1. Food & Nutrition Research
Growing up, I ate a lot of fast food. When I say a lot, I mean literally everyday, in addition to Top Ramen noodle soup for breakfast most days. As I get older, I realize how little I know about food and nutrition, so back when my husband went vegan (almost 3 years ago, now!), I set out to learn more about how food affects the body and mind. What I haven’t shared until now, is that exactly a year after embarking on that journey, I joined my husband and went fully plant-based. (More on my plant based journey coming soon!)
Even after forgoing meat, dairy and eggs though, I was adamant about replacing my favorite foods with vegan alternatives – vegan meats, cheeses and all the processed vegan junk food included, which did very little to help improve the health I originally set out to. It wasn’t until this past June that I started adopting a whole foods plant based diet as a result of wanting to rid myself of chronic joint pain, which led me to doing further food and nutritional research, that’s led me to where I am today.
2. Eliminated Foods that Cause Inflammation
As mentioned above, I’ve been doing tons of food research, and the biggest discovery I made this past June is that certain foods cause inflammation (aka pain and sometimes disease) in the body.
When I discovered this, I cut out inflammation causing foods and ingredients from my diet completely, including all oils, processed foods, white breads, and processed sugars which I was consuming daily. I had already cut out animal products back in December 2018, so forgoing these additional foods and ingredients didn’t seem like a huge hurdle, but it was certainly a big change for my entire household. Within 2 days, my chronic lower back, sciatic and knee pain I was waking up with everyday for the past 13+ years, were completely gone!
3. Daily Flaxseed
One of the most beneficial and nutrient anti-inflammatory plants (and easiest to add to your daily diet!) is flaxseed. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acid ALA, lignans and fiber, which improves digestive health, can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and much more. According to several nutritional sources, just two tablespoons of ground flaxseed contain more than 140% daily value of the inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acids and more lignans, a cancer-fighting plant chemical, than any other plant food on the planet.
The key to experiencing the nutritional benefit of flaxseed though, is ingesting it immediately after its freshly ground, due to oxidization. I buy whole, roasted flaxseeds, grind 2 tbsp in a coffee grinder and pour it over my oatmeal every morning for breakfast, while my husband prefers ground flaxseed mixed into his oatmeal with cinnamon, or mixed into a green smoothie.
4. Eating more Starch than ever
At the peak of my eating disorder in my 20s, I completely stopped eating carbs. I was told by several doctors that carbs and starches like rice, bread and potatoes were the reason for my being overweight, and every article in every magazine seemed to back that theory up, so for many years, my diet consisted of mostly protein (lots of chicken) and simple sugars.
Through my food and nutritional research, I came across Dr. McDougall, a doctor who makes a strong case that the key to optimum health is a diet heavy in starch based foods that are high in fiber, such as whole wheat bread, pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes, oats, grains and legumes. After reading The Starch Solution, I increased my starch intake in a major way, and it’s been life-changing! Not only am I fuller longer, but I’m more satisfied at every meal, my mind is less foggy, I’m sleeping better, and I’ve never been happier, eating all the pasta and rice dishes I love and enjoy until my heart (and stomach!) is content.
5. Eating Whole Fruits
Aside from smoothies, I’ve never been a fruit person – that is, until I tried fresh blueberries and bananas over oatmeal, which I now can’t go a day without! Not only is fruit a great source of fiber, but it contains tons of nutrients the body needs to perform as optimally as possible, as well as natural mood-enhancing properties that have greatly helped with the depression and anxiety I’ve battled since the age of 12. As a result of healthier eating, my mood has greatly improved, which has also led me to better quality, more restful sleep.
6. Eating more Vegetables than ever
Similar to fruit, I rarely ate vegetables unless they were drenched in a heavy, cream-based curry sauce. Until I started experimenting with seasonings and cooking veggies in an air fryer (which is now my favorite kitchen appliance!), I was only eating whole vegetables 1-2 times per week as a side dish. Now, I include a heaping bowl of vegetables or salad with lunch and dinners. Not only do vegetables keep me fuller, longer, but they’re full of fiber and other nutrients with endless benefits.
7. Eating out Less
When the pandemic forced the stay-at-home order back in March, I was upset having to cook so often, versus ordering in almost everyday like I had done as long as I can remember. But as time went on, I realized how much my mood had improved, in addition to how much I truly enjoyed food when I was cooking it myself (and steering clear of the foods and ingredients that cause inflammation).
I currently enjoy outside food 2-3 times per week, but make an effort to order things that are un-processed and contain the least amount of oil as possible. When I do eat something processed or heavy on the oil, I wake up with the same joint pains, headaches and crappy moods I experienced before I adopted a whole food plant based lifestyle, and although the food tastes good in the moment, I hate the way I feel afterwards. That said, my food choices are constantly improving, because it just isn’t worth feeling like absolute crap over a meal, in my opinion. And as time goes on, my body craves healthier choices.
8. Daily Movement
It’s been many, many years since I had a consistent workout routine. Even now, I like starting my day with some light stretching, but I don’t always have the time.
If I can’t get some stretching in, I do my best to dance to a couple songs with my kids in the evening, or take my dog on a walk. Even 5 minutes of movement helps re-set my mind and body from hours sitting in a chair, working on the computer everyday.
9. White Noise at Bedtime
I’ve tried lots of things to help with my insomnia through the years, and nothing has ever worked long-term like white noise has. Right now, I’m loving the sounds of ocean waves, which I let play throughout the night.
10. Intuitive Thinking & Listening
If I wake up in a non-joyful mood or with an ache or pain, I take the time to sit and ask myself why – is there something worrying me? Did I get enough sleep? Do I need to get some movement in and get my endorphins flowing?
Making a constant effort to be in the moment with myself and recognize when I need extra TLC throughout the day has had a huge affect on both my mind and body, not to mention the fact that listening to your mind and body is truly the best form of self-care one can practice.