Five Years Ago, I Used to Eat Chinese Food and Plenty of Ice Cream
Ginger Vieira has lived with Type 1 diabetes and Celiac for 11+ years. She holds 14 national, drug-tested powerlifting records and the Vermont State Bench Press record. Today, she is a cognitive health & chronic illness life coach at Living-in-Progress.
Five years ago, the way I ate and the way I exercised and the way I felt about my health was tremendously different. In many ways, I was a much different person. Not only did I purposefully and regularly eat gluten even though I had been diagnosed with Celiac disease, I ate a variety of things I would never voluntarily eat today. I knowingly would overeat when I was upset about something or was really stressed out. I gladly drank liquor and beer at parties during college. I ate pizza, ate Chinese food, ate candy and junk whenever I felt like it.
Don't get me wrong, underneath was the basics of good nutrition, but the overall concept of filling my body only with good, wholesome foods was not something I gave much thought to. And the transition from where I was then to where I am today was a very gradual change.
Five years ago, if you said to me, "You need to eat organic food, exercise every day, avoid all gluten, remove all fake sugars from your diet and quit drinking coffee," I would've laughed! I could never handle making that many changes at one time! Besides, I also wouldn't have been able to learn about why it was important to make all those changes all at one time...nor would I have cared!
But those changes happened gradually as I filled my brain with more knowledge. When the science was right in front of me, it was impossible to ignore, and impossible not to change!
During the summer of 2007, I just got really fed up. I didn't feel healthy or happy, so I took matters into my own hands and started going to yoga and working out with weights almost every day. This led quickly to changing the way I ate. With just the basic nutrition knowledge, I began eating mostly oatmeal, yogurt, nuts, chicken and salads, with a once-a-week treat of chocolate, ice cream or candy. I lost 10 pounds over the course of 2 months without really even trying to.
When school began that fall, I fell off my wagon a bit, and started gaining some of the weight back because of a less strict diet and less time made for exercise, so I hired a personal trainer. I made exercise a true priority in my life. Just as I always make time to brush my teeth and eat lunch, I made time for exercise.
I quickly learned from my trainer that exercise was only half the equation. I learned that the way I ate would affect my muscle growth, my muscle recovery after workouts, the way my body would burn fat for fuel, and my overall metabolism. That's when I really started paying more attention to the simple things of how many calories I was eating and how much of it was fat, protein or carbohydrates.
I started to educate myself more of good carbs and bad carbs. Good fats and bad fats. Why protein is so important and how to get it in the best forms I could. I researched and experimented with low-carb dieting, powerlifting dieting and how to use carbohydrates to fuel my metabolism instead of only thinking of them as the enemy to my blood sugar!
But this process of change is gradual! It doesn't have to happen all at once. Change takes time.
Today I find myself gladly avoiding gluten no matter what. Despite the already existing evidence, it wasn't until I read Dr. Mark Hyman's "The UltraMind Solution" when I was really ready to eliminate gluten from my diet. And quickly after I realized the bogged down, "foggy-head" feeling I'd experienced from time to time was because of gluten. I appreciate the fact that I don't eat it, today.
I try to buy only organic meat as my knowledge on the antibiotics and added hormones, etc. has increased. Over the past year, I began learning more about why organic food is important. How the immense amount of chemicals all over our food really impacts our body.
I began to learn more about the significance of organic meat, and how ridiculously impure the meat I'd been eating for most of my life really was. How flooded with awful hormones and chemicals it was. How disgustingly the cows were treated and taken care of being they were killed to be food on my plate.
I consider ice cream and candy to be a controlled indulgence. I don't feel guilty when I eat it today, because I know I'm eating it for enjoyment, not as sub-par form of comfort. I purposefully buy it about every other week and then easily get back to my healthier nutrition regimen.
Today, I drink alcohol maybe everything three months and no beer because of the gluten.
Today, I'm actually very proud of the food I put in my mouth. It's clean, low-glycemic, wholesome, and most importantly, its food that I purposefully chose to eat based on my knowledge around what is or isn't good for my body.
But I'm not done learning.
Just recently, I began to look more closely at my energy levels and how completely "zonked" I was feeling in the middle of the day. I experimented with removing caffeine from my diet completely, and after enduring a week of caffeine-withdrawl and headaches...I felt an awesome new kind of energy! My brain had restored its own ability to create the energy-inducing chemicals at a level I really need, instead of adding caffeine to the mix with amps up my brains production of those chemicals to an unreasonably higher level.
Today, I don't need caffeine to get my day started. My blood sugars are actually more stable as a result, my head is more clear, and my energy is more stable throughout the day.
Just recently, I began to really open my eyes to the potential harm of artificial sweeteners. Some extra sweetener here and there may not be a big deal, but as a diabetic, I was consuming some form of fake sugar on a very regular basis. The more studies I read that were not funded by the manufacturers, the more convinced I was that I wanted this kind of product out of my regular diet.
But I didn't force this learning process. I didn't suddenly decide one day, "I'm going to try to make all these changes at once!" I really didn't care about organic meat or artificial sweeteners and how they impacted my body five years ago, because I hadn't had enough time to learn enough about them and what they were doing to my body.
Today, I'll continue to learn, keep my eyes open to new information, and try to make gradual changes in how I live my life.