Eating clean. I’ve seen this phrase a lot lately on message boards, blogs, and in magazine articles. It is an interesting turn of phrase. I didn’t know I was eating dirty. Well, except maybe that one time… As it turns out, I had adopted a clean eating lifestyle a while back before the lingo, the media craze, and definitely before all the cool kids were doing it. I started it back in July 2013 after a life changing epiphany. One summer day my husband and I were on the way to a movie and decided to grab a quick bite of lunch. We stopped at a common fast casual chain restaurant near the theater and ordered our meals. As I sat at our table waiting for our food to arrive, I glanced around me to the other diners. What I saw was eye-opening. I saw obese people everywhere. The server was obese, the management was obese, the busboy was obese, and so were 95% of the customers. As I observed my fellow diners, I watched a server deliver a platter of onion rings to the table beside us. The platter was arranged (I kid you not) a foot high. My husband and I sat and watched in horror and disgust as they proceeded to throw these back with a bowl of mayonnaise based dipping sauce as an appetizer. I’m unclear what they actually ordered for lunch because by than my food had arrived. A BBQ bacon cheeseburger with fries, which, twenty minutes before sounded really tasty, now just left me feeling like the world’s biggest hypocrite. I mean, I sat in judgment of everyone and thought, “How can these people let themselves get this big or eat like that?” I was there and I was eating the same, albeit a smaller portion of the same crap. Crap is exactly what it was. I pondered this and I tried to eat my lunch and it felt like eating crow, quite honestly. I raised my eyes to my very fit husband and let the floodgate of feelings open wide and I said, “You know, I’m not really any different then these people. I’m judging them for the exact thing I’m doing right now. While I’m not obese, I’m not a healthy weight either and what exactly am I doing about it?’ I then glanced around the room again and saw it differently. I saw it as a future outcome if I didn’t change. It was my “Aha!” moment. I truly got it. I then understood in perfect clarity every article I had ever read about a “life altering moment.” I had just had mine.
So with new purpose I started researching “diet” plans. Diets had never really worked for me in the past so I put new vigor into finding something different. I found it in a book called “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. I had heard of Paleo before and it had always struck me as being too strict, not livable, and too hard. Well change isn’t easy as I was learning so I began to read it. Did I read the entire book? No. I read about 85% of it and then began researching Paleo online. There was a TON of versions of the “paleo” plan out there and all of it was confusing. One source would say, absolutely no dairy. Other sources would say you can have dairy in small quantities, if it came from grass-fed cows, organic, etc. The more I read about it the more it appealed to me.
Clean eating appealed to me. A diet…not die(t) of pure, honest-to-goodness food. No processed, man-made Franken-food, no grains, no pastas, no baked goods, no ice cream (sob!), no man-made industrial cooking oils, chemicals or preservatives. Just clean food. Food grown in the dirt, hanging from a tree, or raised in a pasture. Food not from a box, a package, or wrapped with a label.
Also-and honestly this was probably my biggest motivating factor; I was tired of eating. I was tired of consuming everything and not feeling nourished. In general I guess you could say that eating bored me. WHAT?!? Eating bored you? You must be crazy? These are heavy words considering my line of work. I’m a classically trained chef. I work with food. I play with food and, yes, sometimes I dream of it. Most people think Chefs eat amazing food everyday. I’m here to tell you, that is not the case the majority of the time. We work long hours without breaks, without meals, and, depending on the season, work in extreme temperatures. When most of us have time to cook ourselves a “meal”, it’s usually something fast and, often times, unhealthy. Ramen noodles are a classic chef meal. It’s sad, but true.
So I was tired of eating and I didn’t feel like it was going to get better unless I made a change. Cue theme song and disco lights. So I started eliminating certain foods from my diet based on the paleo premise. I started in July 2013 and by Dec 2013 I had lost 30 pounds and was very near my goal weight. I felt great and after a few more months I settled into it. It became second nature to eat that way. I loved it.
So what happened? Life happens. Sometimes traumatic things happen that change a person and we self medicate as a method of dealing. I self medicated with food. Food items that I had eliminated from my diet for months became newly found friends and then they brought friends. You get the picture. My new vigor for the lifestyle dampened while I recovered.
Several months later, I’m in a good place and ready to take control of my life again. I’m ready to adopt that healthy lifestyle. Paleo was very good for me. I lost weight. I got stronger, my skin cleaned up, my sleep apnea disappeared (BIG WOOHOO) and overall my life improved. I was happy.
I am happy but I could be happier, healthier and could lose a couple of pounds but honestly it’s about that renewed vigor for food that drives me. Real food tastes better for a reason.
So my first goal of 2015 is to eat real food. I will again slowly eliminate foods and beverages that I find unhealthy. The first week I will eliminate anything containing gluten or any processed food. Hence I will not eat bread, pastries, cookies, colas, pastas, rice, sugar and the list goes on. So what exactly will I be eating? I will be eating vegetables, meat, fruits and nuts. These items will be either fresh, frozen or in certain instances canned and will not contain any hard to pronounce chemical or additives.
I’m looking forward to some really good food.