You are what you eat. It's as simple as that. This isn't preaching. It isn't propaganda. Heck, it's exactly what your Grandparents told you all those years ago. You are what you eat.
Let me take you back in time via my 'Way Back' machine (also known as personal history) to 1968. My Mom was morbidly obese. She was only 5' 2" tall and weighed nearly three hundred pounds. She was well on her way to an early death. She was also a brilliant, successful person. She'd been an Analytical Chemist for Midwest Research, wrote post Doc text books in advanced mathematical theory, and taught. She was such a good teacher that, when she died, the church was full out on to the sidewalk. I stood in the receiving line for hours listening to former students tell me about how she had inspired them, given them new directions in their lives.
And she was desperately unhappy in her marriage. Her belief system did not allow her to leave so she ate, trying to fill a hollow place with food. When her doctor told her she was hurting herself, she made a decision to change. There was a fairly new system available for dieters called WEIGHT WATCHERS. It had started five years before, in 1963. It was based on the simple phrase, " You are what you eat. "
Here's a simple "Can You..." challenge. Go trolling on the internet and find images from the nineteenth century. Very few fat people out there, right? We'll come back to that.
Mom chose Weight Watchers as her system to begin her change. She knew it wasn't going to be an easy journey. Loosing weight is more than a physical process. It's an emotional roller coaster ride too. You're changing habits that have brought you a kind of comfort, like drugs. It's a place you've gone to because at least the cake tasted good even if you did have two pieces to many. You could count on that momentary pleasure of one more bite. She needed a group to help her through her life style change, a circle of new friends who were taking steps to change themselves inside and out.
I loved my Mom. No one else in the family was interested in what she was trying to accomplish so I decided to walk by her side and do what she was doing. I didn't need to. I was a dancer, weighed about 105 lbs soaking wet, but I also ate junk food. It was a quick fix of energy but did nothing to add to the stamina I needed to be a dancer. It was an easy choice for me.
I'm not going to wax poetic about Weight Watchers as opposed to any other system of weight loss. That isn't what this post is about. I am not a certified nutritionist, doctor or PHD. But you don't need to have credentials to learn how to care for your body. It's a lifestyle choice that anyone can do if you put your mind to it. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
I am 65. My skin is wrinkling. I take extra biotin to keep my hair from thinning. But I still fit in to the same jeans I wore when I was 40. More of that comes from the way I eat than any specific exercise program. It's a life style choice.
And my habits started when I supported my Mom by eating the way she was being encouraged to eat through her weight loss program. It involved measuring with scales and tools, an easy choice for a Chemist and Mathematician. But, again, that isn't what I'm promoting. What I am talking about is making lifestyle choices. And I'm going to break the rules of good writing by making the same statement over and over again. IT'S A LIFESTYLE CHOICE.
I'm a huge fan of TED TALKS. Expect to see more of them on this subject, posted here by me. I'll do the search. All you have to do is take the time it takes to watch them, maybe take some notes and figure out what you want to do.
When my Mom stuck to her guns, walked her walk, she lost ninety pounds in one year. By the second year she was down to a very healthy size 10 (in American sizes) and 135 lbs. She looked like she had lost years as well as weight. She even started riding a bicycle with me! My Mom, the sedentary scientist, would get on her three speed bike and ride over to meet me so we could ride bikes or go for long walks together. She even started to dance with me! I will always treasure those wonderful, silly days when she taught me how to Boogie Woogie and I taught her how to slide and glide. IT WAS A LIFE STYLE CHANGE.
Her metamorphosis started with a different approach to eating. I am still using some of her methods. Since I've been doing this for, gulp, almost fifty years it's a habit for me now. And, surprisingly, it's one I am still laughed at and teased for. In fact there are more people who are aghast at how I eat now than there were fifty years ago. The big food industries, fast food culture, farm industries, and so on and so on and scooby dooby do on have had their way in the media for a very long time. And, like the cancer they are on the earth, they have metastasized and grown in to other countries now.
So, where do you start if you want to make your own changes? With one step at a time. When you have a diet heavy in sugar, processed flour, packaged food and fast food, you are an addict. It's as simple as that. YOU ARE ADDICTED. So, like any addiction, you need to find an effective way to withdraw for the long haul.
There is the full cold turkey method. Cut that drug off and deal with everything all at once. In my opinion I'm not sure that will work with poor eating habits. It's so easy to give in to that late night " Gimme, gimme! Got to have ice cream now!" feeling. (Don't get me wrong here. I eat ice cream. I just don't eat it late at night or when a craving hits. Ice cream is a treat. It tastes that much better because it's rare for me to indulge.) Once you gobble you end up feeling like a failure and then you do the, " F@(k it! I'm going to eat it anyway. SO THERE!" thing. You're way back behind square one then and it's that much harder to keep taking those baby steps forward.
For most of you learning how to eat real food is going to be outside your comfort zone. Take it in wee tiny steps instead of blowing through those thresholds. Be as kind to yourself as you might be with your horse (if you're a horseman) or your dog or child. Teach yourself with one step at a time, one level at a time. It's a fascinating subject that branches out in to gardening, organic living (or as close as you can get to it in a world floating in chemicals), rediscovering new energy levels, and even recovery from serious medical conditions. When your gut is happy inside, your body along with your emotional state and athleticism follows suit.
So, first steps. Ready? If you want to grab this post and save it, write notes, whatever you want. I am paying it forward here to honor my Mom and all of the other people I love. I'm going to SUGGEST slow and easy first steps. They're kind of cathartic too. Every time you make it through one more event you are going to feel like Rocky Balboa at the top of those steps. You'll want to dance where everyone can see you!
1. First week. Go through your kitchen, all of the cabinets, refrigerator, the basement where you store extras, and THROW AWAY ALL OF THE SODA POP. I want you to pitch it, ALL OF IT INCLUDING THE DIET CRAP. Get rid of every, single sugary drink, including those icky juice packs. Put it in trash bags and boxes and GET RID OF IT!
You are going to find this hard to do. That junk costs money! Don't give it to anyone. Encouraging them to drink what you are giving up? Really? You don't want to do that. It's bad for them too.
Side effects: You are going to crave the stuff, might even get headaches. All of it is loaded with high levels of sugar and caffeine, additives and preservatives. And all of that stuff hits every pleasure button there is in your brain. (Now you know why I'm suggesting doing this one step at a time.)
2. Second week. STOP BUYING SODA POP AND SUGARY COFFEE DRINKS at the drive through places. Yeah. I know what's happening. You threw the stuff out and then said, " But she didn't say I couldn't buy it a MacD's or the Quick Trip. " Believe me, I know the mind of an addict. Easy to become our own 'attorney' and start making excuses because it wasn't written down.
DON'T BUY IT at any quick stop place, movie house, restaurant, friend's house, or machine in the hallway across from your office.
Here's a nice alternative (you were waiting for this, right?) Mix sparkling, filtered, mineral water with a teaspoon or two of lemon or lime juice (the real deal. Buy some lemons or limes and squeeze them yourself. Going through the actual physical process helps to keep you moving when the cravings hit.) and add another teaspoon or two of raw, unfiltered, organic honey. Blend it in a blender or stir, stir, stir. I'm a fan of the stir it yourself part. If I have to work for it I think twice before I fix it. You can also do it in one of those martini shakers, make believe you're in a James Bond movie. "Shaken, not stirred. " , said in your best James Bond voice. Better yet, imagine Sean Connery fixing it for you. Oh yeah. Fun!
Another nice alternative : take out your favorite coffee mug and fill it 1/4 full of filtered water, 1/4 full of TAZO CHAI, the organic kind, and 1/2 full with soy milk. I like the vanilla flavored. Complements the spices in the chai. Heat it up in a pot (don't boil it. Just heat it.), pour it back in to your mug and enjoy. Very rich and satisfying. Gives you a tiny pick me up too.
3. Week three. WHEW! This is hard work, isn't it? But you've made it this far. And if you've slipped a little, don't beat yourself up. Just keep trying. Ditching your processed sugar addiction is no easy task.
Here's a pretty picture of Willow to help you through. Ready for the next part? OK.
GO THROUGH YOUR PANTRY, KITCHEN CABINETS, BASEMENT AND GARAGE AND... GULP! ... THROW OUT ALL OF THE SUGAR. Get rid of it, even the little bit hiding in the sugar bowl. Put it in a heavy duty trash bag and set it out on the curb on the day the trash collectors come. It's OK to cry while you do this. Sugar is so much fun! THROW IT ALL OUT ANYWAY. Later, when you've made your full transition, you can buy a 5 lb bag at Christmas and make cookies to give away. But for now, THROW ALL OF THE SUGAR AWAY.
You're breaking a habit here, an addiction. If it isn't in your home environment it's going to be harder to get to when the cravings hit. If you can't do without something sweet, you probably still have cookies and candy in your stash. We still haven't reached that step. But try as hard as you can not to eat them.
4. Week 4. NOW IS WHEN YOU THROW OUT ALL OF THE COOKIES AND CANDY. I mean it. Again this isn't going to be easy. They've been your secret stash while you end the soda pop and throw out the sugar. Processed sugar is your enemy. It's insidious because it's so easy, so tasty, so innocent looking in all of it's forms. But NOW IS THE TIME TO THROW ALL COOKIES AND CANDY, including the fat free crap and diet, no sugar crap. NO SUGAR AND NO FAKE SUGAR.
5. Week 5. Stop and catch your breath here for a moment. You are making huge strides here disguised as tiny baby steps. Reward yourself for every try. You can do this and you can keep trying even if you're back sliding. BREATH. You're doing fine.
Now, another hard part to do but so necessary. This week is a two step week. You're strong enough now to do this. Ready? 1. NO MORE COOKIES OR CANDY OR SWEET CELEBRATORY GUNK left out at the office, none! You are going to find ways to politely decline. Sing Happy Birthday but NO CANDY OR COOKIES, BROWNIES OR CAKE. Go through the drawers you have a stash in and empty them. Throw them out. If one of your co workers wants to embarrass themselves by digging it out of the trash, no worries. Let them. And let be. And NO STOPPING AT FAST FOOD PLACES, RESTAURANTS, COFFEE SHOPS OR CANDY MACHINES anymore. This is a big/small step. Dividend? You're saving a significant amount of money at this point by not buying this stuff. And no fair buying rich, gooey, over sugared coffee drinks either.
Sugar is going to try to creep back in to your life. It's insidious, sneaky, loves the game. You decide to win. Play it back. Start reading the labels and stop buying sugar or fake sugar stuff.
Alternative? Buy an apple, organic of course, or an orange and slice them up in to tiny slivers. Make the presentation pretty on the plate. Savor the flavors and textures, colors and smell. Fruit is going to start looking pretty doggone good to you at this point! Bananas are particularly satisfying. BUY ORGANIC. You're also in the process of letting go of all GMO, processed and packaged foods.
Here's a pretty picture of Apache. Imagine laying down in a clean, sweet smelling stall with my Big Kahuna and relaxing. You're doing fine. Keep going. each step is taking you to a new life style. Ready for the second step this week?
Step 2. (This one's gonna hurt. Prepare yourself.) Take out your heavy duty trash bag and go through your entire kitchen, pantry, basement stash, garage goodies and THROW AWAY EVERYTHING YOU HAVE IN A PACKAGE THAT HAS SUGAR IN IT. This is going to take some time because it involves reading labels. But learning how to be informed about your food choices is a good habit to form, so count this as part of your learning curve. Again, do this on trash collection day. THROW IT ALL AWAY!
You're going to be breathing hard, cussing, maybe even panicking. But it's time, so DO IT! I know. You're thinking about how expensive this stuff is. Why do you think the food corporations have been flooding the media with clever advertising? They've been making a poop load of money off of you. Well, end that too. THROW THE STUFF OUT.
At this point your kitchen is beginning to look empty and you're probably beginning to panic. What in the world are you going to eat now? YIKES!
Week 6. STOP THE PRESSES! Do you know what you've just done? You have just eliminated processed sugar and sugar substitutes from your diet. THAT IS HUGE! You've done it. CONGRATULATIONS! If you are a follower of Parelli I would be rewarding you your Level One Red String. It's a biggie people. HUGE! And it's the foundation of everything you do after this point. And you've done it in a fairly short time too.
Notice I haven't suggested that you weigh yourself. But my guess is that you've probably begun to loose weight too. One more big advantage : Your teeth are going to love you! Cavities will be fewer, your gums healthier. But that's another post.
So, now we begin to learn how to shop. You are going to have so much fun doing this! Things to do in the grocery store : 1. Spend extra time in the fresh produce section. I prefer you shop organically but you have to start somewhere so just stop and look at the produce, at the colors, shapes and textures. Pretty isn't it? Good fruit will smell sweet to you now. Go ahead and buy some. Start with the things you recognize and each week try something you haven't bought before, like a grapefruit or watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, black berries, cherries. Take baby steps. Don't break the bank. Just try a few things you know and one that you don't. Ever eaten a fresh apricot? How about a fresh peach? Pear? You are in for such a treat!
1A. And vegetables. Buy fresh vegetables. Buy some of the things you know like lettuce and tomatoes, but also try just one you haven't. Buy a small cabbage and some carrots, grate them up and make a cole slaw. Or stir fry the cabbage and carrots together, put a wee bit of real butter or olive oil on them along with pink sea salt and pepper. Just cook them until they're still a bit crunchy. Add some onion if you want to. Num, num, num! So simple, filling and such an easy way to eat three vegetables at once!
One week try some fresh green beans, the next some fresh asparagus. The secret to eating fresh produce is keeping it simple and combining colors and textures. Buy a red pepper to add to the greens.
I'll get to recipes in the next post. The focus here is learning how to buy more fresh food. An alternative? Buy frozen organic fruits and vegetables. You can add them to soups, salads, bean dishes, pasta. I've been doing this a long time now and have fifty years of boo boo's to pass up and success to pass on.
YOU ARE AWESOME! See yourself at the head of the parade people. You're leading yourselves in to a new life style and all you did was start with eliminating processed sugar and sugar substitutes! WOOHOO!
I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the way things go!
PS. Remember when I said we would "come back to that", about the challenge to find fat people in the nineteenth century? No fast food joints and sugar was expensive. Most people grew their own food and ate what was available. Only the very wealthy were fat. Everyone else worked too hard and ate only vegetables and fruit they grew or traded for, whole grains they grew or traded for and meat they hunted or traded or grew and processed themselves. End of story on that one.