Virginia Woolf is quoted as saying “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. This is absolutely true. What kind of food you ingest and the quality of it influences so many parts of your body, mind and spirit. Since the change in my dietary lifestyle: becoming vegetarian, remaining gluten free and increasing my regular exercise routine, I have noticed tremendous changes within myself. It is proven from health professionals that a healthy diet and exercise that is low in fat and high in essential nutrients can reduce the risk of memory loss, help prevent stroke, boost alertness and much more.
My work causes me to have a heavy travel schedule and I noticed that I would feel immediately sluggish after eating certain foods; this could be from having pasta or eating a sandwich or bagel at an airport. I would land at my destination, grab some fast food and go to sleep. Then I’d wake up and repeat the cycle of unhealthy eating throughout the day. There’s a stipulation that healthy food takes too much time to prep and make and you need at least an hour to get in a real workout. After much consideration into why I was feeling more irritable, lethargic and slowly gaining weight, I did some research and spoke to a nutritionist. I gradually became a full vegetarian and took on a gluten free diet. The simple changes from substituting a bag of Cheetos to lightly salted raw almonds and eating a lunch consisting of healthy sautéed vegetables and quinoa instead of a chicken sandwich required a different mindset. Cutting out wheat from my diet and incorporating more grains such as quinoa, whole grain barley and amaranth grain created a surge in my energy, along with adding chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans and more for protein.
Becoming a vegetarian from being an omnivore my whole life was a larger task than I thought. When I thought of vegetarians or being gluten free, I would think of only eating salads, flavorless foods, no bread and basically no fun with food. This is all a myth. Yes, of course eating a salad is great because you can incorporate so many healthy choices and be just as fulfilled, but you don’t have to feel that salad is the only option. A vegetarian diet is just as limitless as a meat based diet. But be careful because as I learned a lot of brands that deem their products as healthy or vegetarian may incorporate additions to make up for what they feel is missing. This can include added sugars, high sodium and fats to stimulate the texture and fullness you’d get from foods containing gluten or other additives. Therefore I continually check the labels on foods to make sure I’m receiving the right nutrients. Dining out at restaurants is no excuse to be lax either. There are always vegetarian options on a menu that don’t consist of ordering a bunch of sides like french fries or chips and guacamole. To make it easier I look at a menu beforehand, so I can make up my mind on what I’m ordering going to a restaurant to stay on the path of my dietary plan.
It’s important to set goals of what you’d like to get out of switching to a healthier lifestyle and stick to those. I wanted to increase my energy, become less forgetful, lose some weight and not feel so tired and I’ve accomplished those goals and more with my lifestyle changes. With the extra energy I now have, means there are more hours in the day for me to conquer daily tasks, work and acquiring a daily workout routine. I don’t have to allot an hour or more if it’s not possible in my day to exercise, having at least 30 minutes can be all that’s needed as long as I make those 30 minutes count. As I’m working out I also use it as meditation to help me prepare or come down from a long day. You need it and when you add a healthy diet, you’ve given your mind, body and spirit all the tools needed to succeed in your day. All of these factors also helped my sleep pattern. I noticed I was able to sleep easier, deeper and wake up feeling rested and ready for what lies ahead.
There’s so much literature and advice available as I was diving into my healthy lifestyle, that it became overwhelming at times. But I always remember four things: 1. Healthy does not mean tasteless, 2. Vegetarian and a gluten free offer limitless options, there’s no need to ever feel bored or stuck, 3. Exercise is not only necessary for my body, but it’s crucial to my mind and 4. Travelling isn’t an excuse to eat junk.
Please note that with any drastic dietary and physical change you’d like to make, consult your physician or nutritionist first. What works for my body, may not work for yours. We are all wonderfully unique, so although we can incorporate tips from each other, it’s important to know the ins and outs of your own body first.