Starting 2019 With A Fresh Perspective on Healthy Food
The holidays are such a fun and magical time of year, until I’m over it. You know what I mean? When December arrives I am all about the Christmas music, decking my house with twinkle lights and greenery, attending and hosting parties, baking special treats (hello you gorgeous cinnamon orange pull apart bread), and shopping for the perfect gifts. But after a few weeks of Yuletide cheer and indulgences I am ready for a clean slate, organization, and some fresh new goals. For a lot of people, that means trying to make some healthy changes for a new year, and that’s what I want to chat about today.
I love that January is known for healthy goals, clean eating, and packed gyms. What I don’t love is that a lot of those goals focus on weight loss and feeling deprived and by February a lot of the motivation has fizzled out. Isn’t that sad? It doesn’t have to be that way! My friends and family know that I’m a bit of a health nut. Being active and eating clean helps me to feel happy and strong and to manage stress, and I enjoy it. I look forward to my workouts, and I love the healthy food that I eat. Year-round. I recognize that some of those statements are probably annoying to some of you (or would be if I had any readers other than my mom - hi!). If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “that’s awesome for you, but I’ll never be like that” stick with me for a hot second. I have all sorts of goals for this blog and the space I want it to be, but one of my passions is to share tips to make healthy living easier, more accessible, and enjoyable. Rather than have a daunting goal of losing x pounds or running a marathon, starting with one little change at a time can make a huge difference.
I firmly believe that the biggest step someone can take towards healthy living is to change your mindset: focus on how foods and activities make you feel instead of seeing them as an obligation or temporary means to an end. I had my first healthy living epiphany in high school when I made the connection that some foods made me feel comfortable and energetic while others left me lethargic and bloated. I realized that it didn’t have to be normal to feel full and gross after eating out if I swapped out chicken fingers and French fries for salmon and veggies. If you make this one change of focusing on which foods give you energy and make you feel good after eating and which ones leave you tired, guilty, or full of regret, I guarantee you will see and feel positive changes in your body. Want some good news? When you do this, you don’t have to follow any fad diets or rules other than the one that your body will willingly tell you, if you listen.
Despite what the Internet wants you to believe there is not one blanket diet that is perfect for everyone. Maybe your body thrives on grains but it doesn’t love dairy. And maybe it turns out goat cheese is okay, but after eating sharp cheddar your dog doesn’t even want to be in the same room as you. Does it mean you can never have sharp cheddar again? No. Maybe your wife drank too much coffee and is super chatty and you just want to watch that boring history documentary in peace – hello sharp cheddar! But these are good things to know and empower you to make more informed choices. We can talk about using this same mentality towards being active, but since this post is getting long I want to talk about a program that can be a good place to start -Whole30.
When I first heard about Whole30 several years ago my first reaction was that it sounded incredibly restrictive and gimmicky. And yet, the more I thought about it the more it made sense to me from a veterinarian perspective. I talk to my clients almost daily about food allergies and intolerances. In order to identify food as the culprit, I recommend an 8 week food trial with a special diet that eliminates the most common allergens. Note: I’m not talking about one of the trillion cure-all expensive grain-free diets out there; maybe we can tackle that topic another time. Whole30 is basically a food trial for humans and is meant to be a temporary tool that eliminates the most common food groups that can have negative impacts on your health so that you can reset cravings and identify which food groups leave you feeling energized and lean and which ones don’t. After 30 days, you reintroduce one food group at a time and take note of how you feel.
I finally took the plunge and did my first Whole30 in March 2016 when I thought it was worth trying to find the culprit of the debilitating and frequent stomach aches I got weekly and the horrible heartburn I was living with daily. Whole30 did ultimately help with those, but what I wasn’t expecting was the lasting impact it had on identifying what foods worked best for me, eliminating my sugar cravings, and creating a new focus on clean ingredient lists. Before this all sounds perfect, I’ll be blunt. Whole30 isn’t easy. Besides the sudden drastic change in the food I was eating daily, one of the biggest challenges was spending more time and money at the grocery store. I had to read EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT list on the products I typically threw into my cart. You know what foods have added sugar? All of them. Tomato sauce? Sugar. Salsa? Sugar. Chicken sausage? Sugar. WTF. Suddenly I had to take a second look at all the foods I normally ate (and that I thought were healthy), and that took a long time and made me kind of hangry. So to help lessen the shock for anyone interested in trying Whole30, I’m putting together an ALDI Whole30 shopping guide that I’ll post soon. I am a huge ALDI fan, and ALDI now has so many great Whole30 compliant products that can make the program more convenient and affordable so that anyone can do it. For anyone intrigued by Whole30 but not completely ready to commit I highly recommend just trying to eliminate sugar for 30 days and focusing on how you feel after meals. It’s amazing how much sugar we consume without even realizing it, and how taking a break allows you to take control of cravings and appreciate other flavors so much more.
If you made it through this blog post, that’s amazing (thanks Mom and Husband who I
asked forced to read). A New Year's resolution will be to make my posts briefer. What are your New Year's Resolutions? Are you planning on a Whole30 or sugar break? I’d love to hear what other things I can share to make the process easier like meal ideas or favorite recipes. If healthy living isn’t your thing, I also look forward to sharing other bits of my lifestyle including DIY and decorating projects around our house, random things I create in my kitchen, favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries around Lake Norman, and adventures traveling. Cheers (with kombucha maybe) to a happy and healthy start to 2019!