When I was little, ABC released a cartoon PSA telling us kids that we are what we eat. The whole idea was to get us to understand nutrition.
Although I’ve always remembered watching the video, the actual message of it never stuck with me. I wish it had.
Funnily enough, after I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and began my path to reverse it, the message of that PSA came rushing back to me.
On days when I wasn’t seeing results or had blood sugar highs and lows, my doctor reminded me that my pancreas and kidneys and other organs were still healing. She encouraged me to stay on track as my body rebuilt itself.
The truth is, I’d been pretty terrible to my body. I was 46 at the time of my diagnosis and I was still eating like a twenty year old – tacos and margaritas with cheese dip, big beefy cheeseburgers with tater tots, and even fast food during the workday where I sat at my desk for eleven hours straight, every day. Sometimes even longer on weekends. I remember once when I had a big, looming deadline, I started working at the kitchen table right after breakfast and it wasn’t until my husband shouted, “SNL is about to start. Are you ever gonna stop working today?” when I finally closed the laptop.
That level of work and stress played a huge role my development of Type 2. It wasn’t just the poor eating habits and the lack of exercise – stress raises your blood sugar. And, I was under incredible stress at the time – all the time.
What I’ve since learned – and what they apparently tried to teach me in the ’70s – is we really and truly are what we eat. Our muscles, skin and organs rebuild themselves constantly and they use the food we eat to do it. So, if you are eating real foods like healthy, leafy greens, lean proteins and those oh-so-important fibers – then your body can take the cells and vitamins and proteins from that food and rebuild itself.
But, if you feed your body processed non-foods filled with chemicals, fat, sugar and sodium, then your organs will – undoubtedly – deteriorate. It’s as inevitable as it is simple – we really are what we eat.
This mindset was a huge help to me when I first gave up sugar, carbs and processed foods.
It was incredibly difficult to cut out sugar cold turkey, especially because sugar is in so much of the food sold in the U.S. Certainly there are natural sugars in many foods. But, it’s incredible how much is unnecessarily added to our food. It’s not enough to just read the nutrition label to see how much “added sugar” is in something. You have to also really read the ingredients and remember the ways food manufacturers hide sugar. A good rule is to avoid anything with ingredients that end in “ctose” or “cose.” This includes fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, and maltose. These added sugars are what made bad foods addictive and they really spike your blood sugar and wreak havoc on your pancreas and kidneys as they try to keep up with all the sugar in your system.
For me, remembering that we are what we eat mindset helped – and continues to help – me fight through those moments when it’s easy to cave and eat those chemically-crafted-to-taste-delicious-without-a-hint-of-being-nutritious foods.
Another mindset I had to change was that bad foods were a reward or a consolation. It is incredible how I would rationalize eating sugary, fatty, non-foods. It didn’t matter if it was a bad day or a good day, I “deserved” that “treat” as a reward or a consolation. So, when you find yourself rationalizing poor choices, remember every organ in our body needs real, actual food. And, if you eat right, your body will heal and you will feel and look so much better every day.
This is not just about reversing Type 2 Diabetes either. I used to have awful joint pain and skin issues. My joints got so bad that I actually started walking down stairs sideways to avoid the pain. I convinced myself this was normal for someone in her late 40s. Not true. Around two months after I gave up sugar and processed foods, I noticed I was climbing up and down stairs better and I could hold heavy plates again. My skin issues were gone too. Why? Because I was no longer feeding my body foods that cause inflammation and instead was giving my body the nutrients it needed to heal. My energy was up and I felt healthy again. I was sleeping a lot better too.
And, here’s a surprising thing I learned – over consumption of sugar numbs your taste buds. The horrible irony here is this actually makes you crave more sugar because you taste sweetness less. But, it’s not just the sweet sensation that numbs. All flavors were numbed by my high blood sugar. I think it was around three or four months into my changed diet when I realized food suddenly tasted so much better.
Remember the moment in the movie Ratatouille when Remy experiences food as color, shape and sound?
That’s what it was like when my taste buds healed. All flavors were suddenly richer and rounder. It may sound strange but try it. Once you let your body heal from over consumption of sugar, everything suddenly has a new taste that will blow your mind!
So, when you start craving those sugary, processed, fatty or carb-filled foods – remember it’s up to you and you alone to give your body what it needs. Nobody can do this for you. You have to decide that you want to be healthy and live a fuller life without the pain and drain of Type 2. Remember, the body is predictable – you give it clean, real foods and it will heal. You will be amazed by all the benefits of clean eating.
Drop me a note and let me know how you’re doing!