I’ve been ruminating for some time on how exactly to explain what I’m eating right now. The hard and fast rules seem to have a few gray lines. But the hardest thing to overcome are the old hard and fast “rules”.
Changing the way you’ve eaten for decades based on any reason, no matter how confident you feel that you’re now doing the “right” thing, is challenging. For at least half of my life I’ve been a vegetarian. I haven’t always stuck to it 100% but I’ve never been a heavy meat-eater.
Being a vegetarian involves eating a lot of grains, like oats and wheat, corn and soy – foods I’m learning may not be so good for me (at least in the amounts and ways we eat them in this country).
Then there’s the whole fat dogma that’s taken the world by storm over the last 30 years. That’s been one of the hardest “rules” to reconcile. For nearly all my life, between diet books, doctors and even our country’s Food Pyramid Guidelines, fat has been the enemy.
However, slowly but surely, I’m beginning to make huge changes that are directly contrary to the way I’ve eaten all my life. I can break this down into four major changes:
- I am no longer eating any grains, including wheat, corn, soy, rice and oats.
- I am no longer avoiding fat and do not pay any attention to how much of it is in my diet.
- I have cut out all sugar that is not a part of fruits and vegetables (no fruit juices either)
- I have started including meat in my diet, but only organic and grass-fed meats.
To be sure, these are huge changes for a former vegetarian who used to down several bowls of macaroni and cheese for dinner. In fact, as a single mother, my mom would make large pots of pasta or rice on the weekends for me to eat when I got home from school. I would pile on the Velveeta or sugary pasta sauce and “parmesan” from that notorious green can and then go uncomfortably into the night.
Here’s the good news: I feel SO much better! It’s amazing how much more soundly I sleep, how much better I feel when I wake up in the morning and how much more energy I have throughout the day. I no longer have the constant joint pain in my hands and feet or the major mood swings from one minute to the next. Even my short-term memory seems to be improving. And, low and behold, I’ve actually lost two pounds!
It seems obvious now but what I’ve learned is that not eating grains has made room in my diet for things that are much more healthful. I’m eating many more fruits and vegetables and I’m learning to use ingredients such as lentils and quinoa (which are actually berries, not a grain) in new ways.
This is not easy. Planning to eat requires a conscious effort every time. I must be diligent with reading ingredient lists and labels on everything I buy. It also requires that I don’t completely beat myself up if I give in to temptation, like I did yesterday when I had chocolate pudding. And it also means that I accept that this is a journey, not a destination. I’m going to continue learning what makes me feel good and what doesn’t (wine makes me groggy, Bailey’s not so much).
When I set out on this journey, I had my own idea of what eating a “whole food” diet means. I quickly discovered that it may be vastly different from what someones things it is. And that’s okay. What is the most important is finding that combination of “rules” that not only makes you look good and feel great but also that you truly look forward to eating.