Disclaimer: I write all of this based on my own research and what has worked for me and my body. Although I studied nutrition in university, I do not have any official credentials in this area. SO – PLEASE CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL/HEALTH PROFESSIONALS) BEFORE YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES TO YOUR DIET AND LIFESTYLE.)
When I was in university, like many people, I started to put on a bit of weight and struggled with hormonal imbalances that had me visiting endocrinologists and other specialists for a bunch of issues that were a mystery to me. I stayed active (though my focus was always on steady state cardio vs. strength training, and why that didn’t work so well is a story for another day!) but looking back, the what I was feeding my body was a mess. My intentions were good, but so misguided. Fat was evil, protein didn’t matter, and carbs were my friend. Right? WRONG.
Don’t get me wrong here – my issue isn’t that I was bigger – my weight has fluctuated up and down here and there throughout my life – though has been quite steady for some time and that’s the healthiest thing. This isn’t about what size I was then or now. My issue is the health problems that had me tired, exasperated, miserable and constantly seeing doctors for answers. There was a point where I was even told that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome (aka PCOS) and was told that it would seriously affect my chances of having a baby. (Not that it mattered to me then – to be honest my plan was not to have children and that didn’t change until I was in my thirties.)
So what was I eating? Too much of the wrong thing for me, and not enough of the right stuff. At the time, my favourite things to eat were sesame seed “bagels” with cream cheese or sometimes just butter from a chain on campus, and when I was feeling bad about the amount of fat that entailed, I would sometimes go and get a large or medium container of steamed rice with some sort of teriyaki sauce from the sushi place. And nothing else – that was dinner. That meant no fat, so that was good, right? (Cue facepalm here.) Plus - a whole lot of cookies. Those were standard choices for me, and then sometimes salads, etc. And of course I was frustrated that I was putting on weight and not feeling good – and actually blamed it from the tiny amount of cheese that was on the salad I was eating. This is so misguided I’m actually starting to cringe as I wrote this.
So – basically, a whopping amount of simple carbohydrates, not quite enough veggies, minimal good quality fat or protein. Not to mention too many sugary alcoholic cocktails – because hey, it was legal for me to drink, but I didn’t like the taste of alcohol, so like many people I tried to mask it. No. Wonder. I. Felt. Like. Garbage.
The first thing that started to change things for me was taking a nutrition course in university. I started to learn very useful things, like the fact that protein is a major building block of the immune system, among other things, and realized that maybe I needed to make sure I was getting more of that. But to be honest, the information I was given was a little outdated and more focused on the calories in, calories out (CICO) line of thinking, and therefore demonized fat a little more than we now know is necessary.
And so, my higher carb diet really did continue for years, and so did the mysterious hormonal imbalances and sometimes, digestive issues. Until one day, I started doing a little more reading about the issues that I had, and reported links to other endocrine/metabolic/autoimmune issues such as diabetes, and the benefits of having higher amounts of better quality protein and good fats in one’s diet. Hmmm. Interesting. Especially because diabetes ran on both sides of my family – Type I on one side, Type II on the other. Hmmm again. I consulted the naturopath I was seeing at the time as well as an endocrinologist, and both thought a change in my diet could be beneficial.
So I changed things – and everything changed. I focused on getting more good quality protein in my diet, more good fats, and less sugar. On the activity side, I added in more strength and high intensity interval training and eventually trained to become a certified Pilates instructor as well. I was leaner, my digestion was better – and so many of the nagging issues I had dealt with got better.
One of the trickiest things when you are following an eating regime like this (I don’t use the word diet because I associate that with deprivation) is foods of convenience. I get hungry easily, so snacks are essential, but sometimes it’s hard to find snacks on the go that provide the protein that I need (and that don’t have a bunch of extra ingredients that I don’t need in them). Finding SimplyProtein® snacks were a huge win for me. First of all, they all provide high quality protein from a variety of sources like whey, soy, and pea so you can go with what is right for you (including if you are vegan). They have a good amount of fibre per serving and not too much sugar. If you live a gluten-free lifestyle, good news – ALL of their snacks are gluten free! And then there is the variety of types of snacks – protein bars, chips (for a savoury option), nut and fruit bars, and now soft & chewy cookies! My favourite is definitely the Chocolate Mint Whey Bar (it’s perfect with my coffee in the morning or as an afternoon snack, because it squashes my sugar cravings without all the sugar. The texture is crispy and light, and it’s delicious. There’s also a Kid’s Bar option that is peanut-free, so I keep them stashed in my son’s backpack for an after-soccer or swimming snack that he thinks is a treat. Win Win.
I see no need for me to change things up for me anytime soon, because how I eat now works for my lifestyle and my health. I feel good, and I feel well. And that makes me happy.