These days, it seems everyone has an opinion about what we should eat for optimum health. When I began studying nutrition 11 years ago, I was fascinated by the differing recommendations on what to eat from expert to expert. I became confused and overwhelmed. How do you know which eating style works best for you? My solution was to simply try the eating styles and see how I felt. So I did.
I grew up as a carnivore who didn’t eat very healthy. I loved fast food, pizza, soda, and burgers. I grew up in Arkansas where most of the food was fried, canned, or processed. As I grew older and learned more about healthy eating, I gravitated toward better options such as baked chicken and fish. However, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling my best and looked to nutrition to help my body heal. It was then that I discovered the world of herbal cleanses. There are SO many herbal cleanses on the market! I started trying all different types of cleanses to include raw food with herbs, vegan food with herbs, and pure liquid fasting. One of the things that stood out with all of the cleanses is that when I took a break from heavy foods, I had more energy, less brain fog, and felt better overall.
In the beginning, I didn’t know a lot about food sources (grass fed meat, antibiotics in meat/dairy, genetically modified food, locally sourced, etc.) or how to distinguish the quality of nutritional supplements. I started researching and using myself as a test subject. I began noticing how certain food made my body feel. I found that when I was eating a mostly raw (spinach, kale, parsley, romaine lettuce, avocado, etc.) diet, I felt my best. I also noticed that when I added in meat, I didn’t feel nearly as good. So, I stopped eating meat in an effort to feel my best.
This dietary approach served me well for over 2 years. I made sure that I supplemented with a really good multi-vitamin and ate lots of vegetables. However, when I moved to Colorado, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling well again. I was constantly hungry and felt lightheaded and weak most of the time. I got all sorts of energy healing work done and used everything in my tool kit to help myself.
Over a one-year period, I gained weight (and muscle) and just didn’t feel like myself. There were many contributing factors to this. One is that my exercise program changed. I went from doing mostly cardio to lifting heavy weights. No matter how many protein shakes I drank, I just wasn’t feeling satiated and full. Another contributing factor was the altitude change. The altitude in Colorado is higher than Texas. Therefore, I found myself getting winded faster, getting altitude headaches, and generally not feeling as strong. Eventually though, I adjusted and that went away.
The third was grocery store options. I had all of my spots picked out in Texas and knew exactly what to buy. However, the grocery stores near me in Colorado didn’t have near enough options and I found myself growing tired of the same things. I have since found my spots and made my adjustments, but in the beginning it was overwhelming. The last small contributing factor is that my husband is a meat eater. He was more than happy to eat vegan food and tried all of my normal recipes. However, I found myself struggling to accommodate everyone and it was difficult to find food that suited everyone’s preferences.
At that point, I started getting health consultations and doing more research about transitioning out of a plant-based lifestyle. I started adding small amounts of clean meat into my diet. By clean I mean organic grass-fed, cage free, pasture raised meat. I would add a little and see how I felt. My body did NOT like a few things. Other things gave me a boost of energy and I started to feel better physically. I also had some food intolerance tests done to see if I was causing inflammation in my body through my diet. That’s a different topic that I won’t get into here, but I found out that I was in fact, eating many “healthy” foods (garlic was the main one) that my body didn’t like.
Wait, aren’t vegans and vegetarians healthier? That’s what I thought! I started to dig further and really look at the studies. The research on this subject is warped. Meat eaters who over-consume and eat poor quality meat are typically unhealthier than vegans and vegetarians who eat mostly vegetables. Why? Well, because they are more health conscious and consuming higher quality food. However, conscious meat eaters who eat MOSTLY vegetables and CLEAN meat are just as healthy. While many love to debate this topic, Dr. Mark Hyman has gathered extensive research on this subject if you would like to learn more. I respect everyone’s individual eating choices and am only sharing my own experience here.
Nowadays, I eat mostly raw vegetables (salads and smoothies), a little bit of meat or tofu, and some occasional treats. I try to live the 80/20 rule – 80% healthy and 20% treats. This way of eating suits me. I feel just as wonderful as I did when I was not eating meat and am on my way back to complete balance (and getting my desired body shape back too). The key is that I’m still eating lots of raw green vegetables and only eating a little bit of meat. My body responds best to a low carb high fat diet. Some days I don’t eat meat at all. However, when I feel my body needs it, I eat it. I listen to my body and tune in to see what I really need. I am by no means a perfect eater! I get off balance and eat things I shouldn’t for longer than I should. When I am emotionally off balance, I make unbalanced choices. I shared more about that in my emotional eating class through Learn It Live. Staying balanced is a daily effort for me. As I’ve shared before, I’m empathic (I absorb the energy of everyone/everything around me) so it’s truly something I have to work at every moment of every day.
I have found that fat does not make you fat. Sugar makes you fat. It also impacts your moods, concentration levels, and overall well-being. With everything that I’ve learned about nutrition over the past decade, the work of Dr. Mark Hyman sums it up in a way that is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores. I do not receive any compensation for recommending his work, I am only sharing what I love and what has worked well for me.
I honestly believe that there are no “one size fits all” approaches for nutrition and diet. I believe there are different plans for different bodies and our job is to find what works best for us. I also believe our nutritional needs change at different times in our lives. Again, the key is to listen to your body – it’s wiser than any physician or nutrition expert! If you tune in and listen, it will guide you.
All my love!