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4 Steps Along My Path to Health

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I distinctly remember four experiences that heavily influenced the healthy lifestyle I now enjoy.

The first was when I worked at an elementary school in college and I told the teacher about my IBS woes (I had just had a colonoscopy at age 19). She asked what I ate everyday – I told her Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers, Peanut Butter Twix Bars, ice cream ice cream ice cream, and whatever the dorm was serving. She told me to cancel my dining plan and gave me a grocery list and directed me to the nearest health food store in search of oat groats, Braggs amino acid, spinach, and almond milk.

I thought it all sounded so weird but I trusted her to so I did what she said. She’s the one that introduced me to savory oat groats for breakfast! I wish I could remember her name so I could contact her and thank her because my IBS symptoms improved dramatically as I cut out a lot of the processed crap I was eating.

The second was when I started my first job after college. I was working at Goldman Sachs and there was a woman whom I became friends with because I loved her hair (surprise surprise) and asked who her hairstylist was.  {Ha! I just realized that I thought she was so much older than me at the time and grown up but she was only 27. hahaha.} Everyone teased her about her “strict diet”  (most people at breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner at the office so it was very visible) –  oatmeal with flaxseed, greens with salmon, no soda, lots of fruit and nuts for snacks, and only whole wheat bread.

She was very particular about what she ate and said she just felt better eating this way. She was aghast when I told her I ate grilled cheese almost everyday for lunch, often pasta for dinner, and usually cereal for breakfast. Not much protein, a lot of carbs, and too little fresh fruits and vegetables.

She taught me about a balanced diet – healthy protein, lots of produce, good fats – and adding healthy things to my diet instead of focusing on “I can’t have that” and “that food is bad.” She also taught me about treating treats as a treat – defined as “An event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure” –  making them good treats (e.g. great ice cream or dark chocolate instead of a candy bar). As I followed her suggestions, my IBS symptoms improved even more, I had more energy to run, and – like she said – I just felt better.

The third was when I read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen. I learned even more about a balanced diet, but more importantly I learned about the source of America’s food. I learned about “food” science, the government’s involvement in our food industry, the way commercial food is produced and distributed, and “healthy” food that is making more and more Americans diseased and obese. I considered myself pretty healthy and well-informed about a balanced diet, but this book prompted me to make even more informed choices and vote with my dollar at the grocery store and farmers’ markets.

The fourth phase has been the last couple years where I finally figured out that dairy and gluten are the biggest triggers for my angry gut. I was still having LOTS of stomach pain and digestive issues (we’re talking no going for DAYS folks) and at the recommendation of friends, I tried eliminating those from my diet. Unfortunately, it made me feel a lot better. 😉 I’ve figured out that I can tolerate some cheese (goat and sheep are totally fine and hard cow cheeses), but I have to take a hard pass at milk, butter, ice cream and yogurt. I’ve tried having gluten off and on again, and nope, still no luck – stomach pain, bloating, major digestive distress all come rushing back. It frustrated me so much that, even though I know I don’t tolerate it, I’m finally going to the doctor to get tested for gluten sensitivity just to KNOW (my brother was recently diagnosed with a gluten intolerance so I figured it likely runs in the family…).

I feel like “health” is an ever-shifting and evolving definition for me, and I don’t think there is ONE right way to eat. But paying attention to how you feel after eating and listening to your body is a great step in finding the right way for you.  (If you need more structured guidance on how to learn what works for you, I had a great experience with The Conscious Cleanse. That’s not a sponsored tout! 🙂 Honest to goodness, I like their approach, even 2.5 years later.)

Where did you learn about healthy eating?

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    32 responses to “4 Steps Along My Path to Health”

    1. My good deed was getting my husband a glass of water and a bowl of red raspberries…might not sound like much but red raspberries are my favorite food in the entire world so it’s a sacrifice to give them away 🙂

    2. I split a CSA share with some friends and I could tell they were stressed out about how busy they were, so I dropped off their half of the share instead of having them run an extra errand to pick it up.

    3. My sister’s puppy has an infection from a dog bite. She was really stressed about the bill so I called the office and took care of it. She was so excited and very appreciative!

    4. I started volunteering at my local library! They get so bogged down and backed up with shelving in the summer. I love books and reading so it was perfect for me and I feel great helpong out. 🙂

    5. I was running the Warrior Dash in Minnesota and I was at the top of the first wall we had to climb, and a girl was panicking and couldn’t get her leg over. I helped her, while almost falling backwards myself! She was so thankful because there is nothing to catch you besides the ground if you fall!

    6. I am watching my aunts cat for the weekend so she could go travel back to my hometown to be with her sister for a few days! xo

    7. I have been wanting to read this book for so long! I have been petsitting for my family this week! I gave the puppies some extra puppy love with a little snack a few minutes ago! (:

    8. I went grocery shopping for my family since my mom is out of town – and you could tell by their empty fridge 🙂

    9. Great post! A good deed I did today was give a woman in the grocery store line some extra coupons. I always do that if I can because I know I’d appreciate it if someone did it for me 🙂

    10. How awesome! A good deed I did recently was hold the door for an old lady and smiled at everyone. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I think a simple smile can brighten someone’s day.

    11. i always put the shopping cart away when i’m done. which, although totally a duh move, is pretty much nonexistent here. :/

    12. I spent my morning volunteering at a triathlon and raised $30 for the Y’s webuildpeople charity by being there. It was fun to see the runners smile as we passed them so much needed water and cheered them on!

    13. i rescued 2 feral kittens, they were living under one of the school buildings down the street from my house and i just couldnt stand to leave them there to fend for themselves!!!

    14. We have been having some really bad storms here in Virginia, the power was out for days. So I picked up sticks out of my neighbors yard in an effort to help clean up after a recent storm. I did it while she was away, so not only was it a surprise but she doesn’t know who did it. It felt good to do that for her and it was fun to keep it a secret. Thanks for the chance to win, I’ve always wanted to read this book.

    15. My husband and I saw a young woman walking on a busy road pushing a stroller and 2 younger children walking by her side the other day in 90-degree weather; I said to my husband that we should turn around and ask her if she needs a ride, he agreed and we did. We pulled up along side her and asked if she needed a ride (trying to sound as NOT creepy as possible, lol) and that’s when I realized she was also pregnant. She thanked us but declined and said her home is right up the road. So, it wasn’t quite a successful deed, but we tried anyway! 🙂

    16. My good deed is waking up at 645 am every day to drive my brother to the bus so he can make it to work in the city.

    17. I cleaned out the (rotten) fridge for all of my 5 roommates – now that we have space to see in there, hopefully everyone will be bettter about knowing/seeing what they bought so we can eat all our produce/leftovers before they go bad!

    18. I am about to go on a mission trip this week with my church to help people in New Orleans who are still suffering after Hurricane Katrina.

    19. I sent a good friend of mine a motivational email with a Youtube clip of Dorrie from Finding Nemo reminding her to “just keep swimming” (she’s taking the bar exam in 2 weeks). She told me it was the perfect study break to make her smile 🙂

    20. My friend who lives in another city has been in a funk lately, so I mailed her a cheerful card and a package filled with some of her favorite things. Doing things to make other people happy always has the added bonus of making me happier!

    21. ooh ooh! this is the only michael pollan book i haven’t read. the good deed i did is that i am in MN taking care of my sister’s dog for the week while her and her husband are on vacation 😉

    22. Great giveaway! My good deed happened yesterday: I picked up a dog that was trotting along the side of the highway. The poor thing was scared of thunder and took off. Luckily, her family was out looking for her. I’m a sucker for a furry face.

    23. I voluntarily teach cooking classes to children from low income backgrounds at a community center in North Minneapolis. Myself, along with other student volunteers strive to be role models for healthy lifestyles by teaching the kids about proper nutrition. We’ve made everything from hummus to blueberry oatmeal bakes!

    24. It’s so interesting to read about other people’s health journeys! haha I feel like I’m that person in the office that everyone comments about how healthy they eat (but I only eat breakfast there! – oatmeal)

    25. My good deed was helping my neighbor jump her car today. I would love to hear more about your diet and what you eat daily and more healthy/easy recipe ideas! I’m trying to do better especially now that I have little eaters at home that I want to eat healthy too 🙂 Love you!

    26. I get more persnickety about my diet as I get older, so with you on that! Always been a healthy eater, but just implement more practices that work for me as I go along. I eliminated sweets during the week and now they are just a weekend treat. They were becoming too mainstream in my diet and so I cut back, and it has really helped. I love sweets, so was no easy task, and luckily enough my sweet tooth has diminished.I too came to that conclusion with dairy and gluten, and sometimes try to go back to gluten, and it never works out well! Most of the time I don’t mind, except when I splurge with pizza. That soy cheese just doesn’t melt as well. The search continues!

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