooking- I don’t have to add sugar into anything. This should find me in a completely unprocessed, whole foods, plant-based diet.
Week 1: I made a dish that I thought would leave leftovers for the whole week, but grossly underestimated and two days in I’m eating the last of it and I have nothing in my home to prepare for the rest of the week. So another trip to the store we take. I’m also finding that my caloric intake is so much lower in three meals a day now than it was. I need to eat more! Never thought I’d see that day. While it’s great to have a lower calorie intake for a couple days, it’s not sustainable or healthy. I need to make sure I’m getting enough fuel to function and even more to continue my workouts. I don’t really feel like passing out at any point. Maybe I’m weird, I don’t know.
But at the close of the first week, it was a perfect week nutritionally meaning no processed foods, no added sugar, 100% whole foods and I’m down 3 pounds (bonus!). I got way more of every nutrient than I have in any time I can recall while logging my food over the past 6 months. More iron, more fiber- which automatically increased my water intake, more vitamins, less sodium, less cholesterol (most days I came in at zero), less (and most times zero) saturated fat, and around the same amount of protein since I’ve never struggled to get enough protein. I haven’t spent the week starving and on the same token, I haven’t once been so stuffed that I’ve been miserable. By eating natural foods, my body goes through the process it is supposed to and tells me when I am full. That’s pretty darn neat if I do say so.
I can see a bit of a trim down, but not a ton of outside evidence, which is to be expected. It’s only been a week. But my insides feel great. I feel lighter and have more energy overall. My body is definitely adjusting and I have a lot of bad habits to break and it’s those habits that are causing the most trouble. It’s the habit of having dessert, not the dessert itself sometimes. The habit of wanting certain things, not the things themselves I’m realizing because when I think of actually ingesting some of that stuff, I don’t want it. I’m used to wanting it and those are the habits this is working to break.
Disclaimer: I went through some big withdrawal symptoms that haven’t been pretty with giving up sugar. I got shaky, chills, the sweats- where it felt like I was sweating from the inside out- headaches, and my brain was completely consumed thinking about food. The sugar cravings are still coming in waves (I’m day-dreaming about donuts, which I don’t even really eat typically), but I’m proud of myself for not going and finding said donuts and know that if I did it would only lead to a lot of disappointment. That keeps me going. I felt pretty pathetic more than a few times through the week and I’m not going to lie- I cried a couple times (I also don’t really cry ever so this was a big deal) thinking I couldn’t do it. But the weekend had me face to face with pizza and cake and I managed to turn them both down and I can’t even begin to say how big that is. That was a huge accomplishment for me. I struggled mentally a lot over the weekend and had to go back through why I was doing this and what I want my life and health to look like, but those moments passed thank goodness. Just know that if you decide to give these foods up, there is a high possibility that you will experience this and I want you to know it is normal and I promise it will pass and you will feel so much better after. Develop a plan for when these cravings hit: call or text a friend, go for a walk… anything to get you through the moment without succumbing to it. You can do it!
Week 2: I started the week with a four hour training at work. I knew I would be tempted with pastries and breads, but after the weekend accomplishment I came in with greater confidence that I could do it and I did. Another win for the books. The rest of the week I managed to maintain my perfect streak, but I did it all wrong. My diet was entirely vegan with no added sugar, but I didn’t get enough vegetables and fruits this week. I bought a thing of mixed spring greens, only to find out on my first bite that there was cilantro in it (who does that?). I happen to be allergic to cilantro and immediately vomit when it hits my tongue so that was the end of that. Since I’m leaving at the end of the week I didn’t want to buy a new container of greens so my veggie intake was really low for the week. That’s something I need to work harder at next week.
The end of this week found me in Chicago- food heaven, and specifically my own personal pizza heaven. A week ago I was already scared of how this week was going to end, preemptively disappointed in myself thinking I wouldn’t be able to say no and it disgusted me that I am so addicted to something like that. On top of that, I was already afraid of how horrible it was going to make me feel. But as it approaches, and some of the worst is over, I have started looking through the menus at some of the places we plan to go to and am making a plan for myself. I feel more confident now that I will be able to make better choices and stick close to my goals if not completely, which is better than I was thinking originally. I have to practice what I preach here and be kind to myself. I have to remember it’s a process that I was never expecting to be perfect at right off the bat. The fact that I did so well for this long is honestly pretty astonishing to me so I have to keep that accomplishment in mind. What matters is what I do afterward. Do I allow the weekend to derail me or do I get right back on track and do what I know feels good and is the healthiest option for my body? Yeah- I get back on track.
Week 3: Oh dear god what have I done? Chicago was not kind to me. More accurately- I was not kind to myself through my choices. Honestly, I did make better choices all around, but not good enough and by day 2 I had a headache that I still haven’t been able to kick, a nice lethargy that found me sleeping at every opportunity, my insides were sore and swollen, and every inch of my body still hurts from head to toe two days later. I am now, more than ever, absolutely positive that sugar is poison, with the proof being my 4 am full body rejection of all things sugar that I had ingested. The one benefit of hurling myself off the clean-eating wagon is this understanding, and a completely reestablished desire to take care of my body. This week finds me in complete detox mode, cleaning up the mess I’ve made of myself and getting fully back on track. I’ve also reaffirmed my intentions. I eat well because it feels good. Losing weight is a natural perk of doing what is right for your body, but it’s not my purpose and that takes a lot of pressure off. I’m reacquainting myself with the notion that the scale is stupid. I’ll look in the mirror and I can see the changes my body is making, and I feel so good. Then I’ll hop on the scale and when it doesn’t reflect what I see, I get deflated. That’s just dumb and counterproductive. Goodbye regular weigh-ins and hello to doing my best. Another bonus, just the thought of a brownie or donut makes me physically convulse right now so I’m definitely not feeling those cravings anymore. When I go, I go hard lol. I’m an all-or-nothing personality, what can I say? Ugh…personality flaw. I am craving whole foods and that makes me really happy so I feel that out of this there is a silver lining.
Week 4: With that said about the weigh-ins, I did need to assess the damage inflicted from Chicago so I tracked throughout this week. I lost a pound a day after getting my nutrition back on track so this week began 5 pounds down from where I was when I got back from Chicago and feeling so much better. I don’t know if that shows how great I’ve been doing, or how bad I did in Chicago lol. Either way, I’ll take it. The planning is so much easier now, my grocery bill is super cheap, and it takes me zero thought through the week to eat. Due to proper planning at the beginning of each week, I always know what I’m going to have and that it is going to give me what I need.
The end of these four weeks has me in such a better place mentally and physically from where I started. My skin has cleared up to a whole new level, my body feels lighter inside, and I just feel good all the way around. I feel like I will be able to develop some balance in my life moving forward- that I am in control of myself once again, instead of food controlling me. I’ve made sustainable, lifestyle changes and that was really the goal.
I now eat to live, not live to eat. I would call that success.