Healthy Steps - Part 1
Some of you may know that I have been on a journey for the past several years striving for ultimate health and fitness. I even started a fitness group on facebook: Femme FITales and Buff Boys, in order to encourage others in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. I have sent out fitness challenges, post encouraging sayings, I've worked out with some of the members, and I e-mail advice to the group. Since I have spent a lot of time doing research and trying things myself, several people have approached me in the past year asking for my suggestions, how I eat, how can they get started, what changes to make etc...
So I'm here to share it with you! I figured it might be nice to have it all compiled into one place where I can just direct people instead of re-typing it a lot.
Several years ago, I was pretty fluffy. No one believes me when I tell them I was a chunky monkey, so here's proof:
That was about about 2005/2006 and I had gained a lot of weight at college eating 1/2 gallons of ice cream, boxes of teddy grahams, and generally whatever I wanted. Then I naturally lost some weight when I came home, but I view this period (below) as "still squishy" and I was also not very happy. I thought I was eating relatively well during these years actually, but now looking back I see how wrong I was. I still had Pepsi at lunch with a sandwich, I loved ice cream, and I most definitely loved any type of rolls or bread!
These pictures are from 2009 - I was 23 years old - that age where your metabolism is supposed to be awesome and you look back and wish you still had that body. Not me!!!
Weight management was always a problem for me. Since I was a teenager I yoyo dieted, I went on exercise binges, food binges, verged on anorexia at one point...basically, I really abused my body and metabolism. After some emotional rough patches in 2010, I lost even more weight due to stress.
One day in 2012 (I think) I went to my Moms house for dinner and she said " I'm going gluten free". I was like "what in the world is that?!" When she explained it means eliminating bread and wheat based products, I thought she was CRAZY! Those were the things I loved the most!!! She was reading the book called "Wheat Belly" and explained to me that wheat today has been so hybridized, and genitically modified that our bodies don't accept or process it well. I borrowed the book and before I finished, I decided I will never, ever have wheat again if I can help it!
After about a year of being gluten free, I kept hearing about this Paleo Diet thing. I decided to get a book about it and research it myself. After I did, my family has now moved to a happy medium between being gluten-free and completely paleo. The Paleo lifestyle ( I definitely prefer this term because it really is about how you live, not about a temporary fix) eliminates all grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, and sugar. We still eat some grains (rice for example) and legumes (black beans) but have eliminated processed sugars and dairy. At least in what I make at home.
I have to say, these changes to our diet have made a huge difference in my family! My sister lost 30 pounds being GF, and she continues to tweak her diet to find the right balance for her body. She has had several health issues that have also improved just by changing how she eats. My mom, who didn't have any weight to lose, lost even more weight, and maintains her weight easily, has lost brain fog, and has brighter skin. My husband and I both have more energy and he has lost the desire to take a nap every afternoon after lunch. My son has a better attitude, and does better overall. My husband and I have both noticed a big difference in the way we maintain our weight - it's so much easier. In addition to that - and this may be the best part- we NEVER count calories! The evil cycle of yoyo dieting, and counting calories is DONE! Over forever.
I know that changing how you live and eat is hard, but it's so totally worth it for us. We essentially eat whatever we want, but I just make it with better ingredients. The desserts are truly wonderful, and nobody, even our 10 year old, is unhappy with them.
So how do you start? What changes can you make? I've compiled a guide for you below. I absolutely want to encourage you to do your own research too. Reading all the articles, the books, the testimonials etc is really what convinced me. But if you boil it all down to the basics, I think we can all agree that a homemade dinner with chicken, spices, vegetables, and fruit is way better than KFC right?
Getting started - it's a 4 step process
Take your time! Adjust to each step before moving on to the next. Everyone will go at different rates, but it's a great thing that you are moving forward.
1) Gluten Free
We are all convinced that whole grains are heart healthy right?! WRONG! They are so genetically modified, that they are horrible for your body and your brain. As the gluten-free “movement” has become more popular, more and more studies are coming out saying how bad it is. Long story short, the original grains were fine (God knew what He was doing!) – then because we wanted to be as efficient as possible, and keep our crops from dying with weed killer and all those sorts of things, we have modified it to a point that irritates our bodies.
Take away: Wheat (or genetically modified substances in general) are harmful to EVERYONE. But people may respond in different ways. Some general side effects of eating wheat are: weight gain especially in the belly, stimulated appetite (the more you eat bread the more you crave it), neurological irritations: it has been associated with Alzheimer's, and dementia. It causes inflammation, and irritates symptoms of ADD, ADHD, and schizophrenia. It also spikes your blood sugar – 2 pieces of toast spike it more than a snickers bar – can you even believe it?
Everyone’s body reacts different to this poison (yes poison!) and so your results in eliminating it will be different Because I want to empower you to know the information for yourself, I'll give you resources as well:
Suggested readings: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, and Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. * I have not read grain brain, but have heard him speak a little and heard many good things about this book – it focuses on the effect grains have on your brain – I’ll give you a hint – they are ALL NEGATIVE!
2) No processed foods
Go into your pantry and throw out or give away anything that is processed. Make sure to look at your ingredients lists on EVERYTHING. Anything that is processed is a no no! This means if it's not a whole food or you don't recognize an ingredient, pitch it! A lot of people when they go gluten free, tend to glom on to the processed gluten free foods. Don’t do it! These have eliminated 1 evil, by substituting another – lots of starches. They will spike your blood sugar also, and we don’t want that.
Things to throw away include but are not limited to:
*this step can be very overwhelming, so you may want to wait a little while to implement this one. Keep reading for suggestions.
3) No processed sugar
Congratulations! If you have been successful with step 2, you have probably achieved this step already! If you're still cheating, try this for 2 weeks and see the difference. Implement it COMPLETELY for 1-2 weeks. No sugar whatsoever…then after the 1-2 weeks of no sugar at all, you can bring back NATURAL sugars. These include maple syrup, stevia, and honey. Regular white sugar is a no no for life. It too, is a poison.
(Once you have adjusted your lifestyle, gotten used to the foods you can eat and reached your goals, you can cheat occassionally. For example, I never eat wheat. Gluten free is a no compromise zone for me. But I will go out to eat and have a gluten free dessert (packed with sugar!) on occasion...)
4) NO dairy
I’ve tried to make these steps in the order I think you should take them. Implement them one at a time, and adjust as you need to. I placed this one last because many people’s reactions to lactose is so minor, you may not notice it.
No yogurt –even Greek
No ice cream
For me – a bready and ice cream-a-holic- some of these steps were difficult. But I have felt so much better, and found substitute recipes to be so delicious, that I truly don’t miss the “regular” food!!!!!
*they now have almond milk or coconut milk creamers you can buy! I love So Coconut French Vanilla.
Suggested Readings: Paleoista by Nell Stephenson.
How to implement
Now that you know WHAT to do, how should you do it?
Please take at least 1 week to implement each step – if you have tried healthy eating before and you don’t think it will be a big shock to your body, feel free to implement all at once – but do not feel obligated to do so. I personally had headaches for several days in a row once I eliminated dairy and sugar so make sure you are eating ENOUGH food, and drinking LOTS of water.
DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED if this is difficult, just slow down. As Tony Horton says –“ do your best, and forget the rest!!!!”. The most important step is #1 – I hope you can all be successful with that 100%. The other 3 are when I really started seeing even more positive changes, so I hope you can implement those as well. Whatever you do, just keep moving forward.
One thing that has helped me tremendously is paleo blogs. I'll have a follow up post soon with all my recommendations for how to update your pantry and whose blogs have the best recipes!