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  • Writer's pictureAngela H.

How to Start Eating Healthy | Help & Advice

I used to eat really badly. I wasn't eating a lot of vegetables or fruits. I ate mostly simple carbohydrates and foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats. I never read the nutrition labels on foods, just the ingredients list and it was because I didn't want to know. It was easier to just assume I wasn't eating terribly because I wasn't gaining weight.

I did have to take supplements because I had symptoms from not having enough nutrients in my diet. I had a lot of inflammation in my body, which made my joints hurt all the time and my menstrual cycle was long and painful. I just thought that's how my body felt and would always feel because I had gotten used to pain and not having enough nutrients. To me, it was easier not to know what I was eating and drinking, because the alternative is a lot of work and guilt, which I didn't want to deal with.

But, I was so tired of being in pain and having to take supplements. The pain was the worst part because for about half of a whole month, I couldn't do much. It hurt to stand in one place, it hurt to walk, so I couldn't do much of anything. I wanted to change and feel better, but I didn't know how. I just figured it wouldn't hurt to start scaling back on soda, sweet iced tea and to start looking up all of the nutritional value on the foods I normally ate and what the daily recommended values are supposed to be.

Figuring Out the Truth:

I also sat down and looked at my bank statements to see how much I'd been eating out versus at home. It turns out that over the period of one bank statement I had eaten (including just getting coffee drinks at Starbucks Coffee) at restaurants 41 times (approximately one month). I was kind of shocked because it didn't seem like I had eaten out that much, but counting it up and seeing it was a wake up call for me. It seems like it's easier to tell yourself you're eating okay because you're not eating candy all the time or fried food all the time, but it adds up.

The next thing I decided to do was look up all the foods I normally ate and really look at the nutritional value. I added up what I'd normally eat in a day and I was shocked at how much the sodium, sugar and saturated fat added up. Once I saw what I was really eating, I knew I couldn't eat that way any more, but I still didn't know how to fix how I was eating.

What I Figured Out:

I basically just went to Publix and went down every aisle and looked at what I'd normally eat, then try to pick out things I'd like to try. It was very helpful, but hard at the same time because I became so discouraged. I thought, if everything is bad for you, why should I even try? What's the point? I bought some foods that seemed better for me, but after eating better (more vegetables, more protein, less fat, less sugar) for three days, I had a craving for sugar so intense I thought I was going crazy. I thought I'd do anything to not feel that way, but I pushed through because I knew the cravings would pass eventually.

It Got Easier:

I would say after a week, the sugar cravings were lowered to almost nothing. After three weeks, I could walk down the candy, chips and cookie aisle without grabbing anything or craving anything. It was difficult to put meals together at first because I was learning a new way of eating and it's hard to find information about what to eat. There's a lot of recipes for artificial sweeteners in recipes, a lot of recipes for a Keto diet and a lot of recipes for diets overall. I just wanted to eat better permanently. I did download a popular app to keep track of what I eat so I know what everything is added up over the day and that has helped me a lot.

How Society Can Impede Us:

It does seem like it's harder to eat better in the United States because there are a lot of fast food restaurants in populated areas, processed food is more popular than unprocessed food, there are constant messages on tv, the radio, on social media, the internet and in magazines and books about processed foods, so we are bombarded by messages telling us to go and get ready-made food to go in a matter of minutes. Some restaurants make it so difficult to determine the nutritional value and use so much fat, salt and sugar, it can make eating better feel impossible.

Why It's Not Impossible:

It's not impossible though. I've found good things to eat at restaurants and found that the ones where it is easier to figure out the nutrition are usually better for you because they don't try to hide it. I now eat food that's higher in nutrition, more varied, with recommended daily values and I don't feel deprived or wish I could go back to how I used to eat. My pain levels are so much lower and my menstrual cycle is normal now and that's after a couple months of eating what I feel like I should have been eating all along. This is after years of having chronic pain and inflammation and irregular periods. My resting heart rate went down 10 points, so I will say this has made a huge difference already.

What shocked me was how easy it was to change after three weeks and how different I felt without having as much sugar, salt or fat. Before, it never mattered how much sugar I ate, I always wanted more. It was never enough and it was like a drug. Sugar really does act like a drug and it's hard to kick. Your body rewards you for eating sugar, so it releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, I think that when we feel negative emotions, it's easy to turn to foods high in sugar because it really does make us feel better, at least for a little while. But it also hurts us too. I don't ever want to go back to being in so much pain I can't even walk to the kitchen to make lunch or not being able to walk on the beach with my husband.

I feel so much better and I feel bad that I treated my body like I did. I really didn't think it was possible to change and I thought I'd just go back to how I was eating because I'd feel so deprived. The thought of not eating what I wanted when I wanted held me back because I hate being told what to do or be controlled in any way, so I resisted.

It Ain't Bad, In Fact, It's Pretty Awesome:

I realize now that I can still have foods I love. I can have lots of different foods, but I have to include them in my daily nutrition. I find that I don't need as much sugar for something to taste sweet and the same goes for salt. It's like I got used to more and more sugar and salt over time and didn't realize what I was eating until I reduced sugar and salt.

If you really want to eat in a way that provides more nutrition for your body and makes you feel better overall, it can be done. It's just going to take keeping track of what you eat, being honest with yourself about what you eat, and not viewing the change as something that is being taken away from you, but rather as something that you are giving to yourself. You will probably have to make a lot more food at home, but I find that my food tastes better and it really doesn't take as much time as I thought it would.

Final Thoughts:

Are you interested in eating foods with more nutrition, less sugar, less saturated fat and less salt? Do you find it easy to eat a diet with less of those things or have you tried it and found it difficult? Do you find that your overall health is affected by what you eat? What do you think about how American society views food? Do you find it easy to find information about nutrition at restaurants or difficult? Please share your thoughts!



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