Yay! We made it to Friday! I’m so glad the weekend is finally upon us. I hope you all have fun Easter plans in place.
Today I want to share an in depth look into how my diet has evolved over the last two decades and where I am today. But let me preface this by saying there’s certainly no such thing as the “perfect diet” and what works for me may not work for you (and vice versa). Everyone has different needs and tastes. And when I say “diet” I am really just referring to my food behavior and consumption. I’m not talking about restricting calories.
My diet has certainly changed over the years. When I was young(er), I didn’t give it much thought. Like other kids, I ate whatever I wanted. During junior high, I would start my day with two frosted Pop-Tarts and lunch was usually a PB&J, chips, an apple and maybe a yogurt. Plus dessert. Other days I would skip lunch and come home to devour two frozen waffles with syrup or a Tony’s personal pizza. By dinner time I was no longer hungry. I ate very few veggies, little protein, and lots of sugar and processed foods.
I was really active as a kid so I was never overweight. I ran track, played soccer and softball, and had a horseback riding lesson twice a week. What I ate was no different from what my friends ate.
So, yeah, my diet was kind of horrible back then, but processed foods and sugar were not under a microscope like they are today.
- A strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products. Specifically, the diet excludes: meat, fish, eggs, dairy (milk, cheese, etc.), honey.
When I was 13 my older brother (who was vegan…and still is today!) bet me that I couldn’t go one week without eating meat and dairy. Anyone with older siblings will understand the deep need to impress or prove them wrong. I didn’t want to lose so I went all out. I ended up being a vegan for around 3 – 4 years. Back then, I was pretty clueless about what to eat. I ate a lot of popcorn with canola oil and salt and most of my veggies were fried in vegetable oil. I didn’t even consider eating healthy. I just ate what was “allowed” even if that meant french fries for a meal.
- A vegetarian whose diet includes dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruits, grains, and nut. Excludes: meat and fish.
When I was around 16-17, I ended up eating dairy and eggs again. I can’t remember why I made this choice, but I imagine I was just tired of having so few food options. It was hard to be vegan when so many of my HS friends were eating “normally.” I loved pizza, yogurt, and ice cream too much. Today, being a vegan or vegetarian is much more common and there are a lot of pretty amazing alternatives out there.
- One whose diet includes fish but no other meat.
I started eating fish when I was in my early 20s. At the time I was beginning to work out and strength train and I noticed my energy levels dipped a lot. I didn’t feel like I was getting enough protein or fat in my diet. I also started to pay more attention to eating well-balanced meals. My first meal back was salmon. Yum!
- One whose diet excludes dairy products like milk and cheese.
Fast forward a few years. I kept having horrible stomach pains after most of my meals. This was something I experienced as a child, too. My father used to tell me I had a “sensitive stomach” like my grandmother so I assumed this was normal. Or at least, normal for me. It got so painful that I could barely finish a meal without doubling over in pain. I finally went to the doctor who had me take a lactose-intolerance test. I tested positive. I was glad to finally have an answer to my problem, but I was super bummed to learn I couldn’t tolerate my favorite things: all.the.cheese and ice cream.
I noticed a HUGE improvement by avoiding dairy. I tried taking Lactaid pills, but those were disgusting and didn’t make much of a difference for me. Plus, I figured if my body is telling me I shouldn’t have dairy then (hello!) I shouldn’t have it.
Pesco pollo vegetarian:
- A semi-“vegetarian” who avoids red meat but eats chicken and fish.
I remained a dairy-free pescatarian for most of my 20s. When I was pregnant, I developed gestational diabetes and had to drastically change my diet. I was pretty strapped for protein options (I was consuming minimal amounts of fish because of my concern for mercury). And, since I was forced to limit carbs, many of the vegetarian foods I was used to eating (beans, veggie burgers, rice, wheat) were no longer great options for my blood sugar.
I made the decision to eat chicken when I was 28 weeks pregnant and never looked back. My first meat after 17 years? Chicken thighs. They were good!
Today I eat mostly Paleo and that includes everything but red meat. I limit my grains quite a bit and I still avoid dairy. I’ll eat butter when I’m out if the meal is prepared with it (butter contains very little dairy), but I usually have olive oil or coconut oil when I am cooking at home. My starches are usually from vegetables and fruit with the most common being sweet potatoes, squash, plantains, and bananas. I also eat rice and gluten-free bread.
I am satisfied with where I am at this point in my life and my food choices. For me, it’s not a diet – it’s a lifestyle. I have noticed a big difference in my energy levels and mood by avoiding wheat and dairy. I feel better all around when I eat well. But, there are times when I go for it and have naughty things (M&Ms, Reeses, Almond Joys = LOVE). I will pay for it, but I go in knowing that. Life is about enjoyment and food is a big part of my enjoyment. So I am not going to sit here and tell you I eat perfectly all of the time. That’s a lie. I try to follow the 80/20 rule. For me, that means making good food choices 80% of time.
What you decide to put in your body is a very personal choice and I don’t think any of us are in a position to criticize others by their food choices – whether you choose to be a vegan or a blood-loving carnivore. Not everyone is going to enjoy the same things. If you don’t like kale, don’t eat it! Hate chia seeds? Don’t buy them!
What I do believe is you should LOVE your body and nourish it well. Make choices that show your body you care about it and that you want it to stick around for a long, long time.