This post is about three weeks late, but it’s still relevant and it relates to some upcoming posts, so I didn’t want to let it waste away in my drafts folder.
My blog has become focused mostly on herbalism in recent months, because that is where my current passion lies, and I am immersed in the learning process. With my focus on herbalism, it’s easy to forget that it is only one part of an overall picture of health and wellness. Just like pharmaceutical medications, herbs can only do so much on their own. From a holistic perspective, multiple areas must be brought into balance so that we can live our best lives. These include sleep, exercise, stress management, healthy relationships, and today’s focus – diet.
Our diet is arguably the most influential factor in our health and quality of life. Research is consistent on this and personally, I’m finding it to be more true with each passing year. Any sort of unhealthy diet is reflected in my skin, my energy levels, my ability to focus and motivate, and the way I feel in general. I’m usually good at eating well…sometimes more so, sometimes less.
Recently, it’s definitely been less. Ordering pizza has been accompanied by “I really need to start eating better” for months…and now, warm weather is here and I can’t hide under five layers of clothing.
Crash dieting, or dieting for weight loss in general, is not something I’m willing to do anymore. I know I need to focus on eating well and make it a point to continue doing so, but I felt like I should do “something” to kick-start the process. If nothing else, to help maintain focus while establishing new routines.
So what to do? I like the idea of a spring detox, but our bodies handle detoxification rather efficiently so I don’t think a “cleanse” is appropriate. It makes sense to support the body in the detox process by avoiding “bad” foods and eating whole, nutritious foods. I made the decision to commit to this fully for ten days, no cheating, to jump start the transition into spring/summer.
I was working on a shopping list when, completely unexpectedly, my boyfriend, Rob, said that he would go along with my eating plan. He has been having two issues in particular, and I’ve been telling him for years that it’s probably the food he’s eating that’s causing chronic inflammation which then causing or exacerbating these problems. I’m not sure if he was really convinced, but I took his willingness as a positive.
The agreement? He would eat, drink, and do everything I told him to do for ten days.
The catch? I had to make everything we ate and drank for ten days.
So here is a general outline of our ten day spring “detox,” based on anti-inflammatory diet recommendations.
- Avoid refined or processed foods. Yep, this is pretty much everything most of us eat. Refined grains, meats, sugars, and fats. Things in packages with additives and preservatives.
- Avoid gluten. I was mostly grain-free for ten days, but he continued eating gluten-free grains.
- Limit dairy and high-fat meats. I have no issues with dairy, but he’s probably better off without it.
That’s pretty much it. Easy, right? No meal plan or calorie counting…pretty clear on what we shouldn’t eat, very little left to interpretation. It’s almost goof-proof until I realized our food options became severely limited, unless I was willing to put in some time and effort. To follow an anti-inflammatory (or any healthy) eating plan, you have to prepare most of your meals at home, with whole foods and healthy ingredients.
If you don’t like to shop, chop, or cook, it can be a major obstacle. In addition, I needed to make sure that my creations tasted good and actually filled us up. Rob loses weight very easily and can probably benefit from a few extra pounds, so it was a challenge for me to meet his caloric needs.
So how did we do? Overall, very well. Lots of fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, and quinoa. Luckily, we both love garlic, herbs, and spices so making things taste good is not difficult. Breakfast smoothies and green smoothies every day, making it a point to add in the good stuff, instead of just removing the bad stuff.
There were moments where I could tell Rob would rather crawl under a table then drink another green smoothie. There were times where he was hungry, and I could not figure out what to feed him because what he was really wanting was his usual junk, and I knew his mind had to be playing tricks on him. An example, on our third day – by evening, Rob was ravenous. He was literally walking around saying he was “starving” and needed “meat,” despite having already consumed more than twice his typical daily nutrient intake. (And, we were still eating lean cuts of meats and fish!). At that moment, he wasn’t interested in anything healthy, and we handled it by going for a walk.
If it sounds like I’m picking on him, I’m not. It is not easy to change your eating habits, no matter how much you know you should. He kept his word, and worked through those difficult moments better than I could have expected. Within days, we both noticed that we were waking up with more energy, no headaches, and experiencing fewer digestive issues. That was motivating enough for both of us to keep at it and the last few days were considerably easier.
Those last few days were also easier because our cravings for junk food had disappeared. We started looking forward to breakfast smoothies and vegetables!
In the end, we both noticed an overall improvement. I lost less than two pounds, but my stomach was almost completely flat (!) by the tenth day. My skin also cleared up, my eyes were brighter, and my dark circles diminished somewhat. Rob did not gain any weight, but he didn’t lose any either, and all digestive issues were gone by the tenth day. We both noticed more consistent energy levels throughout the day.
The other issue he was having likely requires a longer time commitment to see any real benefits, but seeds have been sown, and I know that we can work on this without him giving up steak and pizza forever.
We’re still eating better, but noticing how easy it is to slip back to the dark, convenient side. You have to be mindful of what you eat, and you have to plan your meals.
It’s almost unnerving to realize that for most of us, a whole foods diet can be very difficult to maintain. People often think that for someone like me, who knows what and how to eat, it’s easy. It’s not…clearly lol. Knowledge is only part of the equation…doing, consistently, is the much larger part.
This ten day challenge sparked two ideas that I’d like to explore further. The first is, if ten days on an “anti-inflammatory” diet made me feel so amazing, what would the effects be like after a month, or six-months? I’d like to know, so I’m going to recommit for another thirty days.
The second idea is one I will explore during my challenge – how to make this a viable way of eating for normal, busy people. The research on diet and chronic inflammation is pretty persuasive, yet we’re still eating all of the bad stuff and not nearly enough of the good stuff.
Why? What is so hard about eating real food? I have a dozen reasons, and there are probably a dozen more I haven’t thought of…
What are your thoughts? What might help, or has helped you, make healthy eating easier? What are the major obstacles between you and your goals?
I would love for this post to be the last one where I declare my intention to “start eating better…”
I’ll keep you posted, thanks for reading!