I’ve been a chronic dieter for as long as I can remember. I’ve tried them all: Master Cleanse, Atkins, South Beach, Slim Fast, mono meals, etc. I’ve spent my entire adult life weight obsessed and my ideas about food lead me down a path of disordered eating many women face. Every bite is scrutinized for its nutritional content. Immense guilt is felt with every carb, gram of fat, or decadent dessert. I was on this food-obsessed hamster wheel until I finally changed my perspective and ended the War on Carbs.
I know I’m not alone in having a complicated relationship with food, weight, and body image. I’ve always been cognizant of my weight and the ability to use food to control it. As an athlete, I didn’t have to worry about it much in high school. In college, however, I learned several “tips and tricks” to lose weight. I internalized the diet rules: Salads make you skinny, being skinny is good, you want to be small. I didn’t think it was a big deal to skip meals, use appetite suppressants, or to push my body with cardio to “burn more calories”. I created a diet regimen for myself to limit my caloric intake. I was heavily influenced by society’s ideas of health and beauty and I concluded carbs were a mortal enemy. I stopped eating them in 2008 and never looked back. I would OBJECT to the bread basket at restaurants and couldn’t imagine eating pasta.
After years of this mental war, my unhealthy relationship with food and my body began to manifest as severe IBS. No matter what I ate I would experience cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, or other unsavory stomach issues. I couldn’t find relief with traditional western medicine and began looking at other healing modalities. This search brought me to yoga and in turn, yoga brought me back to carbs. (I know right, keep reading)
Yoga helps us understand the importance of balance between the material world we see and the spiritual world we can sense. Yoga teaches our divine soul is housed within our physical bodies and the care of our bodies should be a priority. Yoga implores us to be conscious of what we consume both physically and energetically to keep our bodies in optimal condition. Yoga teaches the importance about finding balance in all areas of life. You learn to observe your thoughts and investigate their source. My yoga practice taught me the importance of monitoring my self-talk surrounding both my body and the food I consumed.
Thanks in large part to my 30-day high raw vegan stint with Amber Zuckswert in Costa Rica, I’ve relearned how to eat. Additionally, the BRILLIANT Sharon Kapp of the Houston Yoga & Ayurveda Wellness Center has given me insights that have significantly improved my digestion. I’ve thrown my old view of food out the window and welcomed a new one.
When I eat now, I don’t think AVOID CARBS AT ALL COSTS. Instead, I focus on eating high quality, nutrient dense foods to balance myself and my diet. I avoid white flour and processed carbs but allow myself the space to enjoy things like brown rice, quinoa, rice noodles etc that I avoided for years. I’ve seen a major shift in my energy, my body, and my overall sense of confidence since I’ve started to eat more mindfully. I feel strong, I feel empowered, and I finally feel like I can eat what I want. Once I made the internal shifts, my external body began to reflect them. Since I’ve stopped obsessing about food and changed my mindset, I’ve actually lost weight and I feel better than ever. Below are a few of the changes I’ve made that have helped me end The War on Carbs:
Your Body Is A Temple
Have you thought about what this statement means? Your body is literally the house for your soul while here on Earth. You have to treat your body as a temple with every single decision you make. You should treat yourself like a Kween and eat/live WELL! Eat the best quality food you can afford. Moisturize your skin. Treat yourself to massages. Your body is a living breathing miraculous organism and not meant for you to treat harshly with strict diet rules. Creating a healthy relationship with your body starts by treating it well always and monitoring your self-talk. Picking yourself apart every day while subsisting on a diet of junk is not going make you feel good. Find things you like about yourself and focus on those. Feeding yourself good food is the ultimate act of Self-Love. I always ask myself “What Would Beyonce Do?”. Would Beyonce stuff a bagel in her mouth in the car on the way to work, or would she sit down and eat a breakfast that was prepared with the intention of being nourishing and delicious? In my mind, it’s the latter lol.
Listen to Your Body
Our bodies house deep wisdom and it is our job to learn to decipher the messages it sends. I used to view my severe stomachaches as annoying and would just eat what I want anyway. I’ve come to understand the relationship and interconnectedness between thought, emotions, and physical ailments. I now accept my stomachaches as my body getting my attention. My body doesn’t like dairy, it doesn’t like red meat, and it doesn’t like sugar. My body doesn’t like a diet of totally cold, raw food and sometimes craves warm cooked meals. I feel more grounded by adding healthy whole grains instead of avoiding them at all costs because they are “carbs”. Through Sharon Kapp and Ayurveda I’ve learned about eating to balance my constitution. Simply learning my Ayurvedic constitution type and Ayurvedic nutrition principles proved invaluable. I was finally able to unlock my body’s wisdom and learn a way eat that was both nourishing and fulfilling. The science of Ayurveda cannot be done justice in a blog post. If you’re suffering from digestive/food/body image issues I highly recommend you consult a Certified Ayurvedic Specialist to create a plan. (An introduction can be found here)
Avoid Processed Foods
The “You wouldn’t put a bumper sticker on a Bentley” adage applies to food as well. You wouldn’t put regular gas into a luxury car so you shouldn’t put processed food into your body. Food is your fuel and processed foods contain chemicals and toxins our bodies can’t naturally eliminate. Additionally, most processed food provide little to no nutritional value. “Processed” isn’t a label reserved solely for Kit Kats and Oreos. Processed food that is organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free is still processed and unnatural. My personal rule of thumb is to limit my consumption of things that come in a package. I try to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. As a result of this change, I’ve noticed a huge shift in my digestion, weight, and overall energy levels as I’m not carrying around so much extra “junk” in my body.
Move Every Single Day
Treating your body well includes exercise. The same way animals need to stretch and move daily, so do we as humans. What if the goal of working out wasn’t to burn calories, but to feel good? I make sure I move my body for at least 30 minutes per day because it feels good. I like a mix of walking, yoga, and SoulCycle depending on my mood and desired intensity level. Although each day is different, I know my body will only run optimally when I get it moving each day. Exercise develops a strong healthy body while improving digestion and elimination.
Prepare and Plan Your Meals
You don’t have to go overboard meal prepping every single thing you eat, but you do have to take responsibility for your diet. For years I would skip lunch or breakfast because there “wasn’t anything healthy close by” or I “didn’t have time”. I’ve learned to stop making excuses and plan ahead. I’ve stopped eating out so much and prepare more of my meals. While eating a raw vegan diet, I learned to make my own dressings and sauces to avoid the added sugar and preservatives in many conventional dressings. If I’m working in a different neighborhood and want to go out for lunch, I scout healthy options ahead of time. If there are none, I bring a lunch.
Tonics, and Teas, and Kombucha, Oh My!
The coolest thing about ending the War on Carbs is learning to view food as medicine. Through this lens, a world of possibilities opens. I make a morning health tonic of apple cider vinegar, water, and lemon juice to get my metabolism moving. I drink herbal teas and vary they type depending on if I’m seeking more energy, improved digestion, or a particular taste. I’ve learned about live probiotics and have swapped my end of day wine for Kombucha. I use teas, tonics, and juices as health supplements and medicine. Many places sell different cold pressed juices and health tonics but do your research and beware of added sugar!
The idea of conscious consumption is the primary shift responsible for my achieving and remaining at a healthy and ideal weight. I stopped looking at food solely in terms of nutrition labels and now take a more conscious and holistic approach. Will this help my body? Is this food healing or harmful? Where did it come from? Did people or animals suffer for me to get this food? My primary focus is now my HEALTH and not my weight. I don’t worry so much about calories and I focus more on the ingredients. I know foods made with processed sugar, white flour, and added preservatives aren’t the healthiest choice for my body. I understand foods with complex ingredient lists are difficult for my body to digest. I take the time to say grace before meals and express gratitude for my food before I consume it. I finally eat to live and focus on providing my body with vitamins and minerals from food.
There is no one size fits all secret to maintaining your healthy weight. Our bodies are different shapes and sizes. We are hungry at different times. We are nourished by different foods and experiences. The secrets to your healthiest body are revealed once you start to pay attention to what you eat and how you feel. We don’t have to buy into society’s ideas of “healthy” and eat a diet of kale, green juice, and no fats and carbs. Life is about balance and enjoying everything in moderation. Start to tune into your own body, learn about your constitution, and cultivate a diet and lifestyle that fits your definition of health.
NOTE: If you have any serious concerns or questions about your health, please consult a medical doctor.