Today’s post isn’t about how my way is the only way. Or the “right” way. I won’t even tell you it’s the best way. No, today’s post will be bringing you insight to how I found my personal freedom in food and possible ways for you to find yours. These are the changes I made to create lasting and ongoing health for myself, and I’d be more than happy to share them with you! So without further ado:
How I got started on my journey to vibrant health
1. I quit processed food.
Nearly everything that comes in a box, a can, or a package is a processed food. And the processed foods I’ll be talking about more specifically, are the ones with ingredient lists a mile long. (I exaggerate a bit, but there are some crazy big lists out there friends, take a look for yourself!)
The main reason I avoid processed foods is because they aren’t nutrient-dense foods. Nutrient dense foods will be higher in nutrients, and relatively lower in calories (eg: “foods containing vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats.” –NIH Senior Health) .
If a packaged food item has well over 10-15 ingredients, and you can’t pronounce most of them, it’s safe to say that it most likely isn’t the best thing to put in your body.
Processed foods contain really high amounts of sodium, sugar and fat, all which contribute to the calorie content. They’re also low in vitamins & nutrients, and high in calories. So avoiding them can only be better for your health in the long run.
I try and shop for ~90% of my food on the ailes near the outer perimeter of the grocery store. This is where the fresh veggies and fruits are going to be stored, and your dairy-free milks will be located too.
I do shop on the inner aisles of the store, but only to buy bags of beans, rice, spices, (and the occasional dark chocolate bars. 😉 ) Now sometimes I will peruse down the chip aisle looking for “healthier chips,” but I can’t allow myself to get too comfortable on that aisle, or else I get cravings. I start losing focus on my goals. That’s when I just walk away. Very quickly.
I used to eat a lot of the pre-made frozen meals and boxed “Just add water!” meals, but they tend to have WAY more sodium than I would ever DREAM of putting in my own food at home, so I just don’t go there anymore. It’s a convenient way to get food, but I’d rather cook a bulk pot of stew, rice & beans, or soup and have my convenient left-overs throughout the week 🙂
If I ever do buy something, I make sure it’s an organic, low-sodium, low-sugar or unsweetened, plant-based item. These days, I mainly just prepare all of my food at home. I tend to trust myself more than a restaurant, or processing plant for the food I put into my body.
2. I quit eating animal products.
This includes animal by products, too. I stopped eating meat, cheese, cow’s milk, eggs, butter, honey, gelatin, and any processed foods containing these items. I replaced meat with beans, seeds, nuts, nut-butters, and meat alternatives like tempeh and tofu. And replaced cheese with nutritional yeast, and nut-cheeses. I replaced cow’s milk with a variety of plant-based milks like almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk and flax milk.
There are so many alternatives out there today that it’s almost too easy to make the switch from conventional animal products to cleaner, plant-based ones. And keep in mind, just because I quit eggs and milk, doesn’t mean I “miss out” on all my favorite treats! I still eat pancakes, muffins, brownies, ice cream, and biscuits & gravy. I just create them differently. And I feel much better for it too.
3. I incorporated cleaner foods into my lifestyle.
And by clean foods, I mean simple, whole foods. More foods in their most natural state. Raw fruits and vegetables. Raw and sprouted nuts and seeds and grains. Raw fats and oils like extra-virgin coconut & olive oils, avocados, and fresh coconut meat or dried coconut. Homemade dressings, instead of highly processed, store-bought ones.
I’ve been through stages where I’ll avoid high-fat foods at all costs, because those foods have a lot more calories than other foods. But the truth is this: We all need fats in our diets. Period. And the best way to get those are through whole fats, in their natural state–uncooked, unheated. The way you know if an oil, for instance, is in it’s natural state is the label will generally have on it somewhere: “cold-pressed,” “raw,” or “extra-virgin.”
4. I learned that willpower is EVERYTHING.
It’s all in my head. In order for me to make true change a reality in my life, I realized that I must really decide, deep down, that this change is TRULY what I want. Not something that I’m being forced to do against my will. And know that it will benefit me in the end.
Change is uncomfortable. Habits are habits for a reason, we find comfort in them. For me, when I decide to bring change into my life, the ONLY way I stick with that change and achieve my goals is to keep track of what my goals even ARE. My vision.
Then, from there, each decision I make I ask myself questions like: “Is this action or decision in line with my goals? Is this action or decision helping me to get closer to my goals?”
If the answer is no, I just don’t do it. (Now this is the idea, but I’ve failed plenty at this step. I’m not perfect either!) But even when I want to do something, like really want to, and I know deep down it will not bring me closer to my goals, I have to stop myself. Sometimes tell myself out loud “NO.”
Then make a different choice. A better choice.
And keep in mind that it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. There will be those moments when you want to eat just one bite of that chocolate cake. Or greasy pizza. Or that french fry. There will be temptation. There will be others trying to get you to break your promises to yourself, & sabotage your goals. And your progress.
This is when a little determination comes in handy!
Just knowing these truths at the very beginning of your journey, will make you more prepared for it. You’ll have more lasting success by realizing up front that it will not be easy. It will take effort. It will take will-power. With knowledge, you gain power. You’re prepared for battle. You’re personal battle to achieve greatness.
And for me, it was a battle. A battle for my life! To take it back.
So that’s the basic recipe for my successes so far.
Now, I didn’t just magically make all these changes overnight. This was no “magical experience.” This wasn’t effortless on my part. I didn’t “have it easy because of X, Y, and Z.” It was a process.
A process over 2 years, (now 4 years) of constantly refining my diet. Checking in to my body and it’s signals. Taking notice when certain foods made me feel great and when certain foods made me feel terrible.
Reaching my health goals took (and still takes to this day): persistence, dedication, vision on the long-term goal, mindfulness, and purposeful action.
There’s more that has contributed to my success so far than just the food aspect of it, but I’ll get to that in another post. 🙂
The food changes have been, by far, the biggest factors in my overall success. I wanted to share this information with you first, so that you might be able to gain insight and inspiration through my story and to begin your own personal success journey starting right now!
So go on and do it already! Make the changes you’ve wanted for so long.
Tell yourself “I CAN.” And believe it.
And please, let me know when you’re struggling with something. I’ll help talk you through whatever comes up for you in your journey. Let me walk with you.
I love you.
With gratitude and love,