I first began changing my diet by default really. 6 years ago I found myself without a job, battling with depression and really struggling with my health. My husband and I were both out of work and it's fair to say I wasn't coping.
We'd pretty much eaten all the food left in our cupboards and simply didn't have the funds to replace it. Thankfully, months earlier we'd decided to have a go at our first veggie patch. And it was flourishing! For the next few months we literally lived off the tomatoes, zucchini and butternut squash that had been growing in our garden. It's amazing how inventive you can be with just a few ingredients when it's all you have! And despite the stress I was under, I began to notice I felt amazing.
Up until I lost my job I was an obsessive calorie counter. I had an app on my phone and I tracked EVERYTHING. I'd even justified that a diet coke would be a better choice than a salmon fillet or avocado on toast, because the calories were less. Never mind the nutritional value! I'd been driving myself crazy, and it was only once I ditched the diet microwave meals and obsessive counting that I finally made the connection between food and how I felt.
It was a shift in my mindset that I noticed first, and then I realised I'd lost weight and for the first time since I could remember, I felt really good in my body. It was then that I decided I HAD to share what I had learnt so I trained as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. And that was the start of Vitality Kitchen, and my journey towards true health and happiness.
You see, eating well isn't about signing up to the latest detox program, 30 day challenge or weight watchers group. It isn't about depriving yourself so much that you then binge eat Nutella straight out of the jar (I've been there!). It's about creating a lifestyle that's sustainable, finding foods that you actually love and want to eat on an ongoing basis. It's about nourishing your body and being kind.
So, I'm here to tell you it IS possible to ditch dieting and calorie counting forever. And you do it by adopting what I call a "Wholefood Lifestyle". And here are my 10 steps on how to ROCK it...
1. Begin by “detoxing” your kitchen.
Yep, a wholefood lifestyle starts here. It’s time to begin replacing your fridge, freezer and pantry foods with healthier options. It’s up to you whether you decide to clear everything out and start fresh. Or whether you prefer to eat what you already have and replace things slowly. But if it’s in a colourful packet, chances are it’s not all that healthy. Read the ingredients label and decide for yourself whether it provides any nourishment, and is it a food you want to keep?
2. Plan for success.
They key to this lifestyle being sustainable is preparation. Meal planning will keep you on track and avoid food waste. First take stock of the food you already have, and plan your meals for the week ahead taking those ingredients into account. Consider what can be made with those tinned tomatoes, half a packet of pasta and the random veggies in the bottom of your fridge. Think of your meal plan as a guide – you don’t have to be rigid with it. If Wednesday rolls around and you don’t feel like the Spag Bol you’d planned then just pick one of the other meals.
3. Shop wisely, read your ingredient labels.
Based on the meals you’ve planned you can list the ingredients you’ll need to pull it all together. Shopping with a list will ultimately save you time and money too, but only if you stick to it! Don’t shop on any empty stomach – this is when you’re likely to buy packaged crap that doesn’t actually make you feel good.
4. Get real.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need my apples to be coated in wax, perfectly polished or identical in size. Real food doesn’t actually look “perfect”, whatever that is. I’ve seen carrots come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it’s just that the supermarkets often reject produce that doesn’t meet specific measurements and requirements. So embrace the weird! I actually enjoy looking for the weirdest produce now, and often look out for the less popular cuts of meat or reduced/imperfect food. Even if you can’t cook with it right away, it can be frozen for when you’re ready to use it… hello brown spotty bananas!
5. Batch cook as you go.
There’s no need to slave over a hot stove every night! If you always cook more than you need, then you can portion up leftovers into meals for another night or to have at lunchtime. I always double or triple a recipe so I have an awesome stash of delicious real food meals in my freezer and no need to order takeaway if I can’t be bothered cooking.
6. Understand that different foods work for different bodies.
YOUR Wholefood Lifestyle, what works for YOU, should be as unique as you are. Fermented foods and Amazonian super berries might be great for your friend, but not so great for you. Notice how you feel after eating certain foods. Keeping a food diary really helps in training you to listen to your body’s feedback and trust your intuition to make better food choices.
7. Keep it simple.
Don’t overcomplicate things with expensive superfoods, exotic ingredients and long fancy recipes. And don’t try and do everything at once as you’re likely to just end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated. The key to this being sustainable, is to make just one small change at a time. Remember, it’s not a race!
8. If you can’t eat it responsibly then keep it out of the house.
Seriously, don’t ever bring Nutella or Arrowroot Biscuits into my home! Just remember that every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. So stock your kitchen with foods that will make you feel alive.
9. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not.
Also known as eating mindfully. We’re all so busy these days that we often eat on the run or at our desks. But if you can take time to focus on your food, without the distraction of TV or scrolling through Facebook, then you’ll become better at noticing how you feel and when you’re full. As a bonus, I also found that my tastebuds woke up too as I was savouring my food more!
10. Focus on nourishment.
Nourishment isn’t just about food – it’s all aspects of your lifestyle. Your work, your relationships, how you move your body, how often you move it, how much sunshine you get, your spiritual connection, your mindset. It all matters. Think about the people you spend time with that nourish your soul, how great you feel when you spend time in nature, consider what makes your heart smile and go do more of that.
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