“You cannot cheat with food. You eat food.” —Robb Wolf
When I read those words, I had one of those aha! moments because for as long as I have been talking to people about food and what they should and should not eat, it drives me crazy every time I hear someone say, “I cheated” or “you’re cheating.” It’s food. You can’t “cheat” on food.
Ten years ago, I woke up one morning and came to the realization that I was so tired I was actually too tired to be tired. It wasn’t because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before. So why was I, a 40-year-old, relatively active woman, dragging my butt around day after day, feeling more like someone at least twice my age? Granted, I had some minor health issues through the years but nothing chronic or debilitating.
I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this. I told a doctor how I was feeling: lethargic, trouble concentrating for any length of time, always feeling bloated no matter what I ate. I also told him that based on my scientific research (Google) I was certain that I had celiac. Or maybe Crohn’s. Obviously, I had some sort of condition that required some serious medical intervention. The doctor listened intently and made notes.
When I was finished with my diagnosis, he showed me what he wrote down: Food. Huh? I was pretty sure I had this eating thing down to an art: ate all the major food groups every day, ate three meals a day and sometimes snacks between. By the end of our conversation we decided that he wasn’t the best person to help, but he pointed me in the right direction and left me with one thought: “Always start with food.”
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
He suggested I keep a food journal for a few weeks and then stop eating certain foods for a period of time to determine what was causing my problems. So a few years later (have I mentioned I’m a late adopter?) I did what he recommended. I also did a little research on food and how, from a scientific point of view, it affects our health and ultimately our well-being. And down the rabbit hole I went.
Over the past seven years of studying diet and nutrition, I found it always comes back to food. Take all the vitamins and supplements you want, work out three hours a day, get vitamin cocktail injections, drink all the protein powder you can stomach. But if you don’t figure out what foods you need to eat to give you the best nutritional support, nothing will really change.
Now, before you jump in both feet first (which is a great attitude that will go a long way when it comes to making a change, so keep it in your back pocket) here are a few things to consider:
• We are all unique individuals, especially when it comes to diet and nutrition. What works for me might not be exactly what will work for you. Don’t go into this with a one-size-fits-all attitude. For instance, I can’t eat grains. I know this for a fact. I’ve even gone so far as to do a seven-day carb test to prove it to myself (even though looking like I’m eight months pregnant after eating a slice of bread, some rice, or beans should be proof enough).
• This is going to take some mental toughness, but I’m certain you’ve got it in you. We all do. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of that.
• Your family and friends may rail against you when they find out what you are up to. Remember, change is scary, especially when it goes against what they/you have been told for years.
• Diet (food) does not equal dogma. Don’t get all fanatical about what you eat. But at the same time be responsible for your choices. Don’t feel guilty if you eat something you “shouldn’t.” Be accountable.
• The USDA “My Plate” food guide guideline still needs some fine tuning; use it sparingly.
• Stop counting calories. If you focus on getting your calories from nutrient-dense food you won’t need to.
• Refined carbs, oils, and sugars are probably causing you a lot of problems so not eating foods that contain any of those is a good place to start.
One last thing: no matter what you read or what anyone tells you, sugar is not a food group and should be eliminated from your diet completely. I’m talking white refined sugar, brown sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. Just say no to sugar.
So, if you have some extra weight that you are tired of carrying around or you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, or you just know deep down in your gut that you can feel so much better than you do, here’s what I suggest you do: change your food.
Recipe: Chicken Fajita Salad
There is something to be said for the simplicity of a salad. There’s a lot more to be said for salad’s sheer versatility. You can put this together in a matter of 30 minutes. So let out your inner chef du cuisine (French for “boss of the kitchen”). Andale!
Serves: 4 | Prep: 10 minutes | Cooking: 30 minutes Assembly: 5 minutes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper
1 medium white or yellow onion
8 cherry tomatoes
8 leafs green lettuce
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (homemade or store-bought. Just make sure it’s only spices; no nasty chemicals)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1–2 teaspoon chili powder
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 large or 3 medium-size avocados
1 small shallot
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt to taste
• Place chicken breasts in a baking pan. Coat evenly with olive oil and taco seasoning. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 25–30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180. When ready, remove chicken from oven, set on plate and let rest.
• Finely chop shallot. Place in bowl, cover with juice of 1 lime. Let stand for 10 minutes to “cook” the shallots while you chop and sauté your vegetables.
• Cut peppers and onion into thin strips. Heat avocado oil in skillet. Add vegetables. Season with chili powder and juice from 1/2 a lime. Add salt to taste (a couple of pinches). Sauté until soft to the bite (don’t overcook). Remove from heat and set aside.
• Cut open both avocados and scoop flesh from skin. Place in bowl, mash until smooth. Add shallot and lime mixture, chili powder, garlic powder and salt and stir.
• Slice chicken into strips.
• Wash lettuce. Place 4 leaves on each plate. Slice chicken and add to salad. Add sautéed vegetables, sliced tomatoes, and a large dollop of guacamole. Serve. Enjoy!
Check out PaleoPerspective.com for more nutritious recipes.