Confused about what diet will work best for you? Frustrated with trying to figure out what your body wants? I was too.
Until I realized that I needed to take a different approach to both weight loss and my body. You see, I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion that frustration, self-hate, and trying to force weight loss with endless exercise and strict diets was never the answer. Even when I was exercising endlessly and following a strict diet. Somehow, I knew there was a better approach. One that would help me learn to appreciate my body and all that it endures on a day to day basis. One that would help me stop those awful voices in my head that always told me I wasn’t good enough or didn’t have value. One that didn’t require “willpower” to get through the next meal, let alone the whole day.
Many of you know that I have hit a milestone in my weight loss goals. I recently crossed the 40 lb. mark. When I posted about it on Facebook, I got many comments saying that they understood the hard work that went into a 40 lb. loss. I thanked them, but I had to really think about that comment, because frankly, it didn’t feel like hard work at all.
Many people also asked me what I was doing to accomplish this. When I responded with telling them that it really comes down to figuring out what their own body needed, I got one response asking, “What does that mean? How do you figure out what your body needs?”
FIGURING THINGS OUT
First of all, I want to say that I still have a long way to go. 90 lbs. to be exact. I am far from reaching a healthy weight, even if I do carry it pretty well. But one thing that all those diets taught me before I became a clean eater, was a willingness to experiment. To put on my detective hat, and keep careful track of exactly what I was eating each day. And not only that, but to also keep track of how each meal made me feel and what the results were in my blood sugar readings.
LIFE BECAME STRESSFUL
In February 2015, my mother became very ill. So much so, that I had to give up my apartment of 3 years, yank my kid out of school and move back into my mom’s very tiny house. I loved that house and grew up in it. It was perfect for two people, but with Mini Chef thrown into the collection, the place was just too small. So I was tasked with helping her sell both her home and my grandmother’s home, which was her rental, packing up her entire life after 40 years in the same house, and simultaneously purchasing a new house back up in Sonoma County so Mini Chef could get back into school up there (which he didn’t, so I took on homeschooling on top of everything else). All this while trying to keep my mother alive! And not being one to realize that I was stressed enough, I adopted two, at-the-time, unruly dogs so Mini Chef would have some companionship aside from me and a bed-ridden grandmother. Once the move was accomplished, I then had to unpack not only my things which had been in storage for months at this point, but also 40 years of my mother’s possessions which she could not bear to part with. We still have a garage full of boxes, from floor to ceiling 10 months later. But hey, the house is livable!
A NEW DIRECTION
During this stressful time, I really packed on the weight. I had to let go of my preference for clean foods and rely on convenience instead. I had no time to cook, so I ended up packing my mom’s freezer with not-so-good-for-you frozen meals. Amazing what overwhelming stress can do to you, isn’t it?
So once we got settled in the new house, things started to change. I hadn’t yet learned to control my emotional eating which was definitely an issue by this point. One night, I made myself so sick with that emotional eating, that I found myself hanging over the toilet pondering if I needed to go to the emergency room. It wasn’t pretty. I needed help and had no idea how to get it. Emotional eating is an overwhelming issue all on it’s own. You eat when you are happy. You eat when you are sad, and you definitely eat when you are stressed.
So I reached out to some local groups in my area and realized that I was not alone in dealing with this sort of eating disorder. I dived head first into figuring out how to handle my emotions without food. This one thing was what set me off in a new direction. This one thing, is what helped me come back to a healthier plan of eating. But I didn’t stop there.
I also got serious about figuring out what my body needed. What it liked and what it didn’t. I had thrown my hands up in the air for so many years, not understanding what it was my body actually wanted from me. I knew there was more to it than emotional eating, and I knew I had to figure it out to get healthy again.
A PLAN OF ACTION
So I put on my detective hat and got to work. I decided that no matter how hard it was for me to make certain changes, I was going to make them if that’s what my body needed. It was a “mind over cravings” situation and I was in a place mentally where I was desperate and willing to try anything. Especially since I knew the outcome if I didn’t. I was literally killing myself with food because I couldn’t handle stress or figure out what it was my body wanted from me. So I started paying attention. The truth is, if we listen, our bodies will tell us what is needed.
STEP 1 – CONSIDER YOUR BODY’S NEEDS FROM THE PAST, EVEN AS FAR BACK AS CHILDHOOD
My mother had always told me that I had a dairy allergy or sensitivity when I was young and had somehow outgrown it. So the first thing I did was consider what my body wanted all those years ago when it was brand new and could say out loud exactly what it needed via rashes and baby screams from upset tummies.
I have heard it said that nobody ever truly outgrows a sensitivity to dairy. I have also heard it said that we tend to crave the very things our bodies don’t want or like. I don’t know if those things are true or not, but I can tell you that I would easily put down a gallon of milk a day if left to my own devices. So dairy was the first thing to go, and I immediately dropped 15 pounds, so I knew I was on to something. Not only did I drop the pounds (which many people reading this could say was attributed to a drop in calories by drinking water instead of milk), but I also had other issues clear up. Skin problems such as eczema, hormonal imbalances, bloating and puffiness, particularly in the mornings, and many other small things I’m sure I may not have even noticed at the time.
STEP 2 – CONSIDER WHAT YOUR BODY REACTS TO NOW, BOTH NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE
Once I got rid of the dairy and saw such a big change, I immediately started looking at what I was eating in the moment. During this process, I had gone back to eating clean, so I knew that I had cut out many of the foods my body may have been reacting to. I felt better, but not good enough. I was constantly exhausted, had brain fog and memory issues like you wouldn’t believe, and the weight just wouldn’t budge any further.
So I started keeping track, not only of what I was eating, but also of how I felt after each meal and what my blood sugar readings were. High blood sugars after certain foods, and even some continued bloating and water retention were still a constant bother. Thankfully, I had my blood pressure under control, but everything else still seemed to be spiraling way out of control.
I kept a journal of the specific foods/ingredients I was eating (for about a month), and also looked at the macros and their percentages in my daily food intake (carbs/fat/protein). I also considered what foods I ate that made me feel good. It’s important to look at both sides!
It didn’t take me long to figure out that tuna is not my friend, I couldn’t handle sugars of any kind and that I desperately needed to cut down on carbs, which were the constant in my meals and the only thing that could be a real issue, particularly because of my insulin resistance. I also knew that I craved carbs endlessly and that cutting them out or limiting them a lot helped with that. I knew this because I had been on a low carb diet my doctor put me on months before but found it way to strict to stick with long term. But I did notice that I no longer had cravings of any kind. So I decided that if I was going to try it again, it would be on my own terms. I would still eat clean, but cut the carbs significantly.
STEP 3 – PERSONAL CHOICES
Once you have your body’s needs figured out, it’s time to apply your personal wants within the parameters of your food discoveries.
This next part is something I did my own research on. It’s not something I recommend everybody do, because it’s certainly not for everybody. But once I delved into the low carb world and the many, many studies done, I decided I would take things a step further and focus on eating a Keto diet for a while. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an eating plan where your body’s main fuel source becomes fats. So these days, even though I’m eating clean foods, my macros are approximately 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbs. As I said, not for everybody.
Some people may think I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of yet another fad diet. But I would beg to differ. I’ve done my research on this, I’m looking at things rationally and have many more reasons to do this than to simply lose weight. Will I stick to it for life? I can’t say. But it’s something I’m trying now, and it’s working. After doing this for about 5-6 months, I have:
- Zero cravings
- Zero blood sugar issues
- Zero problems with turning to food for comfort
- Zero frustration with losing weight, because it just falls off. I may have the occasional plateau, but then it keeps going.
So by now, I’m sure there are a bunch of you who feel that I’m no longer eating clean because I eat so much healthy fat and only eat 3 meals per day. But if that’s you, I urge you to remember the fact that there are many approaches to clean eating, and this just happens to be my own personal approach. I’m not recommending it to you or anybody else, I’m just sharing what has worked for me so far. Nothing more. If it’s not your cup of tea, please don’t be offended. It has nothing to do with what you eat every day. It’s just another person’s story. That’s all.
Concerned my recipes will change here? Not to worry, this blog will continue with all the usual, clean eating recipes. I still have to feed my mom and Mini Chef, so the “normal” clean eating recipes you’ve always found here will continue as always. No need to panic!