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May 29, 2013

Eat Right To Feel Right

Over the course of my life, I have NOT been the example for others in terms of eating right.

As a kid, my parents were deathly afraid I'd turn out to be obese like people on my mother's side of the family so they completely over-managed food for me to the point that I always felt like I was "sneaking" food if I ate anything outside of the three meals provided by my parents. Growing up with many comments from my mother about how I was "pudgy" or "chunky" didn't help my self-image much. When I got old enough for sleepovers at friends' houses, I gorged myself on freely available soda pop, cookies and chips. Thankfully, I was a swimmer so I burned enough calories to stave off obesity while I was a kid. But the damage was done as far as my relationship with food and my self image. 

It has now been a lifelong battle of trying to see myself how I really look instead of always having the comments in the back of my head picking out the fact that my butt is too big, or my tummy rolls too plentiful, or my face is too fat.

Over the years, I have dieted, and exercised. I have faced my problems head-on and then run crying and screaming away from them at some point only to eat myself back into the out-of-shape overweight Michelle all over again. This will continue to be a lifelong struggle, I think. I am one of those people that really does need to make myself say at least one nice thing about myself in the morning so I can move past this self-loathing for good.

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April 28 of this year began something new for me. I began the process of detoxification, or "clean eating". I basically committed to a grain-free, dairy-free and legume-free, no-processed food way of eating. This meant no artificial sweeteners or sugar, no flour, no milk, no cheese, no ranch dressing on my salad, no peanut butter, no green beans, no greek yogurt, no bread, no tortillas. As a matter of fact, I was quite overwhelmed at the amount of "no's"!! But, I started with lean steak and salad and eggs as the main portion of what I ate, maybe a serving of citrus fruit during the day like grapefruit or an orange. Oh yeah...and no diet coke either.

I have a love-hate relationship with diet coke. I've known for a long time that it's not the best thing to drink, but I would get myself into a predicament where I needed the caffeine and aspartame to "get me going" in the morning so it had become a daily habit. Breaking this habit is something I've done a few different times. I even went 2 years without diet coke at one point. But I know that one fountain drink worth is all it takes for me to want to continue to drink it every single day. So, giving up diet coke for good is a huge sacrifice for me is what I'm saying.

I made it four full weeks completely grain-free, dairy-free and legume-free and without eating processed food. And I lived! And guess what else? I felt awesome!! The first four to five days were difficult, I won't lie. I was groggy, I was craving diet coke, I was craving a sandwich, I was craving stuff like macaroni and cheese from a box! Then, miraculously, it seemed...I felt awesome on day six. My brain still told my body that it wanted a diet coke, but I had the strength to tell myself, "NO." My eyes saw cookies in the pantry for the kids, but my mind was strong enough to say, "You don't want those cookies." Getting up in the morning is not as much of a chore and I no longer hit that lull around 2:00 p.m. telling me I need something to snack on to make it the rest of the day.

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Then I was washing my face the other night before bed and I realized that I can't remember the last time I had a pimple! Then I did remember, but it was more than 4 weeks ago and it was a doozy, too. But my skin is smooth and soft and clear. I don't have to wash my hair every day if I don't want to. I'm also less irritable and anxious -- I don't know if that might be the lack of gluten or not, but I know gluten is something many parents eliminate from diets of their children and see behavioral improvements.

The best part is I am able to run faster, I have taken my pace down from 11:15/mile to about 10:35/mile most days (depends on the hills and any soreness I have from crossfit). Tied for the best part is also that I am wearing smaller sizes of clothes, too.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I did have a margarita Saturday night and I ate some pizza at a work luncheon on Friday. I never noticed before how crappy pizza makes me feel. I paid for that bit of pizza I ate all evening. I remember before I went down this path of "clean eating" that I thought I couldn't do it. I thought it would be too hard -- especially with the kids and the fact that I probably couldn't get them on board with it (let's face it, processed foods are the lifesavers for moms and dads who work outside the home). Honestly, I would often speak in defeatist language like, "I just can't give up my diet coke." or...."I love pizza and bread, I just can't imagine life without eating some of that in my regular diet."

But then I realized that I wanted to be healthy more than I wanted to drink Diet Coke every day of the rest of my life. So, I psyched myself up, gave myself a nice pep talk and went whole hog on this plan. And, I'm not looking back -- ever.

Will I ever drink Diet Coke again? Time will tell. But even this week, I was at a deli grabbing lunch and purchased a drink fully intending to get tea, but old habits die hard and I started to put Diet Coke in my cup. Then I used the water spigot and rinsed it out and refilled with ice and grabbed the unsweetened tea.

Will I ever eat pizza again? Oh, sure, I imagine I will...but I remember how horrible I felt the other day recovering from that luncheon and I bet I'll think twice about it and see if there's an alternative available.

Cheese is something I will work back into my diet, but probably not heavily. Greek yogurt, too. But if any pimples show up afterwards, I may reconsider.

I wrote this mainly to remind myself of this process and how it felt. I plan to write a post on crossfit and exercise, too. But I think the biggest factor in weight loss and wellness is dietary, and I've noticed the biggest difference lately due to the things I am no longer eating. 

I know it's a hard thing to give up the things I have given up. And personally, I like tying that sacrifice to some other intention -- offering up my own discomfort for the spiritual help of someone else. I don't write this to say everyone should do it. I think different people have different goals in their lives about what they want to achieve. And people often have extenuating circumstances that might prevent them from moving on something like this (budgetary, small children in the home, etc).

I just want to get this out there though that I think there might be something to this non-processed, whole foods diet thing. I always thought it was a good idea. I was one of those people who would say, "In theory...sounds like a good thing..." followed by a BUT and that whole, "I would miss my diet coke too much" or something like that.

It's only been a little over 4 weeks, but if the way I feel continues to be this good, I can't imagine returning to my old ways.


  1. I hear you! I am trying to work on doing something similar for the month of June. Because I wasn't sure I could do it all at once, I made a lot of changes in May. This weekend, I was back in the Midwest and was not able to eat the same way. Sometimes because there weren't good choices, and many times because I chose to eat food full of processed flours and sugars, dairy, and all the rest.

    It was not fun. There is only one thing that I ate that may have been worth it. All the rest of it was NOT worth how crappy I felt afterwards. I was talking to some of my family about the changes I was working on making. My little brother said something about he wouldn't want to do that because he wanted to "enjoy" life. It's so much easier to enjoy when you're eating right and feeling great! Plus, I don't know about you, but the more clean eating I do, the other stuff starts to taste kind of horrible (not all of it, but a lot of it).

    Sorry about the blog post length comment, but just wanted to say that I agree completely. Way to go with your Crossfit workouts and improving your running times!

  2. I've been looking into this idea for awhile, but the one thing I can't wrap my head around is giving up peanuts and legumes. I love love love them. Seriously love them. (I'm weird, I know. I can imagine no grains or no sweets....but I can't give up lentils. I think it's my love of Indian dishes).

    Would you be able to do a blog post with recipes and/or more descriptions of what you DO eat? I don't eat a lot of meat right now, and I'm having a hard time envisioning what this looks like.


  3. Gosh, this is so cool.. and so inspiring! Please keep posting about your lifestyle changes. I would love to do the same thing, but seriously lack the will power right now. (But do enjoy reading about your journey.) Keep up the great work!

  4. Keep up the sacrifices. They are worth it! I fell off the bandwagon the other day & succommed to ice cream & boy did I pay for it. I felt HORRIBLE. Good Luck!!


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