Listening to Your Body

Have you ever gotten sick or had a headache or some other malady and had no idea why it was happening?  I know it’s happened to me many times in my life, but I’ve recently begun to work on paying better attention to cause and effect with respect to my health.  I think this is a very worthwhile endeavor because our bodies, when they get sick, are really telling us a lot.  They are saying, “Hey, I don’t like this thing that you did to me or put inside me and now I have to work really hard to fix the problem!”.  Of course, while your body is healing itself, you won’t feel so great.

Oftentimes, there are so many variables in what I’ve eaten or done (or not done) in a day, that it’s difficult to determine the causes of specific symptoms unless I’m really paying close attention.  A few weeks ago, though, I noticed a very specific cause and effect.  It was difficult to ignore.  I was visiting a good friend and we decided to go to the fair one night.  It was close to my birthday, I’d been eating well lately, and thought that I deserved a “reward”.  It was my birthday, after all.  Anyway, I ate a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  A small bowl even.  It was so-so going down (a little melty), but about 15 minutes later I got the WORST stomachache and heartburn I’d had in a long time!  Stomachaches are not common for me and I hadn’t eaten anything else for a few hours previous, so it was pretty apparent that the ice cream was the cause.  I remained in pain for hours until I finally took a Tums.  My so-called reward definitely wasn’t worth the resulting punishment and I felt quite motivated to stay away from dairy ice cream after that.

Since then I’ve been thinking more about the connection between my diet and health.  What other relationships could I notice to help strengthen my resolve to eat healthfully?  I think for me the best way to practice this is just to think, every time I have a headache or stomachache or tired feeling or whatever, of what was different about that day.  Thinking about more than just food, here are some factors that I have found can really affect how my body feels:

  • Foods I eat
  • Foods I don’t eat
  • How much sleep I get
  • How much water I drink
  • Whether or not I stay on my regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Whether or not I take time to rest during the day (get off my feet)
  • Stress levels
  • Posture while sitting
  • Whether or not I get exercise
  • Sitting for long periods of time vs. stretching every once in awhile
  • Using the bathroom when I need to as opposed to “holding it”

Recently, I decided that most of my headaches occur when I don’t drink enough water.  To test that out, yesterday as soon as I felt a slight headache I rushed to drink a bunch of water and, viola!  No headache after all!  Not very scientific, I know.  I’d have to try that a few more times to make sure, but I’m pretty excited that it worked yesterday.

Once you’ve begun to notice changes in your health caused by things you do to your body, you’ll not only be more motivated to treat your body well, but your new diet will become more meaningful and more personal.  You’ll appreciate whole foods on a much deeper level.  When your diet becomes an intrinsic part of you, it is now a lifestyle and you can continue to enjoy the benefits for many years to come.

Documentary Review: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

*Recently, my husband and I watched two documentaries: Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, and Food Inc. We were so inspired and informed by them and I’d highly recommend them to anyone (both are available on Netflix instant play!).*

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead chronicles the journey of a man from Australia, very overweight and stricken with a chronic disease.  He decides to go on a fresh fruit and vegetable juice fast for 30 days while he tours the United States talking to people about their diets.  He has a great accent, by the way!  The first half of the documentary shows his dramatic and amazing transformation.  He actually drives around with a juicer in the back of his car and juices as he goes!  The second half focuses on the even more amazing changes that occur in a man he inspires to follow in his footsteps.  I absolutely LOVED seeing these men take charge of their lives and transform from sick, hopeless, lifeless creatures into energetic, happy, and healthy individuals right before my eyes!  Very inspiring!  My husband and I bought a better juicer after seeing this and are now juicing almost every evening.  When you see what wonderful changes occur when these men simply begin to fill their bodies with naturally-occurring nutrients and stop eating animal products, empty calories, and processed junk, the relationship between nutrition and health will take on a whole new meaning for you.

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #7- “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Kiwi” Smoothie

Tastes Like Kiwi, but isn't!

Wednesday before last, I made Smoothie #10 from the RAVE book.  We really liked it and renamed it “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Kiwi” because it really did taste like it.

My husband rated this smoothie an 8 and I rated it a 7.  Thanks to his rating, I’m going to include the recipe:

  • 5 kale leaves
  • 3 apples (I used Granny Smiths because we like it tart!)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups water

The directions are simple here: just stuff it all into the blender and turn it on! As you can see in the picture, the kale in this smoothie gives it an astonishing green color.  Those are vitamins, baby!

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #6- Cornbread

On Monday evening I made Cornbread from The RAVE Diet and Lifestyle.  It was a pretty simple recipe.  I guess there were a few differences, though, from the cornbread I’ve made in the past.  It called for half cornmeal, half whole wheat pastry flour, for example.  It also used a few tablespoons of vegetable broth and a teaspoon and a half of vinegar.  I’m really not sure what the vinegar was for.  Anyway, it looked beautiful in the oven…

Cornbread- RAVE Diet & Lifestyle

It looked even better when it began to get that crispy cracked looked and it smelled heavenly!  I could barely wait to try it.  …When I took it out of the oven, however, I realized that the recipe hadn’t mentioned greasing the pan in any way (and I hadn’t) and the whole thing was hopelessly stuck to the bottom.  My husband and I tried some and it was pretty much not done yet in the middle.  The recipe said to bake it for 25 to 30 minutes and I had done 25.  The thing is, it was so dry and cracked on the outside that I could see the bottom on the pan from the top and thought leaving it in longer wouldn’t make it much better.  It tasted pretty good, but the structure was crap.

Cornbread- RAVE Diet

Ok, so truthfully the outcome might have been my fault because I made a couple of mistakes with this recipe.  First of all, I put it in before the oven was quite at the correct temperature.  This may be why it turned out so dry but still not done.  I know better than to do this, but I was in a hurry.  Also, I probably should have oiled the pan in some way.  Not sure how you do that with an oil-less recipe, but I’m sure there is a way (applesauce??).

Anyway, my husband really liked the way this Cornbread tasted and has been scraping it out to eat for breakfast (with milk over it, ugh!).  He gave it a score of 6 and I gave it a 5.  Perhaps I should try it again with the above changes and see how it goes.  I have so many other recipes to try, though!  I will have to be more careful in the future to give each recipe a fair chance and not submit it to my own errors, yikes!

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #5- Polenta-Stuffed Peppers, Plus: How to Make Your Own Polenta

On Sunday I made Polenta-Stuffed Peppers.  This was a pretty tasty recipe.  I opted to make polenta instead of buying it.  In hindsight, I should have made the polenta ahead of time since it was to be measured in weight.  To do that, I would have needed to cook it, let it cool, and then weight it out, I guess.  Instead, I attempted to hastily make it and use it.  I hadn’t made polenta in awhile, and I did a sloppy job, so it ended up a lot thinner than it should have been, and lumpy.  This wasn’t all bad, but it probably contributed to the kind of yucky look my finished product took on….

Polenta-Stuffed Pepper

I really should focus on taking more appealing pictures of my recipes in the future.  I actually took this exact pepper to work, where I cut it open and let all the lumpy polenta spill out and ate it!  I got a few “What is that??” questions.  Anyway, my husband gave this recipe a 7 and I gave it a 6.  I might have rated it higher if I’d done a better job with the polenta.  I might actually attempt this one again because I looooove roasted peppers!

For those of you who would like to make your own polenta, here’s a good basic recipe to start from:

Basic Polenta

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water

Boil the 3 cups of water in a saucepan.  Whisk together the cornmeal, 1 cup water, and salt in a bowl and pour into the boiling water.  If you don’t mix the cornmeal with the water first, it will end up lumpy.  Lower the temperature to a simmer and cover, stirring every few minutes.  Cook for 15 minutes.

You can use the cornmeal as a breakfast cereal or side dish, or you can pour it into a cake or loaf pan and refrigerate it overnight.  The resulting thickened cornmeal (called polenta) can be sliced and fried, cut into shapes, or chopped up and used in recipes (like the pepper recipe I made).  Polenta is good as a savory dish or a sweet one.  I like to cut it into large slices, fry it, and eat it for breakfast with maple syrup on top.  🙂 You can add just about anything  to the polenta while cooking it (sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, herbs and spices, etc.) to give it different flavors.

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #4- Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup- RAVE Diet book

Friday I made “Curried Sweet Potato Soup”.  This recipe was simple to make, but very   delicious and got the highest ratings so far: a 7 from my husband and an 8 from me! My husband said it was  his favorite of the recipes I’ve made from the RAVE book.  It was also the first recipe in which I really didn’t miss the salt at all.  It tasted sweet but savory at  the same time- totally delicious!  We had some of the leftovers last night and it was good the  second   time around as well. Here’s the recipe:

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

serves 6

  • 5 cups cubed, peeled sweet potato
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • minced cilantro (optional)

Heat broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and curry powder and saute for 2 minutes.  Add water, broth, and sweet potatoes.  Cook for 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.  Place one-third of the sweet potato mixture in a blender and process until smooth.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining sweet potato mixture in batches.  Return the pureed mixture to the saucepan.  Bring the soup to a boil and remove from heat.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Note: I did not blend the soup, but merely mashed it with a potato masher.  I suppose I did this because I was lazy.  Also, my blender was being washed.  Also, I don’t mind having my soup a little texturized and it did still taste delicious!

RAVE Diet Recipes and Whole Foods Eating

So, just a little report on my progress.  So far I’ve made four recipes from the RAVE Diet book: Lentil-Bulgur Pilaf, Smoothie #1 aka Baby Poop Smoothie, Spinach Barley Cakes, and Curried Sweet Potato Soup.  I posted the recipe for the Sweet Potato Soup, if anyone is interested- it was yummy!

I think doing this is working pretty well so far to keep me on track with the whole foods diet, if only because I have to constantly think about being healthy when I’m always buying healthy ingredients, making healthy recipes, and then writing blogs about them.

I was disappointed in myself yesterday at someone else’s house when I knowingly took some food that had cheese in it.  Granted, I took minuscule portions, but I still could have easily passed those foods by, especially since the person serving them completely understood my eating habits and purposefully told me of the contents of the foods.  Ack.  Fail.  But really I’ve held up so much better than in the past that I’m greatly encouraged, and I really do feel good about the way I’ve been eating.  Maybe I can really make this a permanent lifestyle change!

How To Turn Down Foods You’d Rather Not Eat

Yesterday my coworker brought some dessert thing made out of cereal covered in peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar.  It looked yummy and the coworker raved about how delicious it tasted (and how I should really try some), but I knew it in no way fit with my current eating choices.  Today a plate of beautiful brownies appeared in the kitchen, born on the triumphant hands of another co-worker, who encouraged us to dig in.  What do you do when in this kind of dilemma?  I vacillate between explaining the whole “I’m not eating processed foods right now” story and just eating a bit of what’s offered.  You don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but you also don’t want  to compromise your standards unnecessarily.  Is there some of kind of rule you can use to decide what to do?  And if you do decide to turn down goodies, what’s the best way to do so?

If you decide to turn down proffered foods, make sure the person knows you are turning down their food, not them.  Maybe a few compliments would help (“Not right now…. That looks delicious, though!  You are such a great cook!”).  You could just explain that you’re trying a new way of eating (and feel great, by the way, thanks), or you could choose less sharing and say that you’re really full from lunch, that it looks delicious and you’ll maybe have some later….  The great news is that once people start to know you as someone who cares about healthy eating, you might not have so many awkward turn-down moments.

Alternatively, sometimes you may feel that your diet principles aren’t worth hurting someone’s feelings.  This doesn’t mean you’re a health failure.  Just make sure the following isn’t true of you: you are using this as an excuse to compromise your standards, you care about saving face or avoiding awkward situations more than you care about your health, or you are being too hard on yourself in the first place (some lifestyle changes can benefit from transition phases).

RAVE Diet Whole Foods Recipe #1- Lentil Bulgur Pilaf

Lentil Bulgur Pilaf

So, today is day 1, but I’m not sure if I’m going to try any recipes today.  Mostly because I need to go shopping for ingredients first.   For breakfast I ate the granola I made last night…. I did use some almond milk, which is technically processed.  I haven’t decided yet if that’s going to be ok.  I could make my own, I suppose.  I think the RAVE book suggests using fruit juice or applesauce or something….

Lunchtime was at someone’s house and all I’m going to say is that I can’t be held responsible for what I ate there. 😛  No, really it was all allowed, I believe, except for the oil.  The RAVE book doesn’t use oils of any kind, either, and I haven’t yet decided how closely I’m going to adhere to that.  My husband is head over heels in love with olive oil.  I swear he’d do anything for that stuff, but I think we could both benefit from cutting most of that out of our diet as well.  I really just feel like I want to be as strict as possible so I’ll really know for sure how my diet is affecting me.  Going halfway isn’t my goal here.

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So I looked through the recipes and found one that I did have ingredients for: Lentil-Bulgur Pilaf.  It’s a simple recipe and, like all the recipes in the book, doesn’t call for any salt.  The rule is that I’m not going to make the recipes with salt, but if we need to add some after it’s on our plates, that’s fine.  Hopefully that will help us cut down and eventually even cut out?  I want to see if the flavors really do come out when salt is eliminated.

How was the dish?  It was good.  Not earth-shattering, but good.  If I made it again, I might add more cumin.  We love cumin.  🙂  I’m going to post a picture of each recipe I make.  We’re also going to rate each dish according to taste.

Here’s the rating scale:

1-awful (blech, don’t ever want to eat it again)

3-acceptable (filled my tummy, but probably won’t ask for it again)

5-good (yes, I want it again)

7-very good (definitely want it again!)

10-excellent! (want to eat it all the time!)

My husband and I both rated Lentil-Bulgur Pilaf a 5

My Life in Food

Just four months ago I was eating cheesecake and lasagna at my wedding and inhaling chocolate and anything with sugar in it like there was no tomorrow, and today I’m considering making recipes without salt?!  What happened here??

I should back up, though.  My food history started before I was born when the concept of healthy eating was first introduced to my parents.  I was raised vegetarian, mostly vegan too, but I remember eating the fresh eggs from our chickens on the farm and we must have had cheese at least every once in awhile because Saturday was always pizza night.  🙂  Sometime during my junior year of high school I suddenly decided to make a few radical changes to my diet.  I still don’t know what possessed me at the time, but I’d noticed that chocolate gave me a headache, so I decided to just stop eating it.  I also decided that I was going to become a vegan.  I’m not sure whether this surprised my parents much or not, but they pretty much followed suit.  Unlike them, however, I’ve fallen off that wagon more times than I can count.  My first college boyfriend was decidedly not vegan.  In fact, he was a meat-eater (gasp!).  That, along with the fact that the cafeteria’s vegan fare was usually less than palatable, soon brought an end to my veganism.  Actually, if I’m being totally honest, I missed yogurt like crazy and that was pretty much what did me in…

For the rest of college and after college and then during graduate school, my diet was horrible.  Not only was I eating just about anything (except meat- I didn’t developed a taste for it growing up so I never missed it), but I was eating it at crazy times and in crazy quantities- sometimes I’d eat until I was ready to pop and sometimes I’d get so busy with life that I’d hardly eat at all.  I have a super high metabolism, so I’ve never had problems with my weight.  This is probably almost a bad thing because I never had losing weight as a motivation to eat healthy.  Food has such an impact on your life and body, though, and I always knew this even when I wasn’t acting on it.

I remember one summer a few years ago when I was trying to gain a few pounds.  This is actually not easy for me and very frustrating because almost everyone else in the world is  trying to lose weight.  It’s difficult to find both sympathy and good advice.  Anyway, I kept a food journal that summer and my goal was to eat 2500 calories a day.  My husband just saw a few of those journal entries the other day and it was pretty embarrassing.  Cottage cheese and ice cream for dinner??  Yeah, to some people it probably sounds like a dream come true (ok ok, it is for my taste buds as well and I think I’m even starting to drool on my computer), but I think we all know it’s not nutritious.

About a year and a half ago, my two best friends and I decided to commit to a diet of strictly whole foods for one week.  We all lived together in a small apartment and shared a tiny tiny kitchen.  I proudly stuck to the diet for the entire week and felt so good that I continued to eat that way for awhile.  Eventually, however, I lost my motivation and slid back into old habits.  This time, however, I had seen some significant changes in my health and I couldn’t get the concept of healthy eating out of my mind.  My favorite food is ice cream and I could eat chocolate all day long, but some pelvic pains that had been bothering me for 5 years had subsided almost completely while I’d been eating whole/non-processed foods, and that really got my attention.  The benefits didn’t seem to come when I only halfway followed the diet, however, and it seemed so difficult to maintain long-term that I got discouraged, Iguess, and eventually quit trying.

I moved to Michigan a year ago to live closer to my now-husband, and since that move my eating has improved, thanks to his support and encouragement (as well as his good eating habits).  Just this month I heard something one the radio about whole foods and for some reason it really inspired me.  I said to myself, “If that person can do it, so can you!” and I decided to really give whole foods another serious try, but for a longer period of time.  I decided 8 weeks was a good length of time to try to be really strict with myself.

That was about 20 days ago.  I can’t say that I’ve totally adhered to the standard this whole time, but I have kept trying.  Eating in restaurants is kind of a problem because it’s difficult to know what you’re really getting.  Going to other people’s houses is difficult too, because even if you know what’s in the food sometimes you don’t want to hurt their feelings by refusing to eat it.  Most people have a difficult time understanding such a strict diet.  Vegetarian- ok fine, most people know what that means.  Even vegan is a concept that people can easily get.  But when you trying to cut out processed foods completely, the majority of people in this country are at a loss to know what to feed you- lettuce??

I have come up with a couple of strategies to help myself not give up on whole foods.  The first one is this blog.  I know that it would be embarrassing to get on here and have to say, “Yeah, I ate cheesy lasagna last night”.  I know for certain that I’ll have some confessions at least, but I’m hoping it will deter me at least somewhat.  The other strategy involves the book “The RAVE Diet & Lifestyle”.  This book has about 215 recipes in the back and I’ve decided to make all of them before my birthday in August.  August 13, to be exact.  I will pretty much have to make one every day, or maybe two.  I might slip up in between meals, but as long as I’m feverishly trying new whole foods recipes I figure that I won’t have a lot of time (or tummy room) to sneak the junk I crave.  Hopefully by the time I’m done my body and sense will have adjusted to the new way of eating and I will have made a permanent change.  If my pelvic pain disappears that will be absolutely wonderful, but I know there are many hidden affects of diet that should motivate me to feed my body good things anyway.