A couple of friends have asked me to talk about food. I know it's been awhile since I brought it up. I guess it just isn't taking up much thought these days. Here's the skinny:
This isn't rocket surgery. At the risk of over-simplification, I'll give you the secret. Your body is a machine. Depending on what you eat, your body will reset it's chemistry to compensate. Hence the cliché "you are what you eat". The systems in your body are lazy at heart, so when you change your diet, rather than magically resetting your chemical balance, it tries to coax you into eating what it's used to so it can rest on it's haunches. Get it? So, what happens is, your body craves what it's used to. Eat sugar? Ever try avoiding for a couple of days? Yeah. You get what I'm saying.
So, the trick is, quell the cravings. The reason that dieting doesn't work is that it's non-commital. You're half-assing the idea of change and throwing your body for a loop. Temporary change does not equate to longterm success. It just doesn't. If you are successful in losing some weight on a diet, statists show (like me) you will most likely gain it back when you go back to the lifestyle that made you heavier to begin with. 1+1 still = 2, you know? Gaining weight back after a diet is the WORST thing. You torture yourself and fight craving after craving... for what? Nothing. Yeah. No thanks.
The easiest way to get healthy is to... well... make it easy on yourself. To get rid of cravings, you need to commit. Get through the hard part. I've read and heard all kinds of statistics around how long it takes to detox or reset your cravings. I think it's different for everybody. For me, it took a month. (28 to great, anyone??). After 4 weeks of eating whole foods, I wasn't craving anything other than whole foods. The cravings were gone, but my preferences were still the same... meaning, I ate kale because I knew I should, but I would have preferred mac & cheese. That's the danger zone. That is why I failed and fell back into old habits after 28 days. My body was just waiting for me to slip up... jerk.
When I got back on the wagon and decided to fully commit, I knew I couldn't give up right when I was on a roll. Miraculously, after two months, my preferences changed. Not only were cravings for bad foods gone, but I was literally craving kale salad and green tea. 8 weeks was enough time for my lazy self-saboteur body to get with the program and reset. Ever since then, it's been easy. I'm not on a diet. I just live a healthy lifestyle. I eat what I love... and I love what's good for me.
Sadie Lincoln talks a lot about gaining body wisdom. For me, that wasn't possible until after the 8 weeks as far as food is concerned. Now, I can objectively have a little cheese and just see. I found that I don't love how it makes me feel. It's super easy to tell what serves me and what doesn't when I'm eating clean. I feel like I can maintain this way of being for life. That is the key to success. Something sustainable. Something you'll enjoy!
So, what DO I eat?
Whole foods! It's pretty simple really. If it came off the plant that way, it's a whole food. If it's in a package, it probably isn't... but there are things like corn tortillas, salsa, hummus, guac... that are. 5 ingredients is a good number to cut it off at. The big key is balancing your portions. Here's a cheat sheet. I have healthy fat in every meal too. It keeps me satisfied.
I still use a lot of the Barre3 recipes as a go-to. Most mornings, I have the Barre3 Muesli. If I get to have breakfast first thing, I love it. I've learned now that I don't feel as good if I eat grains later in the day, so if I have an early class or a meeting at work, I might just grab a Lara Bar and then have scrambled eggs with chicken sausage and avocado at lunchtime. I love breakfast food, so that's always a priority in my day.
I love kale salad along with protein. I've been picking up rotisserie chickens from New Seasons once a week or so and just picking off of them for a few days. It's my new definition of fast food.
I like to get my husband to BBQ something. He's a grill master, so there is no wrong answer. I love flank steak with grilled veggie kabobs. Trader Joes has some premade ones with onion, pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms. Yum!
A snack for me might be marcona almonds, goat cheese, and cucumber slices... something like that. A Kind Bar on the go. Apple slices with peanut butter...
Yes. My excuse for pigging out on sweets was always "If I die tomorrow, I'm going to kick myself for not eating that _____." I still fundamentally believe in indulging now and then in moderation. As for sweets, I recommend being realistic and planning ahead. If you have bad-for-you sweets in the house and no good-for-you sweets, you're walking into a bear trap. Even though my heinous cravings are gone, something sweet is still necessary from time to time! I keep dark chocolate almonds on hand. Coconut bliss ice cream (non-dairy and agave sweetened) is a favorite in our house. Even fizzy water with lime does the trick sometimes! Tea with local honey or agave. Just have a plan!
What DON'T I eat?
Sugar. I cook with maple syrup or agave and put coconut sugar in my coffee. I still love sweets, but I don't feel like the craving controls me anymore. Yay!
Chemicals. Period. Nothing I can't pronounce. Nothing "diet" or "sugar-free".
What do I eat ONCE IN A WHILE?
Coffee... I still drink coffee, but certainly less of it. My deal with myself is coffee before 10 am if at all. Tea any other time. I'm down to 2 or 3 cups a week at most. From a body wisdom perspective, I don't love how it makes me feel.
Dairy... once in a while Gorgonzola just makes the recipe... or a little feta on taco night. I like to use whole milk plain yogurt in place of sour cream. Great on lentil soup! In small doses, now and then.
Wine. Just now and then. On average, I have a glass every couple of weeks.
Restaurants are not created equally. Salads are usually a universally safe bet. Ask lots of questions! A lot of restaurants these days have their menus online. I like to peek ahead to make sure there is a good option.
Plan your indulgences. If you're going to splurge, make it the best you can! Last night, I knew I was going out to eat with my bestie. I got to pick the place, so I chose my favorite restaurant, Meriwether's in Portland. It's farm-to-table, so most everything on the menu is fair game. We split this:
Isn't it beautiful? Summer squash risotto with parmesan and a balsamic reduction. I started with a kale salad and some yummy aps including stuffed dates and crab deviled eggs. I even treated myself to some bubbly! All went into my Myfitnesspal ap and fell within my goal for the day.
Keep track! One dark chocolate almond can turn into 5 pretty fast if I'm not paying attention. I am loving using Myfitnesspal.com to track my day. It keeps me accountable and makes me really think about my choices. Usually with sweets, start with a bite or two and see how you feel. For me, that is almost always enough.
You will be surprised how easy it is to eat well when you get into the swing of it.
Already doing it? I would love to hear what's working for you!
Other questions about food? Ask away!
My kale salad recipe:
I like to make this in double batches. It's even better the next day!
edible flowers for garnish - I like pansies!
This recipe is all about the method. Wash your kale, shaking off the water, leaving it just a bit damp. Then de-stem and chop into big bite size pieces. Put it all into a large bowl and grind up about a tsp of sea salt on top. (For an extra touch, use edible flower sea salt (Trader Joe's has it seasonally). Massage the salt into the kale for about 2 minutes. This helps soften the kale and get it ready to soak in all the flavor to come!
1 bunch kale
a sea salt grinder
1/4 C diced red onion
1/3 C golden raisins
3/4 C diced apple (about a half an apple)
1/3 raw sunflower seeds - toast them fresh in a little bit of EVOO and add them in warm!
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/3 C goat cheese crumbles
In a smal saute pan, start heating your raw sunflower seeds in just a splash if EVOO. Stir occasionally until toasted.
Meanwhile, add in your onion, raisins, and apple. Stir. Add your Olive Oil and Cider Vinegar and massage in for about 2 minutes until kale is evenly saturated.
When your seeds are nice and toasty, add them on top while still warm and stir in.
Stir in your goat cheese crumbles and garnish with pansies.
Serve right away or refrigerate. This lasts in the fridge for a few days and just gets better!