I was five years into my yoga practice, before I discovered the connection between the food I was eating, and the quality of my health. I had embraced the value of working hard to control my mind and body, but I was totally reckless in my relationship with food.
Despite my efforts to be healthier, my weight was fluctuating, and I couldn’t get rid of chronic migraines. Why wasn’t working out, and practicing yoga, enough to make me crazy healthy?
My super-smart yogi friend, Charlie, explained that working out and yoga would never bring my health into complete balance, if I wasn’t eating nutrient-rich diet. He convinced me to try a fruit and veggie detox. It sounded crazy, but I was desperate, so I took his advice.
What I did was extreme–just fruits, vegetables, and water for two weeks. No medications, no caffeine, and no added sugar. Just a lot of bananas at first, and then other raw foods toward the end.
During the detox, I tried to eat something small every hour that I was awake, so I was never hungry. I learned to change my mind about why I was eating. It was really hard, and it took a lot of discipline, but it was definitely worth every sacrifice.
After it was over, I never wanted to return to my previous habits. My headaches went away, and I was able to better control my weight on this nutrient-dense diet. I realized that, more than anything, food is fuel, and the quality of the food we eat affects everything about our health. Our bodies need, and deserve, a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Charlie’s fruit and veggie detox is a radical approach to getting healthy. It worked for me, but it will only work for you, if you are ready for an extreme change.
Those who want to ease into this crazy healthy life, can begin by following these simple tips:
1. Just say no to fake foods. Health-inhibiting foods are anything that contains gluten, dairy, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors, and added sugars or sweeteners (stevia is ok). Genetically modified foods are also health-inhibiting, so avoid non-organic soy and corn products. I think of these as fake foods, and things I don’t want in my body.
2. Stock up on foods from the earth. Animal products and fake foods are lower in nutrients than whole foods, so use them in moderation. Try to fill your fridge, cabinets, and countertops with fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and gluten-free grains. Fresh foods are higher in nutrient content, but it’s ok to supplement with frozen and canned when necessary.
3. Make a plan to be successful. Write down what you ate today, and yesterday, and determine what percentage was nutrient-dense. Commit to increase that percentage by 10% each week, until you reach 80%. Over time, the healthy stuff will “squeeze out” the fake foods. Your palate will change, as you refine your diet, and soon you will crave the healthy stuff, more than the fake stuff.
3. Learn how to roast vegetables. The best advice I ever heard for increasing veggie intake is that most vegetables taste great roasted. It’s true, and so easy: just toss with grapeseed or sunflower oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 450 for ten minutes. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and sweet potatoes are my favorites. Get in the habit of preparing extras for leftovers, also, to save prep time the next day.
4. Drink mostly water. Self-explanatory, but this can be a big change for a lot of people. Drinks other than water can actually be dehydrating, and health-inhibiting, especially if they contain caffeine. You can allow yourself one cup of coffee or tea if you must, but remember that caffeine can be harmful in large doses.
5. Avoid absolutes. You don’t have to be 100% raw, or totally vegetarian to be crazy healthy. What you do need to do, is find a balance that works for you. I feel better when I limit animal products, but you might find that you need a little now and then. Do some research, try new recipes, and figure out what makes you feel your best. It’s also important to remind yourself that you can still have an unhealthy treat once in a while. You are not giving up ice cream forever; you are simply reframing it’s place in your life.
I know it seems overwhelming. It kind of is, until you get into a groove. But trust me, you will be glad you did. It’s been ten years since I switched to a nutrient-dense diet, and I really can’t imagine eating any other way.
I understand why this approach works now, and will talk more about that in future posts. In the meantime, give these tips a try, and trust that they will, over time, lead you to the crazy healthy life you always hoped for.