Back in my 30s, I used to feel like I had to drag myself through the day and keep myself going on coffee just to stay awake. Now, despite being in my 50s, I can keep up, I have energy to spare and overall I feel healthier.
We believe the norm is to have more energy when we're younger, but isn't the case for my life. Though I'm older, I feel far younger today than I did 20 years ago. It's not magic, just a few simple changes to my eating, thought patterns and lifestyle habits!
Here is how I did it:
I used to ... have a really hard time waking up and needed coffee to function. I would feel tired by midday and about to crash by 4pm if I did not have more caffeine.
Now, I wake up every day at the same time and am ready to go. I no longer crash mid-afternoon — I don't even have a dip in energy into the evening. I start my day at 7am and I go until 11pm. I've stopped drinking coffee, relying only on tea and water. Pu-erh tea in the morning, green tea during the day and herbal tea in the afternoon and evening keep me energized and alert.
I used to ... feel sluggish and sleepy after lunch, always longing for a nap.
Now, I take an actual lunch break and disconnect from work while I eat. Vegan lunches full of beans and vegetables provide all the energy I need.
I used to ... feel down and un-motivated, foggy and un-focused.
Now, I've cut out sugar and wheat from my diet, and added good, complex carbs from vegetables and cooked whole-grains. I feel clear and can keep my attention for long stretches at a time without fading.
I used to ... have joint pain and soreness in my knees, as well as a general feeling of fatigue in my entire body.
Now, I've lessened the inflammation in by body by no longer eating meat, instead focusing on an anti-inflammatory plant-based approach to eating. I don't have joint pain and my body feels invigorated and light.
I used to ... have thin, limp hair.
Now, a dairy-free diet keeps my hair thick and full of body. Healthy fats from other vegan sources cause my hair to grow like crazy!
I used to ... have a blotchy, red skin tone and combination skin.
Now, I use only perfume- and paraben-free skin care products. My skin is clear and even. And cutting dairy and wheat from my diet has left me with skin that is much softer now than it ever was before, even as I age.
I used to ... always feel bloated, uncomfortable and out of shape even though I went to the gym.
Now, I don't worry about my weight and my body feels lean and flexible. I do yoga every day, even if I only have time for a short practice (every little bit helps!). I walk my dog and get some fresh air everyday. Having changed my food choices, my body (and I) no longer has to struggle with weight.
I used to ... feel anxious and stressed.
Now, I feel much more grounded and calm. I can still get anxious and stressed, but I know how to center myself and it's no longer a chronic condition. I practice meditation and mindfulness, while also taking small breaks throughout the day to disconnect from work and to center myself. A few minutes at a time is enough.
My own journey to become healthier and more mindful was a response to several emotional traumas I went through. I set out to learn how to save myself and it became my goal to help others do so.
I have 3 simple guidelines:
1. Food needs to be tasty, beautiful, easy and fast to make, as well as nutritious and functional. I'm not rigid with my food choices and I do take time off from my routine on weekends to celebrate and share food with friends. I call it "WWW": wheat and wine weekends. Though I said earlier that I stopped eating wheat completely, I do indulge sometimes on the weekends. When I do, I choose organic, wholegrain sourdough bread and don't have much of it.
2. I stay mindful of my emotional landscape so I don't need to use food to cover up my feelings or fill other needs, such as my self-love. I honor my emotions and stay in touch with them, respect my needs and acknowledge myself instead of using food when I get angry or lose my way.
3. I make sure to have daily habits that support my physical, emotional and spiritual needs so I feel as whole as I can in any given situation. I don't expect things to be perfect; all I can do is my best.
My relationship with food and myself is not a battle anymore. And it is not something I have to do. I do it because I want to!
Photo by Torkil Stavdal