Eating should be a lifelong process of nourishing yourself. Strict dieting and fad diets may weaken your metabolism and halt the rejuvenating and rebuilding process of your body, mind and spirit.
When you eliminate processed foods, sugar, and other stimulants, you may become aware of what foods make you feel better and what foods make you feel unwell. Some people reduce the amount of refined starchy foods they eat by cutting down on potatoes, rice, pasta, chips, muffins, bagels and bread. Other changes are increasing your intake of quality oils and eating more vegetables, especially non-starchy ones.
Although it is tempting to want to overhaul your diet overnight, you will be overwhelmed if you do. Gradual changes are more effective and lasting.
How to Monitor Your Progress
What are signs that the changes you've made are right for you? You will notice improvement in one or more of these areas:
- Increased energy
- Weight regulation - lose excess weight or gain needed weight
- Skin and hair are clear and soft
- Bowel movements become more regular
- Sleep quality improves
- Improved digestion - less bloating, gas, and heartburn
If the changes you've made are too drastic or are not right for you, you will notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Feel like you're obsessed with food, which takes time away from nurturing yourself and your relationships with others
- Feel guilty or upset when you eat an 'unhealthy' food
- You have to record what you eat everyday in order to stay on track
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Dry skin and hair
- Weight gain, especially around the middle and/or arms and legs are getting thinner
- Weight loss of more than 2 lbs per week
- Are not eating a variety of foods
Step 1: Locate natural health foods in your area
If you don't have access to natural health food stores or if organic produce is not in your budget, look for Japanese, Greek, Chinese, and Indian grocery stores for fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, buckwheat noodles, brown rice, beans and other goodies. Non-organic produce should be washed and scrubbed thoroughly and outer leaves of leafy vegetables should be discarded. To clean vegetables, you can use baking soda and/or vinegar and soak and scrub vegetables for 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 2: Get some cooking reference books
One of my favorite reference books is Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison. It provides information on storing, selecting, and cooking different vegetables, and tons of recipes for making soups, casseroles, vegetables dishes, desserts, soy dishes, pizzas and almost any other vegetable staple.
When evaluating cookbooks, look at the ease of preparation. Some cookbooks have great recipes but with an ingredient list and preparation method too difficult to do on a busy schedule.
Step 3: Try some healthy restaurants in your city
You will be able to see how good healthy cooking can taste. Visit local vegetarian restaurants for ideas on vegetable dishes, shakes, and salads with vegetable protein, Indian restaurants for ideas on bean dishes, and restaurants that serve free-range or organic meat.
Step 4: Take a cooking class
Your local health food store is a great resource for this. Inquire about classes, and take a look on bulletin boards and in free health newletters and magazines for healthy cooking classes in your city. Invite a friend to join you. It's a great way to get inspired!