Hi, I’m Samantha, and I didn’t learn how to eat until I was 24 years old. It took about seven years and five big steps to figure it out.
College is what prompted this whole shift. The freshman 15 (or 20) snuck up on my sometime between the calzones and boneless wings at 2am. When my last pair of pants wouldn’t button, I began trying to lose weight. There was no rhyme or reason to how I went about this. I was not exercising regularly or eating that great. But, I stopped going in the dining hall and started cooking my own food. That was step one.
Step two was experimenting with vegetarianism. I didn’t know much about meat industry, and I was not yet aware of the devastating effects of food production on the environment. I just felt wrong about what I ate, and I needed to do something drastic to figure out why. Abstinence, as it tends to do, gave me time and space to think.
I did not eat meat for year and a half and it was awesome! I felt great and experimented with a ton new foods. But I still had questions. What is my policy on dairy? How much imitation meat do I want to ingest? When does this end?
Then, I started to miss meat, have dreams I was eating it and wake up feeling guilty. I began to resent having only 1-2 options on a restaurant menu, and stress over parties and other social events. I felt separated from my family. Slowly, being a vegetarian became less important than everything else in my life because I had no idea why I was doing it anymore. When you begin to feel like something is a sacrifice, it becomes uncomfortable. And when you start to feel guilty about those feelings, it’s downright unbearable.
So, even though I was ready for it, I ate my re-introductory bite of meat in hiding, with no one watching. I felt weak and ashamed, and thought I would be judged from then on no matter what I did. Turns out no one cared but me. It got easier, but I kept going back and forth. I told myself, I’ll eat meat for just one more week, or just one day a month, and created rule after rule after rule. All of which I broke, because you will break every rule you make for yourself about eating. I guess step 3 was accepting that I was not a vegetarian anymore. Only when your diet becomes a lifestyle that you believe in will you honor it.
Slowly, I began to shift my attention away from what I could NOT eat, and instead focus on what I was actually putting INTO my body. Enter step 4: I got interested in where my food came from and how it was produced. Guess what? Abstaining from foods is waaaaay simpler than eating with purpose and intention. Every trip to the grocery store became a cost-benefit analysis between local, organic and conventional options. I wanted to eat in a way that was healthy for me, my community and the planet. Without calculation, this became the foundation of my own philosophy on eating.
Finally, step 5 (aka the clincher): I became a truly fit person for the first time in my life. I started working out with an amazing group of women and learned about clean eating. What a concept! (Hey, what is clean eating?) By eating mostly whole, real, unprocessed foods, and getting regular intense exercise, I have gained confidence and feel leaner and healthier than ever.
Last May, I decided to start training for a 1/2 marathon even though I couldn’t run a mile. When I crossed the finish line in December, I knew I was never looking back. Now I know that I can do anything I want, and hold myself accountable to that. I’ve eliminated “impossible” from my vocabulary. It all stems from my core, how I nourish and take care of myself. Isn’t it funny how when you believe in something, instead of doing what you think you should, it becomes the easiest thing in the world?
Even though my standards for what and how I eat are so much higher now than they have ever been, this is the simplest way I know how to live. It’s challenging, but I’ve learned tricks at every turn and it’s been unimaginably rewarding.
Here’s the secret: I don’t let myself get sick of what I eat. I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen coming up with new and different ways to cook the foods I love, and figuring out how to make them fit into the daily grind. And I’m more than happy to share! So, stay tuned for some squeaky clean recipes and other tips, mixed with the classics and served on a bed of thoughtful pondering.