I’ve noticed that sometimes you have to experience the bad to appreciate the good, and with my eating that was very true! I think part of me just had to come to terms with making lifelong changes in the way I see food. I’m not trying to get to a point where I never eat anything that isn’t good for me; I just would like to see my desires be in line with the knowledge that I have gained.
Here is where I started: Between the Daniel Fast and the Whole30, I lost ~15 pounds, my measurements decreased, my clothes fit better, and most importantly, I felt better. I felt more stable emotionally; I was sleeping better (although I still have a long way to go to be normal in my sleep); my trigger points hurt less. I was more confident, my skin looked healthier.
Reintroductions on the Whole30 did not go as planned. My entitlement kicked in and I wanted everything, and not necessarily in moderation. Then, guilt would kick in and I would want nothing. I became the pendulum and I did not enjoy the ride. I decided to take the approach of Romans 1:24 and give myself over to my desires.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, (Romans 1:24, ESV)”
I hoped that going back to my previous ways of eating for three days would help me better appreciate how much I had gained in my nutritional changes. My desire was for this experiment to change my “want to” and help me achieve a permanent desire for what’s healthy.
Let me just clarify how terrible the “crap food” I ate made me feel. It started with Chinese buffet (I later learned they use “a little” MSG) on Thursday. The food really didn’t taste good, but afterwards, I was nauseated and I started burping – and it lasted for hours. I remembered that this happened on my day off from the Daniel Fast, but I had no idea why. I read an article on WebMD that talked about how some foods cause gas or it could be an inability to digest certain sugars or properly absorb nutrients. I don’t specifically know what caused it, but this is definitely a new phenomena when making poor nutritional choices.
The effect of food not tasting good was not limited to Chinese. Many of the items I ate and drank disappointed me with their flavor. I was not able to finish several items I started, including some things that I previously loved, such as Jalapeno Cheetos, quality beer, boneless wings, and French fries. For other items, I questioned exactly what I was eating, as it did not taste like “real food” to me.
Another weird side effect to my poor eating was that I had significant stomach aches in the morning. The term “urgency” took on a new meaning. It was terrible! During the second and third day, my nausea was so bad that I was afraid I was going to vomit. I also felt foggy and tired, but did not sleep well, even when I was exhausted. This led to my trigger points, especially in my leg, becoming painful again. It’s like everything I gained over the past two months quickly went away.
Oh, and speaking of “gained”… I tracked my weight and measurements during this time. Here’s an example of the changes:
-Weight: Baseline=0; After 1 Day=+3 pounds; After 3 Days=+5.2 pounds (this morning 2 of those pounds have gone back away)
-Abdomen Measurement: Baseline=0; After 1 Day=+0.5″; After 3 Days=+1.9″ (this morning 1.1 of those inches have gone back away)
In three days, I gained 5.2 pounds and increased 1.9” in my abdomen. After one day of eating correctly again, I see the changes headed in the right direction (although one day of changes has not restored my sleep and trigger point issues). Granted, most of these changes are the result of water weight and bloating, but even so, is this what I want my body to experience?
I recorded the ingredients of many of the items I consumed to help me understand exactly what I was eating and to determine if I was comfortable ingesting those items again. I think this was a good exercise to help me come to terms with the nutritional value of “food” and to decide whether I considered the items to truly be food. During this experiment, a friend from Facebook told me that one way she came to terms with having to say “no” to unhealthy food was coming to terms with whether she considered those items to be food for herself. As her belief changed, her ability to maintain her diet became easier. Her perspective made a lot of sense to me, as I had already experienced it with protein bars. The processed bars did not satisfy me whatsoever. I could easily say I would rather eat chicken as a source of protein than a protein bar. Considering the ingredients, in addition to how the “food” makes me feel, is another way to help promote lasting change.
I will share my perspective by looking at the ingredients for a couple staples from my previous diet. I definitely feel like they’ve lost their luster after eating healthy for ~2 months.
My old morning staple, Diet Coke – which contains: carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate (to protect taste), natural flavors, citric acid, caffeine.
The first serving of Diet Coke burned my throat, which makes sense due to the phosphoric acid present. In fact, the pH of Diet Coke is ~3.2 (seems to vary depending on the site). That’s pretty darn acidic! Coke and Diet Coke are a science experiment waiting to happen. Have some fun, see what will dissolve over time just using this soft drink!
Here’s what’s interesting to me – after I had one, the next one went down much more easily. I couldn’t even feel an effect. I didn’t like that at all. Also, the effect of the caffeine minimizes quickly over time. The first one makes me jittery, but a couple days of use later, and I don’t get the same jolt.
If you’re not aware of why diet drinks don’t help you lose weight and are bad for you, spend some time reading about it. Information is everywhere. If you’re like me and didn’t want to see the truth of your addiction, try taking a break from it for a month or so. I think you’ll better appreciate the effect on your body if you go through this exercise.
Next item to look at, a Steak Quesadilla from Taco Bell with no jalapeno sauce: Quesadilla – Steak: Flour Tortilla: Enriched wheat flour, water, vegetable shortening (soybean, hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil), sugar, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate), molasses, dough conditioner (fumaric acid, distilled monoglycerides, enzymes, wheat starch, calcium carbonate), calcium propionate, sorbic acid, and/or potassium sorbate (P). Contains: Wheat. [certified vegan]; Three Cheese Blend: Part skim mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, monterey pepper jack cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, water, cream, sodium citrate, jalapeno peppers, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, sorbic acid (P)), anti-caking agent. Contains: Milk [certified vegetarian]; USDA Select Marinated Grilled Steak: Beef, water, seasoning (modified potato starch, natural flavors, salt, brown sugar, dextrose, carrageenan, dried beef stock, cocoa powder, onion powder, disodium inosinate & guanylate, tomato powder, corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, garlic powder, spice, citric acid, lemon juice powder), sodium phosphates. Sauce: Water, seasoning (natural flavors, dextrose, brown sugar, salt, dried beef stock, onion powder, tomato powder, corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, disodium inosinate & guanylate, garlic powder, spices, cocoa powder, citric acid, lemon juice powder).
Doesn’t that sound delicious? The “cheese” didn’t taste remotely like cheese. I didn’t know what it is. Honestly, after reading the ingredients, I still don’t know what it was. It sounds like cheese, and maybe it is cheese, but it didn’t impress me.
And, what exactly is “dough conditioner”? The ingredients in parenthesis don’t help calm my fears…. Apparently, the purpose is to improve the dough in some way. Ummm, no thanks.
There is an ingredient in the beef that I learned about when I read the Whole30 book, “It Starts with Food”. It’s called carrageenan and I think it may be an ingredient worth investigating. It’s a naturally occurring thickener/emulsifier that comes from seaweed. It’s hard to know specifically which ingredients are responsible for the ill effects of some foods, but I would encourage you to do a little research.
Let’s do one more…
Jalapeno and Cheedar Jack Cheez-its: Enriched flour, reduced iron, vitamin B one, vitamin B two, vegetable oil, cheese made with skim milk, cheddar cheese, contains 2% or less of salt, maltodextrin, paprika, whey, buttermilk, jalapeño pepper, monosodium glutamate, yeast, tomato powder, garlic powder, parsley, baking soda, natural and artificial flavors, onion powder, corn syrup solids, annatto extract, disoduim inosinate, disodium guanylate, paprika oleoresins color, sodium caseinate, autolyzed yeast extract, malice acid, sugar, spice, Monterey Jack cheese, Tumeric oleoresins color, modified cornstarch, citric acid, polysorbate, yellow five, yellow six, soy lecithin
Cheez-Its are supposed to be better than chips because they’re baked and not fried, right? I’m not so sure. I can compare it to Jalapeno Cheedar Cheetos: enriched corn meal (corn meal, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, and folic acid), vegetable oil (corn, canola, soybean, and/or sunflower oil), cheddar jalapeno seasoning (less than 2% of the following: cheddar cheese [milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], salt, buttermilk, whey, romano cheese [part-skim cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes], monosodium glutamate, whey protein concentrate, onion powder, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, corn starch, corn oil, natural and artificial flavor, maltodextrin [made from corn], modified corn starch, dextrose, spices, jalapeno pepper, garlic powder, artificial color [including yellow 6, yellow 5, blue 1, and red 40], sunflower oil, citric acid, malic acid, lactic acid, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, skim milk),and salt.
They both sound pretty bad to me. I guess the point is that maybe there is wisdom in only eating items when you know what’s in them? If you don’t know what disodium guanylate or disodium inosinate is, maybe that’s worth investigating, since they are in both of these items (as well as the Taco Bell Steak Quesadilla). Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were either, but they turn out to be a chemical flavor enhancer that is in the same family as MSG. In other words, a product can state that it contains no MSG (not an issue for these Cheez-Its, as they contain MSG also), but it can have disodium guanylate or disodium inosinate in it. I’m not sure that means it’s better.
I think when eating processed foods, we have several options. We could take the stance that “Ignorance is bliss,” but I personally want to do better than that.
We could go to other side and only eat items that contain “food” ingredients. We can shop the perimeter of the grocery store to find items that do not contain additives.
I feel like there can be a compromise on these two extremes for items that we aren’t willing to give up. We can choose to read labels, look for less ingredients, make sure we can pronounce everything on the label, and have some idea what the ingredients are used for. We can spend some time trying to fully understand what we are eating and then choose to eat these items in moderation. Maybe by doing this, we won’t desire them as much, but until then, at least we are making an informed decision on what we are choosing to eat.
Here is a useful link for looking up the purpose of ingredients in processed “food” (see the table at the end):