In a world of rotating fad diets and so much uncertainty about actual nutrition, one key statement seems to always stick around: “You are what you eat.” The idea is that there are no shortcuts or gimmicks to a healthy life — what you consume daily ultimately factors into your overall health and wellbeing.
What we eat literally becomes the building blocks of who you are, and it impacts our physical, mental, and even our emotional state, providing the foundation needed for our skin, hair, muscles, bones, immunity, and brain power. Poor diet is a proven cause of conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.
So why, when we have other options, do we continuously consume foods that are considered junk? Everyone has their reasons, big or small, but here is some food for thought on how balancing our relationship with food can alter our lives completely.
My dear friend Haley Williams was kind enough to share her lifelong medical struggles and how it was impacted by food. She grew up on what you would call your average American diet, but early in life, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Haley says she did feel a direct correlation in what she ate and how she felt, medically, especially when it came to eating meat, so — motivated also by research — Haley cut meat and dairy completely out of her diet.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Haley found the transition to veganism to be an extremely easy one, as she enjoyed cooking at home more. She even found herself eating before going out to restaurants with friends or family. When Haley felt the positive effects of being so careful about her diet, she began making everything from scratch, even including her salad dressings, for instance.
As Haley’s journey continued, she dove deeper into understanding the nutrition of what each piece of food offers and learning more about our gut as our “second brain.” She was fascinated by her research on a healthy microbiome, as so many diseases and illnesses start in the gut —and this coincided with her own diagnosis of Addison’s disease.
She continued to explore the many benefits of nutrition to control her diabetes, as she is a true believer that “all food offers unique pieces of nutrition that we need.” She encountered an extended time of great health and even was running half-marathons.
With another rough patch of medical concerns, Haley got more creative with adding lentils, legumes, protein powder, and egg whites for additional protein. As she listened to her body even more, she realized that how she felt determined the fuel she would need for the day.
She learned to become even more in tune with her body and, in fact, became less rigid about her diet. “Let life happen and be more open minded” was balanced by trying to keep her intake organic. When she’s around family and pizza is served, for instance, she will eat a slice now. “You are what you eat” now balances with “Don’t be too extreme — enjoy life!”
Haley says that the best advice, when it comes to finding your own balance, is that it’s only as complicated as you make it. Start simple, she says — planning and food prep are your most important steps. But do eat as organically as you are able, to decrease your intake of antibiotics, fertilizers, and chemicals. Part of Haley’s balancing act is purchasing her fresher items from Earth Fair, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market and buying her dry items from Walmart and Costco.
Haley also says the encouragement from friends is so helpful, and she loves hosting swap parties where guest create and contribute a dish for the week — where everyone finds their balance together.
By Kimberli Scott