Happy New Year, Friends!
I feel like I’m jumping on the cliché “get healthy” New Year’s resolution bandwagon, and I’m totally okay with that! I’ve been a healthy eater for years, but 2017 was not my year. 2017 was a great year, but it was also a crazy year, and I let my finely-honed eating/cooking system slip. A big slip. We’re talking penguins on an iceberg level slipping.
It was the year of comfort, which meant the year of comfort foods, and seven pounds of weight gain came with it. The timing is mostly coincidence…because it was seeing side-profile pictures of myself in my New Year’s dress that made me realize just how noticeable those extra pounds were getting to be. Add to that just plain not feeling like my old healthy self, and I decided it’s time…beyond time…to get that part of my life back on track.
I was doing some nutrition research and looking for motivation to share with a friend who also has some health and fitness goals she’s working for, and I stumbled across an article with the top 40 eating plans for 2018. Tied with the DASH diet for the number one spot, was the Mediterranean diet. I read through it and realized that this is exactly how I’ve eaten for years (except for 2017…we’ll just call that the dark year).
Through lots of reading and researching and watching documentaries almost a decade ago when my grandma was first diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, I made big adjustments to my diet. I started with eliminating all things processed (processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meats, sausages, etc. are a group one carcinogen, meaning they have the highest likelihood to cause cancer).
I started adding as much organic as I could. Then I learned how really…not good…red meat and dairy are for our overall health (that’s right folks, the milk that’s been forced down our throats for generations contains casein, a dairy protein known to promote cancer cell growth, and is actually bad for your health overall). I love my cheese, so I still eat that in moderation, plus the very occasional dollop of sour cream or ice cream with my kids, but all other dairy is persona non grata.
Beef is a no-go. I’ll eat a steak about once a year, and I make beef roast for Christmas because my dad loves it. That’s it. And pork…it may be referred to as the “other white meat”, but genetically it is red meat as well, and red meat has a known link to cancer (go ahead and google red meat + cancer…you’ll learn quickly why when you’re diagnosed with colon or prostate cancer the first thing the doctor tells you is to stop eating red meat…if only they would tell you that before you end up with cancer…). I still eat pork sometimes, but keep it to a minimum. Because honestly…how do you live without bacon in your life entirely?! Moderation. Always moderation.
I learned all about cholesterol, and that all meat is high in LDL cholesterol, even poultry. BUT fish is also high in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which help block the absorption of LDL cholesterol in our blood, which helps cancel out the higher levels of LDL cholesterol that it also contains. I also still include poultry, mainly because my sons would pitch a fit if I never fed them anything but fish and beans! And since it is far lower in fat and a little lower in cholesterol than red meat, I feel somewhat okay with eating it a couple of times a week in small portions. Aside from that, bean-based dishes became a staple, and nuts and seeds my go-to snacks.
Then of course there’s the carb debate. Carbs are good…as long as they’re whole grain. And you have to actually read the labels to find out if they’re truly whole grain and make sure they haven’t been doused with sugar. White flour, white pasta, white rice, white bread…none of them have been in my house for years, with the exception of white flour for making cookies or cake…because wheat flour just doesn’t work for that! And those sweet treats are only for special occasions.
Lastly, fresh fruits and veggies. Every time one of the boys’ schools does a canned food drive, or the Boy Scouts leave a blue sack on my front door, I feel bad because I have next-to-nothing to give them. I keep canned beans on hand, and a couple of cans of tomatoes and the occasional can of “just in case” green beans or peas. But that’s it. I almost exclusively buy fresh veggies. I’ve been doing it for years and am so used to it by now that I have no qualms with extra prep time. It’s second nature by now, and plant based meals actually are so much quicker to cook than meat and processed foods. I do keep frozen vegetables on hand in case my fresh veggie supply runs low before grocery shopping time, but that’s about it.
So reading through the article about the Mediterranean diet, it’s basically everything I’ve been doing all this time:
”… emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. Top it off with a splash of red wine (if you want), remember to stay physically active and you’re set.”
Excuse me for a moment while I laugh at that “if you want” placed after the splash of red wine. Because we all know that isn’t even up for debate!
So after a year of eating too much Chinese takeout, pizza delivery, cutting back on beans and fish to keep from hearing the kids complain, and lots and lots of sweets…I’m getting reacquainted with my healthy ways. I started out January 1 by “detoxing.” I use this term loosely because I don’t like those fad detox diets or supplements. Our bodies naturally detoxify themselves 24/7…that’s what the liver, intestines and kidneys were designed for.
So my idea of detoxing was simply to stop putting crap in my body long enough for it to filter out all the crap I put in it the previous two weeks. So basically, no meat (only fish or beans), no added sugars (only fruit), no added oils, no alcohol (take heart, wine glasses, you will be used again), and no caffeine.
Okay, so let’s be real on that last one…I drink a pot, you read that right, a POT, of coffee every day. To suddenly drink none would have led to some serious withdrawal symptoms that I didn’t want to battle. So I cut it back to two cups the first three days, then one cup for the next two days. I experienced some brain fog, drowsiness and mild headaches, but by Friday the headache was gone and the drowsiness was minimal. I even did an Epsom salt bath Wednesday night and my sleeping improved greatly after that. I was falling asleep easily and sleeping until my alarm.
So today, I’m starting to slowly add some things back in. I went back to two cups of coffee (which is where I plan to stay) this morning. I put some olive oil on my salad. I’m making whole wheat spaghetti with turkey meatballs and organic marinara for dinner. By Monday, I should be back in full swing of that Mediterranean diet. And you know what? Just from the week of “detoxing”, I’m down 3.2 pounds!
Should you require proof that this diet is adequate (plenty of protein, iron, calcium, etc.)…I’ll be happy to share my health screen results from 2015 and 2016 (we didn’t have health screens at work in 2017) with anyone who asks! Hint – they’re perfect in every single category 😉