I remember all the years I resolved to lose weight or eat better over the January’s of my life. I also remember all the “screw it February’s” where I threw in the towel and just accepted that I did not have the gumption to eat healthy. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that I COULD eat healthy and that the food would be GOOD! But not just for the sake of more years of good health under my belt but perhaps to help me avoid the sick and tired and tired and sick and the demeaning process of diagnosing what it is that ailed me. So, let’s pretend that you are my ‘younger self’ and let me lay out 3 reasons you should begin eating healthy.
Why should I eat healthy?
Because ALL of life is so much better when you eat real, whole food!
Can I be vulnerable with you? I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I am lactose intolerant, and I have several other food issues. Early on there was also an imbalance between the healthy bacteria and the bad bacteria in my gut so my body could not fight off things like a cold or absorb nutrients properly. Good foods help to fight this imbalance. Poor food choices can make me (and you) very ill – especially food that is processed. The wrong kind of food can wipe out my energy reserves in a moment and at my age, I need all the help I can get!
When IBS comes to visit, she brings friends. Friends such as anxiety, depression, sudden and severe mood changes, disrupted sleep cycles, difficulty with marital relations, and a whole list of other goodies. Each one of those ‘friends’ will contribute or encourage another to create a perpetual state of illness. IBS is characterized as a mental health disorder due to the close relation of gut health to mental state because it worsens with stress or anxiety (here is a good reference article). As a mental health disorder, it is most often treated with anti-depressants. (Not if I can help it!)
When I was diagnosed, I had to make a choice between taking a pill or bunch of pills that might make me feel just as bad if not worse or changing up my lifestyle. If there has ever been a side effect for me to feel, I have felt it, and they never go away. So a prescription was not the route I took. We chose to evaluate my condition more with an elimination diet and a food journal. I kept a log of what I ate and how it made me feel. I had to become keenly aware of the correlation between food and my physical and emotional health.
Thankfully, I have been able to restore balance to my tummy with food, water, and exercise rather than a prescription. IBS is a fact of my life but it does not have to control me any longer! Good always wins! But enough about me. I want to give you three reasons that eating healthy should appeal to you personally.
Reduces days sick or down due to digestive illness or decreased immune system
Be honest with yourself for a minute. Can you tell the difference in your own mood, energy, sleep quality, etc when you have eaten better – even if only for a short time?
The center of our immune system is found in our gut so if we feed it garbage it will keep us susceptible to every little bug that comes around. Our good bacteria partners with our immune system to increase our ability to fight off pathogens – big and small. The only way to keep our good bacteria strong is to feed it good food! Namely, food that is as close as possible to its whole state.
I will give you an example to illustrate, foods made with whole grains are good but they are still processed (butter top whole wheat bread would be classified here – the label says “Made with Whole Grains”). Sprouted wheat berries with greens, garlic, onions, and a little butter is even better. The nutritional value of the whole grains diminishes greatly as it is mechanically broken down to create bread, cake and cookies, tortillas, and gravy.
Reduces the amount of chemicals and genetically modified organisms that you ingest
Your body craves food that is not processed, chemically enhanced, or chemically preserved. Our bodies were fearfully and wonderfully made to be able to break down and absorb nutrients from meat, vegetables, dairy, and grains to sustain us in all our activities of daily living. Can you say the same about boxed macaroni and cheese, frozen pizza, processed lunch meat, or high sugar cereals and drinks? They were not created with the same end result in mind. Ingesting pesticides, genetically modified foods, and preservatives engages the immune response to try to capture and eliminate the foreign invader. Instead of nourishing you, these foods make your body think it is sick.
Eating Healthy Foods Will stop your cravings for bad carbs
The University of Michigan conducted a study to determine the most addictive foods that we eat. They found 18 highly addictive foods that were all found to be high in sugar or fat or both (simple carbs). Addictions, even to food, have a psychological component that we must battle as well. I found it very interesting to read that carb cravings will increase or decrease based on our depression as well. Giving in and indulging the carb response will give you a sense of relaxation and peace that will quickly fade and be replaced with another craving and most likely increasing anxiety. Most cravings will pass within 30-60 seconds and they will steadily decrease as your body detoxes from the negative effects of simple carbohydrates. (This article offers several suggestions help with carb cravings.)
You might find that you crave healthy foods more. SCORE!
Still Not Convinced?
I understand your plight. Eating healthy takes planning and effort and discipline. The food tastes different and you cannot seem to get enough to keep your stomach from growling. You don’t know how to cook it and you certainly cannot make eating healthy and spending less work together in the same sentence! These are all temporary responses to positive life changes.
Perhaps this will help. Early on in my food journey it was hard for me to consider that food could make me very healthy and reverse the damage of years and years of crappy eating habits. It took time and perseverance. I struggled with cravings – especially after I quit smoking. And then I seemed to get even more sick and I was so ready to throw in the towel. This was a detox side effect of bad bacteria dying off in my intestines. But now, I have far fewer days where I am depressed, lethargic, or physically sick. If I do catch a bug, I eat something fermented and help my good bugs fight off the bad. My social anxiety has decreased significantly and my weight has stabilized.
You have to choose. And then you have to choose again and again in a daily renewal of your commitment to eat healthy. If you consistently choose healthy food (which is not really all that long), the positive benefits will begin to blossom and compound. By that time, you will feel like a whole new person and hopefully you won’t want to go back to sick and tired and tired and sick. I know I feel like a new person!
I will expand on meal planning to save money and time in a coming post. In the meantime, be blessed. Eat well, get well! Remember to whom you belong.
PS… Have you ever thought about the impact of the foods you are eating on your health. I have created a free printable food diary to help you get started identifying the foods that are and are not your friends. Make sure to sign up to receive this and more great goodies in the coming weeks.