The Food We Eat

by | Mar 5, 2015 | Our Happiness Project | 1 comment

I don’t know about you, but I have spent years being stressed out about the food that I eat. Whether it was tracking calories and always feeling so hungry, or worrying about fitting into my wedding dress, or eating to make myself feel better, or eating because I didn’t care anymore – every time I ate, I felt stressed and guilty. I’d weigh myself constantly and be so disappointed in the number I saw, no matter how small it was. I’d restrict myself to 1200 calories for a few days before giving up and eating a big bag of candy. It took me years to admit that I have a horrible relationship with food and even longer to deal with the reasons why.

But something has clicked in the past few months and I want to share a couple lessons I’ve learnt over the last little while when it comes to food and more importantly, my relationship with it. I’m still learning to apply these lessons (which is a lot easier said than done!) and I fail constantly but at least I’m going in the right direction.

After I summarise the lessons I’ll go into a bit more about what we are actually eating and why.

chicken, beets, olives and salad

Lesson 1 – it’s not about numbers

I’m going to preface this by saying that when I use the term ‘fat’ it is only ever directed at myself. Which is the way I think everyone should use it. Just like every other aspect of someone else’s life, I’m not here to judge. I believe that everyone has their own point at which they feel ‘fat’ and who am I to say what that is. Secondly, feeling ‘fat’ has nothing to do with how much you weigh or how much you think you should weigh.

So rather than just saying I’m fat, what I was actually feeling was:

  • so bloated I felt I was going to explode
  • every time I ate my insides felt like they were twisting
  • hating waking up in the morning. And not just the normal level, like near tears at the thought of getting out of bed.
  • constantly lethargic
  • severe and frequent anxiety attacks
  • heartburn…oh the heartburn (Matt can relate to this one as he ended up on prescription medication for it)
  • thin, brittle nails
  • frayed, dry hair
  • low self-esteem

Just as using the term fat isn’t particularly helpful, there also isn’t much value in counting the number of calories you eat. It’s what makes up those calories that matters – 80 calories from an egg is FAR SUPERIOR than 80 calories from a granola bar.

coconut fish with salad and mango salsa

I never realised that food had a bigger impact then just the number on the scale. When I took the scale away and looked at all the other symptoms I was experiencing, suddenly the food I put in my mouth had more meaning. What we eat directly impacts how our body functions which seems so obvious but so few of us get it.

Are you depressed? Want clear skin? Do you have chronic pain or an injury that won’t heal? Are you stressed? Are you struggling to fall asleep at night and then struggling to wake up in the morning? Do you always run out of energy in the middle of the afternoon? Do you want to stop worrying about your weight?  Look at what you’re eating.

sweet potato chips with coconut chicken and broccoli

Lesson 2 – what am I worth?

Worth has been a big word for me this year as I realised, I didn’t have any for myself. If you don’t think you’re worth good things, you won’t do good things for yourself. I don’t know what started it, but realising my lack of self worth made me understand my bad relationship with food.

I eat crap because I feel crap, therefore I am crap. (umm, I don’t literally eat crap but well, it might as well be)

So, there needs to be a shift mentally if you want to eat healthy and it might take a while of treating your body right to get there.

steak, guacamole, sweet potato crisps

Lesson 3 – I’m an addict

I’ve always known that I am more susceptible to addiction due to a number of factors and family history. What I didn’t know is that you could be addicted to something other than drugs & alcohol that is arguably more deadly (as research is now finding) – Sugar. I won’t go too into this now because this post is already a novel but, eating sugar (of any type) lights up the exact same functions in your brain as cocaine. And I’m horribly addicted to the stuff. I always want more of it and very rarely go a day without it. It’s an uncontrollable complusion and there should really be a support group for people with sugar addiction.

sauteed veges with sausages and sauerkraut

What do we eat, and why?

I’m not sure how the topic of what food we put in our bodies got to be this super convoluted confusing thing that makes you want to throw your hands in the air in resignation. No longer! To use one of my favourite sayings:

Keep it simple, stupid!

Food should:

  • Promote a healthy psychological response.
  • Promote healthy hormones.
  • Support a healthy gut.
  • Support your immunity and minimize inflammation.
  • Taste delicious!

zoodles with chicken and bacon mushroom sauce

We eat meat & poultry, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from oils, nuts and seeds. Our food is simple, and delicious. And yes, we eat less healthy foods as well when we feel it’s worth it. But we started this year eating this way with no cheating for 30 days. Why? Well, each reason is unique to every person.

For myself and Matt, all those horrible symptoms I listed above? Gone. Plus 5kg and 15+ cms lost and the realisation that food is just food. Not a source of guilt or stress. And our energy levels were double what they used to be even when we thought we were eating “healthy” (you know, low carb, low fat, low calorie etc).

These results are not a one time thing either, this was my 3rd reset in the last 2 years and I have the same results each time. The only difference is that this time, there is a definite shift in our approach to making this a permanent, long term and sustainable way of eating. There’s no way you could go the rest of your life eating strictly this way with no slip ups but that’s where you learn what foods are worth going off plan for and which ones aren’t.

The self experimentation of re-introducing foods that you were cutting out also teaches you what ones have a significant negative impact (and also the ones that you can learn to go without). We thought we would never give up pasta, rice and bread but other than the occasional bit of bread at a restaurant, we never touch them and don’t really miss them at all.

Food We Eat #happinessproject

Resources

We learnt a lot of what we know now by reading It Starts With Food and following a programme called Whole30. It is the basis for the 30 day reset and unlike most programmes, it is completely free through their website. It is really important that you know that I picked that book apart trying to find fault with it (I’m really sceptical when it comes to food programmes) and I couldn’t. It just makes good sense. No gimmicks or products, just clean whole food. I would recommend reading the book before trying Whole30 though as for us it was understanding the reason behind cutting out or introducing certain foods that actually made us stick with it all when it gets tough (and it does get tough!).

They also have a great article on breaking up with your scale and 174,203 new ways to measure your health.

All the food in those photos above are Whole30 compliant – yes, even the creamy bacon mushroom sauce which uses homemade mayo as the base. So yummy!

No Excuses

“But it’s so expensive to eat healthy”

No, it’s not. I have documented proof that it isn’t thanks to our budget tracking. Yes, our grocery bill went up, but all other food costs went way, way down. No more expensive milky coffees, 3pm snacks, twice a week takeaways = our food costs going down a lot.

“My husband/boyfriend/partner wouldn’t like it”

1. Your husband/boyfriend/partner doesn’t like steak and chips? Really?
2. If you’re the main cook in your household, then you should be able to cook whatever you want without complaints!

I’m a notoriously fussy eater (I’m sure Matt could write a whole post about my food quirks) and only an average cook but even the most basic meal I make now tastes heaps better than anything I used to make with unpronounceable ingredients, grains, pastas, beans, etc.  And while I’m still learning how to defeat the sugar dragon (those candy cravings are hard to beat), I have no doubt that for us this is the way to do it.

Of all the changes we’ve made in the last couple of months, by far the biggest impact on our happiness has been from simply changing the food we eat.

Feel free to ask us any questions on it if you’re curious!

*****

This is the second post in our Happiness Project series where we evaluate the areas in our life that aren’t making us happy and talk about what we’re doing to change. Read the other posts in this series by following the links below:
Our Happiness Project (opens in a new tab)
Happiness Project: Exercise (opens in a new tab)

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