I WAS IN A FOOD FREE-FALL
There were a couple of years (okay more like 7 or 8) where being the sole provider for our family with three young kids took over my life. Work and surviving parenthood became the priority. The more I worked, the less I took care of myself. I didn’t feel or look healthy. Once I started prioritizing my health and being more consistent with my choices, it didn’t take long to see changes. These new lifestyle priorities are now non-negotiables. Eating better has become routine in my life now.
How did I get there?
I have been a vegan since 2017. (Vegans are just normal people, not weird joy-suckers, who abstain from eating or using animal products. I chose to become vegan for various reasons that I can discuss in another post.) Keep in mind, you can be vegan and still be pretty unhealthy if you are relying on vegan “junk” food as your main source of nutrition. Most things that comes in a box or bag are processed “junk.” As of 2022, there are a plethora of vegan convenience foods available in San Antonio. H-E-B, Whole Food, Natural Grocers and Sprouts are full of vegan options, and for this I am grateful. This city is also growing a robust vegan restaurant and food truck scene. Also not complaining! It's nice to see vegan grub catching on and for special treats and occasions, it’s a positive in my book. But full disclosure, I am an enneagram 7- The Enthusiast. When I do something, I go hard. I want to try all the new restaurants, all the new food trucks, and all the new flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. When we go on vacation, we make a list of all of the restaurants we want to hit (Budapest and New Orleans were surprisingly vegan-friendly) and I’ve been known to drive out of my way to score a delicious vegan dessert. What can I say, I love the experience of eating delicious food. The problem is, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that food should, first and foremost, be a source of fuel for my body, not entertainment. The highly-palatable, explosively-flavorful, novelty, “fun” foods should be a departure from an otherwise normal, balanced healthy diet. I, like many of us do, reached a point where I realized that I needed to be reined in. We all need limits. And admitting we have a problem is the first step. My name is Romeo Garza and I am a foodie.
In all seriousness, eating out at restaurants, or eating out of a bag, can hijack our taste buds and make it harder for us to enjoy the taste of simple, real food. At the beginning of 2022, I made the conscious decision to make changes to my diet. Yes, I was vegan, but I needed to make better choices more often. Now, I eat mostly whole foods plant-based. This means choosing minimally-processed foods and cooking with less oil/salt/sugar/fat. Real food, the way nature intended. I have started tracking my calories with a the MyNetDiary app. I now pack my work lunch about 90% of the time. I have lost around 30 pounds since the beginning of the year and feel better than ever.
It’s easy to get bogged down by the thousands of decisions we make every day. When we’re already stressed, going on auto-pilot is sure tempting. So, we grab the quickest, and often unhealthiest, option in front of us. That drive-thru fried chicken may be fast and convenient, but is it worth it if it makes you feel slow and lethargic after you eat it? We justify the sleeve of Oreos and the large sweet tea because we work hard and, damnit, we deserve it! But, deep down we know it’s these little moments that will come back to bite us. The devil’s in the details. It’s these small choices that ultimately support or sabotage the life we want to live.
The truth is, it’s just about making the better choice, one.thing.at.a.time. You can start by replacing one habitual treat (ahem, drive-thru latte) with a more supportive choice (green tea or maca smoothie.) You’re going to feel better in the long run and your bank account will also thank you. If you can swing it, choose one meal to go steady with- mine is oatmeal for breakfast. I vary it by adding different add-ons. Today it might be wild blueberries, flax meal, and granola. Tomorrow, it's bananas, cinnamon, and chia seeds. It takes some of the thinking out if it. I've found that the more I take out sugary, fattening foods, the more I see my oatmeal as a sweet, comforting treat I look forward to every morning. When I need something different, I make healthy, vegan- pancakes (I sub with this GF all purpose flour) or a tofu scramble.
Have a backup plan when it comes to meals. Working in an urgent care clinic, there are many times when I get busy and I don’t have time to prepare something. The easiest thing in the past was to quickly grab Papa John’s (pizza sans cheese), Taco Cabana or a meal from the Thai restaurant next door. Nowadays, I try to have something packed so the decision is already made for me. If I don’t have anything packed, I make a run to H-E-B (in the same parking lot) before my shift starts. I grab greens, veggies and pre-made bags of rice or grains so I’m not scrambling when I do get some time to eat. I use my break to catch my breath and intentionally nourish my body.
Look out for my next post- part 2, on how I got back on the health and wellness horse- fitness installment. What is one small choice or change in the realm of food that you can make this week that will support you being your best self? You deserve good things.
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