by Jessi Heinze, Clean Wellness Coach
I have a secret... I used to hate salad. Hate. It. I thought it was boring. I thought it was gross. I used to try and force it down because I knew it was good for me... but sometimes choking down those raw leafy greens actually prompted a gag reflex. As much as I felt I could get away with it, I avoided salad, in the same way I avoided most other fresh vegetables. If it wasn’t cooked, covered and smothered in ranch dressing, cheese, or butter I probably wasn’t interested.
I would go to the grocery store and quickly skulk through the produce section, grabbing a few apples, maybe some grapes and try not to make eye contact with the fresh, green veggies. They were there, in all of their glorious green-ness, just waiting to make me feel guilty for not choosing them. I would scuttle through the produce and breathe a sigh of relief as I made it to the frozen foods. The vegetables in a Lean Cuisine have to count for something, right? Right?!
I tried to make other “healthy” choices with low-fat, pre-packaged foods that touted benefits of anti-oxidants and fiber.
I made excuses for myself: fresh produce is too expensive and I am doing the best I can on a tight budget. I don’t have time to prepare meals. I am constantly on the go with work, grabbing fast food and eating in the car is my only option sometimes!
I felt awful. I could never sleep enough. I was stressed at work. I couldn’t understand why I felt so low in energy, and I was the youngest person in the office! I felt an ever-present cloud of melancholy and anxiety. I drank a lot of alcohol on the weekends, telling myself that I had earned the right to “let loose.” I would try to make up for binges of food and alcohol with intensive exercise, which only left me feeling more drained.
When I noticed that running and gym workouts were hurting my knees and back, I decided to explore yoga. Yoga wasn’t entirely new to me, but I had never had a consistent practice. I started going to more yoga classes, attracted by becoming more flexible and toned. I am so thankful that this was the least of the benefits I’ve seen from incorporating a regular yoga practice into my life. Yoga gave me an opportunity to re-connect with my body. I had seen my body as an enemy or something that I could overcome for so long, it was amazing to become more aware and see that I could actually be in tune with the physical aspect of myself. And it was more amazing to see how much better this made me feel mentally and emotionally! I opened up more to mindfulness and meditation and quickly noticed how much my stress levels, sleep and general well being benefited. My diet started shifting as well. As I grew more in tune with my body, I could feel what foods worked for me and what foods didn’t. Vegetables became less threatening and more delicious!
The real change for me came when I got really involved at a local yoga studio and decided to take advantage of a yoga teacher training offered there. One of the requirements was that we follow a vegetarian diet and they encouraged us to explore and increase our raw foods as the program progressed. They also encouraged leaving behind processed foods and embracing whole foods overall.
Whoa! What a change for me! When I stopped eating meat and greatly reduced my processed foods I saw some immediate changes. I felt better and had much more energy. Although I still craved fast foods sometimes, I actually learned to like the taste of vegetables, salads and green smoothies. That like turned to a love and I naturally started gravitating towards whole, live foods that satisfied and energized me.
So where am I now? Well, after following a vegetarian diet for a little over a year I could feel my body needing a change. After the initial (and much needed) cleansing with a predominantly plant based diet (veggies, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes) my body was trying to find balance again from the abuse it had suffered for so many years prior. The process to find this balance has been a little uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating. I think this is a result of years of lots of stress and processed foods -- now that my body is Cleaned up it can adequately attempt damage-control. This has uncovered some thyroid and hormonal imbalance issues and accompanying symptoms like adult acne. I could feel that I needed to make some dietary adjustments to facilitate more balance. After introducing only fish for about a year, I have recently brought some poultry back onto my plate.
I am currently working with a functional MD to help get my thyroid and my hormones back on track. This involves a lot of trial and error but I feel that I am on the right path. My acne is still an issue that I’m working with, but I very recently started reducing my grains and sugar, focusing on healthy fats, protein and greens and it seems to be helping with my inflammation so far. I will keep you posted! ;)
Overall, I try to find a balance in what I eat and what’s going on around me. I have gone through phases of trying to eat super Clean that have isolated me from friends and family. I have gone through phases of eating more than a moderate amount of “un-Clean” foods that made it easier to share food with others but left me feeling awful. I am working on finding a balance that works well for me, where I can feel great about the food choices I’m making because they make me feel good while connecting me with others.
Part of that process is connecting with all of the amazing members of our Clean community. I am truly thankful and feel so honored to have the opportunity to share in your journeys!
photo from pinterest