Health and Wellness

The 30-Day Challenge

This week, I made a very important decision in my life. I decided that I wanted to try to eat a diet of unprocessed foods without animal products. Let me explain the long road to this decision. Last year, I had a bout with extreme fatigue. My doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with me, and the fatigue was becoming very frustrating. My husband would find me asleep with papers in my hands at 7 pm on our living room couch. I was tired all the time, and there just seemed to be no answer to this problem. Truthfully, I was worried, but I think my husband was scared for me. Being the kind-hearted man that he is, he took to the internet to try to figure out what might be causing this exhaustion.

One day, he introduced me to a documentary called <em>Food Matters</em>. The documentary talked about the importance of the right kinds of food in our daily diets and really stressed organic and raw foods. After watching this, I thought, “Hey, why not give organics a shot?” So we went shopping to our closest store with plenty of organics. Now, keep in mind that I had never really had anything organic. If I did, I certainly didn’t know it. Organics were definitely more expensive than the typical shopping we did at our other groceries stores in town, but my health was worth the extra money spent if it was going to knock out this extreme fatigue.

I certainly don’t want to say that this was a cure all, and I’m not a doctor. Please understand that I’m just explaining how I came to the decision to try a plant-based diet. However, about a week after eating over fifty percent of my food in organics, I felt noticeably better. I was able feel normal throughout the day, and I was beginning to stay up later than 7 pm. After several weeks of eating organics, I felt normal again. No more falling asleep on the couch and waking up with that lost feeling as if I didn’t know where I was. Coincidence? I’m inclined not to think so. You see, because the organics were costing quite a bit of money, we decided to reduce the organics to milk and eggs with veggies in the mix every once in awhile. Now, a year later, while I don’t fall asleep on the couch, I can feel that same fatigue coming on as I did before.

I truly feel that I am what I eat. While I don’t eat horribly as far as calories are concerned and low-fat and fat-free have been a part of my life for years, I’ve come to find that there are things in food that I don’t even want to know about in order for these foods to be labeled low-fat or fat-free. It seemed to me that I might want to try unprocessed food items to help me feel better. While I am nowhere near feeling the way that I did a year ago, I wanted to get a head start in case it was going to turn that direction. So, I did unprocessed for two days. It didn’t kill me to do it. It was a little harder to prepare because I was so used to just pulling prepackaged items from my refrigerator. However, it actually felt pretty good to eat unprocessed. I didn’t feel overly full, the food I picked was tasty, and I didn’t feel bloated.

In order to fully prepare myself for this journey of unprocessed food, this weekend I read the books The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Jilieanna Hever and Unprocessed by Chef AJ. Both books were great reads, and after reading Chef AJ’s book, I thought I was up to her challenge to try an unprocessed, plant-based diet without sugar, salt, and oil for thirty days. After reading Julieanna Hever’s book, I was prepared to go shopping for a few items that were not already in my cabinet.

I went to Whole Foods here in Omaha and took a look around. The food choices were so overwhelming, and while I had an idea of where to start, I certainly did not have an idea of how to really diversify the foods so that I didn’t feel bored eating legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables all of the time. All it took was a little inquiring, and the store found an employee who was vegan to help me diversify my cart choices. She pointed out legumes that she liked and explained how she used them in dishes. She took me to the bulk section and showed me different types of rice that were popular. Then she explained the different varieties of kale and how she used them. (I’m not sure I’m sold on kale yet. I grew up with it as a pretty garnish, not a food.)

Armed with my new knowledge, which I will continue to explore, and groceries that look and taste amazing, I’m excited to begin this thirty-day trial. While I love animals and don’t want to see them treated cruelly, I have to admit that I’m trying this for my health. Chef AJ, thanks for the inspiration and insight. Julieanna Hever, thanks for the extra knowledge to begin and for making it so easy to understand. Let’s see what happens in thirty days!

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