If it sounds too good to be true, believe me, it’s not…if you have the right mindset. A couple of years back I was topping the scales at just over 200 lbs (93 Kg). At 40 years old, I had gained 2 lbs per year since my early 20s. For Audrey, my wife, she had not only gained 20 extra lbs during pregnancy but continued to gain another 20 more over the next 4 years. No matter how hard we tried and focused on losing the weight – nothing worked. We “tried” exercising, We tried “low fat” – at best we would yo-yo by 10 lbs. Losing that 10 pounds was always met with celebratory joy (read into that food) followed by depression when the scales would tilt back up again.
During this time, there were a lot of health issues in our family, lactose and gluten being two of the largest. We had discovered that Audrey had a grain allergy – along with other signs of deteriorating health, she began to develop hives from most meats along with a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. Josh, our youngest son, couldn’t tolerate milk, and Matt, our oldest, had issues that we felt a casein and gluten free diet for him might be a benefit.
Gluten Free / Egg Free / Dairy Free Sucks
“One for all and all for one” wasn’t a real popular motto when it came to removing bread and milk from our house, but if we were going to do it, we decided as a couple that we were all in it together. It was anything but easy. In fact, it took us almost 6 months to discover ALL of the products in our house that contained gluten – including the toothpaste. We tried switching to gluten-free replacements for cakes, cookies, bread…you name it, we bought it and consumed it. All of us honestly felt like crap in addition to gaining more weight. One of the revelations we had was that gluten free / dairy free grocery store replacements typically contain a whole assortment of additives and preservatives in an attempt to mimic their original counterparts. In addition to everything tasting like cardboard, the “make believe” cupcakes were breaking us financially.
It’s Not You – No wait, It Is
During this time, we had friends who were big into raw, vegan, and juicing. We gave it a try and fell in love with parts of their diet, but to this day, I can’t stand recipes that try to mimic something they aren’t…For example, don’t call a bunch of layered vegetables raw lasagne – call it something else like maybe, um – layered vegetables! If it doesn’t have wavy wheat and egg noodles with ground meat and three types of cheese – it’s NOT lasagne! Over the course of the year, we bounced from vegetarian to paleo, tried raw, vegan, followed the FODMAP. We tried it all. At the end of the day, we discovered a lot about our bodies and about ourselves. We also discovered why most diets for us fail – It’s not the diet – it’s the dieter!
For starters, it’s all a head game – not a food game. “I want to lose weight so I can _________”. We had several phrases to fill in that blank…but losing weight lost out as health issues began creeping into our family. We just wanted to feel better and the medical profession wasn’t offering any solutions. (6 years later with a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, diet is a large part of managing pain.) For us going gluten free and dairy free was a start to feeling better. When the main focus became no longer about weight loss or weight gain, everything began to change. We were no longer focused on the scale, we were focused on how we felt after the meal and sometimes the next 3 or 4 days. Honestly listening to our bodies while fighting to emotionally detach from food helped us understand what made us feel good or lousy. There was no longer guilt about food, no apologies about not eating something – our mindsets had changed to be about listening to what our bodies needed instead of what we thought we should eat according to any one diet.
What Do You Eat?
Each week we stuff our fridge full from top to bottom with fruits and vegetables – and our family of four grazes through it with no problems what so ever. Less than 1/4 of our shopping cart contains processed, packaged, or boxed food. Chia pudding, smoothies, green juice, lightly steamed or baked vegetables are staples in our life. After years of meat and potatoes, we had to relearn what it meant to make a meal. We learned that we love Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican dishes…and we can make them fit with our food choices. Audrey, I guess could be labelled as vegan but the boys and I still eat eggs and meat. We don’t count calories although I keep tabs from time to time to see how much of a relationship there is. What I discovered about calorie counting is that when you physically fill your day with fruits and vegetables that aren’t mixed with huge amounts of nuts, meat and starches, it is almost physically impossible to exceed 2000 calories a day. Four years into the way we eat, we no longer are concerned about what food we consume. My weight dropped from 205 to 165 lbs and Audrey the same from 180 down to 135 lbs. Audrey has to watch herself because of medical concerns, but the rest of us are free to enjoy the gluttony of life. The goal is to eat well MUCH more often than not. When you are honest with yourself and you’ve gotten to the point of being almost completely raw, your body knows what is good for it and if you aren’t caught up in guilt trips over eating the occasional doughnut, you’ll begin to crave what your body needs – and surprisingly fat and sugar don’t often rise to the top. Interestingly though, both our teenage boys as well as myself still make choices based on how we know we are going to feel after the meal. It is liberating to know that I have a fantastic body that feels great. My knees and ankles no longer hurt, I don’t run out of breath and my back doesn’t hurt. Why would I choose to eat something that would change that?