I always thought I ate fairly healthy. I made sure to get balanced meals, with a grain, protein, and veggies. I used light dressings on my salads and low fat cheese where ever cheese was used (which is everywhere in my case). I fell for all the products that advertised all natural, sugar free, low calorie, etc. Yes, I loved an occasional indulgent meal, like pizza or Qdoba, but overall I ate "healthy."
We as a culture are obsessed with diets. We always want to be on the latest fad diet or eating new diet products on the market. We think we are doing our bodies a favor by putting all of these products into our system or depriving ourselves of food in order to lose weight. There are so many products that promise to help us lose weight or curb our appetite, and we eat it right up, literally. Can you say gullible??
Within the past year, I started doing a lot of research, reading articles and watching documentaries, like Hungry for Change. I began to really think about what I was putting in my body and what the food I was eating is actually made of. I learned that my diet wasn't as "healthy" as I thought it was. Many foods that claim to be diet foods, low calorie, low sugar, fat free, etc., are really not doing us any favors with the extras, additives and chemicals that are put in them to make them seem healthier. For example, I had been eating Yoplait light for years because they are so low in calories and taste great. I finally looked at the label and discovered that they contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that is linked to weight gain and other medical problems.
So I got a bit crazy, looking at the labels of everything I had been consuming. I found that I was putting a lot of things into my body that I could not even pronounce or sounded completely unnatural. I looked into the side effects of many of these chemicals and preservatives just to find out that most of them were linked to weight gain and other health problems as well. I learned that products that advertise low in fat or calories often have other things added in return to make them still taste great. Sugar free items are often high in carbohydrates. Low fat items often have tons of sugar added. Labels are misleading for a purpose, to make you think what you are putting into your body is going to help it. I also learned that the FDA has very low standards of what can bear the label "All Natural." Many people mistake foods with these labels as organic or lacking any sort of chemical, which is not the case. So in the end, what we think is helping us lose weight or stay healthy, is actually harming us.
Ever since I learned about the food I put into my body, I have completely changed the way I eat. I have cut out almost all processed foods. I always read the ingredients of a product before I buy it. I try to eat products with the least amount of ingredients and with ingredients I can pronounce and know what they are. I stick to the perimeter of the store and eat a lot of fruits and veggies. I have to make a lot of things from scratch. For example, I no longer buy jars of spaghetti sauce and instead use fresh tomatoes to make the sauce. I even shred my own cheese, as bagged cheese has additives to keep it fresh. I am constantly shocked by what I am finding out about products I once used.
Yes, eating like this can be exhausting, and that is why there are "diet foods" out there to help us cut corners. But if you are trying to lose weight and get healthy, the absolute best way to do it is through a clean diet. I have felt so much healthier and have had so much more energy since I have started to eat clean. And I have lost the few pounds I had always been trying to shake with what I thought was "healthy" eating. I am not perfect and I haven't been able to cut out every negative thing from my diet, but I really do enjoy eating clean. It has also helped that eating clean is not a diet, but a lifestyle. Diets seem so demanding and harsh and often have negative associations in our minds, where as a lifestyle fits more flawlessly into the way we live. When you eat clean, you are not depriving yourself of anything your body needs to function.
So I challenge you, even if you think you eat healthy, look at your labels. Think about what it is you are eating. Have you even heard of some of the stuff in your foods? Take it one step at a time. First, start incorporating more fresh fruits and veggies. Then, start cutting out processed food from your daily meals. You will notice how much better you feel and how you feel less restricted than any "diet" you have tried.
Visit this post to see what I eat on an average day.