I believe that the “Whys” are generally more important than the “Whats” in life. So before I share with you ‘What’ we choose to eat week in & week out, I want to first focus on the ‘Whys’ and also ‘How’ we landed on our ‘Whats.’ Follow me? Haha! Let me explain...
As Brian and I were talking the other day, we were reflecting on our food journey these past 6 years. We landed on a pretty cool summary of our journey; identifiable steps we went through. I highly recommend you follow the same skeletal outline and embark on your own food journey.
Phase 1 - Awareness
If you haven’t read my blog post entitled, Secret #1: Awareness Tune in to yourself!, I highly recommend you do that now. Awareness is a biggie. Awareness is a necessary first step in the process of changing your eating philosophy.
When we decided we needed to make changes in our lives, we knew we had to become aware of every item we put into our bodies and also aware of how each of those items affected our mood, our energy, our ability to cope/be less reactive, our motivation, our body’s health, our mental clarity, how we felt, how we functioned, and our drive.
I’ve said it before, but I will say it again… if you want a concrete way to gain awareness, start a journal. No… not a calorie-counting food journal. Start a journal to document everything you consume in a day and track how each thing affects you ...continue this until patterns emerge. Include a column on the left for everything you eat/drink, but also a column on the right to write down what you notice about how those foods/drinks affected you 1 hour after, 3 hours after, and even 24 hours after each choice. Jot down how you feel, what your mood is like, what your outlook on life is in general! This will help you connect some As to some Bs. This is what the Awareness phase is all about. … realizing that with every choice comes a reaction - whether it’s a negative consequence, a positive perk or a neutral response. Write it all down. Continue this until you see patterns and know definitively what each item does to you when you consume it (when things are consumed together as they typically are, at meals for instance, it may initially be difficult to discern which item has what effect. But over time it will become apparent.)
After you have given this step a lot of time and fidelity, and you’re confident you’ve landed on what exactly each food and drink that you consume, does to you, move on to Phase 2...
Phase 2 - Focus
We went through a few years where food was our main obsession, I mean… focus. As annoying as this phase was, it was absolutely necessary to discovering and landing on the foods that give us *ENERGY* and which ones we’d best nix from our lives completely ...because they don’t serve us well.
You could probably already list many of the foods you need to nix. The 1st awareness phase will really reaffirm this because you’ll notice how these foods don’t serve you well. The consequences of each will be written down for you to see.
For example, any food or candy with red dye gives me headaches. ...immediately nixed in Phase 2. Artificial sweeteners (aspartame especially) mess with my body badly - I gave those up when we knew we wanted to get pregnant. I knew I didn’t want to create life with that running through my veins, yuck! Obsession also caused us to do some reading and research. We learned that we wanted to avoid soy when possible (harder to do than you’d think!) - it’s very estrogenic and not a good thing, in our opinion.
Foods that ‘made the cut’ had to, had to, had to fit into our week’s schedule. By this I mean, it couldn’t require so much preparation and time that it wasn’t do-able to incorporate each week, or several times per week! We lead very busy lives and are juggling a lot currently: full time jobs, hefty commutes, 2 kids, workouts, an eating philosophy standard, kids’ sports and activities, and our marriage. While we realize that there are foods and meals that we should work to include when we have more time (I don’t steam veggies every single week - gasp! - that’s where we use our greens drinks as our nutritional insurance), the simple basic outline we began with needed to be do-able, something we could sustain, and something we worked toward making a solid habit.
Other major factors that we considered were these: What does it contain that we’d prefer it didn’t? What doesn’t it contain that we’d like it to contain, so it’d be more nutritional? Sometimes it isn’t enough to pick apart the ingredients that are included… sometimes you need to look one step further and ask, “what purpose does this food serve nutritionally?” Maybe it’s just a filler you need to nix because there’s no nutritional value or point to putting it in your body. On the other hand, we are never about deprivation. We never ever deprive ourselves in the name of some number on some scale. I rarely jump on a scale, remember? Our meals and foods have to be satisfying. End of story.
In this phase we put in a lot of work creating, tweaking, revamping and fine-tuning a weekly meal-plan of sorts. Once we identified what foods we wanted to incorporate on a routine basis, we strategically placed these meals into our week. Factors we considered included: the fact that we maintain energy and don’t get sluggish when our lunches are chicken based. So across the board we eat chicken for lunch and higher fat meats for supper. We even identified each of our favorites/preferences for ‘after a work-out’ meals and ‘the day before a work-out’ meals. Strategically planned. Fine-tuned. Obsessed about. Hahaha!
I’m happy, though, that this 2nd stage, for us, is now over and done with. From the outside looking in on us during Phase2… we probably appeared crazy. Obsessed. Consumed. But you know what? It was necessary. We came out on the other side with a completely transformed eating philosophy… a completely transformed life! I feel waaaay better than I ever have. I have more energy than I ever predicted. We are now fully enjoying the fruits of our Phase 2 labors where we get to focus on other things in our life more because we’ve streamlined our food choices and food prep. Food is simply a functional part of our day now. That’s it. Food is not something to dwell on, obsess about, condemn ourselves for, regret or waste time thinking about. It is now something we have ‘mastered’ and overcome so that we can go on with the business of *LIVING*. Food is a means to an end, a fuel (albeit an incredibly tasty fuel - we wouldn’t have it any other way). It’s streamlined and very simple. ...yet tastier and more enjoyable than it’s ever been.
I’d do it all over in a heartbeat. My life is forever better because of the work and determination we invested in our life changes. It’s not about quick fixes… it truly is about a lifestyle change. A transformation. Transformations don’t come easily or quickly, do they?
One caveat… you’ve gotta give it time. I’ve spoken of the years involved in our journey haven’t I? I remember gagging every time I drank our greens drink in the first weeks I began consuming it. But now I can’t imagine going a day without it. I now find it delicious and satisfying, therefore I crave it each day. We’ve even added another awesome greens drink into our ‘weekly plan.’ More about these in a future post. Give it time. There might be a rough patch to work through initially. Maybe you need to power through a sugar detox to jump-start your success. Whatever it takes… do it. Do it! But commit to seeing it through.
The motivation for me to power through initially was wanting a way out of the sluggishness and nutritional deficiency I had landed myself in. So I manned up, did it, and reminded myself I was heading in the right direction. One small change at a time. And after awhile, a couple of changes led to several changes, which led to a lot of changes. Over time the numerous changes we’ve made have brought us to an entirely different phase of our eating philosophy. Ironically to a place where food is no longer an ‘issue’ for us at all. Read my Mountain Analogy post for more insight about how transformation is a series of small changes that have a major cumulative effect.
Back to acquiring the taste… My brutally honest advice? Quit being a wuss. Eat it/drink it often enough and eventually you get accustomed to the taste. I promise… you’ll eventually crave its nutrients and taste. I do.
Change is difficult. But promise yourself that you’re worth the rough patch and that the transformation on the other side is well worth it and where you truly desire to be! Just think… soon you’ll be joining us as residents of Phase 3!
Phase 3 - Just roll with it.
All the hard work is done! We became aware. We became obsessed. We were focused and diligent. We identified what foods work and don’t work for our individual bodies. We strategically developed a general layout of our week’s meals and ‘snacks’ to roll with. Now…. the really enjoyable stage of ‘rolling with it!”
We have taken the ‘decision fatigue’ out of eating. That is a real thing by the way. I learned about it on Logan Christopher's The Vital Way podcast about habit changes (minutes 38:00-42:00 especially, but the whole podcast is great!) and immediately could relate, then became motivated to eliminate ‘decision fatigue’ wherever I could in my days. It is now a ‘Why’ added to our list of reasons we do what we do. I plan to make an entire post in the future solely about ‘decision fatigue.’ Stay tuned for that! [so many ideas, so little time haha]
I plan to share details about what we do and ideas for foods/meal plans/grocery lists in the future as well. However, I don’t recommend following any of it to a T. Pretty crazy of me to say, isn’t it? What I encourage you to do first, before you ever read my future food posts, is to go through the first phase of your own food journey… the Awareness stage. Set yourself up to be ready to listen to and consider the things your body is telling you. My body never lies. I bet yours doesn’t either if you’d tune in and listen to it.
None of us are perfect, but this is a hell of an outline and a place to start. Changes shouldn’t be seen as so daunting that you don’t do them. Pick one, just one! Start there and implement that one until that it’s habitual. Then choose another… until that one has become a sustainable habit. Then another... and another. Know that within 6 months, a year, two years, that you will accomplish what you’ve decided to accomplish. That is how we’ve done it. Our journey didn’t happen overnight. But we are MILES ahead with our eating than we were 2 years… 6 years… 10 years ago… and THAT’s what matters. It was never a temporary fad for us. It became a lifestyle change.
Small steps. Offer yourself some grace. But don’t settle for ever going back to old patterns and ways. Do something every day to work toward a transformed eating philosophy.
I am a wife, mom to two and teacher. I have a lot of things I'd like to go after in this lifetime!