Anyone who knows me well also knows that I haven't slept well in years. A "good" night's sleep for me was only waking up a few times and being able to get back to sleep within an hour. Many nights I would be awake for hours, unable to get back to sleep and wanting only that. So I somehow survived on an average of three or four hours a night for days on end. Sleep eluded me, and I thought that was just how I was wired.
This past March, after a lot of research and talks with family who know about these kind of things, I decided to switch to "clean eating." Eating clean just means that you eat food as close to its natural state as possible. So no processed foods, no chemicals or additives. No refined sugars, no white flour. In our pre-packaged world that sounds pretty hard, doesn't it? Well, I found that it wasn't. Sure, it takes a little more planning, and I definitely have to actually cook more often. But especially after I got used to it and found some quick go to recipes, I have found that it doesn't have to be difficult. Of course, summer time makes it easier because there is so much fresh produce to be had. But we're going to figure out how to keep this going all winter, too!
Okay, so what does that have to do with sleeping? Everything! Since we started eating clean, I sleep through the night! Through the night! I might still wake up occasionally and look at the clock but then I am right back to sleep. But mostly, I just sleep four 7 or 8 hours. Oh bliss!!! I am refreshed in the morning instead of dragging around. Seriously, if you are a bad sleeper, you know how much you yearn for that feeling!
So, you interested? You want to try this clean eating thing? Some people dip their toe in and ease into it. Not me! It's all or nothing with me. But you can go more slowly. Whatever works for you.
So I found www.TheNakedKitchen.com and that's my main resource for meal planning. Check it out. You don't have to do all your shopping at Whole Foods either. It's a great store and has lots of options, but something else my friends know about me is that I'm cheap. So I buy bulk steel cut oats at Whole Foods, because they have the best price. But the majority of our food comes from Trader Joe's, Giant, and the local Farmer's Market. But you can do this just shopping at your local Piggly-Wiggly too.
So maybe you've heard, shop the perimeter. That just means don't go in the center where all the packaged stuff is. Buy fresh produce. If you can't get fresh, buy frozen. And read the labels. The easiest thing to consider is if it has more than 5 ingredients, don't even bother trying to sound out all those words. Here's an excerpt from www.thegraciouspantry.com that sums it up well.
- Eat Lots Of Plants – Eat food that is straight from nature. (Some people say “as close to the way nature made it as possible”. But I think that leaves too much wiggle room – in my humble opinion) Eat mostly foods that are off a tree, bush, plant or vine, and you’ve pretty much got it covered. The idea is to stay away from anything that humans (food corporations) have altered in any way.
- Include Meats - Eat meats that are whole and straight from the butcher. Don’t buy pre-packaged meat products because you never know what’s in them. When possible, buy whole meats and grind them yourself. You’d be surprised what’s in ground turkey meat! You can also select a few turkey breasts and ask that the butcher grind them for you. Many butchers are more than willing to accommodate.
- Enjoy Grains - Eat grains that are still complete and haven’t been broken down into “glue”. Stick to brown rice, whole wheat and other whole grains.
- Read Labels I don’t know how many breads I’ve picked up at the store that say they are whole grain. But when I take a look at the ingredient list, white flour is the second ingredient after whole wheat flour!
- Eat Fewer Ingredients. Try not to purchase foods that have more than 3-6 ingredients in the ingredient list. And be sure you recognize each and every ingredient. If you find a “mystery ingredient” such as “spices”, contact the company! Ask them what they consider to be spices. If it’s anything other than honest-to-goodness herbs and spices, avoid it! And remember, if you can’t pronounce it, it probably shouldn’t go into your body.
- Eat 5-6 small meals per day. This may seem like a lot at first. But remember, you are eating smaller portions. If you really have a hard time with this, prepare your regular three meals and a snack for the day, and divide lunch and dinner in half. You’ve instantly got 6 small meals!
One other thing about eating... I read that you should pair a protein with your complex carb when you eat. Always. So an apple with a piece of cheese, a handful of almonds with some berries for a snack. For meals, grilled chicken with your grilled veggies, black beans with brown rice, that kind of thing. Pretty easy to remember! We even eat pizza, baked goods, and treats. We just have learned to make them in a different way. A whole wheat pizza with chicken, barbecue sauce, fresh pineapple, fresh mozzarella and red onion... how does that sound?!
Do you have to exercise? Well, eating clean isn't about that, but because I feel better (I really do!) I have the energy to get out and walk. And that's my exercise. I try to walk about 3 miles a day. Usually half of that at lunch time and the other half after work. Some days I might walk a little more, and sometimes I do less. Occasionally not at all, but I try to limit those days. I know I need to add some other exercise to my routine but for now, this is what I am getting into my schedule.
So what are the benefits of eating clean? I sleep; I have energy; and oh yeah, I lost 17 pounds and my husband lost 30. (*Update 4 OCT - I have now lost 23pounds!) We lost it slowly - a pound or so a week. And we eat three meals and two or three snacks a day. Every day. And we don't eat any cardboard fake diet foods. Just whole, nutritious stuff. It's awesome!
People see me and notice the weight loss and the first thing they ask is how I did it. Well, I didn't do it by "going on a diet." I did it by making a lifestyle change. Eating clean is not a quick fix diet. Don't expect that. It's just a different - better - way of eating. I had heard for years that you can't diet, you have to change how you eat. I admit, I never really understood that. Now, I do. I totally get it! Do we ever "cheat"? Yep. Occasionally. Some information I've read says you can cheat once a week. I would say I cheat more like once a month if that, and then it's just one thing, not a whole meal. That's why it's a lifestyle... you make it work with your life.