A few weeks ago, I decided my current way of eating wasn’t working for me. I didn’t have the energy I wanted, I wasn’t losing weight, and I was prone to binging at night. I wasn’t sure why my diet wasn’t working out, but I was ready for a radical shift.
I wasn’t sure why my diet wasn’t working out, but I was ready for a radical shift.
As a low-carb vegan I thought, maybe I’m meant to be a low-fat vegan. In a state of low energy and unsatisfied with the way my body looked, the thought of a radical shift felt good. On the other hand, being on a low-carb diet had made me somewhat afraid of loading my body up with fruits and starches.
A moment of clarity came, as they often do, during a low point. Despite a promise to myself the night before, I was once again engaging in a late night binge. Cycling through video after video of beautiful high carb vegans like Freelee and Rice and Raw, I was convinced this was the way to go. If I just “carb the f**k up,” as Freelee likes to say, all of my disordered eating will vanish. I’ll be happy, full of energy, never hungry, and have an amazing body. As I reviewed this idea in my head, it sounded awfully familiar. I decided to revisit some of the videos in the low-carb camp that had helped support my decision to embrace that way of eating. Turned out, their message was very similar. And low and behold, there were also many in the low-carb diet camp with healthy, beautiful bodies.
A moment of clarity came, as they often do, during a low point.
Then it dawned on me. Like so many people, in desperation and frustration, I had decided to change my diet without ever stepping back to be honest with myself about what my current diet actually consists of, where it’s not working, and why it’s not working. In other words, instead of tuning in to what is true for me, I was looking to other sources of information for a version of the truth I could escape into. If I was actually honest with myself, I had eating low-carb, sure. But in my version of a low-carb diet protein powder, fiber powder, and fake sugar (artificial sweeteners like stevia) had taken center stage. Vegetables had been reduced to a one-liner – a salad for lunch or a bunch of greens with dinner. Had I tried limiting or removing the artificial sweeteners and heaps of protein powder? No. Had a tried doubling or tripling the amount of vegetables I ate? No. Would I likely feel better and lose weight if I did these things? Yes.
Instead of tuning in to what is true for me, I was looking to other sources of information for a version of the truth I could escape into.
As cathartic as a drastic change felt, I realized that the issue was not the place of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in my diet. The issue was taking time to prepare and eat whole plant-based meals. The issue was slowing down and respecting my body by supplying it with whole, vitamin-rich foods. In that moment of honest self-assessment, I decided not to re-invent the wheel with a new diet, but to look at my current diet as a foundation to improve upon. After all, I had spent months inventing recipes, tinkering with portion sizes and meal times, and generally tracking my energy levels and sense of well-being with this diet. I had learned that artificial sweeteners seemed to zap the energy from my muscles and increase my nerve sensitivity, which made me less excited to exercise. I had learned that certain types of fibers made it more difficult for me to stay regular, while others helped. I had learned that replacing sweet with savory in many recipes offered a delicious alternative in many cases.
Rather than look at the months I’d spent not losing weight and not always feeling great as time-wasted, I embraced those months as a valuable time of self-experimentation. They were a groundwork on which to improve.
Did I really want to wipe the slate clean and throw my body into a completely new plan? If I had been doing everything “right” on my current diet, and it still wasn’t working, the answer would have been “yes”. But by doing an honest assessment of things, I realized that my current diet had massive room for improvement. And rather than look at the months I’d spent not losing weight and not always feeling great as time-wasted, I embraced those months as a valuable time of self-experimentation. They were a groundwork on which to improve.
For health-conscious individuals, continuing education about diets and foods outside of one’s current regime is valid and important. But adopting a new way of eating should never happen prior to an honest assessment that happens without the influence of books or outside information. Only by starting from an honest foundation can new information be assimilated and incorporated into an eating plan that works for you.