I'm not really sure to start out this post other than to tell you that we're going to be taking a little trip through history….my history. Specifically, my eating habits and how my diet has changed over the years.
As someone who talks about healthy food all day long, you might think that my diet is “perfect”. Or maybe you think that this feels natural to me since I've always eaten this way. Well, today you're going to see that my eating habits haven't always been healthy. In fact, you could argue that I suffered from distorted eating.
Why get this personal? Honestly, because I think my story is a pretty normal one. And I feel like a lot of you will be able to relate. My goal is to help you see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that clean eating is something we can all achieve.
So without further ado…let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
Oh high school. A time in my life I most certainly never want to return to. It's a time where you are impressionable, where every little thing that is said to or about you can strike you to the core. For me, high school was the time in my life where I started really thinking about my weight.
At first, I wasn't really concerned with how I looked. I mean I cared about how I dressed and everything, but I never felt self-conscious. But once I hit high school and all the skinny girls were the popular girls, I started to become much more aware of my weight. I wasn't heavy by any means – I have a somewhat athletic build – but you wouldn't look at me and call me “skinny”. I have meat on my bones, and at the time, I had a little more meat than was probably healthy.
I started off eating whatever I wanted. I kid you not, whatever I wanted. Ice cream, chips, soda, cheeseburgers, all the processed crap that they serve in cafeterias and vending machines. Then when I was a junior, I decided I needed to go on a diet. I researched what that meant and found out that you can lose weight by counting calories. So I did that.
I started tracking every. single. thing. Every bite of food went into my journal with the calorie count next to it. At this time I also started going to the gym and so I would start recording the calories I burned and subtracting them from the calories I consumed. My intake goal was 1,200 calories from food, but most of the days I was burning at least 450 at the gym, so my net ended up being around 700 – 800 per day.
I had NO IDEA if this was good or bad, but I figured the lower the amount, the better I was doing. I even stopped eating home cooked meals for a while in favor of lean cuisines because then I could count how much I was eating. I realize how insane this sounds even just typing it.
So did I lose weight? Nope, not really. Instead, I just felt kind of gross and I think I ended up giving up after a few months. It wasn't sustainable – I was always pissed off (like more than your average teenager) and it didn't make me feel any better about my body.
When I first went to college I didn't really know what to expect in terms of the food. I kind of thought I would be eating in the dining hall most days, but as it turned out the dorm I got assigned to wasn't close to a dining hall so I actually ended up making most of my food in my room (or ordering out). I had a little electric tea kettle and I was able to make things like mac and cheese, oatmeal, hot cocoa, etc.
I was still very aware of my calories and how much I was consuming, but I had stopped counting. I tried to eat a little as I could and never thought about nutrition. Vegetables? Didn't even consider it. I also started drinking diet soda which I figured was perfect because it was zero calories. Coke Zero was my BFF.
As with most college days, I also partied. Not super hard, but we would binge drink at least two to three times per week. These nights inevitably turned into lots of late night snacks of Dominos Pizza. Cheesy bread and thin crust cheese pizza were regulars on the menu.
Things started to turn around for me when I moved off campus. My house had a full kitchen, plus I had my car, so I was able to start grocery shopping more. Veggies began to make their way into my diet a bit more, but diet sodas and booze were still my beverages of choice. Also bagels and coffee. We ate a lot of bagels (with low-fat cream cheese) and drank a lot of iced coffee (with skim milk and Splenda).
Becoming a “Professional”
My first-year post-college was pretty great. I moved into a small apartment with my girlfriends, things with Matt were getting more serious, we still went out on the weekends, but I had a full-time job at a marketing firm and I felt like I was becoming a real professional. We cooked a lot of dinners at home and I really started to enjoy making things from scratch. We still drank, but not like in college and I started going to the gym more consistently.
And then my world turned upside down…
I realized I was intolerant to gluten and dairy.
This was a MAJOR life change for me. Like major, major. Both gluten and dairy were staples in my diet and I was at a loss at what to eat. Also at this time (just about 5 years ago) there wasn't a ton of selection when it came to a gluten- and dairy-free lifestyle, but there were the basics: pasta, bread, crackers, cookies, pretzels, cereal, etc.
So I did what most people do when they realize they have sensitivities and replaced what I was already eating with the gf alternative. Basically, I was filling my body with processed food thinking that it was “healthy” for me. I didn't pay attention to ingredients or nutritional info (aside from calories) and figured if it was gluten-free then it had to be good for me. Right?
I will say, when I first went gluten-free, I dropped a lot of weight. Well a lot for me. It was probably like 7 – 8 pounds which doesn't seem like a ton but I'm only 5′ 3″ and wasn't overweight, so this was definitely a drop for me. I was feeling good about myself and I never slipped up on my eating.
Starting Simply Quinoa
After the year with my girlfriends, Matt and I moved in together. We were still living in Vermont, but this was a big step for both of us. We lived in a studio apartment (which was actually bigger than the one we're currently in…) and were both working full-time. I don't know if it was because I was living with a guy or just the fact that I was getting more and more into food, but I started really cooking.
I was scouring the internet for gluten-free recipes and I gravitated more and more towards dishes that focused less on processed food and more on whole grains, lean meats and vegetables. This is when I discovered quinoa.
I was instantly smitten with this little grain-like seed and started making it for almost every meal. I kept looking for recipes online, but I found that nothing really existed. So as a way to keep track of what I liked, I decided to start a blog. Little did I know that little corner of the internet would turn into this. (I still have to pinch myself)
During this first year, there were two real turning points for me: one was that we started to shop at our local natural foods market and two was I did my first round of the Clean Program.
The Clean Program was a 21 day cleanse in which you eliminated all the top-allergens and followed a very strict regime. The process was challenging but I became intensely aware of the food I was putting into my body. I started to feel the power of a real food diet and I have to tell you it felt incredible. It inspired a lot of the beginning recipes on the blog (check out this post…OMG the photo!) and I really fell in love with vegetables.
This year and a half was really what put me on the clean eating path.
Moving to NYC
(years 0 – 1.5)
The first year and a half that we lived in New York was hard. We moved in February and I was working from home, so I had zero community and was like two steps from my kitchen at all times. I also wasn't consistently working out consistently. I was snacking way too much, my portion control was a little out of hand and I lived in my yoga pants. I definitely gained some weight and started to feel pretty unhappy with my body.
Two major things happened during this time that helped me get back on track: 1) we got Trevi and 2) I stopped eating red meat. Trevi meant that I was out and about a lot more, getting multiple walks in per day and the red meat situation was just something that kind of happened. I haven't eaten red meat in years and I can honestly tell you I have never missed it.
(years 1.5 – 2)
This was a big turning point for me. I joined a yoga studio, started exercising regularly, tried to pick up running (tried being the operative word), became much more aware of my portion sizes AND started learning about veganism.
I fell in love with food documentaries. I watched one after another and just soaked up as much information as I possibly could. I absolutely loved learning about vegan and vegetarianism and started following people like Food Matters and Kris Carr religiously. I didn't go 100% plant-based, but veggies definitely became a bigger focus for me, my love for green smoothies totally took off AND I started juicing.
I got back to my normal weight and started to truly embrace a whole food, unprocessed lifestyle.
(years 2 – 3…right now!)
In the last year, I've made some fairly big (but slow) changes in my life. For starters, I've pretty much removed all animal products from my diet. I'm no longer eating meat of any kind, I occasionally have fish (very rarely), don't eat eggs very often and still don't consume dairy. My diet has been focused much more on plants and plant-based forms of protein – like beans, quinoa, nuts, seeds, etc. I've started eating A LOT of kale. And even more quinoa that I already was.
I also started adding strength training and HIIT workouts to my exercise routine. I shared about my current workout schedule in last week's FGF post, but I've seen some great progress with this. I feel strong and fit. And even though I still have some fat on my body, I'm okay with that because I truly feel healthy.
Even though I'm pretty much following a vegan diet, I don't call myself “vegan” because I don't want to be tied down by labels. I want to feel free to eat how I want to eat and fuel my body in a way that feels natural and satisfying. For now, that means plants. Lots and lots of plants. But who knows…that could very well change.
I would like to meet with an integrative doctor to get my blood tested to make sure I'm absorbing all the right vitamins and nutrients. I would also like to get a food allergy test because I still feel like I have some sensitivities that I haven't been able to pinpoint. I get stomach aches from time to time and am still quite gassy.
I can't say if I'll be eating this way forever, but for now, it works. Again, I really love my plants – salads and smoothie bowls are my freaking jam – and I've gotten really into pulses (beans, peas, etc.), so I don't see that changing anytime soon, but that doesn't mean that high-quality animal protein sources are off the table forever.
Whew, that was a long one! If you got all the way here, thanks for sticking with me 🙂 I really do hope that you found today's post not only helpful, but relatable. I want you to know that if you too on this path to finding your health, it's a journey not a sprint. You don't have to make every change at once. You can take baby steps and eventually you will find a diet and lifestyle that makes you feel amazing.
Did you have any takeaways from today's FGF? Do you have a similar story that you want to share? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments so we can all continue to inspire and help each other be the healthiest (and happiest) version of ourselves we can be.
Sending you so much love + light,
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18 comments on “How My Diet Has Changed Over the Years”
I totally can relate to your story! I ate McDonald’s french fries and a mcflurry almost every day in high school and gained so much weight. In my senior year I started a gluten free and vegetarian diet. I had more energy and felt healthy overall. I am no longer a vegetarian but my diet is 90% clean eating packed with tons of vegetables (hey, we all need a cheat day). I love to cook and spiralizing has become a staple in my house. Thanks for sharing your story! Love your blog! If only I could get my husband to like quinoa 😉
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your story too – it really is amazing to see the difference of clean eating. Also…LOVE that you’ve been spiralizing – seriously it’s such a genius way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Hopefully one day your hubs will also like quinoa 🙂
I love this! Thank you for sharing your personal history with food and nutrition! I’m glad your choices regarding food have helped you lead a healthier and happy lifestyle. That’s the most important! xoxo
Thanks my friend! You totally inspired me to start sharing more personal stories 🙂 xo
I found this post really relatable, and I think that it will help a lot of people. I also had similar problems, and so I did an Allergy Test (blood test). It was EXTREMELY helpful! I found out that I was intolerant to a few things, one of which was garlic – I would never have found these out any other way (ex: by an elimination diet). I highly recommend it, and I feel so much better now.
That’s actually really great to hear. I definitely feel like I have a few things that might still be causing me issues. Which test did you do? Someone else reached out to share an allergy test they did – i think it would be SO helpful!
I did an ‘IgG Antibody Assessment’ (the 96 food one). It’s great because you can see the levels of how your body reacts to different types of foods, and they test a HUGE variety of foods (from pineapple and egg to bakers yeast). It was so helpful to me, and I feel a whole lot better. Thanks again! Wishing you the best of luck!
Awesome! I’ll definitely look into that. Thanks 🙂
Thanks Alyssa. This was great. I can absolutely relate although I’m probably your Grandma’s age and don’t remember what I ate in high school. I do remember the Fri. night pizza and Cherry Coke fests when I was in nursing school. I, too, stopped eating meat many years ago, mostly because I found that I didn’t digest it fast enough. Although if I am served meat I will eat a small portion and then the rest vegetables. This turns out fine. My friends are used to my way of eating and a lot of times envy my healthy choices. I can definitely say I am casein-sensitive- my joints tell it every time. So I am non-dairy, fish, eggs and very occasionally other meats and mostly vegetables and whole grains. And thanks for the info on Quinoa pasta. I absolutely love it! And thanks for all your great recipes. I eat at home most of the time and love to cook so I am so thankful that I found you!
Thanks for writing Barbara! It’s so great to hear from you. I love hearing that you were able to make choices that were good for your body in a time when the world of processed food was growing exponentially. I’m sure it was a challenge, but I’m also guessing you feel better (and healthier) than your friends who don’t eat this way 😉 Thrilled you’ve found quinoa pasta and are enjoying it and cooking from SQ. Let me know what you end up trying and which recipes are your favorites!
I’ve been an emotional eater my whole life. Addicted to sugar and always had a little voice that told me to eat. I would dream of food, always thinking of my next meal. I have done everything from starvation to counting calories, and hated myself for years because I could never look like I wanted to. I am almost 6 feet tall, and as a teenager back then (I am 41) I was made to feel a freak for being so much taller and larger than everyone else. For example: there were no womens jeans long enough back then so I used to buy mens and was teased for their unfashionable style.
A few years ago I started to try to cut sugar out of my diet as much as I could, and after that switched to no dairy but my symptoms stayed.
This December after doing my own research, I went Gluten Free. I have suffered with numerous health issues all of my life including severe edema in my feet and ankles as well as brain fog and crippling anxiety and depression. I have seen more doctors and taken more meds than I care to think about!
Since December 1st I have lost 12 lbs without trying and most of my symptoms are gone. I can really think and remember for the first time in years! The little voice that screams for junk food just disappeared. It’s weird not being obsessed with food, and it’s weird not being in pain all the time too. I now crave water and vegetables – one day I send my husband out for spinach because I wanted to eat it so much!
It’s nice to find bloggers that are supportive and real. Not just trying to sell their latest book. So thanks for sharing your story and being real with us!
Jade, thank you SO much for sharing your story. It’s so powerful and moving to see that someone who has struggled their life with food can make a change to their diet and feel better. I’m thrilled, really absolutely thrilled, that you have been able to find something that works for you now. I can imagine that going gluten-free was hard in the beginning, but it clearly is benefiting you tremendously, so bravo! Keep it up and keep on dreamin’ of spinach 😉 xo!
Thanks Alyssa 🙂
You know it’s funny, but it wasn’t that hard going gluten free. There are certain foods I miss but when I think of how much pain I was in when I ate them, I pretty much instantly just don’t even want to look at them. I make all sorts of gluten free flat breads and crackers so I am satisfied on that front, but I will say the one thing that does make me wistful is the smell of fresh toasted bread. I know some day I can bake my own bread, so even that is not beyond my taste buds
Alyssa, I always enjoy reading your posts and this was no exception.
You mentioned that you are still very gassy and you also said that you’re really into beans and pulses. Do you think there might be a connection? They contain lots of lectins, which interfere with absorption of nutrients unless they’re very carefully cooked. I know that they probably constitute a good deal of your protein intake, but you might want to look into it to see if that’s your problem.
Or I would add, jump on some probiotics — and maybe take enzymes to help with the breakdown of food……sorry to give advise when none was asked for but I worked at Whole Foods in the supplement dept and learned a lot!
Thanks for the advice! I actually do both of those already 🙂 I definitely notice that I feel better when I have a digestive enzyme before a large meal, but I do think there is something else I’m sensitive to that I just haven’t figured out yet. xo
Hi from Australia Alyssa, I’ve been watching your YouTube videos for awhile now..probably from almost your first from memory. I’ve always found them so informative & love that listening to you is like sitting with a friend. There is never any negative remarks from you, your information is understanding for regular people like me & your food looks delicious & I love that it’s “normal” ingredients.
I’m 55 & it’s taken me a few years sorting out what ailed me too. I’ve taken seriously what goes into my mouth for the last 6-12 months & more strictly in the last month & love how quickly I’m feeling better. Ive totally cut out meat/seafood/eggs/dairy & 95% gluten. Even my meat eating hubby has embraced this style of eating by about 75-80% & I couldn’t be more happier.
I’m looking forward to continue to watch your vlogs & would like to wish you all the best for your future endeavours & thank you for being the real & loveable young lady you are. Cheers from Tracey xo
So happy to hear from you Tracey and thank you for being part of this community. I’m thrilled to hear about the positive changes you are making in your diet and can’t wait to see your continued success. All the best to you friend! xox