Kezia and I have both been on some pretty radical food journeys in our lives! Granted, these journeys have been very very different, but they are journeys nonetheless. Early in her life, Kezia spent an entire decade as a vegetarian. Then after briefly being a very picky meat-eater, she swung back to eating an entirely raw vegan food diet for two more years.
Over to me and leading up to meeting her, I had been living what would be classified as a typical bachelor life for about seven years, inaugurated by my freshman year at university. I worked at a pizza joint through my time at Texas A&M, and one of the employee benefits was taking home an entire medium pizza at the end of each shift. Believe me, they never went to waste (just maybe to my waist)! Moving on from university, one of the only part-time jobs I could find in Redding was busing at a popular burger and bottomless fries establishment. They offered great employee discounts as well – I’ll let you connect the dots.
Our long journeys toward how we both eat today have been pretty dissimilar, to speak modestly!
Each of us have made changes in our diet at different paces, for different reasons, and with different end goals in mind. No matter how we treat our bodies through college, they can give us the illusion that we are invincible. Leaving school though, I realized that the track I was on probably wasn’t going to see me fit and healthy at 60. So I began to make some changes. My personality type in just about everything in life is slow-and-steady-wins-the-race. Because of that, sudden extreme changes to my eating basically scream “1 week life-span.” Drastic diet changes have about as good a likelihood of surviving as gym memberships that begin on January 1st.
Therein lies the simple secret to some of the most significant adjustments to my diet over the past 4 years. I make changes at a glacial pace. Intentionally. I’ve learned that for me, slow change has the greatest chance of sustainability. And I never worry about suddenly reverting back to my bachelor ways of eating, because habits that take years to develop tend to take me that long to undo. Thankfully, slow regressions back to old ways of eating are easy to spot, and easy to turn around.
Reflecting back on this ongoing journey of slow but steady change, here are a few areas I’ve most enjoyed seeing progress:
More veggies on my plate!
Because I’ve never been a huge fan of vegetables, we’ve figured out creative ways to gradually increase vegetables in my meals. You have to find what works for you! Rather than having a side of veggies isolated on the plate I have to stomach through, I’ll make sure they are mixed into the meal so that the veggies take on the flavors of the main entree, and I gradually get accustomed to enjoying the taste of that vegetable. And yes, we trick my mind like a 4-year-old! We have also experimented around with finding my favorite clean salad dressing and my favorite salad toppings so that salads become an appealing lunch option.
Less and less refined sugar.
The more I’ve moved towards honey, date, and fruit-sweetened desserts, the less I crave refined sugar. However, it didn’t happen over-night. It has taken lots and lots of small decisions like bringing a cookie from home to work so that I can opt out of office birthday cake, or choosing an americano instead of a sweet coffee drink. Thankfully, with a progression away from refined sugar, my cravings has adjusted as well, and now my body ends up feeling noticeably better when I avoid it.
I LOVE to eat out. It’s a big part of what makes food fun for me. However, because eating out feels like a treat, it was also an excuse for picking the largest portioned, fattiest thing on the menu. Why not? It’s a treat, right? Whether it was a Texas-sized chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, a truffle bacon mac ’n cheese entree, or a half-pound bacon cheeseburger, I knew how to eat out, and boy was I going to be full. Over time I’ve realized that making very small adjustments to what I order will make the choice gradually healthier, but also preserve the fun of eating out. I still don’t order a salad when we go to restaurants, but I try and make a few decisions to make a “fun” option work in my favor. Kezia always reminds me of how “great” my Chipotle order is compared to what I used to order a couple of years ago. I made the slow change to a bowl instead of a burrito in order to drop the sizable tortilla. Then I changed from white rice to brown rice. Then I dropped the sour cream, and a while later, the cheese too. I’ve added in corn salsa, and extra pico de gallo (mild salsa), and voila, suddenly my body feels great after eating Chipotle and I still love my burrito bowl!
I don’t have to radically change my diet in a day (or even in a year). It really is a lifelong journey, and I plan to enjoy my life and my food while I’m on it!