So, in trying to get healthier, I started with the most cliche thing possible: a food journal. Now, I had been skeptical of the food journal phenomenon since I had come across it. I thought that it would either lead to obsessive behavior that could plunge into an eating disorder or a way I could rationalize eating badly as long as I technically followed the rules.
In committing to this change, while also making it easy enough that I wouldn’t just throw it aside, I downloaded the “Lose It!” app*. As suggested in the name, it is an app designed to help with weight loss. Although my goal wasn’t just to drop some pounds, it’s always an appealing idea.
When I first started, it seemed tedious to enter everything I had eaten every day. But, after a week of entries, I started to see my weak points. I found the other that I had been looking to blame for my weight issues. And, all along, it had been hiding in my kitchen. Those comfort foods that you break out way more than you need comfort or quick snacks you tell yourself you keep for emergencies but usually consume out of laziness. It wasn’t something I couldn’t control, it was something I hadn’t taken control of.
As the weeks went on, I started to try to remove those foods that I didn’t LOVE and made the first decision that I had known I needed to, I removed gluten from my diet. I had been aware that I am gluten sensitive for a while but had still been baking with wheat flour and partaking in wheat based items when I went out to eat. Even though I had clearly felt the difference when I had weeks without gluten, it was a hard transition. It’s just so easy to grab a fast food sandwich or a gas station doughnut. Although I could name dozens of reasons why keeping gluten as an option is convenient, I couldn’t name one reason of why I should keep it in my diet. I eat most of my meals at home anyway and, even if I’m grabbing something quickly, there are options without gluten that are just as easy. It had been negatively affecting me through weight gain and the heft of knowing that I was eating something although it hurt my body. Yes, removing something from my diet does sound like a “sacrifice” but, to me, it was more of a relief than anything else.
The next, and not so easy realization, was that animal products weren’t doing me any favors. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, where everything is drenched in cheese and the only vegan or vegetarian options on most menus are from the “Sides” section, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of cutting out everything from bacon to honey. I had never really been more than a few hours away from consuming an animal product so I could never really compare how I felt with or without it in my life. But, my goodness, that cut has made all the difference.
Getting rid of animal products seems like a big step at first, especially when you do what I did, immediately donating everything to friends or the food bank. But, when you take a better look at what’s left and all of the things you’ve made room for, the possibilities are endless. Although I am not that far into my vegan journey, I can see the little changes in how I feel and the improvement in my health. I don’t feel the lethargy after eating that I used to and snacks are a pick-me-up instead of a little cheat.
So, although I have removed a lot from my diet, I haven’t sacrificed anything. I was even losing weight before I removed anything from my diet. Taking out those things just made it easier. When you have ice cream and pulled pork involved, it’s a lot harder to restrict your caloric intake than when you swap for flavored frozen banana purees and meatless chili.
I know that different things work for different people; this is just what works for me. Although I have been able to target what foods have been problems and find better alternatives, I still struggle with temptation and keep active with my food journaling. I have a long way to go in my weight loss and health journey but I am starting to see my path more clearly and and my capability for progress.
*I have neither sponsoring nor any business ties to the “Lose It!” app.