Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Giving Back

About a year and half ago, I realized that I simply didn't feel very well anymore. I was always tired, no matter how much I slept. I was in at least some pain almost all the time ... achy bones and muscles complaining on a daily basis. I didn't feel sick, but I was definitely "off" ... not some of the time but ALL of the time. It wasn't good.

Then, on an impulse, I ordered a blood glucose test kit. It confirmed a suspicion that had been at the back of my mind. No, I wasn't diabetic but I WAS experiencing occasional blood sugar spikes. My body was struggling to deal with the food I was giving it. And, apparently, this was making me feel, well, like crap.

So, I made some changes. Small ones at first. I cut back on my carbs, especially refined sugars and starches. I added whole foods and protein, especially fruits, vegetables and nuts (which, fortunately, I love), to every meal I ate, including snacks. I also turned a critical eye to all the meals I'd been preparing over the years.  I've cooked pretty much my whole life but never really thought a lot about the foods that went into the meals. That changed. I wanted everything I ate, with very few exceptions, to be healthful. That meant learning how to cook all over again.

Over the next several months I scoured the web, looking for healthy alternatives to food I'd been eating my whole life. I found many wonderful cooking blogs that helped steer me in the right direction. I revamped all my recipes, switching to whole grains and fresh ingredients wherever possible. I gave up potatoes and started eating squash. I switched to whole wheat pasta and discovered I loved it! I learned how to thicken sauces with egg or whole wheat flour instead of cornstarch. I loaded soups and stews with tons of veggies instead of starchy roots and noodles. Every dish I made was evaluated and tweaked until it was as healthy as I could make it. And, to my surprise, most of them tasted as good as before, if not better.
Baking presented its own special challenge. I love baking and I LOVE baked goods. But they tend to be loaded with sugar and refined flour. My body was telling me I couldn't eat that stuff all the time anymore. So, I experimented with whole grain flours and cutting back on sugar in all my favorite recipes. I didn't go the sugar substitute route ... that wasn't what I was after. I wanted natural, healthy foods not artificial sweeteners. But I also wanted less sugar and fewer carbs, especially refined sugar and flour. I switched to honey where possible, raw or minimally processed sugars when it wasn't, and used them sparingly. I still resorted to refined sugars occasionally, usually as brown sugar or molasses, but I did so minimally. I also discovered that, as I ate less sweet stuff, I didn't need food to be as sweet to enjoy it. Which let me cut back on sugar even more. This, in turn, led to the development of a whole bunch of new, low sugar, whole grain recipes that tasted really good but didn't cause my blood sugar to wig out. My body was happier and so was I. But I didn't stop there.
I also started exercising regularly. Just a little each day to begin with, but my body responded eagerly and I soon began to increase my activity more and more. I could feel myself growing stronger, healthier and, yes, leaner to. I lost fat and grew muscle. I treated my body with a new found respect, both in how I used it and what I put into it. It really made a difference. I started to feel great!
Now, almost a year and a half later, I feel like a new person. I still have a ways to go, but I'm enjoying the journey. I'm also finding I spend less time looking for recipes and a lot more time developing my own. So, I've decided it's time to give back some of what I received. I want to take the things I've learned over the past months and share it with others. Who knows? Maybe someone out there, looking to eat and feel healthier, will come across MY blog and find something that helps them along their way. Wouldn't that just be awesome?

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