I am a sugar addict. When I was in high school, I used to buy a twix bar every single day at the school snack bar. That’s when it all began. I was thin and in great shape, rowed on the crew team, ran for fun, took ballet classes and step aerobics in college…on the outside I looked like a healthy, fit young adult. But, I was an addict. I wasn’t able to buy a box of cookies and eat a couple, I ate the box. When my kids were little, I was a good mom who made sure they didn’t eat too much junk food – but I didn’t put those same restrictions on myself. I have learned over the years that I crave sugar and use it to make me feel better whenever I am upset. However, even knowing this, I didn’t want to change – I didn’t think I could.
Then, about 10 years ago my mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. At first she was really serious about this and exercised every day and lost a lot of weight, but it didn’t become a permanent lifestyle change for her. Recently, I found out that she is on even more medication now than before. This is a disease that is completely reversible with the proper diet and exercise.
Over years of flooding our blood with sugar and having our pancreas desperately trying to produce more and more insulin to keep up with all that sugar, two things happen – although we have high levels of insulin in our blood, our bodies become insulin resistant, and secondly, eventually our pancreas will get worn out and will not produce enough insulin.
I have also watched my dear friend struggle with obesity. Over the past few decades his weight has gone up and down quite significantly, however, it always comes back up. Now in our mid 40’s it is harder to lose weight and he is going to face health repercussions if he doesn’t get it under control. I found myself so eager for him to lose weight, when I realized I needed to walk the talk myself. You can’t make other people do something they don’t want to. But, you can set an example and live a healthy lifestyle yourself. Then without words, we can inspire those around us that we love.
I am a very active person. If you’ve read my blog or follow my instagram, you know I’m always out hiking or doing barn chores or fixing fences!
I also love to do yoga classes at my local gym. However, I am acutely aware that given my poor eating habits, I will likely be in the same place as my mom – taxing my body, asking it to do what it shouldn’t have to, feeding it too much sugar – which is actually a poison. Over the past ten years I’ve gained 15 pounds, so obviously my eating is not in harmony with what my body needs.
So, I realized I just needed to get motivated and inspired and gather enough conviction and determination within myself to do it and to be serious about it. I watched Sugar, the Bitter Truth the condensed version, and it helped to motivate me to want to change. I practiced positive self talk. I want to treat myself better! I want to fuel my body properly and let this amazing machine work the way it is supposed to work! Our bodies are incredible, the way they fight disease, repair themselves – the human body is divine. It just so happens that my college daughter is taking a nutrition class and an exercise as medicine class this semester, so I get a lot of inspiration from her too!
Let’s go back in time for a bit. Last December, my daughters and I did one month sugar free. On New Year’s Eve we got our favorite sparkling Martinelli’s apple grape cider – and to our astonishment, it tasted horrible! It was way too sweet for us! What a testament to how much your taste buds can change in one month. This was a drink we used to enjoy, and now the sweetness was overwhelming. During that month we did not eat any added sugar, but we did allow maple syrup and honey. In retrospect, I found that my habits and reliance on sweet foods didn’t really change that month. Instead of baking with sugar, we baked with maple syrup – but we still ate lots of desserts.
So this time we decided to do a three month challenge of no added sugar, including maple syrup and I decided to take it a step farther and remove processed foods from my diet as well. I didn’t want to eat so much fake food, like bars full of isolated proteins. I didn’t want to eat brownie bites made with maple syrup and cocoa. I wanted to eat fruits as dessert. I wanted to change my mindset and habits completely. Of course it is difficult, but I feel so much better having cut it all out. People are different and some people have the personality to eat in moderation. That is fantastic. However, I know myself, and moderation has never worked with me. Mentally, I just do a lot better without any at all.
So far, this journey to eat a healthy whole foods diet has been so eye opening! I wanted to share with you three things that can help you greatly as you pursue your own health. THINK, PLAN, MOTIVATE.
THINK: I think before I eat, every time. Just a few days ago I got into an argument with my husband, and the first thing I wanted to do when I walked away from it was go buy some cookies. I really, really wanted to eat sugar. But in that moment of anger, I stopped and thought, “I’m mad at him, so why do I want to punish myself by derailing myself from my eating challenge?” “Why do I want to fill my body with poison, because I’m angry with someone else? That doesn’t make sense. I want to care for myself! I want to treat myself the way I deserve to be treated!” It was a HUGE change in my mental mindset. I was so, so proud of myself for taking a moment to think clearly before harming myself with overindulgence in sugar. To be honest, I’ve never done this before. I’ve always given in to my impulses. Mindfully cultivating the habit to think before you eat anything is very helpful. Before eating I think, am I hungry or am I just bored or nervous or frustrated? OR am I thirsty?
I also like to think – have I eaten this food/food group already? For example, I love bananas. I could eat three of them a day if I didn’t stop to think. When I reach for a banana, I think, have I had one already? If so, I go for some blueberries or a kiwi instead. Variety is so good for us!
PLAN: Have healthy snacks ready and at your fingertips ready for when you get hungry. I like to cut up an apple and a red pepper in the morning while I am making my daughter’s lunch. Then I stick it in my purse so it’s there when I get hungry. I keep my pantry stocked with an assortment of nuts and seeds. I also plan ahead what meals I am going to make for lunch and dinner, and make sure that I have the ingredients in my fridge. This really helps with avoiding the last minute pizza order or Chipotle run. Another example: Most days my husband brings home a fresh baguette, of which he has had only a tiny piece. Then it sits there and stares at me until I eat most of the rest of it with butter. I realized I needed to plan for it. I knew it was going to happen and I didn’t want to do it, so I made a plan. When he brought the bread home, I quickly put it into a ziplock bag and stored it in the pantry out of sight. I also asked him to reduce the number of days that he brings one home.
MOTIVATE: Something that has been a big help for me is to watch short youtube videos on healthy eating. The first week especially, every day I made a habit of watching a 15 minute Ted Talks on either the negative effects of sugar or something about eating more vegetables, drinking water, etc. The videos really helped to solidify my resolve to eat better. Also, I don’t usually have time to watch youtube just for fun, so they were an enjoyable break in my day too! You can also motivate yourself by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Whether that is by going to the gym and working out with other people, or picking up the phone and talking to your sibling or friend. I had to ask my sister to stop sending me recipes for desserts! Enlisting the help of your family and friends not only holds you accountable, but also gives you the support to persevere! I am forever grateful that my daughters are doing this challenge with me. Without their support, I would be smelling and seeing desserts at home and that would sabotage my resolve, no doubt.
If you have been thinking of changing your diet, I hope that you find some inspiration in this blog post! THINK, PLAN & MOTIVATE! Look out for additional blog posts with recipe ideas for quick and healthy dinners coming soon.