Every January just about every major magazine runs a cover story about the best diets to try in the New Year. This was the first time in my adult life when I didn’t care to read any of them. I’m no longer searching for the next big fad diet because I’ve finally found a way of eating that works for me- I eat real food! In honor of Eating Disorders Awareness Month, I wanted to share my past struggles and my new found triumph.
I’ve struggled with body image issues since I was a teenager- always trying different extreme diets and trying to lose weight (looking back I realize I didn’t need to lose weight but I certainly believed I did at the time). I’ve never had a full blown eating disorder but I’ve definitely pushed the boundaries and my dysmorphic body image led me to unhealthy extremes. I’ve spent so much energy and a staggering amount of my life obsessed with food, diet and my weight. It’s so sad to think about all that wasted time and energy.
Weight Loss and Extreme Diets
I’ve tried just about every diet (everything from Zone and South Beach to juice cleanses and low-carb) but nothing was sustainable. I’d either have a moment of clarity or think “Why am I doing this? I should just be happy with my body!” or I’d be too darn hungry to continue something so restrictive. I’d think “I should just eat like a normal person” (read: the supposed celebrities that can eat one single piece of pizza) but this would never last long because my appetite felt out of control.
I always felt like something was wrong and I now believe that a too-restrictive diet (with too much sugar, too many grains and not enough fat) disrupted my blood sugar levels and left me feeling unsatisfied and hungry. How can you not be obsessed with food when you are not nourishing your body? Depriving myself would ultimately lead to overeating and then I’d feel bad and decide I should find a new diet, something I could stick with, and the whole cycle would begin again.
I used to only be able to go about two hours without eating or else I’d feel distracted and grumpy. I’d eat lunch and be thinking, “What’s next?”. Unless I overate I never felt quite done and I always craved sweets after eating. I felt insatiable. I thought this was just the way it would always be. Now I’ve found a way of eating that not only nourishes my body with whole, real food but has helped me manage my appetite and cravings. I’m no longer ravenous- story of my life up to this point- or craving sugar and other carbs all the time, and my relationship with food has transformed. In addition to losing the belly-bloat, I’m now as slim as I have been in my adult life (with the exception of an unhealthy time during university that I would not care to repeat).
Replacing Processed Food From The Diet
Eating real, unprocessed food has truly changed my life for the better. This involves eating a diet that avoids grains, beans and soy, while enjoying lots of raw, full-fat dairy (e.g. kefir, butter, milk, cheese, etc.), cultured vegetables, bone broth (a super nourishing broth that is loaded with good-for-you gelatin), eggs, meat and fish. I drink green juice and eat the occasional salad with olive oil, and enjoy a variety of cooked vegetables. I use raw honey and eat some fruit. I’m still figuring out the right balance of foods to eat but now instead of obsessing about calories, I focus on nutrients. What real, whole foods does my body need that day? This will change from day to day.
In essence, this way of eating avoids processed foods. Technically even homemade kefir is processed but I’m talking about avoiding the suspicious food-like products with preservatives, rancid oils and fillers- things that we really shouldn’t be ingesting. I think everyone could benefit from avoiding these types of food- especially grain and seed oils (like corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil etc) because these oils, often from genetically modified crops, are refined under excessive heat, which damages the polyunsaturated fats and antioxidant vitamin E. And of course trans-fats are a no-no too! If you stop eating these bad fats, you’ll naturally avoid most processed, packaged food. Read labels because sadly they are in almost everything!
[pullquote]We have to stop trying to figure out how to incorporate industrial food products into a healthy diet and start cutting these processed foods out, if not completely, then at least out of our daily diet.[/pullquote] The less I eat refined sugar and carbs, the less I want them- especially as I become more cognizant of how unhealthy these processed foods are. I have noticed that during holidays or other times of indulgence, cravings for these types of foods increase in relation to how much I’m indulging and I find my appetite increases too. Now that I understand this I don’t need to read about the latest fad diet to try because I already know what to do: just eat real food.
Some people consider my diet restrictive but I don’t! I can eat an abundance of delicious, nutritious food and enjoy rich, wonderful things like homemade ice cream made from raw whole milk, cream and honey. I just don’t eat a lot of things that while common, certainly aren’t good for you. I eat so much fat but this has had no negative effect on my weight- quite the opposite. Now I don’t worry about restricting how much I eat, I am just more conscious of what kind of food I’m eating. By not feeling restricted and deprived, I’m able to nourish my body and give it what it wants and needs- real food! It’s hard to overeat when you are eating real food. Maybe you will at first while you are nourishing a previously deprived body, but once your body gets used to being cared for, your appetite will balance out. Then you can listen to your hunger. If you are hungry, eat!
The human body is brilliant and it’s always communicating with us. My body was telling me something wasn’t right, and now I’m listening. I’m not saying I have it all right, and I’m sure things will evolve over time, but I encourage people to think about why these fad diets so rarely work. We need to get back to eating real food.