If you’ve read my personal story, you may recall my sharing with you that a few months ago, for the first time in over 10 years, I quit weighing myself on a daily basis. And I shared with you some of the reasons that I did that:
- I don’t want my children to see that pattern of behavior and identify that with my personal view of beauty;
- I have better ways to spend my time, like enjoying the company of my sweet daughter;
- And lastly, that number makes absolutely no difference in defining who I am or what I stand for (in fact, my dwelling on it significantly gets in the way of that).
But there’s kind of one other reason that I didn’t really talk about. And that’s the big switch I made in how I view the food that I eat.
For so long I would have periods of time where I’d focus on and monitor either the calories or macronutrients that I consumed (specifically carbohydrates and fats), and limit those in my diet so that I could lose weight and be “beautiful” and “healthy”. The problem is that both of those strategies would leave me with this empty feeling, and one of two things would inevitably happen: 1) I’d let achieving that feeling become an obsession, thus taking my weight loss way too far, or 2) I’d end up binging on sugars and other carbohydrates to fill the deficit I had created in my body. Obviously, neither of those ever resulted in a true healthfulness.
I know that many of the diets and programs on the market today focus on meeting a specific calorie goal or fulfilling certain macronutrient quantities or percentages each day in order to achieve optimum physical health. I’m not saying that these programs do not help countless women. What I’m saying is that they won’t help me. Because at the end of the day, what I need is more than just physical health; I need the whole package: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
So what? I just eat whatever I want for the sake of sanity and call it a day? NO. Because if I truly believe that I am wildly, beautiful from the inside out, and that God crafted me as a unique individual to play even a small role in His divine and eternal creation, it would be totally counter-intuitive, dysfunctional even, to neglect care of my physical body - the “out” part of the equation. So what’s my strategy? Two words: REAL FOODS.
I know that term gets thrown around a lot, so I’ll clarify. When I say” real foods”, what I mean is this:
- Food that is as close to its natural, unaltered state as possible;
- Food that is not composed of isolated chemicals (natural or otherwise) to improve preservability;
- Food that is prepared in a manner that promotes digestion and nutrient absorption;
- Food that is prepared in a manner that maintains as much of its pre-processed nutritional content as possible (think steaming broccoli and drinking the water, okay?).
About six months after the birth of my daughter, I started following a couple food-related blogs, because honestly, I just love to cook. It absolutely thrills and excites me to create beautiful and delicious meals for my family. These bloggers started mentioning ideas such as “soaked grains” and “fermented vegetables)” and I was intrigued. A little more curiosity and digging led me to a cookbook entitled Nourishing Traditions. I decided, “What the heck?!”, and ordered a copy to see what the whole hub-bub was about.
After finishing the introductory sections which contained a wealth of information on each macronutrient and the way that today’s food preparation methods and manufacturing methods pretty much leave all of our food completely devoid of nutrition, I was convinced. I drank the Kool-Aid.
I’m not going to go too far into the health benefits of pursuing the incorporation of real foods and traditional preparation methods into your diet. Frankly, that’s what the internet is for (and if you’d like to read an interesting article regarding just that, here are a couple to get you started: The Atlantic and Mercola). What I will do is tell you what it has done for me.
Since I began using the concept of “real foods” in planning meals for myself and my family, this is what I’ve found to be true:
My skin has cleared up considerably. After giving birth, I was greatly saddened to no longer enjoy that coveted benefit of pregnant lady hormones. Since I began following more traditional preparation methods and consuming foods that have not been heavily processed (if you don’t know what rapadura is, you should check it out), I have seen a noticeable difference in my acne. Like one or two pimples a week as opposed to 12...yikes!
- I have not been sick, in any way, not even a cold. To say that this solely the result of eating fewer processed foods and trying to prepare my food in ways that increase digestibility and nutrition absorption, is not really my place to say. I’m not a doctor or scientist. But I do believe that it has played a sizeable role in that.
- I actually have more time to spend with my family. This is not so much a result of eating differently, so much as it is the result of preparing food differently. What I mean by this is that the real foods approach lends itself tremendously to the idea of batch cooking and a different method of meal planning that enables me to prepare extra for use in later weeks. When I do cook, I cook a ton for the next week or two and then I can spend the rest of my days taking care of my daughter and giving her the attention she wants and deserves.
- I feel comfortable consuming fats (like literally no qualms). I do not avoid fats in my diet. It’s lunacy, and it’s a miserable existence. I do, however, consume different fats that I used to. Organic virgin coconut oil is my cooking oil of choice, followed by organic grass-fed butter, and for dressings or dishes that require something be tossed in an oil, I use organic extra-virgin olive oil. I know that these fats promote a healthy metabolism and therefore aid my body in functioning optimally, which is huge when it comes to staying energized in my marathon training.
To say that I have followed all of the recipes and preparation instructions to a TEE, without slip up, would just be dishonest. As much as I would love to tell you that I only eat “real foods” all day every day, I just can’t. But I can tell you that I have gained so much enjoyment from delving into the tasks of soaking my oats overnight before cooking and consuming them the following morning (seriously guys, once you try soaked oats I really don’t think you’ll ever go back...), spending weeks anxiously awaiting the bubbly goodness of home-brewed kombucha (which my dad so delicately told me tastes like horse piss...I’d very much like to know how he knows that), crunching on my delightfully nutty mung bean sprouts, and laboring over a huge saucepot of my very own homemade broth.
There’s a reason I haven’t referred to this as a real foods “diet”. That’s because it’s not a diet to me. It’s an absolute lifestyle change, and it’s not about reaching a certain goal. It’s about long-term health and wellness. About making nourishing your body a behavior pattern. It’s about actually sitting down to enjoy your food, not just for the flavor, but for the ability to spend time with your family and converse about your days over a filling, nourishing, and thoughtfully-prepared meal. Meal replacement bars and shakes just don’t give me that.
When I know that what I am putting into my body is life-giving and chalk full of nutrition, I don’t have to worry about a number on a scale. That’s just not even a relevant factor anymore. Just like some of the other programs out there, this isn’t for everyone. I get that. But like I said before, I need something that lets me focus on more of myself than just what I eat and how often and long I workout. A real foods diet (ugh, I had to say it), for me, is very holistic in that it brings humans closer to their origins in a way, harkening to the food-preparation methods of traditional and subsistence cultures. It’s a huge learning process, but not just about the food - about the origins of the dish and why it is meant to be prepared in a certain way and what significance that has for its culture of origin. And that’s kind of a really beautiful process in my mind.
Are there still things I would change about my diet? Absolutely, and I probably will at some point. But this is more of a journey for me. A journey that’s focused on learning each and every day new ways to bring nourishment to myself and my family, and slowly implementing new techniques and ideas into my culinary endeavors.
I would love to share more information with you about the changes that I have made in my diet, many of which I didn’t even touch on here. So if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me.
At the end of the day, you have to find something that works for you. Something that gets you excited and impassioned and feeling as wildly beautiful as you truly are!