I feel like i've been walking around with my eyes closed for 23 years. I've spent ridiculous amounts of time and energy fretting about my weight and my health without acknowledging the fact that I literally have no idea what i'm putting into my body. It came to me after i'd been using MyFitnessPal for 3 months, eating 1300 calories a day and beginning to get a bit bored with having to measure everything down to the last gram. One day I saw I had 60 calories left over and went to reach for a banana, when I realised how many calories it contained and went for a Weight Watchers digestive biscuit instead. It was then I realised - how ridiculous is it that I would choose a processed concoction of chemicals and sugar instead of a piece of fresh fruit?! I was starving my body without even realising it. I knew then I needed to change what I consider to be the healthier option.
I did some reading, followed some blogs, subscribed to some YouTube channels, watched some documentaries and started paying attention. I've now opened the floodgates to this some-what terrifying world of healthy eating and now I know too much to close them. My attitudes towards food have completely changed. I'm fretting a lot less at how my body looks and more about how I feel. The idea of eating a McDonalds or KFC repulses me (although walking past it I can't beat the fact that it smells delicious!) and I now know if I work on taking care of my body instead of repriving it of the nutrition it really needs, the results will come. So today I thought i'd share with you the kind of 'rules' i'm trying to live by. I'm definitely not an expert and i'm not saying there won't be a ton of slip-ups, but the more I try the easier it will be:
Measure in goodnessThis is the thing i've found the hardest to do.
Calories are the most confusing and misleading things ever. They don't take into account the good or the bad ingredients that make up what we eat - in my opinion, a calorie is just an irritating number. An avocado has round about the same amount of calories as a bag of Malteasers, but which one do you think is better for you? It's a no-brainer. I keep telling myself to measure in goodness instead of calories and that if I want to eat pure almond butter straight from the jar then it's not going to kill me. We've all been programmed into thinking that we must 'eat less, move more' when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, and although I agree with getting lots of exercise, it's definitely more about providing your body with the nutrients it needs instead of ensuring you don't exceed a silly number.
Next time you're in the supermarket, grab your nearest 'fat-free' item and take a look at the ingredients. I guarantee they'll be a few things you can't pronounce, let alone understand. This does involve some reading to understand what certain ingredients are used for, but i've come to the conclusion that if something is made with a ton of chemicals I don't understand, then I have no business putting it in my body. On the other hand, if it grows in a garden, i'm gonna eat it.
I really enjoy knowing where my food has come from. I love knowing that i'm contributing to the local economy and that i'm eating something that was in the ground just a few miles away from me. It's far less likely to be processed, meaning it contains lots of lovely nutrients. Obviously when things are out of season this is different, alongside sometimes it's difficult to find time to shop in multiple places, but this is something i'm looking to do a lot more. It's also often much cheaper to shop locally than in the supermarket, meaning you can really load up on veggies without denting your bank account.
The freezer has to be one of the best inventions ever made. Seriously. It just saves me so much time and money! One of my favourite things to do when cooking is to double up on the ingredients, portion it out and stick it in the fridge or freezer for future meals. I love knowing I have another portion to look forward to for tomorrow's lunch if the meal was extra tasty and means that I am less likely to end up at the supermarket grabbing a pre-packed sandwich or pasta pot. It also means you can stock up on frozen vegetables when you can't get to the supermarket - most are picked and frozen within the first 24 hours so most of the nutrients are still there.
I think the greatest thing about processed food is that it's so convenient. It has a crazy-long shelf life, meaning it can just sit out waiting for you whenever you're hungry. So really, cooking things from scratch does feel like a bit of an effort at times. This is why I like to set aside a weekend afternoon (or weekday evening if i'm away or busy) to prep things for the week. Last weekend, for instance, I made a big batch of vegetable stock that I then split into freezer bags to keep for whenever i'm cooking, as well as a container of granola for the week ahead. I also made a tray of sweet potato brownies for whenever i'm feeling peckish. I actually did such a good job of prepping last weekend i'm set for the next few days! I find if I put something on Netflix in the background and just get on with it, you stop paying attention to how long it takes you and it's hugely satisfying to know you have lots of goodies to show for your hard work.
I think one of the biggest steps is accepting that the way you look at food is going to change. The foods that I used to comfort myself are now my worst enemy. It's also about accepting the fact that's it going to be a bit more of an effort to get to where you want to be. Re-educating yourself about food is scary, but it can also be really enjoyable. I've recently discovered medjool dates - which are absolutely beautiful. They look gross, but my god are they sweet. I'm now hoping they will curb my sugar cravings, but only time will tell. On the flipside, don't force yourself to like something just because it's good for you. I tried a dairy-free almond shake from Pret the other day which was supposed to be really amazing, but I hated it (Far too sharp and waaay too much banana!). Find what works for you. I'm not a massive fan of celery and tomatoes, so I just choose something else instead. But at least give it a try!
I still crave pizza massively, and to be honest, I can't promise i'll never have a Domino's again in my lifetime. When I see my friends and they want to go to a restaurant that isn't super-healthy, i'm not saying I won't go. But I think making even the smallest change is a massive leap in the right direction. You hear so many people say "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change" and they are totally right - a diet is inevitably temporary and this certainly is not.