Hold Everything But The Lettuce
“I can’t imagine eating that,” I said to my dietician, Gretchen, when she suggested I attempt a challenge food. I was a few months into treatment and the food in question was a hamburger, something I used to love but I had long ago booted out of my diet, deeming it a fat filled cancer patty on a bun.
“What do you think will happen if you eat a hamburger?” Gretchen gently pressed on.
“I will make my stomach feel queasy and bloated” I answered adamantly, feeling my heart rate quicken just talking about it.
“Do you know that for a fact or could it be a story your telling yourself? Gretchen asked.
I really had no intention of finding out anytime soon.
Red meat was just one of the foods that went out the window after I enrolled in the Institutefor Integrative Nutrition in 2009. The program encouraged us to track in a journal how different ways of eating made our bodies feel. How it affected our mood, sleep, energy and digestion. This was the first time I had really paid attention to how my body felt. Up until that point I just ate what I thought I “should” based on whatever particular diet I was following, never checking in with how my body felt about any of it. I spent months tweaking, experimenting and journaling until I started to see connections between certain foods and the impact on my body and mind. I discovered ways of eating that made my mind clearer, helped me sleep better and improved my ever-nagging digestive problems. I felt like a kid with a remote-control robot, but instead of pushing buttons to make it move a certain way, I eliminated or added food in attempts to make it (well, me) FEEL a certain way. It was an incredible sense of control.
For example, I found that eliminating red meat from my diet made me feel more energetic, so I tried eliminating pork, chicken and turkey too. When I discovered my digestion improved when I didn’t consume milk, I cut out cheese, butter and yogurt as well. And after learning what sugar does to the body, I avoided all white food whatsoever, subjecting not only myself, but my kids to black bean brownies and whole wheat dairy free mac and cheese (no doubt they will be talking to their therapists about THAT someday). I’m not going to lie, my journal depicts an impressively lean and clean diet, and one completely unsustainable for a woman who was running and working out for hours every day. As a result, my weight dropped another several pounds. But I felt so energized. I had just completed my first triathlon sprint, and after years off, I had started playing tennis again. I was happily convinced this is where my body wanted to be.
Through my experience in IIN, I wholeheartedly believed proper food and nutrition were game changers in body, mind and spirit and I was so excited to share what I had learned with others. I graduated from IIN with a Health Coaching certification, and adopting the tagline, “Inspiring Others Towards A Healthy Body and a Joyful Life,” I got to work. Well, almost. Unfortunately, my "healthy body" had other plans.