It may be hard to believe this, but for years I lived off of frozen diet dinners, fat-free everything, disgusting loaves of 45 calorie bread, and I cringe at the thought of the calorie-free salad dressing I used to consume.
I wanted to deny reality and believe I could eat sweets and drink soda all of the time without a negative impact on my body, so I ate diet and sugar-free versions of these to turn what should be occasional treats into daily indulgences, thinking I could get away with it.
I could indeed lose weight when I combined these diet foods with exercise and practically starving myself by eating just 700 – 900 calories a day which I neurotically logged into a food diary app.
Sometimes I’d use Isagenix shakes or follow the LA Weightloss program I had tried as a teen.
But all this stuff just isn’t sustainable forever so the weight would come back on before I knew it and the cycle would start over. The memory of this makes me want to cry. (And back then I was definitely crying. Those foods made me anxious and depressed, I was sick all of the time, and always exhausted).
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No Body Is THAT Impressive
Our bodies are amazing. Mine has literally grown and birthed two children and they have thrived off the milk that I make. We can run, jump, swim, lift, and do a myriad of physical activities that can become impressive feats with enough endurance.
But somewhere in the diet food craze, I (along with countless others) expected too much of my amazing body.
I expected a body that I pumped full of chemicals and food-like products to run like a well-oiled machine.
I was unfairly giving my body bread products stripped of their nutritional value, butter substitutes full of rancid oils linked to inflammation and free radicals, dairy products skimmed of their ever-so-important fat, drinks full of sugar substitutes that are linked to all kinds of cancers, and branded diet “health” foods loaded with more chemicals and cheap ingredients than you can imagine, and THEN I blamed my body for not doing the great things I expected of it.
No one would buy an amazing sports car and get the cheapest, engine clogging oil for it. And I definitely can’t imagine any proud owner of a Porsche who would buy in to a gasoline alternative that promises the immediate payback of incredible mileage… at the expense of long-term damage to the engine or erratic performance from the prized car.
But I bought into the too-good-to-be-true lies of the diet food world for my precious body. And I never found lasting success because no body is amazing enough to successfully run itself off of what is, in the end…. junk.
Calories Ain’t Where It’s At
One day on Pinterest of all places I saw a little meme that got me thinking. It read, “Too many people are counting calories, and not counting chemicals.” A light bulb turned on.
It was also around this time I started to get to know one of my dearest friends, Sarah, better. She was a WEALTH of knowledge about everything it seemed, but especially food. She was so patient with me and all of my questions.
Sarah loaned me her copy of Nourishing Traditions, she taught me how to make fermented foods and why I should eat them, she fixed me delicious real food meals and treats when we got together, and she encouraged me to research and learn more about how food affects the body. I would pick up groceries for her when I drove to the Trader Joes a ways away from where we lived and would take notes on what she was feeding her family.
I took a leap of faith and started to spend a bit more money on my groceries to have higher quality foods and organic options when I could. When I turned products around I stopped caring about the calories and was instead reading ingredient labels. Soon I was eating my fill of tons of delicious, healthy foods without the chemicals. I focused on nutrition and not calories.
I had access to raw milk in Idaho (it’s perfectly legal there), and was enjoying my rich, raw whole milk daily. I swapped my diet soda for tons of water and kombucha or organic coffee on the side. I filled my plate with good quality protein, full fat dairy, deliciously cooked veggies topped with real butter, fresh fruit, and as for breads and pasta… They were made from 100% whole grains now, not stripped, enriched, bleached flours. I traded out my big bags of Splenda and sugar for raw honey, and real maple syrup.
I ate this food that tasted *way* better than the diet junk I used to binge on until I was full, and made sure to listen to my body as to when that was. I turned to prayer to fill the empty holes I previously tried to fill with food, knowing my contentment would be found in Christ, not Snickers bars and Diet Dr. Pepper.
With so much trepidation I trusted my body to know what to do with all of this real food. And it did. Combined with being active I saw forty pounds come off of me in a year.
It Is Sustainable
I have never gained weight eating this way EXCEPT for when I’ve allowed a bunch of refined sugar back in my diet, usually in the form of late night chocolate snacking.
After I had Philomena I adjusted to the ups and downs of motherhood by indulging in daily sugary treats, using chocolate to celebrate our successes and to soothe me in our difficulties… but by cutting the sugar out again and eating tons of good, nourishing food every day, I lost 35+ pounds in a few months. (The photo on the left was in February wearing an XL cardigan I couldn’t button, and the photo on the right was in August with a Medium that buttoned just fine.)
There just is no get-skinny-quick answer when it comes to food, in my opinion. My body just can’t run well until I fuel it well. And yes, this means living in the reality that I can’t have endless amounts of everything I want. Like treats… they need to be just that, something that we don’t have every day so it is special when we do. Trying to use scary chemicals to get around the reality that I can’t have endless sweets, soda, or snack foods is doing my body a disservice in both the short term and the long run.
When I eat well, I am satisfied by the amazing flavor of real-food meals. I use my favorite cookbooks to fix delicious treats sweetened with maple syrup or honey, and hearty dinners everyone in my house truly enjoys that don’t contain mystery ingredients we can’t pronounce. I have more energy. I can keep up with my kids.
I only get one body, and I am amazed at what it does when I nourish it well.