Today is Day 11 of 31 Days of Surviving Chronic Illness. You can catch up on Day 1 here.
Yesterday we talked about listening to our bodies and being kinder to them. When I slowed down and paid attention to what my stressed out, sick body was saying, this was the first thing I heard:
"Stop eating chemicals!"
I have an advantage over a lot of people because I grew up eating spirulina, millet and natural peanut butter so thick you could peel it right off the bread. My mom was all natural way before it was trendy or cool. So eating healthy is not foreign to me and overall my diet was not that bad. I've always eaten vegetables & fruit, I've taken vitamins my whole life, and I'm very familiar with cooking my own meals.
But there were some spots in my diet that needed attention. Mostly, lunches. Because I worked up in the hills, far away from any restaurants or even my home, I had to pack my lunch every day. However, when you're exhausted and can barely manage to peel yourself out of bed every day, cooking is about the furthest thing from your mind. So almost every day for lunch I ate a pre-packaged, frozen meal. I mostly purchased the "healthy" or "lean" ones but looking on the back of the label I found some things that were disturbing: corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, soy protein, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, glutamates, preservatives, and so much more.
The problem with eating foods that are highly processed and full of chemicals is that your body doesn't recognize it as "food." Our bodies are incredibly adaptive, and will try to survive on whatever resources it can get, but after a while those chemicals cause our bodies to react in ways it was never created to. These chemicals & over processed foods disrupt hormones, produce toxins, and even cause cancer. In her book Master Your Metabolism Jillian Michaels explains, "Your poor body is stumbling around, trying to scrounge something nutritious out of this toxic food environment... too many additives and processes have mangled the food supply and confused your body's normal metabolism."
On January 1 I made a decision to eat fewer chemicals and engineered foods and instead eat more whole, natural foods. I didn't want to change everything all at once and shock my system with something that wasn't going to be sustainable. I just started getting pickier about what I defined as "food." If it came straight out of the ground or ocean (with as little chemical treatment as possible) I ate it. If it had a face or had a mother in it's previous life, it was on the safe list. If I could pronounce and recognize the ingredient list, I ate it. One by one, I eliminated the chemical-tinged foods.
Guess what happened? My body responded. It wasn't drastic and definitely didn't happen overnight, but week by week I started noticing the dark circles under my eyes weren't as big. My energy levels starting picking up and my brain started to come out of the fog that it had been in. My digestion became more normalized and my skin started get a little glow back.
It has been a couple of years now since I started being more mindful of my foods, limiting the chemicals, and food tastes so much better now. It's not that I never "cheat", I do. Especially when I'm pressed for time. But those Franken-foods never taste as good as the whole, natural foods that I was raised on, grew and love. When I eat fresh, simple foods I know that I'm fueling it for health and healing.
So that's my challenge to you. Next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the ingredient list before you put it in your cart. If you can't pronounce an ingredient, put it back on the shelf because it's not food. If it has artificial colors or artificial sweeteners, pass. If there is a "junk" food you love, see if there is a healthier version or brand. Start adding more whole, unprocessed foods to your meals and snacks.
Your body will respond with gratitude.