I Finally Shifted To A Completely Whole Foods Diet & Have Never Felt Better — Here's Exactly How I Did It
For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with my relationship with food. It was as if I was having a tug of war with myself—I was hungry but never for the foods that I knew were healthy. I'd ignite this vicious cycle of trying to eat healthy, breaking my healthy streak with junk food, beating myself up about it, vowing to be better tomorrow…and repeat. My craving for sugar was insatiable, and my energy throughout the day suffered accordingly. At 3 p.m. on the dot, I was tired, moody, and hungry!
I came to see mealtime as a stressful event, especially since some of the "healthy" foods I tried to eat were causing me discomfort, such as gas, bloating, and fatigue.
I needed to make a change. I wanted to feel better, to ultimately see food as a conduit for healing, not distress. But have you ever tried Googling nutrition information? It's downright overwhelming. I've heard of all the trendy diets—paleo, Whole30, keto—but I didn't know the difference between them or what made them worthy of countless Instagram posts. Would one of these be right for me, or would I find my own unique diet, tailored just for me?
The answer came when I found mindbodygreen's What To Eat To Feel Your Best class, a complete guide to teach you not only how to eat to nourish your body but also how to use food to feel like the best version of yourself. I was floored that I finally found something tangible to help address my issues. A class that focuses solely on food and how it can make you feel incredible? Check. Taught by experts in nutrition? Check. I dove right in.
Here are the five things I did to completely change my diet:
I kept a food-mood journal.
You heard me, a food-mood journal. It's when you write down everything you eat and note how your meals physically, even emotionally, make you feel. You may think you have a good memory, but when it comes to pinpointing what foods are making you feel crummy, it's really hard to remember every single ingredient of every single meal. Which brings me to my next thing…
I went on an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is when you cut out food groups that are most commonly associated with food intolerances and allergies, and then reintroduce them one at a time to see which foods agree with you and which ones don’t.
Kelly LeVeque, certified holistic nutritionist and instructor in What To Eat To Feel Your Best, recommends cutting out the major culprits: eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and dairy, in addition to some others including sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn, citrus fruits, legumes, processed foods, and hydrogenated oils. Whoa. What was I going to eat if I had to cut all of this out?
Turns out, it's way simpler than I thought. Almost every meal, including breakfast, had some cooked veggies, a good portion of clean protein, healthy fats, and small occasional amounts of carbohydrates, such as fruit. With this class, I knew exactly what to fill my plate with (there are some awesome recipes I whipped up!), and after the reintroduction phase of the elimination diet, I concluded that soy, dairy, and sugar were permanently banned from my plate.
I removed anything with a wrapper from my diet.
Reading food labels became a daily occurrence while on the elimination diet—salad dressings, protein bars, nondairy milk—because you really have no idea how much stuff is hiding in them.
Before I started taking this class to learn more about nutrition, I was relying heavily on protein bars to get me through my day. They were a no-thinking-necessary food, an option that would remove the stress of a true mealtime. What I didn't realize was how processed they are and how some of my culprit foods (soy, sugar) were hiding in plain sight. I decided to remove all foods with a wrapper because foods with wrappers tend to be more processed. I swapped a daily protein bar with a banana and a heaping scoop of organic peanut butter and haven't looked back.
I started meal prepping, opting for home-cooking instead of takeout.
Cooking has become my favorite way to unwind at the end of my long day. Not only that, but it's helped me learn exactly what goes into my meals. With takeout, I have no idea what kind of oils they're using or what is the quality of their ingredients. When I cook, I get to choose the ingredients and how to prepare them. It's actually quite empowering.
All of the instructors in this class get into the kitchen to show you how to whip up some delicious, healthy recipes, but my favorites come from Vincent Pedre, M.D., functional medicine doctor, and Kelly LeVeque. Pedre's Blue Ginger Smoothie is perfect for breakfast, packed with tummy-friendly berries and ginger as well as quality protein to keep me energized throughout my morning. Kelly provides an entire guide to healthy cooking techniques, including how to ferment your own vegetables to help foster a flourishing gut microbiome. Which brings me to my last thing…
I incorporated quality supplements into my daily routine.
Remember I tried to eat "healthy" but still felt crummy? Turns out that my gut needed major repairs due to inflammation caused by all the junk food I was eating.
After following the elimination diet, removing processed food, and adding more whole foods like clean protein, cooked vegetables, and healthy fats into my diet, I still needed an extra boost to get me to feeling my best. Taz Bhatia, M.D., functional medicine doctor and nutrition expert, another instructor of this class, has an entire section dedicated to finding the right supplement. She leads you through how to properly read supplement labels, deciphering ingredients and the quality of those ingredients, as well as how to determine whether you should be adding a supplement or two to your daily routine.
After looking at my diet, I determined that adding a probiotic for better digestion was right for me, as well as a quality omega-3 fish oil for my gut as well as my brain (it majorly helped with my energy levels!).
After the experience of taking this class and totally overhauling my diet, I've become more mindful of how the food I eat directly affects how I feel physically and emotionally. Mealtime has become more enjoyable, especially with the introduction of cooking, which has given me a meaningful connection to my food.
If how I felt before sounds like you—exhausted, irritable, frustrated, overall just feeling blah—remember, I was you. And you deserve to feel incredible, just like I do now. In my opinion, you can't start this class soon enough.
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Nina Zorfass is a former member of the mbg team and currently lives in New York. She has her bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Vermont. You can find her at a local spin or yoga class, cooking in her Brooklyn kitchen, or researching her next travel destination.