Let me start with some serious truth-telling: I absolutely and wholeheartedly love food. All food. I love sushi and pizza and tacos and steak. I also love veggies and fruits and basically everything in between.
I love food so much that my favourite day of the year (no joke) is Canada Day, because on that day my community holds a Multicultural Festival with all of the traditional foods from around the world in one place at one time. It’s literal heaven. I bring my own plate.
Because of this love for all of the food, when I decided to go back to school and become a Holistic Nutritionist, I was prepared to make some serious changes to the way that I ate. I was going to give up all of the “bad for me” foods and eat a super “clean” and “healthy” diet. I was also expecting to see BIG results. I mean, if I started eating only “clean,” “healthy” foods all the time, then obviously I would magically become this fit and energetic super mom with glowing skin, really thick hair and probably a new desire to meditate.
I gave up a ton of foods that I really loved (like tacos…), and I started opting into Meatless Mondays every single day. I whipped up smoothies for anyone and everyone who entered my kitchen. I would only snack on fresh organic fruit. Basically, my life revolved around fruits, veggies and whole grain. I was eating a vegetarian, almost vegan diet.
I didn’t want to admit it then, but I was MISERABLE. I was hungry literally ALL THE TIME. I had sugar cravings in the afternoon and I spent every night sitting in front of Netflix snacking on SOMETHING. My energy was really low and hitting the snooze button more than once every morning became normal. The most annoying part was that my weight hadn’t budged. There was an extra 15 or 20lbs sticking around from after my daughter was born that I truly expected to go away when I made the switch to ‘healthy’ eating. Nothing. Nada. If anything I may have gained a pound.
What was going on?
I decided that there was more to this ‘healthy eating’ thing than what looked so shiny and bright on the surface. I also had a new respect for the women who swear up and down that they are the healthiest eater’s out there and can’t make any strides in their health goals (no more eye rolls…ever).
I hit the books and the research papers. Hard.
I learned all about the hormones that control fat storage. I learned about blood sugar and it’s role to play in fat storage and energy. I learned about the metabolic pathways involved in storing fat and then in releasing it. I learned that our bodies and the way that we eat and process food is INSANELY complicated.
Most importantly? I learned that ‘healthy’ foods may not always be healthy for my body, based on the circumstances.
What does that mean? It means that just because something is loaded with vitamins doesn’t mean it’s going to help me hit my goals or magically give me better hair.
If I wanted to get my energy back and beat the sugar cravings, I needed to listen to my body and give it foods that supported those things. It turned out that the foods I was giving up were the exact things my body needed most to stay balanced. My body needed the protein and fat that steak and bacon and eggs provided. It needed things like nut butters and seeds and tons of greens with tuna and mayo instead of endless quinoa bowls or smoothies packed with fruit.
If you want to know what ended up working best for me, you can download my Starter Guide here (it’s free).
Once I got over myself (and the “judginess” of the health and wellness world) and started to eat the things that made sense in terms of blood sugar and hormone balance, really great things finally started happening.
I stopped needing to hit the snooze button. I didn’t need willpower to make it through an afternoon without eating a ton of dark chocolate. I was finally able to lose the last of the baby weight that had been sticking around (without measuring food or looking at calories, ’cause who has time for that). Basically, I figured out the food that worked for me right now.
So what did I learn?
- There are a million different ‘right’ ways to eat for a million different people. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and eat the food that makes you feel good. Then, don’t feel guilty about it. Ever.
- Blood sugar imbalances are behind almost every single sugar craving, ‘hangry’ outburst and weight gain. Balance your blood sugar by eating enough protein and fat and those things go away. For real.
- Stop restricting and labelling foods. Food is food (and I’m talking about real food here, not packaged and processed crap) and you can’t define yourself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on your food choices. Pick the foods that make sense for the situation. Need fast energy? Smoothies are great! Need to be full and satisfied for hours? Bacon and eggs are probably a better choice. Picking a smoothie over a full bacon and egg breakfast isn’t healthier and it doesn’t make you a better person. And if it’s the wrong situation, that smoothie can set you up for wicked sugar cravings later and even excess fat storage.
What I’m trying to get at in all of this, is that there is no single healthy diet that should be followed by everyone. If you’re a vegan and you feel amazing eating that way, then good for you! It’s obviously working for you so keep it up!
If, however, you’re like I was, struggling to eat all the “healthy” foods while feeling anything but, hopefully this will inspire you to stop eating what you think you SHOULD be eating if it clearly isn’t working.
Start listening to your body. Probably eat more fat. Make sure you’ve got protein covered. Round it out with those veggies. Start your day with eggs instead of fruit and oatmeal. Stop worrying about ‘healthy’ and just eat the food your body wants. It’s amazing how fantastic the right food can actually make you feel.
Originally published at medium.com