I would like to begin by saying that I do not claim to be an expert when it comes to nutrition and all that I have learnt has been through the internet, books and my own personal experience. However, as I love reading articles about differing opinions on various health issues I thought that perhaps some of you may find it interesting to read my thoughts!
So many people have told me that the point at which they started taking their health seriously was either when they had a health scare, or had children and realised that they needed to take better care of themselves to be around for longer. I reached this point about a year and a half ago, and to be completely honest it was probably more to do with vanity than anything else. As you all know I love my cosmetics and fashion and while I spent probably far too much time trying to perfect the outside I wasn’t being very healthy on the inside. I have never been clinically overweight or underweight and have always eaten fairly sensibly, but with an office job, a blog and many other sedentary commitments I wasn’t doing any exercise and indulging a little more than I should. I felt constantly tired and weak. In order to keep myself going I would be propping myself up with sugary coffees in the mornings and sugary snacks in the afternoons. My weight would creep up about a stone over the Winter and I would spend the spring dieting and dabbling in some physical activity to get it back to normal for Summer. Since I am tall other than my clothes fitting better there wouldn’t be a lot of noticeable difference. Though my weight fluctuates I have remained roughly the same size since I left school.
(Photo taken this weekend)
Now this may not be a very dramatic transformation story as I haven’t lost 10 stone or become an Olympic athlete, but the past year has taught me so much. I haven’t lost more weight than I usually do for the Summer (7kg), but I have done it in a completely different way and have kept my Summer body for the last 9 months. I have really looked at how my body reacts to different foods and exercises and I can honestly say I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and am looking forward to seeing where this new path will lead me. I still have a long way to go and am nowhere near my ideal, but I'm trying to see every day as a new opportunity to make good decisions. Of course preparing for my wedding has played a huge part in getting the mentality right for a lifestyle change, but this is something that I wish I had really taken seriously sooner!
In short, what works for me may not work for everyone, but I would really encourage you to take some time and re evaluate how you see yourself and your health. First up on my list was diet!
I loved food! I love to eat, I love desserts, I love to go out and try different restaurants… and I do drink. After seeing so many of my friends suffering with eating disorders at school I am very conscious of having a healthy relationship with food and would never deprive myself or restrict myself as I just don’t think it’s right. If I feel hungry then my body is telling me something and I try to give it what it needs. My problem was I was eating the wrong things out of boredom, or emotionally, and rarely because I was physically hungry.
I am not a fan of diets at all, but (and this is a big but) over the past few years I have taken several allergy tests that have all come back with the same results. I am intolerant to gluten, wheat (among a bunch of different grains), dairy and eggs. My digestion has not been very good for years, especially after lunch as I always felt really awful and bloated at my desk (sitting makes it worse), but I ignored it and almost thought it was normal. After trying to eat clean with minimal processed foods for the best part of a year I noticed that grains and dairy would make my digestion a lot worse. So I decided to seriously commit to a diet for the first time in my life!
Paleo, apparently the ‘hottest diet for 2013’, sounded crazy when I first heard about it (eat like a caveman?), but when I did my research I was almost disappointed to see that it made sense! (This is a great website that really helped me understand the basics: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2010/10/04/the-beginners-guide-to-the-paleo-diet/). The paleo diet basically cut out all the things I was allergic or intolerant to (bye bye grains, dairy) so I could use Paleo recipes without having to make complicated amendments. I have only lost 1-2kg following paleo principles, but for me this isn't about losing weight. I can’t begin to tell you how much better I feel on a daily basis when eating paleo with no bloating and no cramps after meals. I still love bread, cupcakes, brownies, baked goods , cheese etc., but I have them in moderation and try to follow the 80/20 rule. Rather than sticking rigidly to paleo doctrines I have worked out which foods work for me (and most importantly which make me feel horrible) and have adapted the diet to suit my body and my lifestyle. For example, paleo does not include legumes, but I have no problem with peanuts so peanut butter is firmly on my list of treats!
Having established what works for me I can choose when I want to indulge (and then make time for the consequences), rather than hoping for the best or being caught out squirming in pain at a client lunch (this has unfortunately happened before). The realisation really hit me when I was stuck in the deliberation room on jury duty and the only food available to us was a cheese sandwich, an egg mayo sandwich and a (very mayonnaise heavy) BLT. I was so ravenous I had the BLT and less than half an hour later was struck down with crippling stomach pains, bloating and the whole works! I hadn’t felt like that for weeks and I was shocked to realise I had let myself struggle with this on a daily basis for years purely due to ignorance and laziness!
The other thing I have learned is not to be afraid of fat! Fats have been made the enemy in the media for far too long, but fat alone will not make you fat. (This article is really interesting: http://discovermagazine.com/2004/oct/inuit-paradox). The real enemy that has been hiding in our food (and mine very much so since I looove my desserts and sweeties) is added sugar and unpronounceable additives with zero nutritional value! What do they do when they take out all that fat? They replace it with sugar, salt and additive cocktails. Artificial compounds that your body has absolutely no need for! I always think that the preservatives pumped into food to make it last longer are probably also ensuring that the cellulite in my thighs stays there for longer too, though this is purely my conjecture…
Did you know that many cancer patients are recommended to go on a no sugar (ketogenic) diet and that some actually get better just by doing this? I used to be so obsessive with cutting down my fat intake, but all I was doing was replacing fat that gives you nutrients and satiety by simple carbs and sugars that give you a short energy boost and then leave you feeling tired and hungry. (Of course there are natural sources of sugar, such as fructose in fruit, which I eat a lot of, but I have really tried to decrease my intake of added sugars). This article even made the BBC recently and is worth a look (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26375004). I use low fat yoghurt as an example: after eating one I would follow with another (and sometimes a third) because I never felt full or satisfied. Since cutting out dairy and limiting processed foods I eat COYO instead – it has a much higher (healthy) fat content and I sometimes struggle to finish one small tub. I could never imagine eating three!
Ultimately the paleo theory works because when you are eating whole foods full of nutrients that ensure you are getting all the building blocks your body needs you don’t end up over eating, or having cravings for all the junk food that would give you a short energy boost, but ultimately leave your body with a bunch of toxins to try to flush out. This is not to say I wouldn’t eat the odd chocolate cake as a treat, but there is a difference between eating to nourish your body and eating to reward yourself for a tough week. The 80/20 rule helps me do both!
I would love to hear what your thoughts are on my ramble and whether you would be interested in more health, diet and exercise posts? It’s something that I am learning so much about and I would love to share my journey with you! xxx