Hi! I’m Elizabeth. Wife to Eric and a most-of-the-time stay at home mom to two little girls. I enjoy photography, Pure Barre, teaching cloth diaper classes, and making a mess in the kitchen. I blog semi-regularly about our family life and lifestyle at http://thebuerglers.com.
I looked down at the number on the scale and burst into tears. How could the number be going up? I was doing everything right: counting calories, drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and exercising 30 minutes 3-5 days a week. Yet, the scale was creeping up, I was exhausted, had brain fog, was short tempered, and suffered from terrible migraines and chronic sinus infections, and the doctor’s didn’t know what to do about my stomach issues other than label it “irritable bowel syndrome.”
I was eating a diet that was constantly promoted by various big name weight loss programs, food labels, and even the nutritionist I paid for. They all kept saying the same thing, “Follow the food pyramid, eat low-fat, and low-calorie foods.”
What I didn’t know is that not all calories are created equally, or that some foods come laden with additives that are meant to be addictive (how dare they!). You can calorie count and exercise all day long, but if what you’re eating is full of sugar and deprived of nutrients you’re going to gain weight, feel sluggish, etc. and you’re doing your body a world of long term disservice.
I have had several significant turning points with my diet and eating habits, but the most significant came from a friend’s comment on my Facebook status. I had shared that I wasn’t looking forward to the Fall and Winter because I was always sick with sinus infections and plagued stomach issues (read: diarrhea). My friend casually mentioned that the source of it was probably the abundance of sweets and processed foods that go with the holiday season.
Bacteria feeds on sugar. The more sugar you eat (and trust me, it’s hiding in everything) the more likely you are to be sick. That Fall I challenged myself to cut from binging on Halloween candy and Christmas cookies to just one small serving a day. Guess what? I only had a few sinus headaches, but no infections. And I only had one day of stomach issues instead of living in the bathroom. I had more energy and my brain wasn’t as jumbled. And — for the first time in years, the scale was holding steady, not going up!
These results were enough to jump-start a slow and gradual lifestyle change for my husband and I, and now our children. We tried to go “all-in,” eating nothing processed, but after a few weeks we were burnt out. Our old eating habits started sneaking back in and we quickly noticed how sluggish we felt. We knew we had to get back to clean eating. It had to be our way of life. So we started with a new strategy: slow and steady.
We have adopted a motto for our family, “Do the best that you can, when you can.” We are gentle with ourselves. If we have a few bad days, we get back on the wagon – not throw in the towel. Every day is a chance to do better, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
I have put together a few of our starting points, but know that there is a whole world of resources out there to help you!
Educate yourself: I have found invaluable help from Mark’s Daily Apple http://www.marksdailyapple.com/, Kitchen Stewardship http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/, Mama and Baby Love http://www.mamaandbabylove.com/ , and Against All Grain http://againstallgrain.com/ and Whole30 http://whole30.com/ as well as the books and movies listed below. They have scientific information on how to make good choices on REAL FOODS, and include lots of yummy recipes for all life styles. (Hint: low fat food isn’t food!). Read food labels. Not sure what that mysterious big word is? Look it up. Figure out what you can make at home instead of buying a mix (taco seasoning and baked goods are easy places to start).
Change Your Mindset: I was wired by my Italian family that food is love. I was an emotional eater. And nothing makes me feel better than pizza, cereal, and Cheetos. If we listen to the words of Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C., “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — challenge yourself to not eat just what is easy or convenient, but what is going to fuel your body. I constantly ask myself, “This may taste amazing for a few minutes, but when I get a migraine/diarrhea/jittery later am I going to regret it?” My doctor constantly reminds me, this is a journey not a destination. There’s no “finish line” – it’s a way of life.
Start Small: For us we started with coffee creamers and flavored yogurt. After my friend posted this http://www.ourlittleapartment.com/2009/11/im-scared-of-non-dairy-creamer/ I immediately switched to milk and sugar, and eventual milk, and now black or with a drop of almond milk. My husband started making his own yogurt and each batch reduced the sugar. Other ideas include:
- replace soda with sparkling water (bonus: add your favorite essential oil!) or unsweetened iced tea
- pack your lunch at least one day a week (bonus: invite your co-workers to join you)
- munch on grapes or baby carrots instead of chips
- make stove top popcorn instead of microwave
- replace your Frappachino with an unsweetened iced coffee
- switch from margarine to butter
- replace your breakfast cereal with a scrambled egg
- ditch the ranch dressing and drizzle a little olive oil instead
Cook at Home: This can be a huge step for those of us constantly on the go. Cooking at home gives us complete control over our meals. It can be overwhelming especially if you’ve never cooked from scratch before. A great place to start is gathering ingredients only from the perimeter of the grocery store (meat, product, eggs, dairy, frozen fruits/veggies).
- Challenge yourself to replace packaged side dishes to fresh or frozen vegetables.
- Replace vegetable oil with more flavorful olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
- Instead of reaching for salt, try fresh spices and herbs.
- Trade salad croutons with cut up fruit like apples
- Browse our favorite cookbooks, blogs and of course search Pinterest!
Plan Ahead: Having a meal plan for the week is our greatest asset. We can plan quick meals for busy nights, and extras for lunches. The weeks we don’t have a plan we ended up eating out and/or eating convenience foods. We subscribe to emeals (we like the low-carb plan) to help with this. It’s easy to get bored or busy and grab junk food or fast food, so arm yourself with tasty snacks and meals. Check Pinterest for ideas! Other ways to plan ahead:
- If you’re going to someone’s house for dinner, inform the host/hostess that your family doesn’t eat a lot of pizza or pasta and you’d be happy to bring a salad or vegetable side dish to help.
- If you’re going out to eat, check the menu ahead of time. Commit to a healthier entree. Ask to substitute the fries for a salad, vegetable, or fruit. Skip the bread or chips baskets. Order your burger on a lettuce wrap instead of bun.
- Going on vacation or running errands all day? Pack some veggies for the car instead of stopping for french fries. Bring some Kind Bars or Lara Bars that travel well and are minimally processed.
- Having a lunch-and-learn, conference, or wedding? Not sure what is going to be served? I always pack a little something and/or eat before I go. That way I can eat enough to be polite, but not be tempted to overindulge in the pasta primavera or packaged cookie.
These tips and tricks have really helped our family make a daily effort to minimize eating processed foods while encouraging everyone to eat more wholesome, nutrient rich foods. What are some ways your family eats clean? I shared several of my favorite books below that were a great resource for us for clean eating!
Against All Grain – Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great
Against All Grain Meals Made Simple – Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime
Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals – Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals: Delicious, Primal-approved meals you can make in under 30 minutes (Primal Blueprint Series)
Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces – Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings and Toppings
It Starts with Food – It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways
Hungry for Change – Hungry for Change
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter – Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch–Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods