Transformational Tuesdays is the “food story” of my wife Sarah and me. Two years ago we were both overweight/obese. She was in extra-extra-large shirts and size 18 pants. I was in extra-large shirts and size 36 or 38 pants. As of today Sarah is an extra small size 4, and shrinking, while I am in size 30 or 32 pants (store depending) and small shirts. Part of Sarah’s journey included a rigorous gym schedule for the past year, but mine did not, and neither of us started anywhere close to a gym; or even running shoes.
We have discovered in the past two years, that while the gym and exercise were great for making us look lean and building muscle and endurance, most (all?) the weight we have lost was lost in the kitchen. Even today, with our new and improved selves, it is what we eat that dictates what we weigh, not how much we exercise.
Food is the fuel of the body. It is what keeps the system running great. Think about it like oil and gas for a car engine. If you put in good stuff and maintain good practices, your engine drives better. If you never change the oil and wait to refill until your on fumes, don’t expect to have an optimal driving experience. The act will eventually break down, and it will not run at peak performance. The same goes for the body. Weight loss starts in the kitchen, end of story.
We began our journey simply enough. We cut out all flavored beverages and substituted water. From there we stopped eating out so much, and never (almost never) at fast food places. The next step we took was to make one day a week a vegan/vegetarian meal day.
We decided to go vegetarian one day a week for many reasons. Like most thirty-somethings we have Netflix. Like some people with Netflix, we like documentaries. After watching shows like Forks over Knives, Food, Inc, and this Ted Talk, we began to talk about our personal food choices and do our own research. We didn’t think we could give up meat all together, but maybe we could one day a week, and so around two years ago we started to ditch meat for twenty-four hours every seven days.
While we didn’t see a ton of weight fly off immediately like our previous adjustments, we did notice small little changes that made a positive impact on our relationship with food. They were noticeable and substantial enough to keep us moving forward on our journey out of fitness apathy and towards a healthy lifestyle.
The first noticeable change was in Sarah’s outlook on veggies. She had always been the pickier eater. She really didn’t like vegetables that much, and that may be an understatement. For a few weeks, eating only vegetables once a week was hard. It was a chore. It wasn’t satisfying. But that began to change. Vegetables she once hated, soon became things she craved. Watching her, I was pushed to test my limits and try new vegetables I had never eaten before, as well. We went from eating a lot of potatoes and corn to kale, beets, kole-rabi, swiss chard, turnip, and vegetables of other cultures.
That lead directly to the second change. Not only were we eating new and diverse vegetables on our vegetarian day, since we now liked them, they made it into our other meals during the week. When we had spaghetti with meat sauce, we added cooked greens and sautéed carrots as side dishes, thus cutting down the amount of pasta we were eating, as an added benefit. When we ate steak, we had more sides than baked potato to throw in the mix. Our culinary horizon was widening.
The third change also built upon the two above. As we discovered our new love for vegetables, we expanded our menu and palate even more. We wanted to look up new recipes. We were actively seeking ways to incorporate vegetables into our meals. We were getting bored with our old culinary ways, and so were exploring new paths. That lead to even more tasty discoveries, and a food cycle was born. So was one final change.
As we discovered we liked vegetables, began incorporating them into our daily routine, and not just once a week, and were seeking new recipes to spice up our meals, we found a new circle of food wisdom. If you search “macaroni and cheese recipes” or “how to deep fry anything,” you give websites some information about yourself and your preferences. Many places offer recipe suggestions based upon the ones you looked up, pinned, or tagged in the past. If you are looking up less-than-healthy recipes, the recipes that get recommended to you are also less-than-healthy. The opposite is also true. As we began looking up butternut squash soup recipes, or ways to cook kale, we started getting healthier and healthier recommendations. Not only vegetarian ones, either. It lead us down a new and exciting road.
While we didn’t see a ton of direct weight loss with our eating vegetarian once a week, we did see some. We also saw how we began eating differently, healthier, throughout the week, and that kept us moving forward.
It was an adjustment to eat vegan/vegetarian once a week, to be sure, but it was worth it. We felt great, began loving an entire section of the grocery store that once eluded us, and positively impacted our kids and the environment. Looking back, it also gave us the confidence to make some of the more radical changes to our diet later on. Knowing we could change, lead us to make more changes.