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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baby Steps and a Healthy Diet

I recently went to the library and checked out the book Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, a cancer survivor who turned to holistic treatments and a healthy diet to help her through her battle with cancer. Her story is remarkable (and can be viewed in her documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, for anyone who is interested) and I couldn’t wait to get her newest book and read all about her nutrition suggestions. One of the reasons I love the book is because it is NOT written by a doctor or nutritionist, but rather a normal every day person who can share her own personal experience with changing from the standard American diet (A.K.A crap) to a very healthy, plant based diet. What are her credentials to write such a book, you may ask? Throughout the time she spent fighting her cancer and radically changing her diet she traveled to many places, read tons of research and was able to meet with and interview lots of well known doctors and dieticians. As a result of all of that work, she is able to share with us that knowledge in plain, easy to understand, and even humorous language. Within the book are short sections written by well known doctors such as Dean Ornish MD, and a foreword by Rory Freedman, co-author of the best selling book Skinny Bitch. The book itself is 230 pages long and packed with juicy info on pH levels, sugar (the legal drug), juicing, how meat isn’t really that awesome, supplements, and so much more!! Kris talks about how we need to take responsibility for the food we are eating, and I couldn’t agree more!

I have had the book for about a week now, and as a result of finding so much information to absorb, I am only ¼ of the way through it. After only the first chapter I began to panic. With every word I read I started thinking that my diet isn’t good enough. I started making mental lists of all the items I need to cut out and soooooo many items I will need to add. I began to question my choices at every snack and meal, analyzing my food and thinking to myself this isn’t healthy enough, or, eat this and it will surely kill me some day! I definitely got a little carried away, but with so much information on making healthy choices right in front of me, it was hard not to! The more I thought about it, the more I realized that just like anything else, if you want to make a change, baby steps work best. If I were to try to overhaul both mine and my husbands diets in a matter of days we would surely both revolt. Trying to make drastic changes in a short amount of time is a great way to set yourself up for a failure. Recognizing that it was best to take it slowly, one step at a time, I decided to reflect on my current diet and all of the changes that I have made to bring myself here today.

First of all, I stopped consuming the Standard American Diet (love how the acronym is S.A.D.) over ten years ago, so that was my first big step in the right direction. I did away with meat and most dairy long before I even knew the benefits of it. I don’t eat fast food of any kind, don’t drink soda or other soft drinks (except on a special occasion or maybe the one time a year I actually visit a bar) and I have never been a huge fan of coffee. OK, OK I did have a small addiction to Starbucks Vanilla Soy Latt├ęs a while back but I have kicked that habit, I swear. While I hate smoothies, I do love juicing, I eat a good amount of fruits and veggies, and although I have recently reintroduced dairy back into my diet I only consume it every now and then. So when I stop and take a look at my diet I can tell myself I am already doing a good job. But there is always room for improvement, and this book has opened my eyes to things I didn’t know, and things I knew but wanted to pretend weren’t true. Sugar, for example, being a legal drug. This I was aware of but I liked to claim ignorance. I am a HUGE fan of sugar whether it is those yummy vegan cupcakes that my sister bakes or the awesome tofutti soy ice cream I can’t get enough of at $5 a pint. I’m reading a lot about what sugar actually does once it’s inside your body. Sure, it makes me and my mouth happy, but it turns out my blood and my organs are singing a different tune.

So how do you make changes to your diet without going broke, crazy or wanting to dive face first into a freshly baked batch of fudge brownies? I have decided to start with a list of 10 easy ways I can change my diet for the better, whether it be increasing something healthy I am already eating, reducing or eliminating something unhealthy I am eating, or simply finding a better alternative. I don’t have a complete list yet, but here is what I am working on so far.

1)     Start juicing daily. I have my eye on a super awesome juicer at William’s Sonoma. I am hoping by the end of the month to bring that baby home with me and start juicing for me and my husband on a daily basis. Luckily we live in close proximity to several lovely farms where we can buy fresh produce so I can support local farmers as well as eat organic. In Kris’s book she suggests a ratio of 3 veggies to 1 fruit. If you’re worried about wasting all that pulp, she also offers some suggestions for baking so you can put it to use! Or you can always throw it in your composter if you have one!
2)     Cut down on the sugar. This will probably be the toughest task for me when it comes to revamping my diet, so I have vowed to be patient with myself and consider each small sacrifice a step in the right direction. I’m not going to completely deprive myself of sugar because that would make me pretty sad. But I am definitely going to reconsider all of the sugary vegan treats I bring into our home and how often I am consuming them. One thing I never really do is try to find an alternative. When I am having a sugar craving I go right for the good stuff without looking for a healthier alternative such as nut butter on a rice cracker with raisins. While that doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as a tofutti ice cream cone, it just may be sweet enough to keep me out of the freezer for one night. And right about now, that’s all I can ask for!
3)     More raw veggies. I have always heard about the benefits of a raw diet but I have never really been interested in too much uncooked food. After reading a few pages on the importance of raw veggies however, I now understand that it’s important to get a few more uncooked veggies into my diet so I can get the vitamins and nutrients my body needs. Overcooking food strips it of its good stuff, so my plan is to get a few more uncooked veggies in throughout the day. Easy Peasy!
4)     More Legumes! I’m not a huge fan of beans. It’s the consistency……yuck. But there are some legumes that I do love, so I need to start working them into our meals more: split peas, lentils, chickpeas….all of these can be added to salads, soups, and many other dishes and are a great way to get important protein.

So as you can see these new goals aren’t going to break the back or my stride! If I focus on making some small changes over a period of time and think a little bit harder about the food that I’m putting in my mouth, I can continue taking steps in the right direction. If you’re having trouble with the idea of making yours and your families diets healthier, try making a list! Start with small, reachable goals that will allow you to see the changes and feel successful! As your diet moves in the right direction you can start adding more items to the list! And I strongly suggest that everyone run right out and pick up this book – even if only one of her suggestions makes its way into your lifestyle you will be so much better off because of it!

I’m going to eat some carrots and hummus now. J

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