Saturday, August 24, 2013

Eating Freely

I have been pondering a lot lately about health.

The times I felt I was eating the healthiest diet in the world, my body was the sickest it has ever been. I believe that nutrition is very important. You cannot be healthy if you eat nothing but candy all day long; I have done this as a child and it always lead to vomiting, so don't try it at home. Severe restriction never helped me either, though.

There were times when I believed everything I ate was so pure, but I felt unhealthy. It got to the point where I gave up entirely. I felt that it was pointless to continue eating healthy at all if it didn't make me feel healthy. The healthier I ate, the more pains I felt in my body.

I was restricting foods and food groups. I've been all over the place. I've followed the vegan diet in months-long spurts over the years. I dabbled with the raw vegan diet but never went full raw. I stuck to paleo for the longest and it made me the sickest. I experienced the worst diet-induced binges while on the paleo diet. I haven't been on the paleo diet since last summer, but to this day I am still feeling side effects from it. I'm mostly healed, but I did a lot of damage to my digestive system by following this diet. It left me with chronic fatigue. I miss that awake feeling that I used to feel before I screwed around with my diet.

I'm going back to my roots. I'm eating mostly nutrient-dense foods to fill my micro nutrient needs. To hit my macros for the day I also eat some nutrient-sparse foods. I try to stick to the ones that don't make me feel sick. For example, I limit dairy because it upsets my stomach. I found a decent lactase supplement, but I can't always afford it. I limit gluten from wheat because too much upsets my stomach. Gone are the days of eating seitan for lunch. A couple pieces of spelt-based sourdough is fine sometimes. And you know what compliments that? Peanut butter and jam. SERIOUSLY. For months I denied myself this.

When you stop severely restricting your diet you will go nuts at first. You might eat ice cream after each meal. You might eat it with breakfast or FOR breakfast with Lucky Charms on top. You will probably gain weight, even if you were overweight to begin with. It doesn't matter what size you are at; if your metabolism is tanked you will feel the full force of it. It's possible to be 70 lbs overweight and not be able to lose weight if you don't eat enough. What you are carrying around with you is not always able to sustain you. I've heard that there is a way to lessen the weight gain if you slowly increase your calorie intake over time, but I pulled an old-fashioned Polar Bear Plunge.

I went nuts for a solid year, but my weight stabilized six months in. I haven't gained in six months even though I have been eating whatever. Now that my metabolism isn't screwed up I've decided to be conscious again, but not in a crazy-restrictive way. I've gone back to my calorie-counting / IIFYM roots with a slightly healthier twist. This time I'm not restricting badly. I'm eating more than 1500 calories per day. I'm eating whole eggs and butter, not egg whites and margarine. Even though the paleo diet didn't work for me overall, it taught me that eggs and butter are not evil. They are not weird frankenfoods. However, if I eat the occasional frankenfood I'm not going to punish myself. You know why? Feeling guilty and stressed for days because of a food choice is far more harmful to the body. I've lived through this. I know what it feels like.

I'm eating white potatoes now. I don't know if I'll be able to eat sweet potatoes ever again. I use bread for sandwiches instead of lettuce. Lettuce is for salads and toppings. Some of my diet habits never left me. I'll always enjoy a green smoothie, homemade juice, avocado-based pudding, veggie burger or hummus. I devour all of these things. I also devour mashed potatoes, omelettes, ice cream (with lactase supplementation), cookies and cake. The only difference now is that I try to make this stuff from home rather than buy it. I'm not obsessed with clean eating anymore, but to me food made from scratch typically tastes better and makes me feel better. If I have to grab something convenient on the go that is no big deal. I'm flexible.

Life is too short to stress about diet. I place some importance on food quality, but it no longer consumes my every waking thought. I'm learning to have fun and feel relaxed again. Stress and depression are both so toxic. You can obsess about your diet as much as you like, but it will not help you live longer if it causes you too much stress.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bone Broth Bison Chili

Today I realized that I've never shared my personal chili recipe with anyone until today.

Bone Broth Ingredients:

  • 3-4 beef bones
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced

Put everything into a crock pot. Add enough filtered water so that it covers the ingredients. Turn the temperature to low and slow cook for 16-24 hours.

Chili Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground bison
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced or sliced into half moons
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 jar of Eden crushed roma tomatoes (680 mL)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp of coconut aminos or tamari
  • 2 tsp cumin or coriander*
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne*
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Fry the ground bison in coconut oil until cooked through, but add the garlic and onion halfway into the process. Once it all is done, add the cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. If you put a lid on top, the bison will be less likely to burn because condensation will accumulate.

Add everything else. Pour enough bone broth into the mixture so that it covers everything. Simmer covered on medium heat for approximately 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Be sure to stir it often so that it doesn't burn.

Sometimes I like to top my bowl with a bit of cheese (pastured feta works, as well as a quality gouda) and occasionally shredded lettuce. 

*Notes: I prefer ceylon cinnamon to cassia or Saigon cinnamon because it's milder, but really it's not a big deal which you use. I think cumin is better than coriander, but one time I ran out of cumin so I had to use coriander. It was a decent substitute. The more cayenne you use, the hotter it will be. This recipe as is does not provide a spicy chili.