Food Substitution: How I Began My Journey To Wellness
Everyone Has A Breaking Point
Reaching 260 lbs was definitely my wake-up call. Fed up of being fat, sick, spilling over with shame and suicidal thoughts, I was forced to learn how to eat and live better. One of the first things I did was attempt to eat salads and work out like a spastic chicken, because that's how every inexperienced, uneducated person thinks they should lose weight. Diet and exercise, right? Boy, if only I had known the endless rabbit hole I was about to leap headfirst into. Ha! No really, I can laugh about it now.
The problem with that approach was that it left me with this mentality of lack and deprivation. That is such a dangerous head space to be in, let me tell you. I would end up binge-eating, then spiraling into yet another valley because of my failure. My first step towards success was a suggestion I tried out from an online friend: a food journal.
This thing quite literally smacked me upside the head so hard, I saw stars. Before I began this venture, I couldn't understand what I had been doing wrong. It was a pain in the neck but I recorded everything; even the oils, syrups, shortening and dressings I never thought to factor in. My first day I counted over 9,000 calories in total, and nearly three times the grams of fat as an adult woman was supposed to have. I was both astonished and disgusted. Those little things really do add up. No wonder I was fat!
At the time I worked a desk job during the midnight shift, so all I did from 11pm to sunrise was play on my laptop, because there was nothing else to do and nobody to talk to. Once I realized the problem, several things happened at once:
- I began reading the labels of everything I bought. This more than tripled the time it took for me to go food shopping, but I read and compared tirelessly.
- I took the time to research all those weird words from the labels, and what I found was horrifying.
- These searches lead me to discover how messed up the food industry is, and how it's mostly just science and psychology trying to get us fat, sick and completely, hopelessly addicted.
- I stopped eating a "second dinner" when I got home from work, because going to bed on a full stomach at 8am was part of the problem. It wasn't just what I ate, but how, and when. And anyway, the urge to eat was merely a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of staying up all night and coming home to an emotionally and financially abusive lover. Thank f*ck that's well and truly over with. (But I digress)
- I realized that deprivation would only keep me trapped in this cycle of failure, so I decided that substitution was the key. Not surprisingly, that actually worked.
Let me give you some examples of what I used to wean myself off the unhealthy foods I'd been killing myself with. Perhaps it will help you too.
This was the first thing to go. I love butter, but I love the idea of being healthy more. I replaced it with non-hydrogenated margarine. My brand of choice is Earth Balance. I use the natural whipped buttery spread to cook with and the organic coconut spread, which is hands-down the most delicious margarine you will taste in your life, (if you like coconut) just as is spread over toast because I adore it so much.
Other things you can use as shortening are:
Coconut Oil, which is my personal favorite
Olive Oil, which has a low smoke point so it shouldn't be use for more than a light saute'.
Grapeseed oil, which is another love of mine.
Have you ever tried guacamole on toast, or in a breakfast sandwich? Why the heck not? It's delicious.
With oils, you have to watch the Omega 3: Omega 6 ratio as the latter will cause inflammation. Just sayin'.
Why do I only get non-hydrogenated margarine?
Hydrogenation is the process of forcing a hydrogen atom to bind to each carbon atom, causing the substance to turn from an unsaturated form of fat to a saturated fat. It allows the product to last longer on the shelf and the taste is less likely to deplete over time. Hydrogenation produces trans fat. This is one of the worst things you can put into your body because it twists and confuses your molecules, depleting any health benefit and turning it toxic instead.
I absolutely love my almond and coconut "milks". Not only does it have more calcium than cow milk, but it's got way less calories, fat and cholesterol. Before my diet, my triglycerides were off the charts at 360. I had to find ways to cut that down or risk having a heart attack or stroke. I was not screwing around, this was a fight for my life.
If coconut or almond milks don't do it for you, there is also oat, soy, hazelnut, hemp and rice milk. One warning, however... rice milk (like regular rice or anything with white rice in it) will spike your insulin. I know I keep threatening to do a hub on insulin spikes and how it leads to diabetes and more weight gain, it will take me a while to compile all that data into something readable.
Cutting out regular milk was by far the best thing I've ever done.
That's right, the dairy industry is just a huge scam. The whole, "does a body good" campaign was just marketing with virtually no scientific proof to back it up. In fact, there is absolutely zero reason anyone should be drinking cow, sheep or goat milk. We only started drinking that stuff because of famine. Now the only thing most Americans are starving for is actual nutrients in our food. Milk has growth hormones, saturated fat, cholesterol, the cows are pumped mercilessly with antibiotics and the milk itself is loaded with hidden aspartame. If you don't know aspartame is directly linked to cancer by now, I'm here to tell you.
Stay away from it and you'll do just fine. I know it's easy for me to say since I never liked the taste of milk, but you can get your calcium the same way the cows do-- through plants. If you want something to pour into your cereal, try any of the above substitutions. I promise you that it only takes about two weeks for your tastes to change. After that, you likely won't miss it at all.
Suggestion: Chocolate almond milk in coffee. Soooo good.
This was a difficult one for me. I may not like cow milk, and the cheeses I do like are few and far between, but fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and basil leaves in a sandwich to me is heaven. Babybels are like freakin' potato chips. Cheddar cheese is cocaine for my nom-hole. Giving these things up was (was? no, IS) hell. I see them in the store and I want to cry because 3-pepper colby is divine with sliced turkey and the deli counter gives out free samples.
So I found alternatives. I won't lie and say it's the same, but when your well-being depends on it, you find a way. There's nothing that says you have to give it up forever. Almost everything is alright when used in moderation.
Flex Your Google Muscle
Tofu based cheese- for if you can't have nuts.
Coconut milk-based cheese- which sounds really great to me.
Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese! Which sounds amazing and can be made any way you like. This particular one is made with coconut milk.
Vegan cheeses already on the market- granted, I've never tried them, but go ahead and expand your palate. Tell me what you think!
Avocado, which can also be substituted for mayonnaise. It doesn't taste like cheese, but it'll moisten up that sandwich and provide you with the healthy, mono-saturated fats your body is craving.
I've heard good things about Daiya, which apparently doesn't contain a trace of casein, the milk protein found in many soy and rice cheese products, and it taste the most like real cheese out of all the products currently on the market. Go try it.
There are bazillions of vegan cheese recipes online, all you have to do is search. There's a vegan restaurant here in New Rochelle called Jolo's Kitchen that serves the best mac n cheese I've ever had in my life, which is made from tapioca. I will be doing a hub review on that place, just you wait.
Hold onto your lobster bibs, this is going to be a long one.
There are so many amazing, protein-rich substitutions for meat out there, you really should switch it up a little and expand your horizons.
Tofu doesn't have to be gross. As long as it's not in a boca burger, I'll eat it in all it's myriad of forms.
Eggs can be a substitute for meat as well. I know vegans don't like it, and the industry is horrific, misleading and unhealthy, but eggs contain choline -a vital neurotransmitter- which the body needs. You can also get it from collards, but I really like eggs and haven't given them up completely.
Oh beans, how I love thee. You bring me chili, you give me hummus, you turn rice into a complete protein.. will your wonders never cease? I sincerely hope not.
You will often see vegans using Portobello mushrooms as a substitute for meat because of how beefy and meat-like they are. Plus, did you know mushrooms are a natural muscle relaxer?
Eggplant is not for everyone. I won't touch it, but if it's your cup of tea, here are some recipes.
*Honorable mention- Grass fed Beef. Once in a very blue moon when I can afford it, and only if I'm cooking for more than myself, I will purchase a small portion of grass fed beef. It's leaner, earthier and not as tender, mainly because the cows build up muscle when they walk around, but it's way healthier for you than commercial feedlot beef. Read the below section and you'll understand why.
Hark! There Be Science Here
Some people have to have meat with every meal, or they don't consider it a meal. Let me tell you something: everything on this planet is interdependent, we are all reliant on each other for sustainability. So with that in mind, consider this: the value of a cow to us is to turn something we can't eat (like grass) into something we can eat (like beef). That is the reason they have their long, complex digestive systems, which are ph neutral. Diseases like e.coli and salmonella cannot survive in a ph neutral environment. When you take a cow and stick it in feed lots known as confined animal feed operations, or CAFOs, and then give that cow a diet primarily of genetically modified corn and grains, those stomachs turn acidic. This environment is now a breeding ground for those same diseases that couldn't survive in it before. So what happens? This coupled with standing in their own manure and urine, plus being packed tight enough where disease would occur naturally anyway, the cows get sick and die. To protect their investment, factory farmers now have to pump these cows chock-full of antibiotics. 70-80% of the antibiotics manufactured in this country is not for us, it's for cattle. We're ingesting all that and not only is it killing all the natural bacteria and flora in our intestinal tract, (thereby destroying our own immune system) but it's what's creating all these antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans. Since I cut down severely on my meat intake several years back, I haven't been sick with more than the mild sniffles. In contrast, when I'd eat meat almost every day, I was deathly ill every 3-5 months. I don't know about you, but my job doesn't provide me with that kind of paid sick leave.
But forget all that statistical crap about the environmental hazards of factory farms, deforestation, greenhouse emissions and the irresponsible, disease-ridden agricultural machine that thanks to corrupt lobbying enjoys next to no regulation for just a moment.
Nobody should be eating meat three times a day, every day. Not only is it fattening, acidic and toxic in excess, it's expensive as hell! Even if your wallet can afford it, I promise you that your body cannot. It will catch up to you eventually. See, we aren't that different from cows. High acidic loads from meat, eggs and dairy have been scientifically proven to lead to diabetes. Only we start out with acid in our stomachs and blood, so we need to watch ourselves more than cows. Here's a comprehensive list of all the acidic vs. alkaline foods you should look out for. Maintaining balance is paramount if you want to become healthy. Nutritionists have agreed the proper balance is 70:30 alkaline.
That being said, I am not a vegan. I do eat fish and chicken once in a while, when my body craves it. Though I also try to get my meat from greenmarkets and other responsible outlets so I know that what I'm putting into my body isn't going to hurt me. Fish is tricky because farm-raised salmon and tilapia are raised on GMO corn. That leaves them with next-to-no viable Q10 or Omega-3s for your brain to work with, just fat. I get sockeye because it's illegal to farm it in this country. Because they do more than swim around in lazy circles all day, they build up muscle which gives me the vital nutrients we all associate with fish.
Can I just say that choosing a substitute for this was a giant pain in my @$$? People love their carbs and I'm no different. I tried the atkin's diet once and very nearly took a coworker's eye out with a hole-puncher in a fit of rage.
Yeah, sorry. Don't take my carbs away from me or you will die.
Anyway, I saw The Big Bread Lie by Psychetruth and realized that the bread I was eating was garbage. White bread is mostly air and water, stripped of all nutrition to the point where it has to be re-enriched, stuffed with sugar and hydrogenated oils. People who eat white bread gain 4x as much weight as people who eat whole grain and wheat. My pilgrimage for decent, healthy alternatives was arduous, but it did yield a few really decent options.
For that, I would like to thank "OMG PANIC EVERYTHING CAUSES CANCER" Food Babe, for her lovely article on the worst vs best breads available. I use the Sprouted whole wheat and cinnamon raisin, which is really nice. Ezekiel 4:9 is okay; not readily available from the supermarkets I frequent. (Trader Joe's is far and I don't drive) If you're just starting out, all you have to worry about is the High Fructose Corn Syrup content right now. Measure the weight of it with your hands- the denser the bread, the better the nutrient content. As your tastes wean off the need for that cloyingly sweet sensation, you will be able to enjoy heartier, healthier breads. Believe it or not, you won't be interested in turning back.
This is a huge one. I think I've mentioned before how toxic sugar is for your body. One of the first things I did was cut out sugar after watching Sugar: The Bitter Truth. (If you can't be bothered watching the whole thing, Underground Wellness has graced us with a short version.)
I'm not going to go too deep into it here, but my sugar addiction is really troubling and to this day I haven't kicked it completely. (Start reading those labels and you'll see sugar is in literally everything!) I have however, employed these tactics to significantly cut down.
Preserves- Without high fructose corn syrup, which tricks your brain into thinking you're still hungry when you aren't. (That's the #1 thing to cut out if nothing else)
Honey- Raw, organic from a greenmarket because most store-bought brands have little to no pollen and contain high fructose corn syrup.
100% Pure maple syrup. Expensive, but safe enough to feed to diabetics. Amazing in oatmeal.
Dates are a favorite, as are figs. My gawd, I love figs.
Fresh fruit, because yum. Why not sweeten your cupcakes with blueberries and bananas? There's always that yonana machine I keep hearing about...
Yeah, it's basically just raw eggs, vinegar, oil, stabilizers and fat. That isn't much of a mystery. Though a lot of really good recipes call for it, so what can we do?
I like Smart Balance. I'm sure it isn't too much better for me, but I don't eat mayo very often so trying new brands isn't high on my priority list. However, if you eat it a lot and are willing to be adventurous with this, by all means, go for it.
Veganase is a huge deal. Every vegan I know sings it's praises. I will try it eventually.
I've also heard good things about Beyond Mayo. Maybe I'll start doing product reviews on this thing.
For now, I use lots of avocado, guacamole, salsa, even hot sauce and lemon juice. My egg avocado salad goes a little something like this and is to die for.
Cereal Is Important To Lazy People With No Free Time
I basically get a colorful assortment of stuff from the health food isle.
Except Kashi. Never, ever get Kashi- their cereal tastes like used cat litter. Ugh.
I don't like to get cereal from the commercial isle. In fact, I try to stay away from the middle isles altogether because that's where the manufacturers put all the toxic crap they really want me to buy. No thanks. Commercial cereal is filled with gross and toxic stuff you shouldn't be feeding yourself or your family. I'm not even going to get into the GMO aspect of it. I eventually want to have enough free time where I can cook and not have to grab a quick bowl of cereal once in a while, but right now that isn't a possibility.
My favorites are the Envirokidz line, and Nature's Path Organic granola. I usually put them in with craisins, currants and Soy & Co. yogurt because that stuff is face crack.
Okay, I think at this point I need to eat something because writing this blog has gotten me really hungry.
Diiivvvviinnnggg Deeeeeep. lol I love this guy
On A Final Note:
There are many different chemicals out there to stay away from, for your own well-being. He's an incomplete list of them. If requested, I can write out another hub dedicated solely on all the stuff you shouldn't be eating, and why. For now, I'll leave you with Infinite Waters because he's pretty awesome.
Just as a general rule, remember that the further away a food is from it's natural state, the harder your body has to work to process it. Keep this in mind when you're mixing powdered orange dye onto white flour noodles for your dinner. Just sayin'.
Honorable mention: I want to thank my friend, Bex the Vegan expert for all her help with this blog. You're the bestest!