NOTE: This has been told in one fashion or another in two other places: on my Facebook and Tumblr accounts. I rewrote it for inclusion here to give readers a sense of where I’m coming from when I talk about food and healthy eating as most would not be privy to my personal social media accounts.
Something that I try not to push in people’s face, though am asked about regularly regardless, is my decision in May 2015 to start eating healthier. My husband, Devin, had grown concerned with his weight and unhealthy eating habits. He approached me about the idea of substantially increasing our vegetable intake and reducing our meat consumption.
This was inspired in part by the weight loss of Penn Jillette, our son’s namesake, as well as the 125th episode of the podcast Matt and Mattingly’s Ice Cream Social ( Direct Download. ) We didn’t follow Penn’s diet, as that was too extreme for our needs. The podcast was of particular importance to me, however. I listened to it one Saturday or Sunday afternoon as I cleaned out a spare fridge we’d had on hand down in our basement. As I scrubbed that old fridge top to bottom I took in the discussion, which drove home the inescapable fact that I had a broken relationship with food.
I wasn’t eating because I needed it. I ate because I loved the taste of food and couldn’t help myself. Social gatherings? Heck yes, I ate. Bored or doing something somewhat mindless? Chips and snacks, ahoy! Did it have meat and copious amounts of cheese?! I definitely inhaled those, too, and I felt like crap after practically every meal. I ate because I was trained to eat, through habit, social expectation, and learned cravings, not because my body needed fuel. And that there’s the key – fuel is the reason our bodies require food.
Needless to say, I leaped at the chance to join my husband. We started by immediately cutting back our portion sizes – where before we’d have a full plate of mostly meat or heavily processed foods and inhale it until we were full to bursting, only to start with the snacks a mere 1.5 – 2 hours later, we began to eat more slowly, eat more fresh foods and vegetables, and cut back the amounts to the point where we ate only until we were satisfied. We weren’t starving ourselves, only taking care and ensuring we ate foods that provided us with the maximum amount of nutrients per portion. This naturally led to cutting down on snacking, as by the time our usual snack window came around, we weren’t hungry or craving anything.
Fresh, already-chopped vegetables became the norm in our refrigerator. We invested in some good quality lock-top tupperware containers. Each week we would chop up fresh peppers, onions, cucumbers, and any other vegetables that tickled our fancy and store them in those containers. We would use these in salads ( alongside dried raisins, hemp hearts, and raw nuts ) or in wraps, with minimal dressing drizzled on top. This would later inspire us to whip up a weekly wrap filler consisting of cooked ( in vegetable broth ) asparagus, legumes ( black eyed peas/chick peas/navy beans ), mushrooms, peppers, garlic, and various spices.
We invested in some vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, as our recipe library at the time consisted of a lot of cheese and meat heavy recipes. In the books we picked up we found numerous flavorful, easy to make, and predominantly healthy recipes that served to provide us with meals that not only were better for us but which we actively looked forward to making and eating. I’d once feared that by reducing my meat, dairy and fat intake that I would lose all the flavor I’d come to love; this turned out to be so false it isn’t even funny. The food I cook now is just as flavorful as what I’d been eating before and, surprisingly, I don’t miss out on the unhealthy foods I used to eat.
I went from being a self-professed meatitarian to something much, much healthier. I’d probably classify myself as a nutritarian, as described by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. I may not follow his recommendations to the letter, but through the above inspirations as well as Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” book, I discovered the tools I needed to repair my broken relationship with food and get back to being a healthier me. Over the course of the past 8 months, I’ve achieved my goal and feel better than ever. And yes, I still do allow myself occasional indulgences such as a small piece of birthday cake, or a rare bowl of ceasar salad. Those just aren’t the norm anymore.
It should be noted that this isn’t a fad or gimmicky diet; it’s a permanent lifestyle change. Now that I’ve gotten to a healthier point, I’m not going to go back to old eating habits. I will continue to make healthy choices. I want to be here for a long time for my husband and my son.