A New Approach to Wellness
Happy Thursday loves! It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and made time to write. A rainy day here in New York and it seems like the perfect thing to do. Something that I’ve wanted to talk about is the concept of being healthy. If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you’ll notice that I used to share a lot of posts about smoothies, chia puddings, and talked a lot about “eating clean.” For those that don't know, eating clean means eating foods that are raw, or minimally processed.
When I first started, my goal was to help people eat healthier. This included recipes and tips on how to add more fruits and vegetables into their lifestyle. In practicing what I preached, I started to eat more fresh foods, avoided “the processed stuff”–you know, cookies, ice cream, pizza. What I didn’t realize was that I was subconsciously brewing restrictive eating habits. I would scoff if someone was ordering takeout or would bask in horror (under my breath) if someone next to me ate something packaged.
At the time I thought that being healthy and eating processed foods just couldn’t co-exist. I mean, all you have to do is take a look at Instagram and you will see a ton of wellness bloggers sharing pics of bananas, açai bowls, chia puddings and juice cleanses. I just wanted to feed my body the best, purest foods, and I thought I was truly doing myself a solid favor by drinking smoothies for breakfast and dinner. Hey, I was on a busy schedule and it's supposed to be a quick fix to fit in fruits and veggies right? Well, what happened at my yearly check up was what changed my perspective of wellness.
Wake Up Call//
The hemoglobin A1C is a blood test that diagnoses diabetes. There is no family history of diabetes in my family, but my results came back at 5.7%, it was on the low end but still indicated pre-diabetes (anywhere from 5.7% to 6.4% is pre-DM) I never shared this with anyone because I was absolutely mortified, embarrassed and scared. I worked out. I didn’t drink soda. I didn’t eat candy. I ate well. I did everything right. I thought, how could this happen to me?
That’s when I realized that too much of anything—even healthy foods—is not healthy. Because I was also vegetarian, I went heavy on the carbs (yes there is a wrong way to be a vegan/vegetarian..more on that later) I had packed my smoothies with fruits, and convinced myself this was "healthy." I wasn't eating balanced meals, it was low in protein and fats. I was tired, stressed and pre-occupied with food 24/7. It was inevitable that my blood sugar would go up.
What I did//
From then on, I cut down on the smoothies. I stopped the liquid diet. I focused on incorporating ALL FOODS into my lifestyle, one that was more balanced and without restrictions. I started cooking my vegetables and pairing it with proteins (fish, tofu, lentils, seeds, nuts) and complex carbs (potatoes, whole grains) so that my meals were finally balanced. I felt more satisfied and more energetic. Among other things, I was less stressed, my skin cleared up, my stomach problems were less severe. It really was a whole lifestyle shift.
Then, I allowed myself to have the “forbidden foods” you know, the cookies, the chips, the cake. I definitely had days where I ate the whole bag of chips (FYI I’m not talking the 99cent size. I’m talking I used to be able to eat a $4 bag in a sitting!) or would drink water even though all I really wanted was some chocolate. But slowly, I trained myself so that I could enjoy these foods without the subsequent binge. BTW, this new relationship with food didn’t happen overnight. It really took time to build a positive relationship with food.
When people ask me now, “How do you not eat the whole bag/box? I have no self control!” I tell them that it starts with realizing that everything you eat is a CHOICE. It’s also a combination of many things. Such as, asking yourself, are you eating because you are physically hungry? Are you eating for emotional reasons? Are you eating because you're bored?
By asking myself these questions, I developed a mind-body connection. I learned to eat for physical hunger. And I also learned to eat for pleasure—AKA not eating based on physical hunger pangs but would honor my cravings for chips/ice cream/cookies. Throughout the process I also noticed that the more I told myself that I couldn’t have something, the more I had to have it. The shift in my mindset occurred when I stopped telling myself "I can't [eat that]" and replaced it with "I can [eat that]." Like I said, everything we eat is a choice. The only voice telling you that you can't or you shouldn't is you.
"Listen up", I told myself. "The food isn’t going anywhere. If I have a few chips and put the bag back into the cupboard, the chips will still be there tomorrow. I could eat the whole bag, but will I really feel satisfied? Are there vitamins in there that will nourish me? How will I feel after I eat it? Bloated? Sluggish? Puffy?" These were the questions I started to ask myself. By answering them, I became more in tune with my body and giving it what it needs so that I feel my best.
Basically, the less emphasis I placed on eating, the more I was able to free my mind from the obsession over food. No labels. No judgements. Food became just food. It was there to nourish me.
Anyway, good news is that my lab numbers are back to normal (phew!) Now don’t get me wrong, I love a yummy post-workout smoothie but just not for every meal and certainly not everyday. Because at the end of the day, anything in excess just isn’t healthy (yes, including fruits!) In fact, any type of restrictive eating/diet.. is just not sustainable and not realistic. Seriously, how many diets have you tried and how many have failed? They are like empty promises!
The truth is that all foods are everywhere! We may not all crave chips like me lol, but there are definitely joyous occasions when there is cake or bagels at the office. So instead of fearing these foods, we ought to learn how to eat all foods again. Society, the media, and our beloved Instagram feeds have morphed our perception of what healthy means. It's not juice bowls or fresh fruit for every single meal, and it's not a no carbs, no fats, no gluten kind of deal. Enjoying cake or eating a bagel once in a while can and is healthy. Remember, restrictive eating only brings about the vicious cycle of dieting >> binging>> guilt. So moral of the story here? Moderation and enjoying your food sans the guilt goes a long way.
I know my wellness philosophy has shifted but I promise to still share simple, nourishing recipes –just with a more practical approach, one that fosters a healthy relationship with food and tuning in to what our body needs.