My Health Journey Started Here
I used to think sugar was better than fat. I used to think muesli bars were a healthy snack and that peanut butter was bad for you. I used to think a glass of apple juice was the same as eating an apple. And I used to think a Cup A Soup and two ryvitas was a balanced lunch.
That was until I started my own health journey in 2015.
I was 26 and around 58kg, I went to the gym a couple of mornings a week (mainly to use the cross-trainer) and I ate a lot of fruit and vegetables.
All in all, I was pretty healthy but I didn’t have any real interest in nutrition or fitness. I was happy with my body at a size 8-10 and any half assed attempt to lose weight was the result of guilt after an indulgent holiday or the desire to look banging in a bikini for summer.
Come on, I know you’ve done one of these diets too! You know the ones where you say you’re only going to eat chicken and salad for the next week, but quit 2 days in or say no more alcohol for 30 days but get sucked into a sneaky glass of wine at dinner with friends.
It wasn’t until I watched That Sugar Film (watch it!) and read I Quit Sugar (read it!) thanks to my #fitspo friend Bec, that I became consciously aware of what I was eating. I started understanding how packaged foods were packed full of sugar and that there was such a thing as “good fats” and “whole foods”.
Obviously these two resources were focused on spreading the message about sugar because this is an ingredient that has sneaked into our diets ever since packaged snack foods and frozen meals came into existence.
But it was this fact stuck with me:
According to The World Health Organisation, we should eat no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, yet the average Australian consumes around 14 teaspoons - That Sugar Film
I didn’t eat lollies and rarely drank soft-drink so I thought of myself as living a life that was relatively “sugar free”. You can imagine my shock when I found out that my breakfast everyday which consisted of muesli, low fat strawberry yogurt and an apple juice added up to a whopping 11 teaspoons of sugar (4gm = 1 teaspoon). That’s almost double the recommended intake and that was just for breakfast!
This was when I realised I needed to make big changes and take notice of what I was putting in my body.
I went predominantly sugar free and was really conscious of the amount of sugar in packaged foods I was purchasing but it wasn’t long before I became obsessed with tracking my food, especially calories in vs calories out via the My Fitness App. If you’ve ever used this app, you’ll no what I mean.
Long story short, I lost 4kg (down to 54kg) and was looking great but I got to a point where I had to say bye bye to the app. Because I love food (like, LOVE FOOD!) I was choosing running and HIIT over going for a walk along the river with friends or attending a yoga class for fear of not meeting my “calories out” number for the day. I even found weird hacks like eating yogurt and protein for lunch (yep, whey protein mixed into yogurt) because it filled me up and had almost 0 carbs.
The problem was if I ate whole foods that were calorie dense like chia seeds, nuts or oats, I’d have to do more exercise to combat these or remove them from my diet completely. Now I realise this is not the way to eat healthy, but hey this experience taught me to be way more conscious of what I eat.
Note: if you have no idea what I mean by whole foods, I’ve added a list of my staple items so you get the gist. Add as many of these to your grocery list and fill up on these first.
I now don’t count calories but eat a whole food diet (as much as possible!) I eat little dairy and little gluten, but indulge in dark chocolate and peanut butter every day. I opt for foods that are going to make me “feel good” and satisfy me ensuring I eat enough protein (animal and plant-based) and eating as little refined sugar as possible.
But most importantly, I’m at a point now where I’m aware of how my body feels when I fill it with goodness and I crave that feeling every day. Sometimes that looks like a big leafy salad or a green smoothie, but let’s be honest, sometimes that looks like a burger and chips.
So, what can you take away from this story?
For me, the difference between eating restrictive or dieting and eating healthy, is understanding what value “naughty foods” hold for me. While I eat real, whole foods most of the time, I don’t feel any guilt when it comes to eating out or eating foods I would have once avoided. I’m just conscious of how these foods make me feel after I eat them and I ask myself, will this make me happy right now. If the answer is yes, I go all in.
Here are my top 10 naughty foods that I won’t say no to:
- I eat chocolate everyday but it’s always dark, usually Lindt’s 70% dark. It only has 5.8g of sugar per serve (two pieces) and rarely do I indulge in more than one serve (but it’s certainly happened!)
- If I’m going to eat a pizza it may as well be one with all of the deli meats like chorizo and salami. Oh and pack on the mozzarella baby!
- Cake and coffee but only if it’s something epic like lemon meringue pie, scones with jam and cream or a chocolate brownie.
- To me, a cheese board is the perfect addition to any dinner party / get together and I’m pretty darn fabulous at putting them together. I take this sh*t seriously!
- A good quality burger and chips from somewhere like Grill’d or a local burger joint. You know, one of those juicy ones that are just so damn tasty!
- On a night out, cocktails are likely to make an appearance but after the first one, I’ll switch to something with less sugar like a Gin & Soda or a glass of wine.
- Anything in puff pastry. Enough said.
- Eating fish and chips at sunset overlooking the ocean is quite literally one of my favourite things ever! And yes, I go the full fat fried fish and squid rings option, packing myself with all the beige fried goodness. Sometimes I try to make a salad to at least bring some colour to the plate, sometimes I don’t.
- Chinese takeaway and by that I meant lemon chicken, spring rolls, fried rice and prawn crackers (you know “Aussie Chinese Food”). While I know this meal holds almost zero nutritional value and makes me feel crap after, I eat it rarely and savour every last bite.
- I have a weird obsession with Cadbury Creme Eggs and feel the urge to buy these every Easter. Even though they are probably the sweetest chocolate I could find, I just have to have them.
It’s funny, since switching my mindset to think about the value of food rather than whether it’s good or bad, I actually crave naughty stuff less and I’m satisfied with smaller quantities. Seriously!
I challenge you to think about what are 10 foods you love and allow yourself to eat these when you want them and not feel guilty. Just ask yourself “will eating this make me feel happy?” If the answer is yes, then do it!
When you allow yourself to eat the naughty foods and drinks you love, you will crave them less often. Our mind is weird like that.
What are the naughty foods you can't say no to? Comment below, I'd love to hear what they are.
Whole Foods I eat:
Vegetables: broccoli, beans, spinach, tomatoes, capsicum, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, cabbage, chinese broccoli, onions, green beans, cucumber, carrots
Fruit: apples, bananas, pears, frozen blueberries, watermelon
Animal Products: chicken, beef, lamb, mince, tuna, salmon, free range eggs, full fat plain greek yogurt, full cream milk
Healthy fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil
Grains: brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats
Cans/Jars: mixed beans, corn, coconut cream, tomatoes, olives, capers, pickles
Seeds and nuts: chia seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, tahini
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