New Year’s Resolutions
I may be a paleo blogger but not all my meals are beautiful & blog worthy. I probably have more recipe failures than successes, and I do not cook every single day. Here are some of my paleo confessions and New Year’s resolutions for 2017.
CONFESSION: I don’t always buy organic.
I’m not saying that organic foods are bad, but in my opinion there is little evidence that suggests that organic produce is significantly more nutritious, safer, or better in general than conventional produce. Both conventional and organic farmers use pesticides. In addition, plants produce their own natural pesticides to protect themselves from pests and disease. Some studies have shown that the organic plant’s natural pesticides are more harmful than synthetic pesticides. So, don’t feel bad if you cannot afford or do not want to spend the extra money on organic products.
More research needs to be done, but as of right now, buy whatever you feel more comfortable with, make sure to wash your produce well, and pat yourself on the back for investing in your health with nutrition. Many studies have shown that taking high dose antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C lead to higher mortality rates, cardiovascular disease, and cancer incidence. The safest source of antioxidants with the best overall health benefits and cancer prevention is fruits and vegetables, so eat your fruits and veggies up!
CONFESSION: I cheat.
Am I 100% paleo? No. But I would say I’m 90:10 the majority of the time. I do not believe in following any diet 100% of the time or many people will quit the diet and go right back to their unhealthy ways. Paleo is also more of a lifestyle than a diet, encompassing exercise, sleep, and stress management in addition to nutrition. I believe that every diet needs to be personalized to the individual, as we all have different intolerances. The “perfect” diet for me will probably not be the “perfect” diet for you. It is important to listen to your body, nourish your body with what makes you feel good, and you will be well on your way to health.
For example, I will eat white rice occasionally even though it is not 100% paleo. White rice is considered a safe, hypoallergenic starch, because the majority of the phytic acid that can cause GI upset is removed when the rice is milled. White rice may not be the most nutritious food, but it is a safe source of carbohydrates when I need an easy to digest meal. Of the rice varieties, white basmati rice and long grain white rice have lower glycemic indices that are comparable to that of brown rice.
Additionally, I’ll also occasionally eat gluten free grains or small amounts of dairy a couple times a year, but I usually pay the price for my cheats and avoid these foods for a while after. I try to avoid gluten and refined sugar as much as possible. Also, if someone else cooks for me, I do not want to be rude and scrutinize every ingredient. I do not have any true IgE allergies, so these foods will not kill me. I just feel best when I consume them in moderation.
CONFESSION: Paleo has not and may never cure me.
I may be an extremely healthy eater, but I am still sick. I have Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects anywhere in the gut from the mouth to the anus. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system overreacts and attacks healthy tissue, bacteria, and other microorganisms in the body. The autoimmune paleo diet aims to calm down the immune system by avoiding inflammatory foods and heal the leaky gut which causes more inflammation in the body.
While paleo has not cured me, it has greatly improved my quality of life. Eating the way I do gives me the freedom to know my food triggers, eat at restaurants, and travel with more confidence. After a year and a half of following a mostly paleo diet, I have lowered my high thyroid antibodies to almost normal levels without ever taking thyroid medication. As much as I would love to stop taking Crohn’s medication, my body is not healed. But a girl can dream and do everything possible to keep her gut healthy and inflammation to a minimum. It is my hope someday in the future to completely manage this disease through nutrition and lifestyle.
CONFESSION: I truly believe paleo is the top diet.
Yes, I may be biased because I love paleo so much, but I truly believe the paleo diet is one of the healthiest diets out there. It focuses on consuming nutrient dense foods like high quality meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats while eliminating inflammatory grains, refined sugars, and dairy. Paleo is not a diet, but a lifestyle. It is not about weight loss or weight gain but rather about becoming the healthiest “you” possible. The weight loss or gain is a positive side effect of the “health gain.” If you are eating a balanced paleo diet, you should be getting all the essential amino acids and vitamins to keep your body happy, healthy, and energized.
I do not follow “perfect paleo,” but does anybody? In my experience, being super strict with foods led me to crave more unhealthy, non-compliant foods, so allowing myself a treat every now and then keeps me sane. Here are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.
My 2017 Paleo New Year’s Resolutions
Truly listen to my body (and have self-control)
I don’t always make the best decisions. Sometimes I’ll go for a run or do a high intensity workout when my energy is low. Or I still eat paleo treats, nuts, and chocolate when my body gives me all the signs that I should avoid them. I need to have the self-control to avoid these indulgences, feed my body the nutrition it craves, and focus on resting.
It can be really frustrating to do “everything right” yet still be so symptomatic, but I need to remember to take a step back and realize how truly blessed I am. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by the best family and friends I could ever ask for, to be a medical student enrolled in such an accommodating school, and to be living in a safe, nurturing environment. There are so many people in the world without basic access to food, water, shelter, education, or healthcare. We may not be in the best of health, have everything we desire, or be completely content, but there are so many others suffering more than we could ever imagine. It is important to love more, forgive others, celebrate the small victories, and choose happiness while keeping others in mind.
Sleep 8 hours per night (and try to get to bed by 10pm).
Making sleep a priority is so important because stress and sleep deprivation go hand in hand. I may not be done with what I’m studying when I go to bed, but I know I do not retain much at night and can finish what I was doing when I’m fresh in the morning. I also cheat more on my diet when I do not sleep enough and end up feeling worse.
Try something new once a week.
It is important to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, whether it be trying a new vegetable, recipe, or experience. Explore a few different volunteer opportunities until you figure out what you like. When our local Farmer’s Market is running, my goal is to try one new vegetable every week. Doing the same old thing gets and sticking to the same schedule gets boring, so spice up your life with new exciting foods, experiences, and more!
Focus on self-care/recovery.
I love exercising, but sometimes it is too much on my body and joints when I overdo it. I listened to a podcast by personal trainer about exercising with autoimmune diseases. The verdict was that no one should exercise more than four times a week whether you have an autoimmune disease or not, as too much exercise is a stress on the body. It is my goal to limit myself to four workouts a week and also add in some recovery time, such as yoga and meditation once a week. I would love to get in the habit of doing yoga and meditation more often, but I am trying to set realistic goals for now. These relaxation techniques are great work/study breaks that increase productivity plus help the body heal.
Express more gratitude.
I often become frustrated with my body, but I need to remember how far I’ve come and thank my body. My GI doctor was shocked I was able to complete my studies and graduate last spring, and my mom reminds me of how sick I was one year ago when I’m feeling down. She said I would sleep ten to twelve hours a night, come downstairs, and stay on the couch for the rest of the day. I didn’t have much energy to do anything. After a winter vacation full of doctor’s appointments, hospital procedures, pneumonia, and finally a Crohn’s diagnosis, I am doing so much better one year later. I exercise more than ever, I have more energy, and I am able to spend more time with my friends. How can I not love my body? It breathes, moves, dances, learns, loves, laughs, and cries. How amazing is that? Love your body for how it looks, thank your body for what it does, and support your body with a healthy lifestyle because it is the only body you’ll ever get.
In addition to thanking your body, make sure you express gratitude to everyone in your life whether it be your family, co-workers, friends, mailman, or cashier. A thank you and small acts of kindness go a long way in brightening someone’s day, so be sure to express compassion, love, and gratitude every day. You’ll find more pleasure in the little things by doing this as well.