Caution: vulnerability ahead
PMS, acne-prone skin, bloating, anxiety, a few extra pounds of post-baby-weight… These are some of the symptoms I carried around with me, sometimes shamefully, for years. You see, as a naturopathic doctor, we promote a healthy diet and lifestyle in order to stimulate the body to heal; but after having a baby almost 4 years ago, I have found it difficult to eat the way I know I should and my self-care has been very sporadic.
Even worse, to cope with sleep deprivation and toddler tantrums, I developed an addiction. My drug of choice? CHOCOLATE! Not too long ago I found myself hiding in the pantry scarfing down chocolate just to get a second away from a screaming child. This is when I realized it was an addiction. It’s a red flag when you hide yourself away to consume something.
And you know what? I bet you can identify an addiction in your life, too. Maybe it’s sugar or chocolate (like me), soda or coffee, or a coveted glass of red wine (hopefully nothing worse). I know there’s a 99% chance you have an addiction because almost all the moms I see in my practice tell me they NEED something, usually consumable, to end off a stressful day.
So I decided to check into rehab.
Ok, not quite…
But I knew I had to do something.
I decided to embark on a month long, clean eating plan to help me kick my addiction. I chose Whole 30 because I already strive to eat mostly a Paleo diet and the Whole 30 is essentially a very strict version of a Paleo diet. And it’s not strict for strict-sake. The whole idea is to eliminate the foods you are a slave to for 30 days. You monitor yourself, and at the end of the 30 days, you can chose to slowly re-introduce those foods back into your diet to see if any of your negative symptoms return. It helps you to identify which foods promote a healthy psychological state, healthy hormonal response, healthy gut, and minimize inflammation and which ones don’t– for you (it will be different for everyone).
In just 30 short days I feel I have made some major headway. My skin, mood and energy have improved. I no longer feel bloated. My predisposition to feeling anxious has subsided as a result of better blood sugar balance. And I’m back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, which honestly wasn’t a goal for me, but is a nice side effect. Oddly enough, my teeth also feel cleaner and my breath is fresher. Oh yeah, and I’m not a slave to the sugar dragon (as the founders of the Whole 30 call it) and I don’t feel ravenous between meals because my body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Here are a few things I learned along the way and want to share with you as part of my Healthy Eating 101:
- The food we eat on a regular basis should meet the four good food standards The food should:
- Promote a healthy psychological response
- Promote a healthy hormonal response
- Support a healthy gut
- Support immune function and minimize inflammation
- If you want to eat something that might not fit one or more of these standards, there may still be reason to eat it. Here are some good reasons to eat less-than-healthy foods: your grandma made it, it reminds you of childhood, you only get a chance to eat it once a year at a family gathering, it truly is delicious. It really all comes down to being more mindful about what we consume. It’s not that everything we eat has to be healthy. What we want to eliminate is mindless consumption of foods that do not promote health.
- There is a simple template to follow to help you build your meals on your plate. You should follow this template for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the regular. If you build your meals this way, you will satisfy the four good food standards and will find yourself much more satisfied between your meals.
- Protein: 1-2 palm size servings of protein (depending on your level of activity) or the number of eggs you can fit in your hand (likely 3-6). Good options are high quality meats, seafood and eggs.
- Fill the rest of your plate with veggies, especially those that grow above the ground!
- Fats: 1-2 servings per meal
- Oils (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil): 1-2 tbsp
- Butters (grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut butter, nut butters): 1-2 tbsp
- Olives: 1-2 open (heaping) handfuls. (This is according to the Whole 30 creators. I personally think this is a lot.)
- Coconut (meat or flakes): 1-2 open (heaping) handfuls
- Nuts and seeds: up to 1 closed handful
- Avocado: ½ to 1 whole
- Coconut milk: ¼ – ½ of a 14 oz can
- Bacon is a condiment not a main source of protein (it’s really mostly fat). 1-2 slices is enough.
- Optional: a small portion of fruit or starchy veg. You don’t need this at each meal but you certainly can have it sometimes. You may need these forms of carbohydrates more often if you are very active and on the regular if you are athletic.
- Eat when you are hungry, not when you are craving something. Sometimes you have to eliminate that food you crave in order to break the cycle. That food has never loved you back so just let it go!
- Try to avoid snacking unless you are truly hungry as this can turn into grazing. If you need a snack, reach for something rich in protein and fats to help you get to the next meal- like nuts or an avocado. Eating fruit or veggies alone will not do the trick and will leave you feeling hungry again.
- Eat food mindfully, chew your food slowly, and with your family by your side. It’s not just about what food you eat, but also how you eat it and with whom you eat it. I’m a big advocate for family dinner.
I think I’ve given you enough to chew on for a while but if you’re interested in reading more about the Whole 30 or the Whole 30 lifestyle, I highly recommend the book, “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (founders of the Whole 30).
Until we meet again, be well,