Clean Eating: Getting Started
It's fair to say that we're pretty engrossed in the world of health and wellness, in fact that's probably a bit of an understatement. And being surrounded by people who think, eat and breathe the same as we do we quite often find ourselves in a bubble, believing that everyone's first choice of grain is quinoa and that all meals are based around vegetables. Just taking a walk through a busy food market or, better yet, down Shoreditch high Street at 1am to see the hoards of fast food is a quick snap back to reality though. And it's also a reminder of times when we joined the majority, eating (or at least wanting to eat) fast food too.
Which brings us to a point quite often neglected in the world of wellness, how does it all start? We're not going to pretend that we've been eating kale from birth, in fact freezer food and a love for desserts better describes most of our childhoods, but at some point something changed and health became not only our lifestyle, but something we absolutely could not get enough of - endlessly boring our friends with tales of our latest sugar free baking experiment (now we just do that here instead). But how did that happen, and how do stay on the bandwagon? We share our experience, tips and advice below.
START BECAUSE YOU WANT TO
Health cannot be forced, and starting to look after your body when in reality all you want it cake, ice-cream and pizza means you probably won't get very far. You need to want to eat healthy to eat healthy.
TAKE IT SLOW
Probably the most obvious advice, but no doubt the most important - don't do it all at once. Going from your usual meals to salads, green juice and raw veggies is going to leave you feeling pretty unhappy about it all, not to mention probably quite hungry too with a pretty big strain on your gut. Start by swapping out certain parts of every meal - change cereal to porridge, rice to quinoa then add some veggies to your meals and up your water intake. Then slowly keep making more small changes. Take juices for example, at first we'd always have to have the super sweet fruit varieties, maybe with a little kale for good measure, then in time we started slowly cutting down the sugar as our tastebuds changed and now we take our juices green and hard.
SWAP DON'T CUT
Unless you're a fan of hunger pangs and cravings, it's always best to swap instead of cut - your body is currently used to receiving that amount of food so let's not restrict it of what's needed. Just replace your usual carbs with better alternatives (quinoa, black rice or oats), sugar with a natural source and go for higher quality produce such as grass fed meat, unpasteurised cheese and locally produced sourdough. You'll quickly notice that you're then getting fuller much quicker due to the higher nutrient profile of these foods, and portion size tends to naturally decrease anyway with mindful eating.
There's no avoiding it, the cravings are going to kick in - I have a vivid recollection of sitting in burger king wishing I could join in on the fun, but I stuck it out and now I couldn't think of anything worse. There's scientific reason for it though: due to dopamine (a feel good chemical) and our natural guidance system (the part of our brain that wants us to stay alive and reproduce), we crave foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar thus releasing high amounts of dopamine, and satisfying the pleasure seeking aspect of our natural guidance system. So when we go from eating lots of salt, sugar and fat to eating raw salad and hummus, our brain doesn’t release as much dopamine, so we end up thinking that something is missing and craving the higher dopamine hit, hence craving the junk food which is designed to release this. Stick it out though - in time (we'd say 2-3months) the cravings disappear, and you'll be back at the normal pleasure zone, enjoying carrot sticks as your previously did fries.
EAT A VARIETY OF FOOD
Eating the same meal over and over again is never going to be fun (porridge is the anomaly) and mixing it up can help keep your brain and satisfaction levels happy as it craves the novelty of different textures. Junk food is also cleverly created to play on these texture cravings too often combining crunch with creamy - take oreo's or m&m's for example. Play the same game and satisfy cravings with a healthier alternative such as carrot sticks with creamy hummus.
FIND YOUR NEW TREATS
In the early days, we tended to find sticking 100% to the scheme much easier than having the odd 'treat meals' - salad just never tasted as good after pizza and it was hard to keep motivated. Now we're happy to eat the odd pizza knowing that we'll be more excited to get back on the kale, but it also helps to find enjoyment in the healthy food. Everyone has different vices, whether yours be sweet or savoury, just find a satisfying, healthy alternative (banana with peanut butter and mixed seeds got us through even the worst of cravings early on and it still a weekly staple).