Alright. This is the blog post where I spill all the beans on my life. This is where you’ll find out how I really eat, how I shop, and how I stay my definition of “healthy.” For this to happen, I’m going to have to start at the beginning. I’m going to have to start with something I don’t publicize much (although, the pictures are all on the book of Face if anyone ever wanted to snoop). In college, I was fat.
Yep. That’s me. Christmas of 2006. In 2004, my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. For those who have no clue what that is, here is the short version: my metabolism functions at very low levels. People with hypothyroidism typically experience fatigue, cold extremities, hair loss, and uncontrollable weight gain. Luckily, I managed to largely escape the hair loss symptom (although, my hair is so thick, I probably wouldn’t have noticed). But, in my last three months of high school, I put on 50lbs of extra weight. (Oh, the pregnancy rumors that spread…)
I admit, I had a penchant for carbs even at that young age. I would eat MOUNDS of pasta as an after school snack. So when I gained weight, I naturally thought that was the culprit. I cut back on pasta and started exercising. When the pounds kept creeping on, I finally went to the doctor and got the news. I was going to have to fight with my metabolism for the rest of my life.
For the first couple years of college, I stayed overweight. I was taking synthetic thyroid hormones trying to balance out my silly metabolism. Finally, I decided it was time. I was 21 and my knees were killing me. It was time. I made a New Year’s resolution in January 2007 to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and over the next year I lost those annoying 50lbs. Here is October of 2007.
That is my back story. I tell you because I want you to know I haven’t always been a small girl. I want you to know that I completely understand the social stigma of needing to change my body. I want you to know I struggled with food. And I want you to know that I still struggle.
Having been overweight, and constantly having to deal with my lagging thyroid, I developed a constant fear of getting “fat” again. I was constantly locked in a battle between my plate and my mind. I read countless nutrition and health articles. I learned just about all an average person could about diet and nutrition. And I’m here. On the other side of it all. In the past year, I’ve finally started seeing my reflection for what it is. I no longer (usually) see the “fat” girl in the mirror. And I believe it’s because I’ve finally stopped listening to all the mumbo-jumbo diet/health/fitness crap out there. I’ve figured out how MY body wants to eat and what makes MY body feel good. In doing that, I’ve reach a level of acceptance that I don’t think can come from doing something because the industry tells you to. It can only be achieved by listening to yourself. So now, here is my approach to the world of health, food, and fitness. All laid out for you in a numbered fashion (because apparently that’s how I do it in this blog). Please read and enjoy. But remember – I’m not TELLING you how to do it. I’m giving you what works for me. Take it. Digest it. Edit it. Implement some (or all) of it. See how it works for you.
1. Discover What You LOVE
All the diet gurus say if you have a trigger food, you should get it out of your house. Never to be seen (eaten) again!! But…I love my trigger foods. And a life without them seems…wrong. Let’s use pasta as my example. If given free reign, I would eat mountains of pasta per sitting. I love the stuff. But a lifetime without it would make me the most miserable person on the face of the planet. In fact, a week without it might do that. So instead of kicking it to the curb, I measure it. Every single time I cook pasta, I weigh it before it goes in the pot. This keeps me accountable for my portions and prevents me from gorging myself. I say don’t kick out the best foods you love! Just acknowledge that you can’t give yourself free reign with them. Figure out a way to portion control. Measure, weigh, get special bowls/plates, whatever! But please don’t deprive yourself. You’ll just be sad.
2. Eat Whole Foods
Someone once told me “You’re food should look as close to its natural state when you eat it.” That’s the fancy way of saying “no processed foods.” I completely agree with this advice. Not only are processed foods typically loaded with unnecessary sugars, preservatives, colorings, etc…but they also don’t usually taste as good as real food! I stay away from 95% of processed foods. Sometimes, they’re unavoidable in today’s market (chips are way easier to buy that make!). So, when you DO buy the processed stuff – read the label! If it has more than the ingredients you would use to make it at home, then don’t buy it (i.e. tortilla chips = corn, water, oil, salt.).
Now. That being said…I have to say this: I think the GMO, non-organic attack happening today is just stupid. First off, labeling something a “GMO” is like calling something flying a “UFO.” The very first “GMO” was the pea plant that Gregor Mendel studied. And genetics modify ALL THE TIME on their own. It’s called evolution and adaptation. The current battle against “GMOs” is based in pseudo-science and uses scaremonger tactics to promote the ideas. However, if you research real scientific journals, you’d find that “GMOs” have already saved a lot of lives and there is not actually a GMO (to my current knowledge) that has been definitively linked to any health issues. Non-organic foods have a similar story. While many vegetables and fruit (especially the thin skinned ones) are better in their organic form do to pesticide absorption, the majority of overpriced organic foods are a waste of your money. There has been no real scientific evidence to show a nutritional difference in most of these foods. Again, most of what you hear is scaremongering.
The foods I choose to cut out and/or limit are ones that have a definitive toxic reaction in the body: artificial sweeteners, man-made preservatives, trans fat, artificial colors, and excessive sugars.
Now, as promised…here is a look inside my grocery bags this past week:
Here we have 75% of the food that will stock Erich and I for the week. The other 25% comes from our CSA produce box, our pantry, and our stock of freezer meats from the local butcher. We have sprouted wheat bread (2 loaves), eggs (2 dozen), pasta, flaxseed tortilla chips, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, cheddar cheese (2 blocks), parmesan cheese, mushrooms, bananas, vanilla coconut milk, light coconut milk (for cooking), 1% kefir, tuna (3 cans), slice turkey, frozen strawberries (2 bags), frozen blueberries, peanut butter, heavy cream (2), apple cider, wine (2 bottles), and a couple bottles of hard cider.
Our grocery budget for this week was around $82 (normally it would be around $65, but we have a little extra this month since we won’t need our budget for the week of Thanksgiving when we’re with family). All of that food up there, including wine and cider, cost us around $75. Holy monkeys. We also have our CSA box full of produce (see below) and our 14lbs of frozen meats. Combine that with my stocked pantry of flour, spices, grains, etc…that’s a lot of food!
See guys. It is completely possible to buy wholesome food to nourish your body AND be on a really tight buget. In an average week, Erich and I eat for roughly $2.40 per meal (per person). Not too shabby.
3. Get a CSA Box
I’ve said this before in a blog…but I’ll say it again! Get a CSA box!! CSA (community supported agriculture) box is an excellent and affordable way to get your produce. It’s good for you and it’s good for the farmers. Plus, they’re so popular now that just about anybody, anywhere can find a good CSA. I get mine through a company called New Roots Organics. They get their produce from a network of farms in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Occasionally they supplement with imports from Mexico, but only in the cases where they will not have enough local produce to round out a box (and only include bananas, and exotic fruits).
The other awesome thing about a CSA box is that it will force you out of your comfort zone. You will get veggies you’ve never heard of (garlic scapes, anyone?) and be forced to incorporate them into your meals. Not only is this fun and adventurous, it’s really great for your diet!
CSA are also typically a bargain on produce. You get organic, locally grown produce at wholesale pricing. Erich and I pay $29.50 for our weekly box. Here is what we got this last week:
1 yellow onion, 1lb parsnips, 1 bunch broccolette, 1 bunch arugula, 2 bartlett pears, 8 kiwi, 1 bunch beets with tops, 1 bunch kale, 1 bunch carrots with tops, 1 sugar pie pumpkin, and 2 fuji apples.
Nomz! I got very excited when I found out we were getting a sugar pie pumpkin. I can’t wait to roast that! A CSA box is like a little mini Christmas gift every week. And it’s a healthy little adventure.
4. Learn to Cook/Bake
If you learn to cook, you will always be able to control what food goes into your mouth. Cooking is actually really simple. All you need is a few simple basics (maybe in a future blog…) and you can whip up dinners super-fast. I cook almost every night of the week (we eat out once every couple of weeks) and most of those meals take me around 30 minutes from start to finish. I had every intention of taking pictures of ALL our food this week…but I forgot. So here are a couple of photos and a quick run-down of what we at for the week:
Breakfasts: Mine usually consists of two slices of peanut butter toast OR scrambled eggs and a slice of toast. Erich almost always eats a couple of eggs and a couple pieces of toast. These are our go-to healthy breakfasts that take less than 10 minutes to prepare and set us up for a good day. We also always pair our breakfast with our signature smoothie. Our staple smoothie that we drink at least 5 days a week consists of strawberries, blueberries, lowfat Kefir, vanilla coconut milk, banana, greens, and flaxseed. Per serving, this smoothie hovers around 250 calories and supplies a load of vitamins, fiber, omegas, and healthy carbs to get us revved up.
Lunches: These vary depending on the day. If we have leftovers of dinner, that is our go-to lunch. Because it requires no thought. Other easy-peasy staples could be egg salad sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, tuna salad, or peanut butter sandwiches. We also always take a piece of whatever fruit we got in our box during the week.
Dinners: Here is where I get creative. But I’m also pretty lazy about cooking sometimes. So I love go-to meals that I can mix and match. Here are some of the things we had this past week: mac & cheese with mushrooms and kale, chicken stir-fry with tons of veggies in a sriracha sauce over noodles, steak with roasted squash and scalloped potatoes, and noodles with “pink sauce” (a mix of tomato sauce and alfredo sauce), mushrooms, and arugula. All of these were made completely from scratch – included all the sauces. Notice how I don’t shy away from some taboo food items in my diet, namely cheese and pasta. Our trick to eating whatever we want and not being miserable is measuring/weighing everything and making everything from scratch. Yummy!
I also mentioned learning to bake up there, right? Now, I know this is a bit more complicated than cooking. There is science involved. But if you can overcome your fear of baking, you can make all sorts of wonderful things. You can bake your own bread, cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, donuts…the possibilities are endless!! Of course, these things should all be enjoyed in moderation…but it is a lot nicer to your soul to know the pumpkin pie you are enjoying has no trans fat, preservatives, and is made with whole-wheat flour.
Move a little or move a lot. Just move. If you are currently sedentary, maybe try a gentle walk for 10-15 minutes a day. Eventually you’ll be walking more briskly and maybe for longer periods of time. If you already exercise, maybe you can kick it up a little bit? Maybe not. I currently work out in the mornings before work 5 days a week. That is all I can manage. I usually get a decent workout in (20min cardio and about 30min strength), but that is the only time I can squeeze into the day. So if what you are currently doing is all you can give, then awesome! Keep doing it! The important thing is that we all move. Trust me. Even a little bit will instantly start making you feel better in your own skin.
6. FORGIVE Yourself
We all mess up. We all overeat. We all skip a day of exercise. Today’s society wants you to say “how dare you!” or “you failure!” whenever one of these things happen. I say no!! Forgive yourself. Please. One day does not make the entirety of your life. To prove this, here is my confession: I adore ice cream. I will put away a pint of Ben & Jerry’s like nobody’s business. I have one at least once a month, occasionally once a week. And that is okay. I’m still healthy. I’m still human. So please, please, PLEASE…if you mess up a little, just brush it off. It is no big deal and you will totally conquer the next hurdle!
When I was in graduate school, we studied a concept of stage movement called Viewpoints. Long story short, in Viewpoints you are always moving – forward, backwards, sideways, etc. – on an invisible grid. When my peers and I were learning this, we were all so focused on moving in the correct direction that we never stopped moving. Our brilliant movement teacher told us this: “Pausing is always an option.” I pass that advice on to you. When you’re life is moving forward, backwards, sideways, quickly, slowly, or erratically…remember that pausing is always an option. Breathe. Rest. Relax. Do something purely for your peace of mind. Because you are the most important person in your life.