Saturday, 13 June 2015

Annie's New Appetite

Well blog-land, it's been a while. And a lot has changed over the past 13 months. I am now single and have lost over two stone (could I be any more of a cliché?!)  but, more than that, I have gained an understanding of the absolutely life-changing impact proper nutrition can have, not only on your body, but also (and so much more importantly) on your mood and general happiness. 

My friend Jenny would probably tell you that I'm not on any healthy eating plan that she's aware of, given that our joint quest to find the best chicken wings in Dublin continues every few weeks (currently heading up the leader-board if you're interested is the Oarsman in Ringsend) but I am increasingly gaining less enjoyment from big blow outs and more satisfaction from instead making healthier versions of my favourite treats myself......hence I have resurrected this blog.

Many years ago,  I read an article written by radio presenter Gareth O'Callaghan in which he claimed to have cured himself of depression through healthy diet alone. I was skeptical then but, whilst I was certainly never depressed, eating a primarily whole food diet over the past eight months has honestly transformed both my mood and my very outlook on life to a degree I never thought possible.

I have grown to hate the term in recent years but I am a 'foodie' and I suppose I always have been. I was a little piglet as a child and was later torn between studying Food Science and English in college before eventually opting for the latter. I spend more time than most people would deem normal each day mentally planning my next meal. For years, I thought that my lifelong love of food and my overindulgence on things like sugary desserts and pizzas the size of car wheels just went hand in hand. Looking back, I mentally resigned myself to carry the extra weight as a pay-off for the privilege of eating delicious food. I now know it doesn't have to be that way.

I firmly believe that the food pyramid has a lot to answer for in terms of society's over-reliance on refined carbohydrates which offer so little nutritionally. I think the Irish version badly needs updating like Australia's recently was (thanks for that Anne:))

For me it's a no-brainer that instead of advocating a large consumption of flour and grains, the bottom shelf of the pyramid should instead be populated by totally unrefined foods such as fruits and vegetables which provide the body with so much goodness. One of the biggest changes I have made in terms of my day to day diet is replacing the pasta in my meals with vegetables. Wilted spinach or courgettes (spiralized if you wish, I just slice them) are particularly good replacements and this means that I can still enjoy bolognese, blue cheese and pretty much all my favourite pasta sauces and toppings in a much healthier, more energizing and equally tasty way.

In the past, I almost felt sorry for people who chose to eat a primarily whole food, protein and plant heavy diet like I do now. I thought that their food must be so boring and that they were somehow missing out or desperately depriving themselves. All I can say is I was very wrong.  I now enjoy my food more than ever, even though I rarely or never eat a lot of the things I did before. The flip side of that is that my diet has expanded hugely in terms of what I do actually eat.

I'm pretty ashamed to admit this publicly but before last summer I often didn't know if I was genuinely hungry or not. I ate lunch every day because it was lunch-time not because my body told me I should.  The way I eat now is not about restriction but instead about trying to give your body what it needs when it needs it. As 'new age' as it sounds, it's ultimately about listening to your body and feeding it correctly in return. I thought that was a load of rubbish but I have learned that (with some practice) it really works and the rewards are huge.

Like most women, I would be lying if I said weight wasn't an ongoing concern for me. And losing this weight has made me feel lighter and happier. But that absolutely hasn't been the only benefit of the changes I've made to my diet. The crazy daily cycles of cravings and energy crashes I had from all the white flour, sugar and other rubbish I was eating have totally gone. I feel invigorated and full of life, more confident, optimistic and better able to cope with stress. Let's be honest, if a tablet could do all these things, it would be an instant sell out!

I've probably eaten bread and refined sugar a combined total of five or six times in the last eight months. I'm not saying I never will again (I still pretty much eat whatever I'm offered at a wedding or if I'm invited to someone's house) but I've learned that, for me, the payoff from avoiding those things on a daily basis far outweighs any feelings of deprivation I might have.  I used to have an unbelievable capacity for pizza. It really was my Achilles heel. Now, I honestly cant see myself endlessly eating doughy, bland Dominos ever again. However, an occasional, proper, delicious stone-oven baked one would be a quite a different story.

This has also been a process of trial and error. In the beginning,as I cut carbs, I overdid it on the dairy which in turn gave me horrendous spots, the likes of which I never even had as a teen. I'm still looking for the balance and I will aim to use this blog to hopefully challenge myself to learn more and to hopefully ultimately become a better cook, even if it only proves to be an online diary for myself. I am now enjoying my food more than ever and hopefully that will be reflected in this new Annie's Appetite focusing on a diet based on vibrant,  healthy, living foods over processed, dead, unhealthy ones. 

I started with one cliché so I may as well finish with another. Life really is a journey and we are all constantly learning. I've learned a few things since I last wrote here and I am looking forward to learning some more. And you are all very welcome to join me!

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