My Big Lessons in Healthy Eating

30 Sep

It’s a quiet evening in my small on-campus abode. We are just days away from the end of the first semester and subsequent break. You can feel the winding down and impending relief from some time off or time away.   In earnest, I am relieved to have some down time to simply “be at home.”  In these past nearly 5 years of international exploration, I haven’t lost my appetite or need to cultivate time and space to be at home.

Some of my most important lessons from these recent traveling years have revolved around “home life” — working and cleaning rooms at the Seminar Haus in Germany and Les Battees in France, assisting with preparing and serving food for guests, and of course who could forget cleaning up the kitchen after Seminar Haus meals extraordinaire… an experience I will never forget.

I am grateful for all of it. Despite my recent nomadic tendencies, these experiences have helped me come home to me – learning to cultivate, care for and nurture myself in the many small and needed ways that foster feeling “at home.” I am most appreciative that these lessons took place in the context of the pristine French countryside and amongst the windmill sprinkled potato fields of Germany.


Healthy Eating Habits Have Changed My Life!

The biggest lesson I have learned and continue to learn is the importance of healthy eating habits for my health and well-being. It’s just undeniable. What I eat makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. And I am so grateful to have this lesson and experience.

I would like to share the healthy eating habits that make the biggest difference for me. These are things I learned from personal experience, my own reading and investigation, as well as guidance and information from a trusted mentor. Changing my diet literally changed my life and it’s information I want to pass on.

Of course I am not a doctor, so this is not professional advice, but honest to goodness experience from the front lines of my journey to wellness.

If you’re struggling with health, mood or anxiety issues or maybe you just want to feel better, I urge you to read below and consider for yourself how diet changes might change your life for the better.

  1. I feel my best when I eat some protein, healthy carbs and healthy fat at every meal, three meals a day. For me often this means a little meat, perhaps some organic brown rice, some fresh veggies cooked in organic coconut oil. Recently I am exploring non-grain carbohydrates including root veggies as a part of my diet. I look for whole healthy fats including (when available) organic butter and ghee, olive oil, nuts. I try to eat about 20 grams of protein per meal as recommended by one of my favorite resources, Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons.
  1. Hydrate.  This one is so powerful. So many days have been turned around for me simply because I stopped and took some time to drink water. Drinking water is my super-power and one of the first places I turn when I feel off. When I feel bad, even if I “think” I already drank enough water… I drink some more.
  1. Sugar is not an option. If you read my blog you know that sugar just doesn’t work for me. But the truth is, I didn’t know this until I cut sugar out of my diet. Once my system was clean and sugar free I got clear just how severely sugar was affecting my body, mind and mood. Thank God I understand that now! It is a challenge to stay sugar free while traveling, but for me it’s just non-negotiable. Life with sugar doesn’t work for me and I am not willing to “do that to myself”. I have been sugar free for over ten years now. Over the years I have experimented with natural sweet options like honey and agave nectar. I have come to understand that even those natural sweets tilt my mind, body and mood in a negative direction and I am better without them. That goes for dried fruits as well as some super-sweet fruits. I eat fruits in moderation and pay attention to what’s working for my body. I also stay away from foods that turn into sugar as I have learned these make me feel awful as well. This includes potatoes and white rice. Sweet potatoes aren’t great for me either. No alcohol as well.
  1. Absolutely no processed foods or artificial ingredients. Really. I mean it. I have learned this the hard way, trying foods that have just a little bit of this or a little bit of that and then feeling awful. If it isn’t natural or I don’t recognize it, I don’t buy or consume it. If it’s not natural it just doesn’t work for me. Incidentally, this includes citric acid. Despite its friendly “natural sounding” name, most citric acid is not sourced from citrus and is sketchy at best.
  1. Quality matters. Wow, I have learned this lesson big time here in Chiang Mai. Living in Thailand and other places internationally, there is often not access to the same quality organic products we know and love in the States. To save a little money and also sheer lack of access, I have purchased food items here that are typically not a problem for me only to end up feeling terrible afterwards. Items like almond butter, peanut butter, black beans, nuts, oils, spices.  While the ingredient list looks innocent enough there is one big difference…quality. If it’s not high quality, I just don’t feel well. After this experience I am more committed than ever to eating organic EVERYTHING because… it matters. Eating organic has nothing at all to do with being trendy, extravagant or picky and has everything to do with not putting genetically altered, poisoned or low quality foods in your body. Bottom line.
  1. Listen to your body. I have received a lot of great information from my mentor, books and blogs that have served as a great starting point for food health. Information is the beginning. But from there I have had to learn to pay attention to my body. Hmmm… I feel weird, what did I eat? I feel a little off today, what might make me feel better or balanced? Listening to my body is the refinement of my roadmap to health.
  1. Are you “Hangry?” I love this word. Do you know what I’m talking about?   Those times when you get irrationally angry but really you just need a little food in your body? This is the lesson I learned most clearly on the road. If I don’t eat quality food regularly, say every 5 hours or so, my blood sugar drops and I get ANGRY. I have also learned that really… it’s not my fault, it’s a physiological reaction and I just need to get some protein in my body. This was a challenge for me when I was in France as we wouldn’t eat dinner until later. My body and mood would fling off the charts and I am thinking “what is WRONG with me!” With the wise advice from my mentor, I tried simply getting a little protein a few hours before dinner. This dramatically helped me to more happily make it until meal-time. A spoonful of almond butter, a handful of almonds, pre-made mini-quiches… just a little simple hit of protein makes a big difference.
  1. I eat meat. I tried eating vegetarian for a few years and still remember the day that came to and end. I was in the kitchen of the Seminar Haus in Germany, apparently with my cheeks sunken in looking a little gaunt, and my host there (a vegetarian by the way) said “I think you need to eat some meat.” I did and… I felt a lot better. While I don’t knock vegetarian diet and lifestyle, my body feels so much better when I have meat in my diet. I have since learned from a vegan friend of a high quality B vitamin recommended for folks not eating meat… and perhaps that would make a difference for me. But for now, for my health, I am sticking with meat in my diet.
  1. Protein rich veggies. That doesn’t mean I want to eat meat all the time. But I still need to get my 20 grams of protein at mealtime, not an easy feat without meat. As lately I have been reacting to legumes I buy here in Chiang Mai, I am looking into protein rich veggies. The tops I have found so far include peas, mushrooms, leafy greens, and broccoli.
  1. No Caffeine. I kicked the caffeine habit over ten years ago. I was a coffee-a-day girl and a regular at the local coffee house. I was at the beginning of my health metamorphosis and tried cutting out caffeine. While I felt a little crazy at first, after I got past the “withdrawal” phase I learned that… caffeine makes me crazy! Really, I feel just awful when I get even a little caffeine. So we are happily and likely eternally parted.
  1. Gluten Free. I feel better when I don’t eat wheat. It makes sense when you read that wheat today is very different from its original genetic make-up. For the most part, I eat organic brown rice products (rice and pasta), quinoa and millet. Watch out for “Gluten Free” products as most of them are filled with nasty cheap products that won’t do your body any good. Read the labels! I don’t eat bread. And lately I am exploring cutting out or reducing my grain intake by replacing it with veggies high in carbohydrates. All of these choices are because I feel better when I don’t eat these things. How about you?

Whew! Thanks for sticking with me on this long but important feast of healthy eating habits. I share this so thoroughly because for me… it all really matters. If you are struggling with health issues in any way… whether emotional, physical or both… take a look at your diet. Over the years I am AMAZED at the impact the wrong food can have on my body and mood and I am so grateful for what I have learned along the way. And the journey continues!

While earnestly this way of eating can be a challenge when eating out and living abroad, it is 100% worth it to me. Caring for myself with quality food and sometimes simply finding the food…has become part of the adventure and the journey.

If this is new to you, such diet adjustments may seem limiting or daunting. But the truth is, so much of the food in our supermarkets and restaurants are filled with non-food things. In many ways I am grateful to my body because it’s given me a road map back to simple, clean healthy eating. And enjoyment wise – nothing beats lovely, well prepared, organic whole foods.

Well, night-time is approaching Chiang Mai. I am listening to the regularly scheduled evening howl of the free-roaming dogs found throughout Thailand. Every night about this time they unite in packs in a somewhat impressive howling chorus.

Good night from the land of Chiang Mai where I continue my journey of health, happiness and being at home.

How about you, how are you nurturing your health, well-being and “being at homeness” lately? Any stories or words of wisdom to share? Would love to hear from you!

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