Growing up, pancakes with a cold glass of milk was my go-to for breakfast (and even dinner sometimes!). However, shortly after being diagnosed as lactose-intolerant and gluten-sensitive, my days of pancakes & cow’s milk had to come to an end. With this alternative to traditional pancakes, though, I get to have what I used to love and not feel guilty about it– it’s healthy, too! My tummy is happy, my taste buds are happy and I am happy– win:win:win all around :). Read more
After a crazy blizzard in NYC last week that yielded in about 25″ of snow (*does some elementary school math*), which amounts to just about 2 feet (yay, me!), the ice still hasn’t completely melted here, but the weather did warm up a bit. So, when getting dressed to meet up with a few fabulous people for brunch on Saturday, I opted to layer up instead of wearing a heavy down-alternative coat because, well, I felt like I would have melted faster than the snow itself. *chuckles* Read more
Putting all of the reasons why and how the food I had been eating all these years supported my anxiety behind, it’s time to focus on today and how I am feeling so much better.
For about the past two months or so, I’ve been eating smarter and healthier. I didn’t just go cold turkey one day and change my whole routine. Oh, no. I don’t believe in extreme changes. I do believe, though, that it’s all about those baby steps and patience that will get you to where you want to be. My small weekly changes turned into daily ones that, today, are changing into my lifestyle (read: not diet, lifestyle). So to start things off, I started drinking more water. I found that when we are ‘hungry’ or have a ‘craving’ for something during snack times (think not breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but rather those times in between), we are actually thirsty. So instead of reaching for a chocolate bar (which, ha, I can no longer have unless it’s dark and contains no dairy), I reached for a glass of water. I then started to incorporate more fruits and vegetables. I would eat a nice juicy apple as a mid-morning snack. And those three o’clock cravings? I nabbed them with some carrots and peanut butter (which I make myself (very easy)). When you feed yourself every couple of hours or so with good things and keep up with your intake of water, you actually lose some of the cravings for the ‘bad’ stuff. And this is how I started to increase my ‘good’ foods and move away from the ‘bad’.
Being told that I was lactose intolerant was a blessing in disguise, I feel, because it did force me to find better foods for my body. I was now sensitive to a lot of things that I would have never imagined I could be sensitive to. One example is any kind of those processed sandwich breads, even the ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain’ ones. You know, the ones that stay fresh in the plastic bag for weeks. Red flag: that isn’t normal. Fresh bread has a very short lifespan. What’s keeping it fresh are the extra things they put inside of it. When I used to eat it, I would feel excruciating abdominal pain. And that’s when I learned to look at the ingredients list and, surprise, surprise, it contained dairy (sometimes found under its derivative names, such as ‘casein’ and/or ‘whey’). So I stopped buying it and switched to a more ‘natural’ bread (like Ezekiel Sprouted Bread), the kind that needed to be frozen (makes sense). When eaten, I found no pain.
Another thing that I moved away from was coffee. I first limited my intake to one cup per day (instead of two or three) and substituted cow’s milk for almond milk. I then found that not only was coffee making me very dehydrated, but that drinking it made me very jittery and added that extra anxious effect I didn’t need. So I stopped drinking coffee (yes, you can survive without coffee!) and found that I didn’t need that boost in energy because I was already finding it in the good foods I was eating – the natural way.
Today I eat clean. I eat broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, strawberries, red quinoa, sweet potatoes, and other natural, organic, good things. I shop the outside perimeters of the supermarket and don’t go into the middle aisles. Or, when I do my groceries online, I only buy fresh things and rarely go into the ‘grocery’ section. I’ve lost about ten pounds due to eating so much better. Not only that, but my complexion now has a bit of a glow and my mood has been absolutely positive. I should add that a friend of mine shared with me that she, too, had become lactose intolerant and found a shake (Shakeology) that was vegan, all natural, and helped with digestion. Willing to give it a shot, I ordered it and, within a week, loved the effects it had on my body. While it took the guess work out of my breakfasts, it gave me the chance to focus on other meals that I could improve on: snacks, lunch and dinner. Yes, even a little dessert here and there ;). And that’s how I started.
I have seen, first hand, that when you eat ‘clean’ you feel amazing. And that same feeling goes to your mind and lessens anxiety. Think about it: when you eat poorly you regret it and start to bring yourself down. “Oh, I shouldn’t have had that extra plate of pasta, I’m so ‘fat'” or “Gosh, I hate myself. I ate that giant piece of cake and now I suck. The world sucks. Everyone sucks.” However, after eating a delicious, healthy salad (low on the dressing!) we don’t go around thinking negatively. No, we say “Wow, I just did something amazing for my body, I am great.”
Now imagine if you continued doing this throughout the day? Your outlook on life would be better because your outlook on yourself becomes better. Through my own experience, I’ve learned that there is an even exchange between eating for the body and the gift of a better mind. When I ate poorly I was, really, abusing my body. So my body decided to abuse my mind. I grew anxious. None of the foods that I was eating helped me think clearer or feel better. Yet, when I ate healthy, my body thanked me by giving me a healthy mind. And with ‘clean’ eating, you gain a sense of clarity. So I am eating healthy to reduce anxiety. And it’s working!
I did lose some weight, but that wasn’t the intention. Nor did I ever see it as ‘dieting’. Heavens, no. I saw it as a lifestyle change. And it started slowly, making small changes until they occurred like second nature. I never felt like I was sacrificing anything. Ever.
I’ve been told that there are medications out there that can help my anxiety and my mood. But I refuse them. Because I want to learn the real way of living: facing some of my fears and controlling my mind. Taking drugs is letting something control me. And we don’t really learn that way. Educating myself on the natural, good things will lead to a natural, good mood and way of life. I am about two months in and am feeling an amazing difference. I will make sure to share some of my favorite meals and tips in future posts, because I think it’s so important to help each other and see each other succeed! Change starts from within. I am really learning what that means now. Amazing.
And remember: drink your water, eat your veggies, smile, meditate for even two minutes, and enjoy life. Like many things in life, you will get out of it what you put into it. So put lots of love and care into yourself and the result… well, the result shouldn’t be a surprise. 😉
White rice, whole milk, frozen dinner entrées, ice cream, lots of soda, beef patties, and cake.
These were some of the things I ate growing up; heck, there were some days that I ate all of these in a single day. It was definitely a kid’s dream come true. But ‘kid’ defined me from the moment I could chew my food to, literally, a couple of months ago. I have been eating ‘clean’ for about two months or so now and, I must say, my anxiety level has gone down and my positive mood has gone up.
But, before I get to the current, positive moment of eating clean, I think it’s good to reflect and see how the ‘bad’ foods helped support the anxiety that was built inside me for many years:
You know, I grew up in a very loving family that taught me a lot about respect, values, and how to love. But one thing that I was never really taught was how to eat properly. Yes, there was always food on the table, food in the pantry, and food in the fridge, but they were all ‘quick’ things. My meals were very predictable, too. Breakfast was pancakes (from a box), drenched with a sugary (addictive) processed syrup. Lunch was take-out from the local Chinese food place. Dinner meant rice, beans, chicken, and maybe a salad. And then the night concluded with lots of ice cream, cookies, and maybe a second round of dinner. The only real time I would eat fruits were if we went out to the farms during the summer and went apple or peach picking – but even then there wasn’t any kind of portion control. I would have about eight giant peaches on my way home because the giant basket (filled with nothing but that) was sitting in the car! And then I would be tired of peaches. I would refuse them. When I got home it would be all “oh, hello, microwaveable bacon!” And I went on with my life. ‘Happy’ at the time, sad looking back at it now.
My life consisted of processed foods, filled with chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce. They had absolutely no nutritional value, but they made me feel ‘good’ for a quick moment. The things inside of all of those things were alien to my body and acted like a drug. Actually, they were my drugs. Because that time I was seven years old and my grandmother passed away, I held back my tears because I was subliminally told that I shouldn’t be a cry baby and that sharing my emotions towards other people was a ‘personal’ thing. This emotion was mended with me eating a whole loaf of white, processed bread, toasted with tons of trans-fatty butter and a giant glass of sugary chocolate milk. And that time I got an eighty-eight on my math test in the eighth grade and was told that I could do better and needed to get nothing but one-hundreds? Well, that made me feel like I was a total failure. But there it was, that very fatty fourteen-ounce tub of ice cream and giant bag of addicting chips to help mend my broken heart and mind. So while I was ‘healing’ my heart and mind with food, I was actually holding a lot of things back (anger, frustration, confusion, etc.) and burying them deep, deep down inside. (That explains those times I’ve cried during yoga, huh?) So you start to become anxious. Hating the next time you feel this way. And it all continues to build up. Every little bit counts.
My emotions were controlled with eating: failure was rewarded with sugary fats and successes, if I felt I had them, were rewarded with greasy foods (pizza party, anyone?). And I grew up like this. I was confused, trying to figure life out, restricting my self-desires to come out, and hoping to make everyone but myself happy. I found comfort in food. But the food I was eating didn’t give me any clarity; I couldn’t think things through with a ‘clear mind’. All it was doing was fogging up my mind. They served zero nutritional value, but made me ‘happy’. Voilà, my adolescent (and well-into-my-adult-hood) drugs.
Side note: you could only imagine how self-image played a role in this. Why, with all of this poor eating, I wasn’t exactly ‘fit’. I was ‘fat’. And the media hated ‘fat’. They said that that it wasn’t ‘beautiful.’ So, naturally, I also grew up with very low self-esteem, telling myself that I was ‘ugly’, ‘useless’, and a ‘failure’ every day. My confidence level was lower than a turtle’s. And this is how I grew up. For more than twenty years, this was my life.
After years of suppressing my own happiness, and right before my giant panic attack last summer, I noticed a few months worth of terrible abdominal pain. Not only that, but I was also very bloated and starting to become a bit overweight. Worried, I went to a gastroenterologist (tummy & digestion doctor) and found out that I was lactose intolerant… great.
My life seemed to have shattered at the instant of being diagnosed, because it meant that I could no longer have the ice cream, yogurt, pizza, or cake that once mended my wounds. I did play devil’s advocate and ate them anyway, but felt the consequences within thirty minutes of consuming the stuff.
So it was true, after all. I was lactose intolerant. Two weeks before my I-didn’t-even-see-it-coming giant panic attack, I had to adjust. And that was hard. I didn’t really know how to adjust. I never learned. And looking back at it today, part of me thinks that the attack maybe came out from being forced to learn how to live with some confrontations and without some of those drugs. I was starting to be confronted by my own self.
I didn’t know how to deal then. But today, I am learning how to deal now (next post – stay tuned!).
But until then, be kind to your body. Think back to those times you maybe reached for that thing you shouldn’t have reached for. Think of what you were running away from. Starting to slowly think about these things will help open up and shape you for a better tomorrow. Don’t resolve to continue suppressing emotions with food. Eat well. You are beautiful. Who cares about the media. They don’t pay your bills, you pay their bills. They don’t give you a hug when you need it the most. And this applies to others around you. There is only one person like you out there and you deserve the absolute best. The road to a better tomorrow starts with this type of first step… and it starts from within.
Smiling. That’s how I woke up this morning and that’s how I intend to stay throughout the day.
After my anxiety attack, a very, very wise woman once told me that if I am ever confronted with something that makes me start to get anxious, I can either take one of two paths: I can either take it easy or don’t care at all. And while I looked at her like she had three heads at the time, it wasn’t until recently that I started to implement this in my life and, boy oh boy, do I see a change.
For me, it’s all a matter of putting things into perspective (I know it’s easier said than done, but after getting in the habit of trying to do it, you actually start doing it). Think about it: after coming home from a long day of work, am I going to completely freak out that dinner still has to be made and add stress to what I already encountered throughout the day? No. I either take it easy and have dinner done by nine o’clock in the evening or I just don’t care and order out. Another example: visiting someone that usually says hurtful things and always judges. Am I going to get into a heated argument with them and let them have control over who I am or what I do? No. I either take in their critiques and kindly say a few words about how that makes me feel (take it easy) or just say “oh” and take what they say with a grain of salt and just let it go. Do a cartwheel when you leave. Stroll down the street like you’re in a musical. Whatever!
The point is that life is such a beautiful thing. Living with anxiety is just code for living with layers of stress. But what if we can slowly peel off those layers one by one by either taking it easy or just not caring. If the closet door is left open every day are you going to yell at the other person for not following your preferences? Or will you kindly mention it and close it yourself? (This, by the way, is an issue at my home, but I just don’t care anymore. Think of those arguments I just saved! No stress).
Everyday day is chance to be better than yesterday. Don’t worry yourself about the ‘what-if’s’ and the ‘but’s’, just think about the present and how wonderful it is to breath, move, and be active. If something makes you anxious just stop and put it into perspective. If you don’t want to take one of those two paths, you’re just going to continue stressing yourself out and driving yourself crazy. You deserve the best. Try it. Choose one of those paths. Because remember, in the end, you matter. Your health matters. Your happiness matters. Take things easy or just don’t care about them at all.
As for me? I took it easy making my husband breakfast this morning and am now going to go for a run.
I like this free-spirit I am finding.
Who knew stress management could come down to two paths?