These past two years have meant insane growth in my personal, internal thought processes. I have stopped dieting, put on weight, and discovered that I can love myself no matter my size. I care about my health on a holistic level – not a visual level. I engage in movement (exercise) that brings me joy and challenge, not out of obligation or punishment. If something more important comes along, I don’t “double down” on my workouts or restrict my food.
However, I still have certain beliefs about diet – what we eat / how we fuel our bodies:
The majority of our food should be whole foods. The biggest thing about eating whole foods is they come with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber – things you can’t get from processed foods nor animal products. In fact, most processed foods are fairly devoid of any of their original nutrients unless they’ve been fortified. And, when it comes right down to it, most people probably don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables!
What I have found, personally, is that your body requires certain amounts of micro and macro nutrients. If you’re not providing those nutrients, your body will continue to send hunger signals in hopes to obtain those nutrients it needs. The problem is, most of us have been ignoring these cues for so long that we don’t recognize them. Diet culture teaches us to go hungry, eat minimally, or remove a specific macro nutrients that bares no responsibility of what your body actually requires.
I actually find I eat less being vegan than I did when I wasn’t. I believe this is because I am getting an optimal amount of nutrients to allow my body to function. When I have cravings, it’s because one of the pieces of the puzzle is missing.
Avoid “diet” foods. Don’t be fooled by “low fat”, “sugar free”, “carb free”. All this means is something has been put in its place. You need to substitute one thing for another – you can’t just take something away. Take “gluten free” – that just means that they’ve taken out the wheat flour and put in a combination of rice/chickpea/quinoa/almond/coconut flour – or whatever! You can swap out fats with applesauce or a different “healthier” fat, such as avocado.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “sugar free” – how else is it going to be sweet? It’s either replaced with less processed, more natural sugars, like maple syrup, agave syrup, dates, stevia – or it’s replaced with chemicals like maltitol, Xylitol, Erythritol or anything else that ends with “itol”. These are chemicals – man made sweeteners created in a chemistry lab. The only good thing I have found for it is if you’re constipated. During my dieting days, I thought I was “being good” when I had sugar cravings and I went over to the drug store and grabbed a bag of “sugar free” candy. I spent my whole afternoon either on the way to, on, or on my way from the toilet. Not a productive way to spend my time!
Convenience and diet foods should be kept to a minimum typically because they’re processed and not necessarily healthy. Anything that has an expiry date in the months and years can only have those long periods because of additives and processing. Boxed cereals, potato chips, cereal bars… basically, if you have to do minimal preparing prior to eating – such as heating in the microwave, adding boiling water, etc – those are convenience foods and should be limited.
Notice how I said “limited” and not “removed” because, I know, life can get crazy and sometimes it’s either something convenient, or nothing at all. I eat convenience foods on a somewhat regular basis – typically when I’m traveling. If I’m going to be on the road and I know that restaurant and food options could be limited, then I’ll pack accordingly – vegan protein bars, rice chips, mixed nuts, fruit, hummus and veggies. And even though many fast food places like A&W and Burger King have added vegan burgers, I also don’t believe we should consume too much fast foods because of unhealthy fat content, “super sized” meals which mean astronomical amounts of calories, and sodium content through the roof!
Some “convenience” foods are fine. In fact, I don’t know if I’d even consider “convenience” foods like canned goods (tomatoes, chickpeas…), frozen goods (vegetables, fruits…), and dried goods (rice, pasta, beans, legumes). You should be able to pick up any of these items and there should be only the one ingredient. Granted, these are more ingredients, but they’re still convenient! Not to mention those “salad kits” you can now get in the grocery store. Personally, I love salads, but I hate making them! I’ll get a bag or so of salad and mix it up and hubby and I will split it between the two of us – the only difference is his will include cheese and some diced chicken breast.
Also, watch what you drink. As we all know, we all need water – like 0.5 oz per lb of body weight – but when it comes right down to it, water is really boring! However, keep in mind that if it’s anything but plain water, there’s calories – and if it’s zero calorie, there’s chemicals. Instead of drinking a glass of apple or orange juice, eat the whole fruit so you also get the vitamins, minerals, and fiber! Want something carbonated? Get a Soda Stream. Best purchase we’ve ever made! Yes, they have flavoring you can add to make it into a cola or root beer – or my favorite, honey iced tea – but, again remember, flavor either means calories or chemicals. The funny thing is, carbonating the water seems to change the flavor! It’s really weird as it’s just carbonation, but it tastes different. Even my BFF, who can’t drink plain water commented on this. As soon as I get home from work, it’s virtually the first thing I do – go and make a bottle of carbonated water! It’s amazing how quickly you can drink a couple extra hundred calories a day when you get your venti fat free, sugar free, mocha, extra whip, hold the chocolate drizzle… so stick with your coffee black, of better yet, tea!
The biggest thing about this, is that these are my thoughts about eating and should be taken as a grain of salt.
Ultimately, you need to do what’s right for you. And what’s right for you? Only you can decide that. It’s what works with your lifestyle, budget, and your goals – if you even have any goals! If you don’t, and you just want to eat to sustain your life, then that’s perfectly alright! I haven’t had any “body goals” in about two years now. And you know what? I STILL don’t have any “body goals”!
I have fitness goals – a couple of 5km races and possibly a 10km race in a few months. I want to get back into indoor rock climbing and possibly start doing “Ninja Warrior Training” – which, incidentally, are available at the same rock climbing gym! Will I lose weight? I DON’T CARE! But if I do, it’ll be a by-product of the lifestyle I live, not as a result of dieting.
Because there’s more to life than losing weight and life is short, so eat the damn cake!!!!
(if you want, of course!)