Whole Food for Thought

So often when we think about weight loss, we immediately think of our problem as overeating. Read: If only I could cut back to 1200 calories a day, I could lose the weight!  

In fact, if we closely examine the food on our plates, we may find that we are eating far too little in an effort to restrict our calorie intake

When I first started dieting in college, I obsessively fretted over how many calories I was consuming while simultaneously bingeing on Belgian waffles buried beneath a mountain of whipped cream as part of my self-assigned cheat day. 

Looks great, but would you really be full after eating 3 lettuce cups, each with one measly slice of avocado?

What I didn’t realize at the time was that what I was eating during the week wasn’t sufficient. As a result, I wanted to binge eat whenever I had the chance. It wasn’t just the quantity of the food that wasn’t enough, but the quality. I was so preoccupied with eating fewer carbs and more lean protein (as every beauty magazine had told me to do) that I hardly ever incorporated fresh fruits and vegetables into my meals. 

Now, nearly 10 years later, I don’t worry about the number of calories I’m consuming, but rather how the food I’m eating makes me feel. When I began consuming a wide array of fruits and vegetables at every meal, I began to feel lighter, more satiated and more energized than ever before. I no longer felt like I wasn’t eating enough. I was thrilled to be able to finally fill my plate and still feel great.

Fad diets may help us to lose those few unwanted pounds, but at what cost? So often, I hear friends and family who struggle with their weight say things like “Oh no, I can’t have those!” or “Just a small slice, please.” 

By restricting ourselves or bingeing and subsequently feeling guilty, we are living out a vicious cycle while funneling millions of dollars to the fad diet industry. Instead of embracing and enjoying our food, we are taught to reject it at every meal. It’s no wonder we all inevitably fail at our diets and go back to our old ways of eating. 

Eating Plant-Based is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. I personally found the most success by cutting out animal products altogether. But I understand that one shoe does not fit all. Start by simply adding 2-3 fruits/vegetables to every meal. This might mean adding in frozen greens and chopped carrots to your weekly pasta night or using black beans instead of meat on Taco Tuesday. Start with small changes and you’ll notice a big difference over time. 

Most importantly, be patient and compassionate with yourself. These are changes you’re making for good. Take them slow even if they don’t take effect right away. Treat each meal as if it were your companion and give thanks for the nourishment it provides. Remember that food is not your enemy, but rather your life force. Consciously chew each bite and enjoy your meal for what it is: a precious (and delicious) gift of life. 

February 2016 and September 2018. It’s not just the way I look in each of these photos. It’s the way I felt that made the biggest difference.

If you don’t practice meal prep at the start of each work week, it’s time to start. Creating and sticking to a meal prep routine can mean the difference between enjoying a delicious, home-cooked meal and blowing a week’s worth of grocery money on Postmates instead. 

Start out slow. Begin by preparing at least 1 grain, 1 green and 1 protein. If you have time, prepare a sauce or two such as cashew sour cream or dairy-free cheese sauce

If you’re pressed for time, or still a bit intimidated by the process, start by purchasing pre-packaged condiments such as salsa, hummus, guacamole or all natural salad dressings. I personally love any of the following dressings sold at Trader Joe’s. 

Now that you have your base ingredients, all you need to do throughout the week is grab and go. Think of the items in your fridge as you would a buffet. One night, you might choose to grab rice, lettuce and black beans and top it with salsa and avocados to make a burrito bowl. Another day, you might use the rice and a bag of stir-fry vegetables topped with coconut aminos for an easy, tasty Asian-inspired dish! 

Whatever you decide to create, prepare your food with purpose. Be present as you chop the vegetables or stir the sauce. Take in the fragrances, colors and textures of each ingredient you use. Mindfully prepare your meal and serve it to yourself as if you were serving a royal. Because after all, Guest is God. Indulge in every bite and make it last. Appreciate it for what it is and for what it offers you. 

Give thanks for your food, even if it’s just a bowl of chips. Practice mindful meal prep and eating and your relationship with food will blossom like never before.