First off, let’s clear something up. In this article I am going to use the dreaded “D” word – diet – and often. Despite what has been drilled into our minds all these years, diet is NOT a bad word! Your ‘diet’ is the correct term for what you eat on a daily basis. As Wikipedia defines it, diet is “the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group”. Are you an organism? You betcha! Therefore, when I do use that evil D word, I do not mean it in the manner that you should be ON a diet, but rather what you consume IS your diet. Moving on…
Right now, it seems as if the country is on the brink of a big change as far as food is concerned. It’s coming, and I certainly hope sooner than later. We’re finally realizing the long term effects of mass produced foods like corn, grains, sugars, starches, etc. And it’s shocking. And scary. And completely unnecessary.
Spend a few minutes on almost any social media site (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) and you’ll see what I mean about an impending change. Blogs for healthy lifestyle options are popping up all over the place. Moms sharing recipes, fitness experts touting clean living – eating healthy is trending in a big way! Even the President and First Lady are working towards feeding our children good, clean foods.
Looking at the rise in cardiovascular disease, premature deaths, and most importantly, the occurrence of diseases like Type 2 diabetes in juveniles makes my heart ache. In my childhood I was slightly overweight, and it carried into my adult life (and grew worse), but it wasn’t anything like the stories you hear today. Children under 10 developing diseases usually found in the elderly – it’s absolutely insane!
Thankfully, I discovered clean eating some years ago, and for the most part it has changed my life completely. I’ve lost weight, gotten fit, feel happy, energetic yet relaxed, and you’ll very rarely find me having a ‘bad’ day. If you do, chances are I ate something not normally in my diet. Yes, it happens, no one is perfect, nor should you be! Robb Wolf, a champion of the paleo lifestyle, believes eating right 80% of the time will help your body handle the 20% when you do not. Personally, I prefer to keep my ratio of good to bad closer to 95/5. I love a good lemon drop on a warm afternoon with friends back home, or the best hot cocoa in the world when I’m in Vegas.
I hear you saying, ‘Hey! I thought this was an article about different diets’ – and you’re right, I’m getting to that point…
For me, I first stumbled onto a vegan diet, which I loved. Not being a big meat eater, and still worried about old habits of watching fat & calories, vegan was a logical decision. Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to be chronically anemic, and I mistakenly thought this may be the wrong choice (vegans actually get plenty of iron, more on that in a later post). I moved over to a paleo diet. Again, I felt wonderful, energetic, burned calories like crazy, yada, yada, yada. However, a strict paleo diet just isn’t the best fit – for me. Similar periods of sugar free and gluten free diets yielded pretty much the same results. Not hard to put it all together and find out what the culprit is (hint: sugar!!!).
On each diet, I had given up the following foods –
- Highly-processed foods (think lunch meat, canned and frozen meals, processed cheese)
- White foods (sugar, flour, pasta)
- Most forms of sugar, including artificial sweeteners
- Diet soda, fruit juices (except fresh)
Ironically, when you take a closer look at the different diets listed in the title of this article, they almost all encourage you to exclude those same items! This is what I’ve come to consider a ‘clean’ diet. Whole foods, fresh foods, beautiful flavors, colors and tastes. I cannot put a specific label on my diet other than clean.
I enjoy a nice steak or some seafood on rare occasion, but my tendencies are definitely more towards a vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/sugar-free diet, taking in healthy fats, lots of fruits and veggies, and staying away from toxic junk.
My exercise, which used to be forced, tiring and routine, is now much more that of a cross-fit or paleo lifestyle. It’s outdoors, it’s fun, it’s adventurous! One of my favorite aspects of the paleo lifestyle is that they encourage you to get out and play a little every day – which you’ll soon realize takes care of any exercise needs you have. Spend a few hours jumping waves, in a kayak, skiing, playing tag, hiking – most anything you can think of – and you’ll see what I mean. Hours can pass and you’ll never once consider it “exercise”, I promise!
My advice to anyone who is confused by all the labels, not sure what suits them best, but longing to change their lifestyle is simply to cut out two things first – grains and sugar. A lot of people before me have said this and I couldn’t agree more. Do that for 30 days and see how you feel. Then take a look at the foods that you love and develop your own diet from them. Just be mindful of things like additives, artificial ingredients, how and where it’s grown and treated – your body will tell you what fits best for you won’t be sorry.