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. 😉