I’ve told you all about how I am sensitive to dairy and how I incorporated fasting into my lifestyle. Those two things are all about what I’ve eliminated from my diet. So you might be wondering what foods I consume to fuel me up to keep up with my toddlers. The short answer is animal-based protein, whole foods, and good fats.
Before I get into it, here are some things that I do my best to avoid:
- Artificial anything: colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives
- “Natural flavors” because this could include MSG and they don’t have to tell you
- Lectins, especially soy lectin
- Any vegetable or seed oil because of their high omega-6 content (which means I try to cook at home where I have the control over how my food is prepared)
- BHT or BHA, TBHQ, or any other acronym
- Corn syrup, or really corn in general
- See my post on dairy for a separate list of things I can’t eat
While this seems highly restrictive, I am flexible. If I am eating at someone else’s house, I eat what I can and say thank you. I just make sure to eat before I get there and waiting until I get home to eat some more. We avoid eating fast food and packaged foods as much as possible. Once you start reading nutrition labels, you will be SHOCKED at all the crap that is put into our food for the sake of being shelf stable or a larger profit margin.
One of the most common comments I receive as a parent is that my children are so well behaved (most of the time). This list is one of the reasons why. A lot of the additives in foods are linked to behavioral issues with children. My husband was diagnosed with ADHD really young and has avoided most of this list his whole life. It makes a huge difference.
A Vegetarian Diet Is Not It Sis (For Me)
One of my only food aversions during my second pregnancy was meat. I didn’t want to handle raw meat. I couldn’t stand the smell of it cooking. The texture was awful if I tried to eat it. I had remained dairy free since having Addison, so I wasn’t eating and cheese or milk products. I loved eating scrambled eggs. I didn’t eat seafood because of the touted dangers of heavy metal contaminants. So I ate fruit (I craved fresh fruit all pregnancy), veggies, beans, nuts, grains, tofu, and eggs.
After Jensen was born I didn’t bother to reintroduce steak or chicken into my diet. I had worked for months to come up with meat-free dinners and just kept them on the menu. Why fix what isn’t broken? Only it was broken. Very, very broken.
Adding a second baby guarantees that you will forever be tired and spend a lot of time concealing your dark circles. But the level of exhaustion that I was feeling was beyond having my baby not sleep through the night for nine months (and not consistently until she was 11 months). I was working out consistently and supplementing with protein powder, but not gaining any more muscle definition, despite feeling so sore that I would have thought I’d been in a car accident. All of my joints ached. Most of the hair I had lost postpartum hadn’t regrown, leaving my hair super thin and balding in spots. It always hung lifeless despite trying scalp exfoliators, clarifying shampoos, moisturizing conditioners, etc. I was also pretty sure I had some hormone imbalances, though I never got a blood test to confirm this.
In mid July of this year, my wonderful husband suggested that I listen to an episode of a podcast (Peak Human: Part 92 ) where Dr. Glenn Livingston talked about why we binge eat and what healthy eating looks like. I felt personally seen and extremely called out. I could fix my health problems and I could do it by changing my diet. I quickly scrolled to the bottom, found Part 1 and started listening to the entire podcast from the beginning.
The biggest problem with eating a mostly vegan diet is that it is very hard to get protein without carbohydrates. Because I was mostly eating carbs, I was on the insulin roller coaster where I was hungry every two hours and didn’t know how to get off the ride…and I didn’t know if I wanted to.
Meat still felt yucky to me. I had read a lot about the moral superiority of consuming a plant-based diet, that factory farming was responsible for destroying the planet, and eating only fruits and vegetables was the best way to be “healthy.” How could introducing this “terrible” food source make me feel better?
If You Feel Bad Enough, You’ll Try Anything
Despite my moral dilemma at the thought of eating a steak, I decided to go for it. I couldn’t really feel any worse. If I continued with my plant-based diet, I was only going to destroy my insulin sensitivity and possibly end up diabetic. For someone who hates needles, that was not an option. Besides, animal protein is an ancestral food source that literally allowed us to develop as homo sapiens, so how could eating it be bad? How could it be causing cancer and heart disease?
The effects of introducing steak, ground beef, salmon, and chicken back into my diet were immediate. My skin wasn’t as dull, I slept better and woke refreshed, my joints didn’t ache in the mornings, my muscles weren’t chronically sore, I had energy and didn’t feel the need to snack.
After listening to Part 11 – Lierre Keith, a former hardcore vegan, discuss her journey to try and reverse the effects of 20 years of avoiding animal products, I knew I was on the right path. She also talked about the effects of soy on the body. The USDA didn’t even consider soy a food until the early 20th century. My mind was blown. The tofu in my fridge was the last I ever bought.
We subscribed to Butcher Box, which makes it super convenient to have highly quality grass-fed, grass-finished frozen beef on hand, as well as wild-caught salmon and bacon. Every delivery is like Christmas to me. If I woke up to a brand new Butcher Box shipment under the tree, I would believe in Santa Clause again.
It’s been about five months of eating steak, ground beef, or chicken at most meals and I feel great. During the last two months I have also greatly cut down on my refined carb intake. Also five months ago I also started my transitioning to a fasting lifestyle (you can read about my journey here). So, the health improvements I’ve noticed could be from a complete lifestyle overhaul over that time, but I believe that incorporating more meat led me to decrease carbohydrate intake, which made it easier to practice fasting.
Improvements to My Health
- My hair grew 4 inches, including the regrowth I was missing from postpartum.
- My hair has volume again! And shine! And my eyebrows grow in naturally thicker.
- The texture of my skin has improved.
- Muscle soreness after hard workouts has reduced and is no longer chronic.
- Joints don’t crack, creak, or ache much anymore (because plants can be inflammatory).
- Decreased frequency of chiropractor adjustments.
- Nails grow quickly and are strong.
- Satiety after a meal. No snacking every couple hours.
- Less bloating and bowel irritability.
- My teeth aren’t as sensitive to cold.
- Eyes are brighter and whiter.
- Mental clarity (this is probably due to fasting and ketones).
- Increased cardiovascular fitness. You won’t catch me running, but I can do plyometric exercises without wanting to die. I have been CRUSHING my workouts.
- I feel like I’m thriving. Check out and follow my Instagram @joyandotherthingsblog for photographic evidence of this.
What I Eat In A Day (Loosely)
I don’t track calories or macros, instead I use an intuitive eating approach because meat is highly satiating. This is one of the greatest benefits of being on a high fat, high protein diet.
Breakfast/Lunch: Depending on the length of my fast that day, this is either skipped or I eat three eggs, half an avocado with Everything but the Bagel seasoning, and a strip of bacon; or a salmon fillet and leftover roasted veggies; or last night’s leftovers. On non-workout days I will sometimes do a protein smoothie with homemade almond milk, half a banana, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate protein, cocoa powder, almond butter, spinach or kale, unsweetened coconut flakes, and cinnamon.
Smoothie: Following my workout I will do a smoothie with almond milk, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Natural protein, half a banana, broccoli sprouts, kale, frozen mixed berries, goji berries, and a few drops of liquid Stevia. The protein powder is made from fermented peas so it’s an acquired taste.
Dinner: Usually some form of beef and veggies. I make hamburgers, tacos, steaks, chicken, etc. My husband and kids don’t like fish so I almost never eat it with dinner unless I made a soup and want a little extra fat/protein.
And don’t forget to drink your water! If I feel hungry, I first drink half a glass of water and then wait a few minutes. Sometimes our brain confuses hunger and thirst cues.
Saturated fat is not the enemy! This has been pretty thoroughly debunked so please don’t tell me that I’m going to die of heart disease or that my LDL or HDL levels are in need of a statin.
Again, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, so please talk to one of them before you totally change your diet because a 20-something year old on the internet experimented with her own eating habits and wrote a blog.
I have done a lot of research though and feel pretty confident that my experience is not just the results of calorie restriction. I haven’t lost a single pound, in fact I’ve gained weight because I’ve been putting on muscle.
Sourcing good quality, sustainably raised meat is important, but if you can’t afford organic, grass-fed, grass-finished beef or wild-caught fish, then get what you can. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. Brian talks about this a lot on his Instagram page and in the early podcast episodes. I realize that my family is very fortunate to be able to afford the quality of food that we do. We are also very frugal in just about all other areas of spending so that we can buy the food we do. I also make a lot of things from scratch that makes them cheaper (like almond milk).
Do you eat a mostly animal-based or plant-based diet? Let me know with a comment!
My hope is that this somehow inspires joy in your life today and in the future.