For the vast majority of my life, I’ve struggled to get my diet right. You see, I love food. I love, love, love to eat! And when I was training and running and growing babies, I had a super-huge appetite. I still do.
I fell into binge-eating, anorexia, and exercise-related bulimia (when you try to burn off every calorie you consume) around the age of 19. It was a very difficult time in my life (early 20’s) which included loads of partying. I now know that it really wasn’t that outrageous, just me spreading my wings, testing my boundaries, and dealing with my hormonally-driven, absolutely bat-shit crazy, emotions. I learned to cope with my insane emotions through eating a ton, starvation, and excessive exercising. I was truly a swinger, at least with my body weight. For nearly 20 years I managed to hide my binging, starving, and excessive exercising, along with my trials of fad diets. I even had a very unpleasant laxative phase. Finally, after 20 years and the birth of my son, something amazing happened… I found vegetables and discovered flavor!!
My husband and I have always been interested in being healthy, and in our quest to better ourselves we viewed many documentaries, read articles, and researched random health issues that mattered to us (like aging, and happiness related). One thing that stood out was that there was almost always the topic of meat eating. We thought we’d give it a shot to go vegan for a while and see what happens.
Veganism worked for me, for the most part. It eliminate all of my IBS symptoms (bloating, gassy, constipation) and change my body and skin for the better too. It gave me a ton of energy and boosted my mood. I knew that I was onto something, yet I also continued to binge so there was still something missing.
It hit me about 2 years ago. I might be craving foods because they are ‘restricted’. My diet wasn’t very adventurous. I really didn’t know how to cook. So I eased myself into the Pinterest recipe world and tried a couple of healthy vegan recipes to start. I was hooked!
There are so many healthier, cleaner, versions of my favorite foods out there that now I no longer feel like any food is ‘restricted’. I choose highly flavored, yummy, and filling meals every day!
So here’s a checklist of what has worked for me. If you’re interested in trying something new, give it a try, you never know what might happen:
- Pick nutritious foods that are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pass on processed, added fats, sugars, salts. If you want to try meatless, pass on meat too.
- Make a list of foods that you love (mine are deep dish pizza, Thai food, buffalo wings, burgers, fries, all desserts) then google those (or Pinterest search) for “healthy” or “vegan” whatever favorite foods. I found more recipes for “healthy vegan deep dish pizza” than you could ever imagine…
- Give cooking a try. Its way more affordable, obviously, but much easier to control what you put in your body when you choose the ingredients. If you stick to some simple recipes, with no long list of weird ingredients, that can help ease you into the kitchen.
- Always give yourself whatever portion you think will fill you up, without overdoing things. On a scale of hunger, from 1-10, I try to always stay within a 3-8 all day long. So I snack if I’m a little hungry and I’m full at an 8, but my pants aren’t bursting.
- Mix flavors to make your meals more adventurous. I found that most restaurants are still just using fats (oils), salt, and sugar to beef up their food’s flavors. That doesn’t cut it for me anymore. These days, I like to mix sweet with spicy, sometimes tangy, add a crunch, and maybe a creamier texture. But there are a million flavors to mix, peppery, bitter, creamy, savory, nutty, etc… Mix those flavors! It’ll make your meals so much more satisfying to your senses.
- Always have healthy snacks on hand. I prefer mine to have protein and fiber so they satisfy for longer. My afternoon one has caffeine. Hey, I have kids…
- Get over binges faster and with less regret. It freaking happens, to us all. Especially with birthday cake, holidays, weddings, vacations, you get the point. The key to success here is not perfection, but forgiveness to yourself for not being a perfect eater when those times come. Getting back on track fast, rather than saying “well, I might as well order take out pizza tonight and ice cream too since I’m off my diet” is key. Just forget about it and resume your healthy eating.
- Finally, since you’ll inevitably eat the rest of your life, strive to find the diet that can sustain you for the long haul. If you find that it doesn’t work for your body to eat spicy foods, then don’t. If dairy hurts your tummy, try ditching it to see if that makes a difference. I think that I’m finally at the point where I can say that I’ve narrowed down the foods that work and don’t work for me.
Now that I’m eating my favorite foods again, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, diet-wise. That’s huge, for me!
To sum it all up, what works for me is eating foods that I love, healthier versions of them, and making it all as flavorful as can be. Now that I’ve discovered food, real food, I absolutely love to eat again, and this time my family and I are eating GOOD.
Here are some of my latest obsessions (I’ll post some recipes next time I make each dish, although these aren’t my original recipes. Just ones I’ve found on the web):
Protein cookie dough bites
Spiced Upside-Down Pear Cake
Protein Apple Pie Muffins
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
Buffalo Cauli Wings Salad with Vegan Chived Ranch
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas