Monday, September 11, 2017

Evolving a Healthy Diet: BMI = 32

A year ago, I needed food to feel good. What I didn’t realize was that the very food I used to lift my mood was the very food that made me feel so lousy that I needed an escape from my gloom. There was no way I was going to go from eating food like this:

To eating food like this:

...overnight. A lot of diet plans take a very radical approach to eating and call it a ‘cleanse’. If that works for you then great. Eating nothing but boiled potatoes or unseasoned vegetable juice for a month is kind of a radical move. To that end, my approach didn’t provide a well-balanced diet overnight either. We all need to find our own way to breaking our unhealthy habits. Mine was to wean myself off the snacks and endure eating bland, although almost balanced, meals until I could start adding in healthy foods.

Whatever approach you take, however, the running theme that I’m seeing in various plans is that once you are eating healthy you start to feel upticks in energy, alertness, positive feelings, and often even improvements at work – and for many, improvements in love as well. I’ve experienced all these things, but it didn’t happen overnight.

I struggled for two months to eliminate snacking and stick to a very bland diet of hot cereal, very plain pasta or potatoes, fruits and veggies, and small portions of canned tuna or roasted chicken. That diet was too high in starch, didn’t have enough fruits and veggies, and generally just sucked.

I conquered my bad habits, though. By the end of that two-month rehab, I no longer had unhealthy cravings and I no longer binged on food. I didn’t, at that point, have a big uptick in energy, alertness, or the other benefits of which I had heard, but I felt like a champion for finally defeating my habit of compulsive oral stimulation.

My overall mood was pretty bad as I struggled, but when the struggle died and I found myself in control, my mood was a lot better than it had been throughout my decade of compulsive grazing. I realized that eliminating all the bad foods could only take me so far and I needed to start getting more of the good stuff in me. One problem I had was that although I could prepare healthy food at work...

I had let my home-cooking skills decline. Ok, I could pan fry tilapia (the celery of the sea) and make a great sauce beurre blanc, and serve it with some rice and asparagus – but look at the plate. Most of the calories come from fat, then from the rice (starch) then from the fish (sautéed in butter), and the meager portion of asparagus just isn’t enough.

I needed to turn the portions upside down. I needed to eat mostly veggies even if most of my calories came from starches. I needed to cut down on the proteins and cut out most of the fats. I also needed to eliminate the transformed meats (chorizo, pancetta), and start watching out for refined sugars. I needed to get to a meal like this:

I started eating more veggies and watching out for refined sugars, and that is when I noticed a real boost in energy and alertness. I also noticed that some foods started tasting oddly sweet – I checked my store-bought potato salad and noticed the third ingredient was sugar, then I realized that all brands of mayo at my nearest grocery store also contained some form of sugar. That is when I decided to shoot for a zero added-sugar diet. The results were amazing. My energy shot up, alertness became profound, and I no longer felt dozy on the bus on the way to work.

I have dextrose in my home; I use it to increase the alcohol content in my homebrewed beer and wine. I would NEVER add it to my food. As far as I’m concerned it is not fit for human consumption. I would also never add corn syrup or corn syrup solids to any mayonnaise that I made for my customers. Sadly, however, these added sugars are everywhere these days. I spent a week eating a diet that had no added sugars at all, and after only 48 hours I felt better than I had in over 20 years (I’m 47 at the time of this writing). That’s when I decided to get into steam cooking at home and purchased a countertop steam cooker appliance.

I’ve not become a fundamentalist about avoiding added sugars. I am required to taste various sauces, desserts, and ingredients as a part of my job. I enjoy sriracha sauce as a condiment, even though it has some added sugar, but I keep myself apprised of all ingredients I use that have added sugars and always seek out ingredients that have none. Check your soya sauce – does it have added sugar(s)? My main source of sugars these days is fruit. I try to have most of my fruit early in the day, with breakfast. This is what breakfast is supposed to look like and what I eat now:

These days, more often than not, the average Canadian breakfast looks like a bowl of candy or a rectangular oatmeal cookie. My midday lunch now looks like this:

Rather than this:

Here’s a typical evening meal for me:

It has taken me 8 months to evolve my diet into one that meets the Canada Food Guides. It took me 2 months of struggling to eliminate my snacking and binge eating habits. It took me a few more months to get in the habit of having so much fruit in the morning. It took a few months more to discover how much better I would feel without added sugars and then a few months more to finally get up to the recommended daily serving of fruits and veggies.

Today, having dropped my BMI from 43 to 32, I am so glad that I slipped on some ice and crushed a vertebra. The recovery was awful, but drove me to evolving my diet to a healthy one, and I wouldn’t even consider going back and preventing all that agony and suffering because it has resulted in a life that is so much better. I’m still obese, hoping to be just ‘overweight’ by Christmas, but after ten years of hiding my obesity it’s time to for me to take my first selfie ever.

Photo of Heather Spoonheim

No comments:

Post a Comment