The sun is shining, and I’m up bright and early on a Sunday morning (and it’s not even summer market season yet). Normally, I’d be up and at ‘em, but today my body is achy, my eyes are puffy, my hands are swollen, and my teeth ache. (insert deflated emoji here…) Why? Lack of sleep, not enough water, way too many nuts, and too much sugar – all in the past 24 hours!
After yesterday’s Brick Works market (which was craaaaaaazy busy and sooooo much fun!) I ended up spending the better part of 9 hours recipe testing several new treats (organic, plant-based/vegan, gluten-free, grain-free, paleo friendly, and even 1 raw item!) I’d like to have in my repertoire for the summer market season. Because I had them scheduled for a photo shoot Sunday, there was a time crunch.
I was already exhausted from the busy market day, from getting a mere 3.5 hours of sleep the night before, and was ridiculously dehydrated because I didn’t pay enough attention to my water consumption throughout the day. Had recipe testing not been on the menu for the remainder of the day, I would’ve guzzled as much water as I comfortably could’ve, I would’ve gone for an Epsom salts bath to soothe my muscles and help drain the stress and toxins out of my body, and then, I would’ve gone straight to bed – by 4pm! Had I done that, I would’ve been fresh as a daisy this ‘am’- no aches, no pains, and feeling juicy from head to toe!
But I did not. I did not take a nap, I didn’t drink water, and I didn’t eat dinner (nor did I eat lunch for that matter). I got so wrapped up in the recipe testing, my hands got beyond sandpaper dry (I hate that feeling, especially when I have to wipe down the counter with a microfiber cloth – yuuuuck!), and I pushed through while my body screamed for rest and sleep.
As I tested and re-tested I also tasted, licked, sliced and ultimately mindlessly inhaled spoonfuls of fillings glazes, and crusts while trying to find the perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy, and visually appealing treats I could comfortably offer once the summer markets start up again over the next 6 weeks. Although super creative and often fun, from a healthy eating and self-care perspective, it was completely off the rails!
So why such a drastic reaction to lack of sleep, being dehydrated, and eating some nuts and sugar?
Well, after a really stressful winter, being really sick in February, not working out regularly, not eating mindfully, and not making nearly enough time for self-care, I finally got to the point where I’d had enough of feeling like crap, and wanted to feel good again. The big part of that decision was to address my gut issues, not just from a clean eating perspective, but to really heal my digestive tract this time, so I could eventually eat pretty much anything I wanted to without feeling gross.
So, March 1st was the start of my “I love me” detox and gut healing protocol. For me this meant reconnecting with my body; paying attention to what makes me feel good; what nourishes me (and gives my gut a break from digestion – i.e. lots of cooked food and fermented food); and, what inspires me. And, by doing these simple things, leaving very little room for what makes me feel bad; what depletes me; and what steers me towards a dark, and unsettling place (not good for me, or those around me…).
Now, all of us are different, and we all have different needs at different times of our lives including when it comes to how we eat, and how we take care of our bodies. So what works for me won’t necessarily work for everyone, but there are some very simple concepts we could all embrace:
- Get restful sleep! When we get consistent, restorative sleep, our bodies have a chance to heal and regenerate from the stresses of the day (work, play, strenuous physical activity, juggling the various aspects of our crazy, busy lives). We wake up rested, revitalized, refreshed and ready for the day. Sleep also helps our bodies heal from our workouts, helps us process the information our brains took in that day, and even helps keep our metabolism humming along efficiently, and our hunger and satiety levels in check.
Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, restorative sleep per night.
- Stay hydrated, drink water! Like our beloved planet, we are mostly water; when we drink enough water we feel juicy from head to toe, inside and out. We think more clearly, make better decisions, and cravings get kicked to the curb. We get fewer headaches and muscle aches, and our bodies flush toxins regularly and effectively, and we feel more energized.
What kind of water and how much water you drink is up to you, but if you’re mildly active, aim for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces per day.
- Eat well. Be well™! When we eat nourishing foods, we get vital nutrients out of those foods that help fuel us during our waking hours, and help our bodies heal and restore while we sleep. Eat plenty of vegetables (a rainbow variety to get a delicious cross-section of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients) including raw, fermented foods.
For most people, the more veggies you eat, the better you’ll feel! Aim for 8+ servings a day, and try to get at least 3 servings of dark, leafy greens a day to boost your bile production (this will help your liver work less). Raw, sautéed, roasted, or steamed, eat a variety every day.
Include raw, fermented foods in your diet. These living foods are full of healthy probiotics which have already started pre-digesting the sugars and starches in the food (making them more digestible), and are exactly the kind of superhero bacteria you want more of in your gut!
Bonus – add some extra fibre daily with chia and/or flax seeds, and your colon will thank you with the most amazing, toxin-removing poos ever!
- Don’t go nuts with nuts! I love nuts and nut butters, and because I’m currently observing a vegetarian, mainly paleo diet embodying principles taught by Donna Gates in the Body Ecology Diet, soaked almonds and seeds are a huge source of plant protein and healthy fat for me these days. Until my gut heals, almonds are the only ones I can readily consume.
Backtrack to yesterday where I went nutso with organic toasted peanuts, tahini and raw cashews (nuts and butters I hadn’t been eating for about 7 weeks, and my body just isn’t ready to deal with yet, period) and this morning was all about constipation, cramping, and bloating. Cringe…!
Some nuts are also high in omega 6 fatty acids, too many of which lead to inflammation (hello puffy eyes, and swollen hands and joints! Peanuts and peanut butter were the big culprits for me there…!)
Aim for 2 healthy servings of fats per meal, per day (nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters can make up some of those servings, but it’s a good idea to also include healthy oils like coconut, olive and avocado, which actually help with digestion, rather than potentially bind things up).
To make nuts and seeds more easily digestible, soak or sprout first; this will remove the phytic acid on them, making the nutrients in them more available for our body, and making them easier for our bodies to digest. If you feel constipated, cramped and bloated with a particular nut/seed or nut/seed butter, you may want to consider not eating those for a while until your gut has had time to heal and can actually digest them.
- If you don’t have to, don’t eat sugar! Coming from someone who has made a living out of indulging folks with sweet treats for the better part of 2 decades, this is one I am now personally recommending beyond any other suggestion!
One of the reasons I now concentrate more on savoury food rather than sweet, is that over the past 2 decades, thanks to my sugar consumption, ensuing work-induced sugar addiction, and Binge Eating Disorder (more on this another time…), I have wreaked havoc with my hormones; have messed up my digestive system to the point of now having to heal Leaky Gut; and, have had to really dig deep to access every bit of resolve I have several times over the past several years as I white knuckle it during the first 4-7 days of sugar withdrawal.
If you eat sugar every day, whether in the form of loads of fruit and/or fruit juices, tiny snack-size yogurts, loads of starches and carbohydrates, sweeteners, and various sweet treats containing any kind of sweetener (cane, coconut, date, fruit, honey, or otherwise) you are actively depleting your body of vital nutrients with every single bite.
Keep this up long enough, and you’ll mess with your delicate hormonal balance to the point where you’ll feel lethargic during the day, wired at night, you’ll get thicker around the middle as you age, your brain won’t understand when you’ve eaten and will want you to eat more (hello cravings!), you’ll be burning sugar for energy instead of fat, and you will get sick (I’m not talking just cold and flu, I’m talking metabolic diseases like heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and more!)
Plus, sugary foods are extremely acidic, and when you eat too much, they actually wear down the enamel on your teeth – hence, achy teeth!
Be mindful of your sugar intake.
Have fruit instead of fruit juice (there’s fibre in fruit to keep your blood sugar levels from spiking, and to send signals to your brain that you have indeed eaten, leaving you feeling fuller for longer); and aim to eat your fruit in the morning, on an empty stomach so your body can get it out of your stomach before any other food is consumed (less chance of sugars not being fully digested, and being left behind as fodder for bad bacteria to munch on and multiply like mad) .
If you’re going to indulge in sweets, think about what and how much you’re going to have in advance, and commit to your decision. For extra support, share your choices with those around you. And, if you’re concerned about willpower, don’t have sweets easily available at home, work or at play – no temptation, no room for caving!
Finally, brush your teeth afterwards so the sugars don’t have time to sit on your teeth and etch away at that precious enamel.
After all that, the one thing I’d also like to pass on is that as gross as I felt this morning, I knew that feeling would pass. Saturday was an anomaly to how I’ve been eating and taking care of myself over the past 8 weeks, and just because I had 1 partial day that went all helter skelter, that doesn’t mean I undid all of the amazing things I’ve been doing leading up to yesterday evening. It also didn’t mean all was doomed and this was reason enough for me to give up, and go back to my not-so-old ways of eating and lack of self-care.
Since yesterday, I’ve slept, have rehydrated, had a relaxing Epsom salts bath, and have had a tonne of veg throughout the day to help re-alkalize.
Right now, I feel so much better than I did this morning! And when I wake up tomorrow, I know my eyes won’t have an ounce of puffiness to them; my body will feel strong and ready for some serious weight training; my hands will have deflated back to their normal tiny slightly creased selves; and, my teeth won’t be aching.
I’d also like to add that just because I totally overdid it with the nuts and sweets yesterday, I’m still super stoked about the organic, plant-based, gluten-free, grain-free and paleo friendly Peanut Butter Caramel Naniamo Bar, Hemp Cacao Bites, and Nutty Seedy Powerbar that will be available at the summer market season! Not only are these desserts sweetened with dates, coconut sugar and nectar, and maple syrup as opposed to cane sugar, they’re also free of: shortening, and canola and soybean oils, and full of fibre and healthier fats! A much sweeter (in the best way possible) alternative to the more traditional nanaimos and treats of days of yore! (insert high 5 emoji here…)
So what are some of your eating and self-care challenges, and how do you overcome them? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!
For now, get your veg on, be good to yourself and add some sweetness to your life in ways that make you feel great!
Eat well. Be well.™