I got really sick, overweight and hit a low in 2010. I had a highly stressful job, was a coffee addict, ate very poorly (takeaway and pre-packaged food all the time), didn’t exercise at all and drank wine to relieve stress on weekends. All my bad habits, combined with an enormous amount of stress, added up, and I suffered from chronic infections, severe back pains, dermatitis on my skin, and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
My inner voice was telling me that I couldn’t carry on like that. Living with an overweight and constantly tired and aching body had become unbearable. I was only 23 years old, and realized that this was not the way to live my life.
So I started researching healthy diets and lifestyles. I began implementing the advice, and the results were amazing: my allergies and skin rashes cleared up, infections and pains slowly disappeared, I lost weight and had so much more energy!
The changed I made in my diet didn’t happen overnight, it took a couple of years to get rid of some of my old habits. But the main body changes happened in two phases: first, when I started changing my lifestyle in 2010 I lost 22 lbs. almost effortlessly, without depriving myself or using any willpower; then in 2013 I started exercising and improved my diet even more, which led to another 18 lbs. being lost.
This is how I changed my diet, in a nutshell:
1. I gradually increased my raw food intake
When I started doing research in 2010, I often stumbled across the raw food diet. At first, it sounded absolutely crazy to me! I’m not going to eat that rabbit food – I thought to myself back then. Eating mainly fruits and vegetables sounded way too extreme to me. I didn’t realize then that torturing and killing animals to satisfy our taste buds, and eating highly processed foods, carefully engineered in labs, is way more extreme!
I didn’t go 100% raw straight away, I just started trying different recipes and raw food approaches. I tried gourmet raw, low fat high carb raw (aka 80/10/10), low glycemic raw diet, etc. I felt best when keeping my diet low fat and eating lots of fruit.
In 2013 I got inspired to take on a new fitness challenge: to eat 100% raw food and exercise regularly. That’s when I lost another 18 lbs. and felt my healthiest and most energetic ever!
Now I eat a plant based diet which is high in raw fruits and vegetables (70-90%), but I also incorporate cooked food into my diet. I love beans, chickpeas, organic tofu, steamed veggies, brown rice and buckwheat.
I’m only human so sometimes I eat some less healthy food when I go out or I’m on holiday. But my diet always remains plant-based and I try to avoid refined sugar, and anything processed, as much as possible.
2. I gave up animal products
I grew up eating meat and dairy with every single meal! Yogurt with berries or sandwiches with cheese and butter for breakfast, a meat and potato dish for both lunch and dinner. I took it as normal and didn’t question why we, humans, eat other beings and drink their milk. In my teenage years, when I started struggling with weight, I questioned which foods would make me skinny and which ones would make me fat. But it never occurred to me that perhaps I should stop eating animals. As with most people, I just accepted that this is how it is.
Studying nutrition and then conducting thorough independent research about animal consumption led me to a clear conclusion that these foods are not good for my health:
- Meat begins to decompose as soon as it is killed, even with traditional preservatives such as salt or with refrigeration to retard deterioration. It contains a host of health-threatening bacteria, including E.Coli, which can even lead to death if you eat meat that hasn’t been processed properly. And if you eat out, you never really know how your food was prepared.
- Meat is harder to digest than plant foods and continues to putrefy in the digestive tract. Putrefaction produces toxins and amines that accumulate in the liver, kidneys and large intestine and destroy good bacterial cultures, which are vital for efficient digestion and a strong immune system.
- Saturated fatty acids, from meat and other animal products, accumulate in and around vital organs and blood vessels, often leading to cysts, tumours, and hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart disease.
- Saturated fat also raises the amount of cholesterol in the blood, further contributing to the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque. To compensate for eating meat, poultry, eggs, and other animal foods, the body requires more oxygen in the bloodstream. The breathing rate rises after eating animal food, making it difficult to maintain a calm mind.
- Casein, the protein in cheese, milk, cream, butter, and other dairy foods cannot be assimilated easily and begins to accumulate in an undigested state in the upper intestine, putrefying, producing toxins, and leading to a weakening of the gastric, intestinal, pancreatic, and biliary systems, as well as producing mucous deposits. The inability to digest milk or other dairy products is known as lactose intolerance and is found in between 50% to 90 % of the world population.
- Many people who eat dairy food have mucous accumulations in their nasal cavities and inner ear, resulting in hay fever and hearing difficulty. Accumulation of fatty deposits from dairy leads to stones in the kidneys and gallbladder.
- Dairy is nature’s perfect food for a calf. A newborn calf will double in size in about 47 days. Human adults cannot grow at this speedy rate. However, milk consumption makes their body fat grow rapidly instead.
- Meat and dairy contains IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) hormone which has been shown to promote the growth of cancer cells. Plus, dairy, even organic, contains a total of 59 known hormones. And ingesting so many hormones disrupts your own endocrinal system.
- Dairy products, along with the aforementioned hormones, also contain antibiotics, pus cells (from mastitis infections), herbicides and pesticides, faeces and blood, plus viruses. Milk is indeed a nasty and dangerous substance that should not be considered food for humans.
After learning all this information about health, plus the horrible practices of our meat and dairy industries, I could no longer justify to myself eating these foods.
3. I started drinking green vegetable juice and green smoothies every morning
Green leafy vegetables are excellent for your health. They provide your body with much needed vitamins, alkaline minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, chlorophyll and other compounds that are essential for good health.
You may not want to eat salad for all your meals, especially if time is of concern, for example in the morning. So having a green smoothie and/or a green juice for breakfast is a great way to start your day.
Having enough greens in your diet is absolutely vital for maintaining healthy weight. If I stop having my green veggie juice (e.g. if I’m travelling), I start craving foods that are not the best for me: bread, muffins, chocolate and fried food. So I do everything I can to maintain my daily green juice habit.
4. I ditched processed junk food
Don’t count calories, count the toxins! This one is pretty self-explanatory but most people still miss it. They often fall into a trap of believing that if something says “natural” or implies being healthy on the label, it must necessarily be good for you. This is not true!
Years ago, when I first started on my journey to health, I thought that one should always read the ingredient list at the back of your food. Now I think differently. You should only buy food that doesn’t have an ingredient list! Which is simple whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. And then prepare everything from scratch.
5. I reduced refined sugar and oil consumption
Everyone talks about the adverse effects of sugar on one’s health; and some even claim that natural sugar occurring in fruit and some vegetables is bad for us. But we must understand that not all sugar is the same.
Natural sugar occurring in fruit is one of the best sources of energy, since all our cells, including our energy-expensive brains, run on sugar.
Fruit contains fibre which slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, without causing blood sugar spikes, as refined sugar (or any other concentrated sweetener like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc.) would do.
The problem with oil is that, just like refined sugar, it is way too concentrated. It’s pure fat that you would not find in nature (in nature, e.g. nuts, seeds of fatty fruit, it would come in combination with protein, carbohydrates, fibre, etc.). When we consume too much concentrated fat, there are too many lipids (fat) flowing in the bloodstream. Therefore, the glucose in our diet cannot be transmitted to the cells efficiently, and thus too much sugar (glucose) accumulates in the blood. In response, the pancreas releases even more insulin, which then leads to a drop in blood sugar. These imbalances, spikes and surges may cause you to have low energy, cravings for sugary food and drinks, and mood swings. Also, in the long term, they may cause insulin resistance which leads to type-2 diabetes.
So it’s best to avoid concentrated anything: whether it’s refined sugar, refined fat (aka oil or butter) or protein powders. Nature makes no mistakes, and there’s a reason why fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and beans are packed with fiber, and why protein powder doesn’t grow on trees.