When I speak to patients about their diet, there is often an assumption that my diet is perfect and that it must have always been like that. The truth is I started out where most of you are starting out in your health journey. I was lucky to have lots of positive influences around me to steer me in the right direction, just like I would love to do with each one of you!
While your diet and lifestyle will always be a work in progress, it’s sometimes good to take a look back and see how far you have come.
This is my story…
My childhood diet
When I was young, my standard diet was the accepted norm at the time: Corn Flakes or Weetbix for breakfast, a muesli bar and maybe a piece of fruit for morning tea, a sandwich made with white bread for lunch with either fritz and sauce or lettuce and cucumber, then boiled vegetables and a piece of meat for dinner.
As I got older
In my university days, when I could do the shopping and choose the food it changed a bit, for the worse! Breakfast would be a coffee or a Farmer’s Union iced coffee, white bread toast and promite or honey, or cereal which would usually be Froot Loops or Nutri-Grain, but when I was being “healthy” I would go back to my childhood and have Weetbix. The Weetbix tasted horrible so there was always one or two teaspoons of sugar on top, then a little bit poured down the side so I would get a little sweetness to finish. (I was a complete sugar addict…still recovering) Sometimes when I was splashing out I would buy croissants and have them with jam or ham and cheese.
Lunch was often leftovers from the night before. If I didn’t have anything leftover, sausage rolls with sauce were a favourite, a chicken schnitzel burger from the café at uni or sometimes flavoured rice cakes. Dinner was still vegetables and meat, stir fries with store-bought sauce (lots of added sugar), steaks and boiled vegies and often a big bowl of pasta with sauce from a jar (salt, sugar and preservatives). But too often there would be McDonalds’, KFC, hot chips from down the road and sometimes pizza.
I would go through litres and litres of milk a week just on my own, sometimes three or four litres. I would also go through litres of juice. Although I always drank plenty of water.
If that diet wasn’t bad enough, it was the things in between meals. I loved microwave popcorn. Chocolate has always been a favourite. A large packet of Arnott’s cream assorted was always in the cupboard. My favourite thing to bake was chocolate brownies. And they tasted best which big lumps of melted white chocolate. Did I say I was a sugar addict!
When was the moment I realised it wasn’t working for me?
There was no particular moment when I thought, “this isn’t working,” nor was there a health crisis that made me take a good, hard look at myself, but a series of small changes that happened over the years. I always knew fruit and vegies were important, but I didn’t realise how bad all the other stuff was. Two girls I shared a house with during uni actually didn’t consume any gluten or lactose. I thought that was because it would make them sick. I didn’t realise it was a choice.
In fifth year uni I saw a chiropractor (Hi Trev!) who gave me lots of little bits of information, which fats were best to cook with, why so many carbohydrates were bad for me and why my adrenal gland wasn’t working. I was tired all the time (something the GP put down to not enough exercise), I kept getting coughs and colds and worst of all, constant headaches and migraines.
In the following years, doing various extra courses after uni and speaking to different practitioners I have picked up other bits and pieces. I reduced my bread intake, I limited my sugar a little bit, I reduced my fast food, but still my diet was nowhere near perfect.
What are my diet philosophies/principles now?
Shireen, who I worked with in Adelaide, was a big influence in really cleaning up my diet. She introduced me to green smoothies about five years ago and particularly in summer, I start many mornings with different smoothie combinations. I avoid gluten which involved taking out bread, swapping oat porridge to quinoa porridge and reducing pasta, going for the gluten free pasta or even better, making zucchini pasta.
The only dairy I have now is in a bit of butter or in my coffee. I only have one or two coffees a week, which are always good quality, with well sourced beans. My sugar has been severely limited which includes limiting fruit, although the peaches this year have been amazing! When living in Adelaide our shopping was done at an organic fruit and veg shop (organic is something I’m yet to source consistently in the Riverland), a butcher for the meat and only a few things come from the supermarket. We are having more meat free days, instead getting our protein from more vegetables.
I don’t follow any particular diet or method. I have tinkered with Gluten free/Casein free, carbohydrate limiting diets, sugar free, raw food and paleo (caveman diet).
My personal philosophy is real food. Everything is made from scratch and in its most natural form. No packets, no jars, no boxes, no plastic. Just wholesome, healthy real food just as my great grandmother would recognise it.
As you can see, it has been a real gradual process. You can implement small changes over time, which will add up in the long run.
Share below in the comments one change that you can make today and commit to that will improve your health in the long run.