A little over a year ago, I finally committed to change the way that we ate. Somewhere along the way we had settled into the comfortable and easy routine of eating convenience foods and traditional meal-time favorites heavy in starchy carbs like potatoes and pasta. And, over time I struggled getting through each day. I felt lousy, tired, drained, and just plain blah.
When I set out to make these little lifestyle changes, it was more about improving my overall health and losing weight. I had pretty much accepted the chronic fatigue as a permanent state and did not expect to get much relief from it. However, a little more than one year later, I can say that as a combined result of these changes, I no longer feel plagued with chronic fatigue. The result is the combined result of making these changes, but I didn’t notice a dramatic improvement until just these last few months. It took time and absolutely nothing is an overnight fix.
No. 1 – Eat Real Food
The purpose of food is to provide energy for your activity level and normal body processes. The problem is that the availability of modern-day food products allows us to consume what we want, rather than what we need. I don’t think that real food is the enemy, just the way that we choose to eat it. Instead of trying to eat the way that you always have and trim calories by foregoing taste, accept that the way you eat needs to change. I don’t adhere to any one eating plan/style exclusively, but I borrow bits and pieces of what is useful from several different ones.
- Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can fit in the day.
- 2 Sources of protein per meal.
- Learn to Cook Simple Meals (i.e. Chicken Breast + Vegetable)
- Say NO to processed foods. No flavored pasta sides, rice in a box, or meal kits.
- Incorporate raw nuts (i.e. almonds, walnuts) in moderation as part of a snack.
- Limit refined sugar, but don’t substitute artificial sweeteners
- Real eggs are good for you. They are an excellent way to add protein to ANY meal.
- A meal replacement shake is NOT a meal. It’s not even a snack, just no.
- Eat what you like, but keep track of it in some way. You probably eat more than you realize.
- It’s okay to indulge as long as it is occasional. I try to limit indulgences to one meal or dessert per week that it completely outside of my guidelines.
No. 2 – Trade in Starchy Sides for an Extra Serving of Protein
I was the girl who fought giving up pasta and potatoes until the very end. I couldn’t seem to be satisfied with any meal that didn’t contain delicious breads and buttery, perfectly whipped mashed potatoes. I tried, and failed, over and over again, to eat healthier meals. I knew that I was consuming far too many carbs, and yet I never seemed to be satisfied unless I filled my dinner plate with them. To put it simply, carbohydrates break down into simple sugars which your body uses up first (before any other energy source) because it is the easiest to convert into energy. If your diet is overloading on carbohydrates, then you are fueling it entirely with easy to burn simple sugars and it never needs to work any harder to use the fats and proteins you are consuming. Cutting the carbs will force your body to use other fuel sources and adding protein will help you feel satisfied and more full.
No. 3 – Cook with Coconut Oil
One of the first changes that I made to my overall diet was to switch from olive oil (which I didn’t really care for) to coconut oil for cooking. We cook all of our meat either on the grill or in a cast-iron skillet, so it is always delicious. The coconut oil has less flavor to it, so it doesn’t change the flavor of spices and seasoning like olive oil tends to. I also don’t like olives, not even a little, so if the chicken was cooked in a little too heavy of oil, I could taste it. While it wasn’t a strong olive taste, it was enough to deter me. I don’t like to eat coconut either, but I find the coconut oil for cooking is entirely non-offensive. Plus, coconut oil has been proven to boost metabolism and aid in managing a healthy weight when consumed regularly over a long period of time.
No. 4 – Boost your B Vitamins
I have never really stuck with the idea of daily multi-vitamins, mostly because I never actually experienced any benefit from taking them. As it turns out, I just wasn’t focusing on the right vitamins. Rather than taking a general purpose, jack of all trades but master of none, type multi-vitamin. Try focusing specific vitamins based on your needs. If fatigue is your problem, focus on B vitamins. A lot of research supports that these vitamins affect how our bodies process nutrients and how nutrients are converted into energy. Taking a supplement focusing on B6, B12, folic acid and niacin consistently for 30 days may be the boost in energy levels that you are needing. I threw out my multivitamins in favor of a supplement high in B vitamins and folic acid which proved to be the final missing piece to my energy levels.
No. 5 – Cut the Caffeine
I had been a habitual coffee drinker since my early twenties. And, not just in the morning. I drank coffee pretty much all day long. I have always ran a little colder than everyone else, so it started as a way to stay warm when I was confined to my cubicle at work. Over the years, I was up to nearly 10 cups of coffee per day. Despite my caffeine intake, I slept pretty well, so I never really noticed any major side effects. Still, the caffeine consumption was affecting my sleep quality and contributing to my state of chronic fatigue. I knew that there was no way that I could forego coffee all together, so I put the limit on one cup of the good stuff, first thing in the morning. Within a week I noticed changes. I noticed that I WAS sleeping better, even though I didn’t think it was a problem. I noticed that the less I tried to use stimulates to ‘fake’ energy, the more energy I actually had. And, I noticed that the dollars I was spending on coffee were funneling into my savings which only motivated me to stick to it.