Over the past two years, I’ve been researching food philosophies and eating habits to live a healthier lifestyle. Food in general can be a very personal or emotional topic for some people, as food is so attached to our lifestyles, personalities, memories and culture. But I think health and wellness are very important things I value in life, so I wanted to write today about my food philosophy to start to digest the information I’ve been reading, watching and researching about different approaches to eating.
A couple weeks ago, I talked about how I strive to eat well in college; however, it wasn’t until college that I learned that people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles have very different approaches to eating. It can be a very personal thing, and I wanted to explore different sides of healthy eating–and how food plays such a large role in our lives and what we choose to do everyday. I began to learn more about my relationship with food and what was both healthy and unhealthy about the food I was eating. To give you some context, I want to start at the beginning.
My Food Philosophy During Childhood & High School
Growing up, my parents always made me amazing, balanced and healthy meals. We ate traditional home-cooked American meals, but my mom and dad would also make a lot of special dishes like venison, crab cakes, fish, seafood, different soups and more. They were better than many restaurants, and I loved it. I am so grateful for the amount of love and care they put into meals and how we always had a sit-down family dinner every night. However, I also tended to eat a lot of unhealthy treats and snacks throughout the day. I would have bowls of ice cream, processed candy, cookies and dessert on a regular basis, and most of time, I wouldn’t consider regulating the amount of sugar and processed foods I was eating. I didn’t see them as bad for me; I just knew they were not the best choices. I thought that since I was getting good meals from breakfast, lunch and dinner, that the other foods like desserts or processed snacks wouldn’t matter. I thought that since they made me happy, that was a good thing.
In high school, I believed in the “eat whatever you want” mindset, that you shouldn’t deny your body food and you should listen to cravings. I still somewhat believe in the eat what you want mindset, but definitely not how I saw it in high school. High school was a tricky time as I also go more into athletics and cross country. I realized more and more that what I ate affected me. I gave up drinking soda in high school, but I still didn’t realize how a massive amount of food in our grocery store contains harmful ingredients to our bodies.
Researching Food & Nutrition in College
I slowly started to uncover some healthier eating habits in college, as many of the Youtubers I watched started to give healthy eating tips and workout tips. Since I was on my own in college, I had more control over my eating habits and workout routines. But that being said, freshman year was still a year full of milkshakes, dining hall desserts and lots of good, but very unhealthy, desserts and snacks.
I remember sophomore year was the first time I started to really notice the harmful effects of processed food. I watched two documentaries on Netflix, out of curiosity: Food Matters and Hungry for Change. These two documentaries started to change my perspective on foods and healthy living styles. I realized that the majority of food in our grocery stores are processed, that all the chemicals and toxins in our food relate to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more, and that it seems like not many people around me were concerned.
All the preservatives, the chemicals, artificial flavors, food dyes, GMO foods, pesticides, etc. are crazy to think about. I never had a problem that I was eating unnatural foods–but then I realized that they were just that: unnatural. We, as human beings, were not made to eat processed foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce. After I watched the two Netflix documentaries (and several more), I vividly remember telling a friend that all the food we were eating was bad for us. I quickly realized that that is not the right approach to have, and that it was unrealistic to drop everything and start a whole food, healthier diet. I would have to ease my way into it. From the spring to my sophomore year until the summer before my senior year, I still ate pretty much the same things as I did before, but I tried to get in more vegetables and eat less sugar.
Finding The Raw Food Community
During this time, I was very much aware of different diets: vegetarianism, veganism, the Paleo diet, etc. But I never heard of a fully raw vegan diet until coming across Kristina’s Youtube channel, FullyRawKristina. The world of high carb, low fat, fully raw veganism intrigued me, and I began to watch recipe videos from two or three different channels every now and again. The fully raw lifestyle is a diet that is made up of primarily fruits and vegetables that are completely raw (uncooked) along with reasonable quantities of nuts and seeds. While I was skeptical at first, the idea of eating the most nutritious foods your body needs in large quantities made sense. Eating fruits and vegetables is how we were designed.
From learning about this lifestyle, I also heard of the dangers of eating meat, fish, dairy, gluten, cooked foods and more. I also heard about different takes on the fully raw lifestyle, like the Raw Till 4 approach: eating raw until 4pm, integrating cooked rice, potatoes, pasta and other cooked foods at dinnertime. Overall, I learned pros and cons of all these food lifestyles–with the pros outweighing the cons, especially for all plant-based diets.
When My Eating Habits Started to Change
I began to make some changes last summer to my diet. I stocked up the fridge with more fruit, which I ate everyday for breakfast, along with some granola. I also started eating salads–a first for me. Incorporating more raw fruits and vegetables in my diet was the first step. Overall, I learned that it’s not what you cut out of your diet–it’s what you add in.
Last summer, I also decided to limit red meat as much as I could. I still ate meals with my family, so we did have meat on a regular basis. I began to stick to things like chicken and fish and seafood. Then, things started to change, as I didn’t want to eat chicken anymore. When I went back to college last fall, I mostly ate pescatarian. I had red meat and perhaps chicken sometimes (no more than once a month, or less). Part of the reason for this is that I felt weird and reluctant to cook meat–sometimes cooking fish freaked me out a little bit, knowing it was an animal. I was fine with eating other seafood prepared by others–but on random days, I didn’t feel like cooking it on my own.
Last semester, I truly realized that we do not need meat in our diets, and that it is actually very healthy to avoid it. Even though it was a huge deal to my family that I didn’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving, I still stand by this choice.
My Current Eating Habits
This semester, I have continued with a mostly vegetarian diet–with seafood and fish dishes occasionally. I once called it an “exploratory pescatarian” diet. (I have no idea what that means.) But I think this season of my life is just a transitioning season for me to know what foods I enjoy eating and what works best for me. In addition to cutting out meat from my diet, I have also begun to cut out some dairy, including eggs and milk. Cheese has been a harder task, but I have been trying to limit it as well. I think of these things as things I wouldn’t buy at the grocery store, but would consider eating at a restaurant or at friends’ houses. It all depends on context.
Last week, I decided to try going vegan for a whole day. That whole day lasted for five days. And it was pretty easy. My only problem was that spring break happened–and there was good seafood and grilled cheese involved. But it’s all about moderation, and listening to your body.
I feel like there are a million other snippets of information I wanted to include in this post, but I think I’ll save some for a later date! I hope you all enjoyed hearing about my food journey–I hope to include some more specific information in a later post as well.
Now I want to hear from you: what do you think about vegetarianism, veganism, or other dietary lifestyles? What is your approach to food and healthy living? I can’t wait to talk more about it with you all!