Your fellow Happy, Casey, asked me this the other day…
“I was just wondering, how did you discover/develop the approach to eating/nutrition that you adopt (i.e do you have a preferred nutritionist whose advice you follow or from reading or just from eating and seeing what suits)? Do you follow a particular type of eating style/plan eg dairy and gluten free?”
Brilliant question Casey, but it has to come with a warning – I need a whole lot of space to answer this one. Enjoy!
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be in a family who valued the importance of food very highly. We had a home-cooked meal pretty much every night, rarely got takeaway, and made the pilgrimage to our favourite family restaurants on the weekends. Dad would spend hours in the kitchen preparing mouth-watering meals from scratch, ensuring the balance of paprika to cumin and coriander was perfect. Our diet was pretty loaded with refined carbs though – white rice, pasta, and lots and lots of meat. So while I was eating good, wholesome food, it was very different to the diet I eat now as an adult.
When I was 19 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. I was sent to an acupuncturist after my operation and she put me on a hard core diet of no sugar, preservatives, gluten, processed foods, and alcohol, and only small amounts of meat. It was a HUGE shock to the way I looked at food, and viewed health, and one I didn’t understand enough at the time to stick to for longer than about 3 months. It was incredibly hard to follow, plus, I had zero energy and lost so much weight mum was worried I’d blow away in the breeze.
Over the next 3 years, my Endometriosis continued to come back. I had 3 laparoscopies in as many years and starting to think there was a link between what I was putting in my mouth, and the recurrence of symptoms. I then had an allergy test that showed signed of an allergy to barley, which is, of course, full of gluten.
It wasn’t until a few years later, however, that I was ready to really look at food in a different light. I was in my mid-Twenties by now and ready to grow up. I’d tried everything to a strict gluten-free diet, to a low calorie diet, to low carb, just for fun, but started moving away from the idea of ridiculous diets, and eating for health. It’s not about weight for me now, it’s simply about being healthy.
So, after reading many interesting books on different eating approaches, and learning the majority of what I know from my husband (who has a profound knowledge in health and nutrition) we have slowly formed a way of eating that works for us. It’s great because with his knowledge, and my passion for food and cooking and quality ingredients, we’ve totally created our own little menu that we love.
Here are some of the broader principles we follow:
1. Never diet. It tricks your mind into thinking you’re missing out on things, rather than embracing all the delicious foods that are out there.
2. Don’t deprive yourself. We enjoy a couple of squares of dark choccie when we feel like it. Or have a pizza every now and again if we want to. The difference is that it’s a treat, and there’s never any guilt involved at all.
3. Keep your body alkaline. This is a post I’ve been wanting to do for ages as it’s such a big part of my life, but to touch on the subject now, keeping your body alkaline, rather than acidic can be very beneficial. Many of the foods we eat create an acidic state in our body. Common foods such as meat, dairy, alcohol, sauces, white breads and pastas all contribute to high levels of acidity, which in turn can lead to low energy levels, fatigue, infections, disease, anxiety, dry skin, ovarian cysts, muscle pains, weak hair, infertility and more.
When your body is alkaline, however, yeast, bacteria, fungus, and viruses that thrive in acid-based environments have nowhere to flourish, allowing your body to cleanse the blood, regenerate the cells, and essentially, reboot itself. Winner.
4. Eat food in its most natural state. The idea of science meddling with food just wigs me out so much, there aren’t meant to be tomatoes the size of my head, or chickens so fat they can’t walk – it’s just not right. So, eating food that is in its most natural state remains clean, tasty, and as it should be.
5. Turn off your cook top and shy away from your microwave. I’m not a hardcore raw foodist but I’d say 50-75% of my diet is raw depending on the week, how I’m feeling, and what we’re cooking. Our fridge is constantly jammed with fresh fruit and vegetables that we use in salads, one its own, in our muesli, on top of pasta (i.e. Fresh Rocket). There’s always an element of raw in every meal and it has made a massive difference to my energy levels, and how I feel in general.
6. Listen to your body. Your bodies are very smart, Happies. They tell you what they want, need, desire, crave…you just have to be smart enough to listen. After you have a meal, see how you feel, what your mood is, how your tummy feels, you energy levels etc and make notes. Once you know what works for you and what doesn’t, it all just becomes so easy. For instance, even though gluten isn’t ideal for my body, when I eat raw oats in the morning, I feel great. But if I was to have wheat with every meal, oh man, I’d be a lethargic mess. MODERATION is key.
7. Vary your food as much as possible. Alex and I calculated that we ate 13 different fruits and vegetables yesterday, 3 different types of grains, nuts and seeds, almond and coconut milk, and a little bit of dark chocolate to top if off. We ate 3 meals and one snack, but crammed each meal with so much tasty goodness that that was more than enough. We don’t eat much dairy, but get our calcium from other sources (bones of salmon, leafy greens etc) and I probably eat more now that I ever have, but the difference is that each meal is 1. Low in calories and 2. Super dense in nutrients.
8. Don’t be afraid of fats and oils. Hold onto your olive oils, Happies, because it’s not necessary to put them away. I love oils, especially cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil that is liberally drizzled over my salads. I also LOVE coconut oil, and adore Hemp Oil, but unfortunately hemp is illegal in Australia, which is absolutely ridiculous if you ask me. Anyway, my point is that raw, unprocessed oil is something you absolutely need in your diet, don’t be afraid of it. Cooking with lots of oil is a different story, but the raw stuff is a winner. As is avocado, nuts, and seeds.
My overall point here, I guess, is that finding the right diet for you isn’t all that hard. There are so many ways to embrace great food and by sticking to ingredients that are rich in nutrients, not packed with sugar, preservatives, or salt, and in their most natural state, you’re pretty much the whole way there.
Enjoy the journey, and let me know if you have any more questions.
I hope that answered yours Casey.