What Does it Mean to 'Eat Healthy'?
I’m no registered dietician by any means, but I know what makes me feel good and how to keep my body going. Like many people my age today, I have very specific dietary needs. I have endometriosis, and I made the decision to treat my disease with good food and traditional Chinese herbal medicine.
What do the words 'good food' even mean?
For me, good foods are foods that are not processed and in total moderation. People often give endless excuses about eating well: “I don’t have the time,” being the biggest one. I know that everyone has a different schedule and lifestyle, but eating well is simply a matter of education. Many people, including myself at one point, don’t know what it means to consume healthy foods. I used to eat an egg and cheese on whole wheat toast every morning on my walk to class. Two eggs, two slices of american cheese, on two piece of whole wheat toast. I thought it was healthy because it was on whole wheat toast … Looking back now, I can’t believe what I used to eat thinking it was good for me. Now, I never eat anything out of a box or a bag. It’s difficult to find the words to describe how amazing I feel. I am in complete tune with my body and mind.
Nothing about my journey has been easy — physically or mentally.
I began this good food journey in the fall of 2016, unemployed, and at least 30 pounds overweight. Some of you may be thinking, “that’s not that bad!” But I felt miserable. I thought I was eating so healthy! I could not understand why I felt so bloated all the time, or how I continued to gain weight, even after trying to work out every day.
My sister is a health addict. I reached out to her for help, and she certainly didn’t hold back. I needed that smack in the face from reality that said, “Hey, stop eating shit.”
She sent me a starter meal plan. It was well-organized and broken down into enough meals for one week. She stressed that she never ate the same thing in one day. For example, if she had oatmeal for breakfast, she would not have any carb for the rest of the day. The one thing that she made clear was totally ok any time a day was vegetables.
I used to dread the thought of eating a salad every day. “Who can survive off of this rabbit food?” was always my go-to excuse not to eat it. I took a long look in the mirror at my bloated tummy. The tops of my thighs pointed east and west from withholding all of the processed fat from the awful foods I was consuming. It was a turning point for me. I did not care how anyone else felt about my body. I was unhappy.
The meal plan is what opened my mind to what food is. Growing up Italian-American, especially, you can have a heaping plate of cheesy lasagna with one thin layer of spinach and think you just ate a healthy meal. I have been extremely fortunate to have parents who were always very health-conscious, but this was our idea of healthy. It was cheap, easy, and *freaking* delicious. The meal plan made me realize that maybe instead of a heaping plate, I can have a taste of the lasagna, and just add more veggies. That was a good start for me.
My sister then introduced me to the idea that processed foods are the root of all troubles I was experiencing with my body. She encouraged me to start reading the ingredients of the things I was buying. Davide would always tease me that I treated the grocery store more like a library than a store because I was reading everything. I broke down. My “healthy” veggie burgers were *filled* with countless ingredients that I could not even pronounce. I was at a loss for words. All I could think about was, “What can I eat?? I can’t eat anything it’s all so bad! I’m going to starve!” Everything I thought I knew about food was eradicated.
It all clicked in that moment. The earth. Me. Nature.
“Ok,” I said to myself as I started to feel more composed, “How did people eat before supermarkets?” I started to get the idea that I could love foods just as much that came from the earth as the processed foods I had been eating before. It wasn’t until Davide brought me to Italy with him for the first time, where all we ate was pasta, when I further understood the effects of ingredients. I thought all of my hard work was just going to be reversed and I would be right back where I started. “Do NOT step on that scale” I silently repeated to myself while at a friend’s house for apperitivo. I stepped on it, of course, and even after eating all day … I had lost weight. My weight loss had left me astonished, but it all made sense. It was the ingredients. Fresh pasta. Fresh parmigiano. Fresh basilico. Fresh meats. It was also the portion sizes — when to know you’re full, measuring by grams, and what times of day to eat. It was in this moment I needed to figure out how to adapt this lifestyle living in the US.
All at the same time, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. Not wanting to take hormones to keep the tissue dormant, I discovered many ways to heal holistically. The first being the food I ate. At this point, I completely cut out processed foods. Nothing store bought or pre-packaged. I motivated this idea completely by how I eat in Italy. Nothing we eat is ever out of a package, or if it is, it's fresh baked goods or fresh cheese. There are never more ingredients added for preservatives or chemicals.
It became difficult to go out to eat with friends and family to have to explain to them how I need to eat in order to avoid the endometriosis inflammation and pain. I slowly started to educate those around me through all of the books I read, but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for a lot of people. Most of the time, it has been easier for me to say that I’m a vegan.
I want to stress that just because something says, “Vegan” or “Gluten Free” does not mean that it’s healthy. I have often noticed vegan or gluten free goods laden with sugar and chemicals, or is deep fried, which is why I encourage everyone to read ingredients if buying a pre-packaged product, or even ordering out.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I eat, and how I maintain my endo pains and weight: raw & cooked vegetables (cooked in high temp oils like sunflower oil or olive oil), fruits, grains, tons of greens, dark chocolate. Lulu’s Kitchen was created to share ways to imagine foods made from those simple ingredients in order to maintain a truly healthy and holistic lifestyle.
Living a healthy lifestyle, for me, doesn’t just mean eating well. I meditate, stretch, and walk every single morning. It’s my way to decompress. I take traditional Chinese herbs, regularly do acupuncture, and I drink a ton of water throughout the day. Of course being Italian, I love a glass of wine with dinner, but I make sure to always keep a balance. I avoid refined sugar and hydrogenated oils at all cost.
I don’t believe in rewarding myself with a piece of cake after one run, as a lot of America does. I believe in a continuous appreciation and journey of growth for my body — to keep my body and mind connected, especially because I’m sick.
Of course, I understand that every body is different, and everyone has specific needs. These are the courses of action I have taken since November 2016, and I have never felt better in my entire life. I lost 35 pounds, I feel energized, clean, and in total communication with my body’s needs. I listen to my body more than I ever have.
I hope this inspires you to create a total awareness of your body, support your local farmer, and as always, buon appetitto <3