Stress from the pandemic has affected all of us in some way. Perhaps you aren’t sleeping well at night, lacking focus with work, or are feeling overwhelmed with all you have to do at home. If you’re like me, it’s a combination of all three with an added bonus of weight gain.
When COVID-19 started, it was hard to imagine what was to come. The news reports and constant worrying about my family’s health started weighing on me pretty fast. My husband is a first responder, so he’s out in the field each day while I’m home working and taking care of my very busy 21 month old, Hunter. The desire to make sure dinner was made (with enough leftovers for the next day’s lunch) started to stress me out. How was I supposed to make sure I was on top of my job, stimulate Hunter (with limited screens), and keep the house clean? I grew up eating casseroles and thought that would be a great idea for a quick fix; but the problem with casseroles, while delicious, they’re often creamy and loaded with salt (and cheese!). Sure, I would sneak in vegetables, but these were not meals I should have been eating every day.
My husband tried to ask me if I could lighten up the food. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well. I immediately became defensive, barking about how hard it was and to be grateful. His request wasn’t meant to offend, and he offered to help me daily. The reality was, I was turning to food for comfort. I was using the excuse that it was fast and convenient to avoid what was really going on—that I was emotionally eating to cope with the stress and anxiety I was feeling.
Cut to almost four months later and seeing the scale go up (which didn’t help the stress), I started getting some clarity about my behavior. I needed to make a change. I wanted to set an example for my son. We don’t need to eat a muffin every morning. Vegetables don’t need cream sauce. And, you don’t need a full plate of rice or potatoes to have a sustainable meal.
I needed to reset, and I’m a person who needs a plan. So, I turned to my very talented friend, Keri Glassman. In her books The O2 Diet and The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever, I read about her food cleanse. A juice cleanse is certainly not my speed, but this food cleanse seemed doable. Plus, I actually liked all the foods included in it. To give myself a little accountability, I got my husband on board.
We jumped in with both feet. After four days, here’s what happened:
Keri told me, “A food cleanse can mark the start of a long journey towards healthier eating habits—if you do it right.” So, I got into the right frame of mind. This wasn’t about deprivation—rather, it was about putting lean quality protein, healthy fats, and vegetables into my system. For four days, I was eating the same thing which made the plan easy to follow. My husband and I did our food shopping and meal prep the day before we began. We ate eggs for breakfast, a green apple with cinnamon for snack, salmon and spinach for lunch, artichokes in the afternoon and repeated lunch for dinner. Plus, we ate delicious blueberries for a snack. And, I can’t forget the 8 glasses of water and green tea!
You can check out the actual cleanse here.
MY AH-HA MOMENT
Being a working mom and knowing exactly what I was having for meals and snacks made my day easier. Remembering to drink water was probably the biggest challenge for me. One of the major things that came to light was the fact that I was picking off of Hunter’s plate—a lot. I had this subconscious reflex of taking a bite of his pasta and finishing his leftovers. I had no idea what I was doing until I became mindful of each bite.
Day three was tricky. As I gave Hunter a healthy veggie quesadilla, Brian and I fought not to take a bite. We missed cheese but knew this was the start of something important for our health. And, cheese wasn’t gone forever.
I also put up motivational sayings on our calendar to remind us why I was doing this. Brian and I started talking about how we were going to continue after this was finished…what healthy foods we were going to stock in our fridge and what we were going to limit. As Keri says, “This whole food cleanse is the foundation of healthy eating to be built upon after the four days.”
I also realized that I don’t need to eat the exact same thing as my son. That was a big hurdle I had to overcome. If I wanted to give him some healthy potatoes or a side of rice, that’s okay, but I didn’t have to have the same thing if I didn’t want to. Keri also pointed out that by covering up the flavor of the veggies or healthy protein with sauces, Hunter wouldn’t know the actual flavors of whole foods. A light bulb went off for me. If I wouldn’t feed it to Hunter (sorry M&Ms and french fries), I certainly shouldn’t be eating it (at least all the time).
When I began this four-day journey, I was accustomed to eating much larger portions (and a lot more carbs and sugar) so, I was worried I may be hungry. But, surprisingly that was not the case. While it did take some adjustment, it was easier than I thought. I was also excited about using spices I traditionally don’t cook with, and got creative with vinegars.
While weight loss wasn’t my main goal, it was a pleasant result. I lost 5 pounds and my husband lost 8 pounds.
Since we’ve done this, Brian and I look at eating a lot differently. While I don’t eat salmon every day, we now start with a veggie base and then add on the meat, carbs and healthy fats. My snack is still that apple or some fruit that I share with Hunter, but I add some peanut butter for a little protein and healthy fat.
Portions are another big adjustment we’ve made. I was eating the same, if not more than my husband at each meal. Now, I portion out what is right for me. It has made a big difference. While it’s only been two weeks since the cleanse, I’m down some pounds, I have more energy and am sleeping better. I also appreciate my treats a whole lot more (yay, Pizza Friday!).
If you’re feeling like the quarantine has created some unhealthy habits for you, perhaps this is something you’d like to try as well! It absolutely kick-started a whole new outlook on healthy eating for my family.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)
Former Editorial Director, Nutritious Life
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