This is part one of two posts on what I eat. Part two launches next week.
If I’ve learned anything from the last few stories I’ve shared with you, it’s this:
The sharing is the most important part.
It’s not about losing 70+ pounds.
It’s not about feeling like I can look at my body again and appreciate it for just getting out of bed every morning.
It’s not about opening a retail space focused on a new way to shop for food.
I mean, those things are important to me but by sharing all of this with you, it’s like it really happened. It’s like you’re there with me — offering a little advice; crying at your screen (with me); emailing me directly to say “I’m with you” or “You are me and I am you.”
It’s like you see me.
And that tends to be the last thing a woman with body issues wants you to do. I’ve spent decades covering up my body, my issues, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. Three years after starting this wellness journey and losing a bunch of weight, I learned that by sharing it with you, we get so much: we feel understood, we feel validated, we feel less alone, we feel heard.
In 2018, I want to be way more vulnerable — which means taking some risks — and finally talking about feeling like I was a fat girl every day of my life. You see, in my brain, I have been forever a fat girl, no matter the actual weight on the scale. Being fat wasn’t just a state of my body; it was who I was, it became a state of my mind.
But one day, something changed.
All of a sudden, I began to see myself skinny.
You know, not actually skinny but metaphorically skinny. I saw myself skinny in the way that I saw the potential in me to be healthy, to be deserving of a fit physique, to be proud and beautiful in the sort of clothes I wanted to wear. I stopped being disgusted by my skin, stopped thinking the worst of my body, and started really looking at my skin, loving it for what it was and what it could be.
The change happened when I finally released the dieting mindset and committed to changing how I eat forever. You know, the kind of commitment that you feel deep in the parts of yourself that you don’t talk about with anyone, the kind you just know you have to do.
There are bunch of things that came together to make me ready for change — and I’ll talk about them in my new cookbook and perhaps here at some point. For right now, I want to get to the good part, the part you’ve asked me about in your notes and messages…
WHAT I EAT:
To be very clear with each other, let’s talk about this in two modes: Active Wellness Mode and Everyday Wellness Mode.
Active Wellness Mode means I was going through a time of actively trying to be a bit better. That could be a bit lighter, a bit stronger, a bit more in tune with my body, a bit healthier, all of the above, etc. It’s a mode where I’m on a quest to take a little better care of myself and, ideally, become more balanced.
Everyday Wellness Mode means I was just living my daily life in a wholesome way, not hugely restrictive but not damaging all the progress I had made, but trying to stay lighter, stronger, connected to my body, healthier, and ultimately, balanced.
ACTIVE WELLNESS MODE:
In 2015, I did an elimination diet (read more).
If you don’t want to click over, let me pull in a few paragraphs on my elimination diet from the piece I wrote for The Kitchn:
“I had been so reluctant to do an elimination diet in the past because, hello, I love all the foods. But one week later, I was the fat girl opting to only put plants in my mouth and I abruptly stopped all refined sugar, caffeine, animal products, dairy, gluten, certain oils (like bad fats), alcohol, and packaged/processed or fast foods.
I ate an entirely plant-based diet mainly because it was my [coach’s] area of expertise and, of all the diets I’d ever tried since I was age 10, it was the very easiest food plan for me to understand. Most importantly, portion control is less of an issue when you’re eating only vegetables, fruit, good fats, seeds, nuts, and legumes and, let’s be real, I’ve always had a problem with authority, especially any sort of authority telling me how much I can eat. (I knew practicing portion control was a thing, but it was something I would tackle slowly after I got the good foods into me.)“
An elimination diet revamped my pantry and I ate food that made me love me, at last.
When I was on this elimination diet during Active Wellness Mode, I didn’t eat refined sugar, caffeine, animal products, dairy, gluten, certain oils (like bad fats), alcohol, and packaged/processed or fast foods. After about three months, I added organic, cage-free eggs, sustainable fish, and organic whole grains to my home cooking. And after about a year, when I had lost those 70 pounds without doing a lick of exercise, only changing the food I ate, I felt way smarter about food and moved into Everyday Wellness Mode – I wanted to sit with what I had accomplished for a while and learn from it.
Now, let’s talk about how I eat today.
EVERYDAY WELLNESS MODE:
Today, I eat in a plant-centric way all of the time.
I feel my lightest, my most mindful, pain-free, and extremely energetic when I eat mostly plants – and most of my friends who do so say the same.
I do eat animal protein occasionally. For example, I eat eggs a few times per week. I eat sustainable fish and organic, grass-fed beef once or twice per month, only sourcing from my favorite farmers and storing them in the freezer. If it’s a special occasion, I’ll roast an organic duck or chicken raised by farmers whom I trust. And though veg broth is generally what I prefer, I will make and add non-veg broths into my dishes here and there because I never let a carcass go to waste. Frankly, good food is too precious to toss the bones away, it’s a gift I hate to waste. But I keep all of it in check to ensure that I don’t over-indulge and it’s always secondary to the plants on my plate.
In a plant-centric way of eating, the vegetable comes first and the other stuff is along the fringe.
There is, however, one exception to all this:
I do not eat animal-based dairy at all.
The reduced inflammation in my joints and reduced lethargy was too grand to make eating dairy again a priority. While I am not necessarily allergic to dairy, I feel bad and get sick when I eat it so I simply avoid it altogether. Avoiding dairy also keeps me away from indulgent dishes in restaurants or store-bought sweet treats.
Now that you know what I eat, you’ll see that I am not necessary vegan. That’s definitely true! However, I do eat with a vegan mindset. I keep all the animal protein to a bare minimum. I make sure I get ample protein each day (about 45-50 grams for an adult woman who doesn’t exercise daily). I just get protein in other ways because greens have protein, and so do beans, seeds, and vegetables. Really, they do.
Overall, about 85% of my meals are entirely vegan right now and that’s how I intend to keep it for the short-term. I suppose, however, it’s mostly about what my new eating style has done for me and how I feel, right?
Gosh, I feel like I can take on the world.
I have never, not in the decades I’ve been alive, felt this truly alive. I feel energetic and light. I crave movement and long walks because they finally feel great. I feel clearer about what I want to do with my life. I read more and feel smarter about what’s happening in the world. I’m active again, in an activist way, standing up for things I believe in – like I did when I was a teen – and that feels super great, too.
I don’t know if the way I eat will make you feel similarly but I’m happy to talk more about it one-on-one sometime, if you want. I’m also happy to do an Instagram Live Video (at a specific time on a specific date) with everyone who would like to talk this through in more depth. You know, after I ship off this manuscript! Please do leave a comment below if you’d like to set something up.
Either way, I’m happier and so happy and honored you all asked me to share this new way of eating, this new way to food. It’s changed my life and, maybe, it can help you, too.
Next week, I’ll take you through exactly what’s in my pantry, top to bottom. I’ll share what I store in the larder versus the fridge versus the chest freezer. I also share some ingredient swaps that may help you take a first step.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is now focused on opening her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: Recipes That Revamped My Pantry & Made Me Love Me, At Last, will be published by Roost Books/Penguin Random House in 2019. Her first cookbook, Food Gift Love, features more than 100 food gift recipes to make, wrap, and share and is available wherever you find favorite cookbooks.