Welcome to my first post Au Naturale Nutrition!
Here is a summary of my journey to the whole-food lifestyle. There was a lot of learning involved throughout this journey and it's not over yet! Thanks for coming along for the ride with me toward optimum health!
I describe my way of eating now as low-carbohydrate modern Mediterranean-Paleolithic (Paleo). I focus on eating a large variety of foods that are highly dense in nutrients. The quality of my food is important, so the large majority of the time I eat at home and cook myself. I choose to eat mostly grass-fed or organic meats, wild caught fish, pastured eggs, and organic vegetables, and nuts and seeds. I try to select foods that are whole or have gone through little processing. Some processed foods I eat are sausages and lunchmeats from healthy sources, sunbutter, and dark chocolate. I do not eat any grains, or gluten and I avoid dairy. Healthy fats make up a large portion of my calories, so I choose types such as olive oil, macadamia nuts and oils, avocados, ghee, and MCT/coconut oil. The fruits I enjoy are low in sugar, such as berries and pumpkin. Vegetables make up a large volume of my diet, and I like a wide variety of tastes, textures and colors. I drink tea, mineral water. I also make bone broth periodically to drink. The only sweeteners I use are honey and xylitol, and use them rarely. I utilize farmers markets in the summer. I have several nationalities in my heritage, but I most identify with my Greek heritage and enjoy eating lamb. I use Himalayan sea salt.
My journey to whole food....
I was raised in a family where both of my parents were good cooks and we had nightly dinners as a family. My home definitely had less processed or refined foods than the average American family, but we ate grains and sugars. Nutrition as a whole was not discussed; neither was weight nor health, although my parents fostered a healthy lifestyle by example. We belonged to a community co-op, where we could buy food from local sources. Our backyard also had a big vegetable garden. When I was a teenager, we moved to the country in Wisconsin, and my parents would stock our freezer with grass-fed beef. We rarely had sweet treats in the house, so when we did, my siblings and I would binge on them. As I grew older, my parents became busier with their careers and we ate more processed and restaurant foods. My biggest health problem as a child was seasonal allergies.
I got married in college and started making my own food choices, which were poor in comparison to my upbringing. I bought all the food my parents wouldn’t buy for us, like soda and fruitloops. Food quality was low on my priority list. If it was yummy, I ate it. I had two children and gained about 35 pounds which stayed on for about 8 years. In year 2001, I was introduced to Weight Watchers, and although I didn’t officially join the program, I counted my points every day, lost weight, and kept it off for 10 years. For vanity’s sake, I was eating low-calorie, low-fat, and poor quality food, and felt hungry most hours of the day. My cholesterol numbers were extremely low, which I bragged about at the time. Consequently, I developed trouble with my hormones; my progesterone levels were at nearly zero. I could not sleep, had anxiety, and developed a severe case of dry eyes. I now know it was because I was not eating the vital fats and nutrients needed for hormone production.
In 2011, I came across an article about fats and a low-carbohydrate diet. The idea instantly appealed to me because it was satiating. Overnight I switched to an Atkins style diet. I was still making very poor choices as far as food quality, such as eating canola oil, fake cheese, and pork rinds. I was finally feeling a sense of satiety, yet I lost weight that I didn't intend or need to lose. I was too thin, undernourished, and stopped menstruating for 8 months. My thyroid function also suffered as a result of going too low-carb, over exercising, and putting my body through undue stress (read more of my cholesterol/thyroid story: Part 1 & Part 2).
Thankfully, through exposure to online articles, websites like my own, and podcasts about holistic health, I also learned about the modern Paleo lifestyle. I slowly learned that food quality is vital to health. I educated myself on what are healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and the importance of eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods and nourished myself back to wonderful health. My husband changed his eating habits too.
Now, my way of eating is based upon nutrient-density and is a source of joy and nourishment. Deprivation and hunger are no longer part of my lifestyle. I don't count anything. I listen to my biofeedback and eat according to my hunger, energy needs, and instincts. The clock does not dictate when or how often I eat, and I simply eat until I feel full. I do not believe all calories are created equal in their impact on my health. I no longer feel that food is my enemy when it comes to my weight, (which is normal and stable), but instead think of it as nourishment. I eat plenty of food to support my athletic lifestyle; I want to continue to build muscle and remain strong.
My current dietary system is suiting my overall needs better than any time in my past. Eating a real foods has helped me in so many ways. My cholesterol ratios are stellar, and my heart scan showed zero plaque and the heart of a 30 year old (I’m over 40). This is all proof to me that I have finally found the diet that is healthy for my body at this stage in my life. My thinking is much clearer now that I’m feeding my brain the fat it deserves, and I only need to take a fraction of the supplemental progesterone than in the past. I do not feel inflammation in my body and I have abundant energy. Eliminating gluten from my diet, and then dairy, helped clear my acne. I have a great athletic figure with feminine curves again, low stress, and sleep very well. I am an avid tennis player, lift weights, and practice yoga. I feel I need protein every day, so I eat some at every meal. I love vegetables and eat plentiful amounts. I do not feel the need for many starchy carbohydrates and rarely have cravings for sugar. Counting fat grams or calories is now unnecessary, since most of my food does not come with labels. I have developed a new passion for cooking, which is a great creative outlet. My eyes are still dry, but better than in the past. I still take a low dose of thyroid medication and that's ok. I know it will take time to heal from the many years of my unhealthy dietary choices. Overall, I now feel I have finally found that a simple, whole food dietary system nourishes my body, mind and spirit. Au Naturale!
Jenny Yelle, MHNE Holistic Wellness Educator
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