Like most people I know, my relationship with food is complex. One part of my brain fully realizes that food is simply fuel to make my body perform efficiently. The right fuel will create the best possible performance and keep my bones, muscles, and tissues healthy: while the wrong fuel will make me fat, slow, and cause health problems. I know this. It's the emotional and psychological connections to food that trip me up every time. In times of stress or depression I turn to food for comfort and relief. Certain seasons bring a sense of nostalgia and I long to re-create those times with certain foods; the smell of mom's rice meatballs simmering in a rich tomato based stew takes me back to my childhood so fast it makes my head spin. It's a nice place to visit, so I want to go there. My addiction to coffee is also primarily psychological - although I have to come realize that I'm actually addicted to the flavored creamer more so than the actual coffee.
I've been making gradual changes over the years though. About 2 years ago I made the decision to give up fast food. No more McDonalds, or Burger King, or Wendy's, or Taco Bell. The primary reason with that wasn't just the complete unhealthiness of the food, it was also the quality. I was beginning to understand that cheap, low quality food is just plain nasty. For the most part I also gave up soda; although I would on occasion give into the craving for a Coke or a Mr. Pibb. If I ate out, I would eat someplace like Chipotle - it's a little bit better quality.
As I've gotten older, my digestive system has gotten a lot more... Sensitive. The acid reflux kicked in about 2 years ago and has been a definite battle. At first I refused to change my diet to accommodate this issue. So a lot of my suffering was more than likely my own fault. A turning point was one night while having a 'movie and finger food night' (finger foods being all of those nasty processed frozen snack foods that you buy from the grocery store. Talk about low quality!) I was eating pepperoni pizza rolls. The next 2 days were pure agony. I have not touched a pizza roll since; and that was a bit of a wake up call. I need to pay attention to what I eat or else I am going to pay for it.
I would do okay for a while; preparing food at home, packing my lunches and avoiding sweets and overly processed foods. But I never took it that one step further (reading labels on things like salad dressing and coffee creamer - two of my favorite things) and I would always fall off the wagon. It would start slow, usually because I would get burned out or lazy. Prepping food is time consuming. Sometimes it's just easier to order a pizza. Or grab a frozen meal out of the freezer. It's mindless. And that's dangerous.
About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that I was feeling really sluggish and sick, with a complete lack of energy. I was feeling unmotivated and lazy; and I had no desire to exercise. My clothes were fitting tight and I had that awesome thing known as a muffin top.... So I took a look at my diet. Yep. Eating out almost every day, eating convenience foods, sweets, and I was up to 5-6 cups of coffee a DAY - each cup laden with tons of flavored coffee creamer. My body was telling me 'DUDE. This is so NOT COOL' in some rather unpleasant ways. So I listened. And I decided to dedicate myself to clean eating once more. This time, however, I need to take it that extra step further, and I also need to find some new options to shake things up and keep me interested. My primary goal is to cut down on the amount of processed sugar I eat every day. Along with that is the artificial ingredients. I have also opted to give up red meat.
Even though I am one of those weird people who can eat the same thing every day for weeks at a time; even I get bored with my food choices after a while. I've been doing egg whites and fruit for breakfast for years and I was so bored with that. So I've switched to plain Greek yogurt with some organic granola and fresh raspberries. I'm still getting my protein (18 grams) but it also feels like I'm eating something decadent. (After I got used to the lack of flavor and tartness of the plain yogurt that is.) It's a refreshing change. When I do eat my egg whites, I add some fresh spinach and cilantro; that kicked them up a bit. I have not been able to quit the coffee 100% yet, but I am down to one cup a day with minimal creamer. Just until I lose the taste for the creamer. Then I'll switch to half and half or skim milk. (Hopefully. I have NEVER been successful at that.) For now I am happy to be at one cup instead of six.
My second challenge was salad dressing. The good news is that once I have my conscious brain aware of something I'm trying to avoid (high fructose corn syrup for example) as soon as I see that ingredient on a label I feel an aversion to the item and I put it back. Same with partially hydrogenated oil. (I switched coffee creamer brands due to that ingredient.) But salad dressing was a big one. I have a particular brand I like and when I actually read the label I was dismayed to see high fructose corn syrup. So I went on a quest to find a recipe for a salad dressing I can make myself. I found one. I've modified it a bit to suit my own taste (it called for minced garlic but I didn't like that, so now I omit that. It also calls for a teaspoon of white sugar, I added fresh berries for sweetness instead.) It's basically non-fat buttermilk, raspberry balsamic vinegar, some fresh basil and fresh raspberries blended together until smooth. It's fantastic! Hallelujah.
I still have a lot of things I need to work past. I hate vegetables - so yeah. Major stumbling block. I'm finding ways to sneak them into things (like protein shakes) to hide them, but eventually I want to get to a point where I just eat the damn things. I also despise seafood, so that limits my protein choices a bit. I am giving tofu a try, so far it's been meh. But I won't give up. I have a great recipe for Tilapia that I want to try once I convince my brain that I don't hate fish....
Like any other journey, this one is off to a hesitant start. I'm learning. Modifying. Giving things up in exchange for feeling better. I've already lost 3 pounds and I haven't even been exercising - that is JUST from the diet change. However weight loss isn't my goal here, to be quite honest my primary goal is digestive health. Then overall health. Then fuel for workouts. I want to be healthy and fit. And that begins with fuel. I want to get to a point where I don't say I 'can't' eat that but I 'don't' eat that. I want to find comfort in other things besides cupcakes and Halloween candy. Maybe seeing abs for the first time EVER when I look in the mirror would do the trick...