Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How a Couple of Fad Diets Made Me a Health Foodie

How did I go from eating bacon as a snack on Atkins to getting giddy about buying organic greens at a Farmer's Market? It's not as crazy as you'd think.

When I started the Atkins Diet about eight years ago, I honestly thought it wouldn't work. My family "dared" me to join them, and I thought I'd prove their crazy fad diet wrong. Instead, I lost around 60 pounds.

I remember day three of the diet, hitting a major CRASH and feeling like I would die if I didn't eat chocolate - STAT. If you don't know, Phase I of Atkins involves no sugar, no starch, and carbs that come only from vegetables. It's intense.

But I had no idea that giving up candy would be such a big deal. Until that moment, I hadn't realized that I was consuming some on a daily basis. Daily. Um...really?

As the diet went on, I noticed many other things about my previous eating habits. Like, for example, how many foods I consumed from bags or boxes. Chips, crackers, frozen Boca burgers -- if it was processed by a factory, I was there. I rarely ate vegetables, other than forms of potato, and, contrary to its meat-centric reputation, Atkins forced me to eat my roughage (let's just say a certain bathroom function isn't possible without it). And I ate a lot of things that didn't fill me up and made me crash - unlike candy and Pirate's Booty.

Atkins and I had to part ways eventually, because the idea of a life without bread was just too depressing to take. And that's when I met South Beach - Atkins' handsome, more laid-back cousin. Sinful foods such as beans and low-fat milk were cleared for Phase I, making it instantly more doable. I lost weight at a slower, steadier pace, but I felt less desperate and likely to steal someone's bag of Doritos.

And, again, I learned about myself. Since the diet focuses on lean proteins, vegetables, and, in Phase II, fruits and whole grains, I had to cook almost every meal. (You can find a lot of frozen South Beach meals now, but they were almost nonexistent at the time.) That seemed impossible at that point in my life. I worked full time and so did Dave, and it seemed ridiculous to me that we could have the energy to come home and fix a meal. (Little did I know that this whole equation becomes 6,000 times more exhausting when you throw in a toddler...)

But we bought a second South Beach cookbook - a quick meals one - and we found that it was not only doable, it was fun and delicious.

And I found even more success on this diet - getting super skinny for my wedding, then settling at a heavier, healthier weight for me and maintaining it...until pregnancy made me regress into my old eating self. But that's a whole other post.

And now that I'm on South Beach Phase I again - with a few modifications (I'm shying away from the fat free stuff, because I think it's too processed), I'm finding it so easy that I feel ashamed that I didn't do it sooner.

It's so easy because not only do I know how to cook - I enjoy cooking and take pleasure in it. It's also easy because, over the years, I've developed a love for many healthy foods - like basically all vegetables in existence - and I've cut down on the daily bad habits - like the afternoon Snickers bar. And because I'd been eating too much starch and consuming too many caffeinated beverages pre-diet, I'm reeling from the natural energy and good mood that I'm gleaning from my current eating habits.

And the organic, Farmer's Market greens? The initial Atkins-inspired awakening that I experienced concerning my eating habits caused me to look at all aspects of my eating, to evaluate everything that went in my body. If cutting down on the carbs made me feel great and lose weight, how would I feel if I took out all the processed crap? What if we ate less red meat? How about no artificial sweeteners?

I watched "Supersize Me" and read Fast Food Nation, leading me to cut down on and eventually cut out fast food. And I started equating my political views with our family nutrition. If I think the meat-packing industry is corrupt and immoral, how about I stop eating their meat? If I want to have a cleaner Earth for Stella, why don't we buy foods that are grown and produced locally?

Speaking of "Supersize Me," my fellow language arts teachers and I recently showed this film to our 7th graders as part of our persuasive writing unit. There's a scene at the beginning where Morgan Suprlock's girlfriend prepares his "last meal" of healthy food -- a vegetable tart, a quinoa veggy salad, an artichoke, and a simply dressed green salad. I stood there salivating (it looked delicious), but I heard several kids groan as if they were looking at something vile and disgusting. And I remembered thinking the same thing the first time I saw the movie. Who'd have thought Atkins would change my mind about THAT?

1 comment:

Kellygirlnyc said...

Have you ever read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver? I think you'd really like it. It will make you even more of a locavore. :) Miss you! xoxo