Mindful Eating: What Happened When I Tracked My Food Intake for 60 Days

Mindful Eating: What Happened When I Tracked My Food Intake for 60 Days

I’ve experimented with consuming less of many things, over the years. Less spending, less shopping, less alcohol (ok, no alcohol), less TV, less social media and so on. Last month, I took the social media experiment one step further and deactivated my personal Facebook profile (I still have a secret one I need for business). I haven’t missed it once, which proves it was the right decision for me. But if I had to pick the most important experiment I’ve done so far this year, I would say it’s been my commitment to consume less of the foods that make me feel bad.

By “bad” I mean everything from getting bloated to feeling my stomach twist up in a knot. The worst for me is crashing after eating something with a lot of white flour or sugar. This is something I’d started noticing last year, but didn’t accept how serious it was until a few months ago, when my body crashed after eating a single cupcake while babysitting my niece. Type 2 diabetes runs in our family, so my siblings and I are at risk of developing it. Knowing that, I decided to attempt to give up sugar for 30 days, back in February, which is how this experiment began.

In the first week, I experienced some withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and worse sleep. The most dramatic might’ve been Day 3, when it seemed like pictures of chocolate and cakes were everywhere I looked and I was genuinely angry I couldn’t have any. By dinner time, I was literally plotting how I could sneak away from my friends and devour a piece of cake behind their backs. I didn’t try to hide any of this. I told friends how I was feeling and confessed the dessert sins I wanted to commit. They encouraged me to carry on, and I did.

On Day 10, I received a package of information on how to prepare for my hip surgery, and discovered I would have to hit pause on my experiment on Day 15. The night before surgery, they ask you to drink two cups of a clear juice. You have to drink another cup one hour before you go to the hospital. I should be clear that, in giving up sugar, I’d given up everything sweet – fruit included – so even an organic juice would’ve resulted in me breaking my original rules. I didn’t want to give up on the experiment, but I had to take a timeout for the surgery.

After the surgery, I was surprised to find my sugar cravings hadn’t resurfaced; this was huge for me, as I was always one to eat something sweet after dinner. I had added some fruit back into my diet (mostly apples and berries), as I was on heavy painkillers and knew I needed the fibre, but even that didn’t make me crave anything more. As the weeks went on, I decided to forget about finishing the 30-day experiment. I knew eating refined sugar made me feel terrible, so I would avoid it from now on. In place of that experiment, however, I decided to figure out how other foods made me feel too.

In March, I started keeping track of everything I ate. The goal wasn’t to decrease my calorie intake or lose weight. I should also add here that I hate “diets” more than the average person. I know from experience that the best way to lose weight is to eat less junk, eat more healthy food and workout – it’s that simple. So that wasn’t the goal. I was simply sick of feeling bloated, heavy and tired after meals. I didn’t know which foods my body hated most, but I was ready to find out and eliminate them. For the next 60 days, I ate everything I normally eat and wrote down how I felt after. Here’s what I found.

What I Learned From Tracking My Food Intake

1. Whether I like it or not, I am lactose intolerant.

I’ve known this for a long time, which is why I’ve been drinking almond/cashew milk for at least 7+ years now. However, if cheese was in front of me or someone suggested we go out for pizza or ice cream, I would still say yes. I wouldn’t buy it and keep it in my own fridge, but I’d eat it elsewhere and I always paid for it. I will say, I am not the worst-case scenario here, but I do get “pregnant bloated” (as I call it) after eating dairy and I don’t like it.

2. My body does not seem to like beef.

It’s rare that I’ll actually eat beef, but the few times I did served as a reminder as to why it’s better for me to avoid it. Beef is the one food that truly feels like it twists my stomach in a knot. It didn’t matter if it was a burger, stew or steak – if I ate it, I regretted it. Beef is one of the toughest things for our bodies to process, so I don’t know why this discovery surprised me as much as it did. Nonetheless, I’m now fully aware of how it makes me feel.

3. White flour* = white death.

I was doing a pretty good job of avoiding white flour, in that I rarely eat bread (and only buy whole grain when I do) and don’t bake anymore. But I did eat pasta and pizza a few times, and it always (ALWAYS!) made me bloated and tired. Similar to how I knew beef wasn’t easy to process, I know there’s no nutrition in white flour, so I’m happy to avoid it. But I’m also glad I tracked how it made me feel, so I can reinforce that decision in the future.

*Potatoes aren’t great either, but I never buy them and rarely eat them.

4. And, of course, my body HATES refined sugar.

I’ve known this for a while, but the cupcake incident was the final straw for me. Shortly after eating it, I got cold, started to shiver, curled up under a blanket and then fell asleep. That reaction isn’t good anytime, but especially not when I’m babysitting. And when I woke up, I felt physically sick – almost like I was hungover – for hours. I don’t want to experience that ever again, and I really don’t want type 2 diabetes, so refined sugar is out the door.

The Benefits of Changing My Diet

The longer I tracked how different foods made me feel, the more I naturally started to consume less and less of them. I swapped white flour with whole grains (and sometimes gluten-free options), got more protein from beans and nuts, curbed my sweet tooth with fruit and limited my dairy intake. And the benefits of slowly changing my diet have been incredible. I’m never bloated, I never feel tired or sick, and I never crash anymore. I’ve also lost 11 lbs. I’m sure some of that is a result of all the walking and hiking I’ve been trying to do since the surgery, but there’s no doubt it’s also diet-related.

One of the most interesting changes I’ve noticed, however, is more mental than physical. I feel as though I’ve entered a new level of clarity – like the fog that used to come from sugar crashes has lifted. I’m a little more creative and a little more productive. It’s not a huge, drastic difference! I’ve just noticed that I feel better about my work, these days, and I’m sure my cleaner diet is partially to thank.

My Favourite Things to Eat

If you’re curious, here are some of the meals I eat on a regular basis now.

  • Breakfast: 2 hard-boiled eggs and 1 slice of whole grain toast OR oatmeal with berries
  • Lunch: Salad and a green smoothie
  • Dinner: Protein and veggies OR chilli/soup and salad
  • Snacks: Apples, peanut butter, nuts, etc.

I will add that I’m not perfect, and I don’t follow this “diet” every day. In the past few months, I’ve had pizza a couple times and ice cream a couple times. There was also a slice of celebratory cake (but I did regret that one). I’ve simply removed the foods that make me feel bad from my regular diet, and eat much smaller portions of them now, if I do eat them.

Being Mindful Changes Everything

I’m not sure why it took me so long to do this experiment. Five years ago, I began tracking my spending, to figure out where my money was going. And I use mindful budgeting to make sure my spending aligns with my goals and values. Both have changed my financial health forever. I’m glad I brought those same practices over to my physical health and can now change that forever too.

Have you ever practiced mindful eating?

Extra Reading/Listening

  • This is something I’ve really got to work on. Like you, I have issues with dairy… and yet I still eat it. And then feel like death, and swear I’ll never eat it again. Only to then eat it two weeks later. Rinse and repeat. I try not to keep much of it in the house and I do drink almond/rice milk for my smoothies, etc, but put a nice cheese in front of me, or a butter/cream sauce at a French or Italian restaurant and I’m a sucker for punishment.

    • Hard cheeses such as parmesan and really sharp cheddar have zero lactose, so you may be able to eat those. I buy Cabot cheddar because it explicitly says on the label that it’s lactose free. I too suffer from lactose intolerance, but have found my stomach can handle those, as well as lactose free yogurt. In the event I want pizza or anything like that, I take Lactaid.

  • I’m the same way with beef and other red meats. I cut them out of my diet 7 years ago and don’t regret it one bit. I wish I could say the same about flour though – my weakness is baked goods, though I do try to limit them to “occasional” treats.

    • How does eating flour make you feel though, Jessica? For some people, it doesn’t affect them at all! Or at least not to the level of noticeable discomfort.

  • I’m lucky in that I’m not lactose intolerant and I can eat beef every day without problems, but I can’t process starch well (or better yet, my body is insulin resistant I should say). Like your family, I have many type 2 diabetes relatives so I have to watch my total carbohydrate intake. I know when I have low starch consumption for a few days and then I have something really starchy or sugary, I can feel my blood sugar rising, so I know I shouldn’t be eating that product! It’s hard because I love bread and pasta, but I realize I really can’t eat it. Even whole grain stuff and oatmeal is too high carbohydrate for me so I eat a lot of greens and salads to go with my meat. It’s interesting when we realize the hard things about our diets!

    • And it’s so good you know this stuff about yourself! I’m with you re: not being able to have a lot of whole grain/oatmeal stuff. I might have 1 piece of toast every second day and gluten-free oatmeal (I should’ve mentioned that) once/week. What I do like about both is that I don’t overindulge. With white bread/flour products, I eat a little bit then want more more more. That doesn’t happen anymore (thank the food gods!).

  • Thank you so much for this post, Cait. I’ve been feeling, and doing, something similar but more vaguely. Your suggestion of keeping track and being more mindful of the foods eaten, and how the body reacts, is a GREAT idea and I know it will make a difference in my life. I’m glad that it has been so beneficial for you, too. I really appreciate your honesty and generosity in sharing.

    • It’s been a great experiment, Lynn! You don’t have to get too detailed either (so it’s not an overwhelming task). Just write down the foods you ate, and if any of them make you feel bad then put a star beside them. Simple! I hope it helps :)

  • I’ve become more aware of the foods that I’m eating this year. Portion control and not eating sweets/ chips is my downfall.

    I have a couple of good book recommendations for you. One is Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. The other is The Diet Fix by Yoni Friedhoff, which is on weight maintenance. (It sounds like a diet book, but it’s about healthy eating. I loved the book, but hate the title.) Yoni is also a Canadian doctor from Ottawa and he’s great on twitter @yonifriedhoff.

    • Ooo, you know I love a good book recommendation! I’ll see if these are at my library. Thanks, Alexis :)

  • Kudus for your great detective work in discovering what diet works best for you!

    I’ve always thought I was a healthy eater until a visit routine checkup with my doctor revealed HBP/cholesterol. Now I am doing the exact same as you where I am keeping a food journal. It’s only been about two weeks, but have made some discoveries already. It will be interesting to see where I end up! – Mrs. FE

  • I literally was just thinking that I need to do this this morning! I know that I am allergic to milk quite badly and also to wheat (allergic as in I get hay fever at least, followed by my throat closing and a few days of feeling truly horrible if I have more that a little bit of milk – not bloating/ gas etc. like with an intolerance).
    I’ve ended up with seriously sick a few times as a result of my allergies, but somehow I keep going back to consuming things I KNOW will make me sick! I really don’t understand why I do it to myself.
    This morning a look in the mirror convinced me I need to start getting serious about cutting these things out again (allergy-induced puffy eyes are not a great look on me!). Aaaand then at lunch time I bought and ate a chocolate bar. HA! Clearly that attempt to avoid milk didn’t go well.

    I love this mindful approach though; I think forcing myself to notice my body’s reaction to these foods (rather than just popping an allergex or two) will really help me to remember why it is that I’m avoiding them in the first place and hopefully next time I’ll ignore that kitkat :)

    • If I can maybe shed some light, from my personal experience, I think the reason we continue to eat bad foods is because of what we tell ourselves about them. For a long time, I looked at chocolate, sugar, candy, chips, etc. as treats. Like “this week was rough, I’m going to order pizza” and “I’m PMSing, I’ll eat as much chocolate as I want”. Something I continually remind myself now is that food was never meant to be a treat – it’s fuel for our bodies. We literally need it to live, not just to soothe a bad day or make us “feel better” somehow. Anyway, that’s just my two cents! I hope taking a mindful approach helps you (and your body) :)

      • Here’s another book recommendation for you! A book about habits, why we do stuff and how to use our own personality traits to change them – Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. She has a website too. The above excuse to eat more or bad things is a real classic, I use it all the time. The other one I use is ‘I will just have one now and start being good tomorrow/ at the weekend/ next time’ ! best wishes, Sarah

      • Yes, I think that’s exactly it – I always find myself getting pizza on a Friday or pouring a glass of wine when I’ve had a long day because I ‘deserve it’ for getting through the day!
        I have also found that viewing food as fuel helps a lot , and something that’s really helped me with that is weight training and cycling. It’s quite amazing to go to the gym and feel how much stronger I am if I’ve had a good meal the night before, or the burst of energy an apple can give me to get up that hill when I’m riding my bike! So I find it quite easy to eat good foods because I know they’ll make me feel good – now I just need to focus on being conscious of how the bad ones make me feel so that I can avoid them.
        Also, I think it’s great that you do still have the occasional ice cream etc. I have several friends (and my boyfriend) who are just obsessed with healthy eating, to the point where it is close to being an eating disorder. (Last week we visited my boyfriend’s family and his mom made a delicious vegan meal with tonnes of veggies and healthy by anyone’s standards – and he didn’t want to eat it because she had used like a spoonful of olive oil (!!!!!!). Needless to say we had a long talk about how he was going WAY too far.) It’s so hard to find a balance, but I think approaching it mindfully rather than with hard and fast rules is a much healthier way to live :)

  • This is an extremely timely post. Just this morning I was complaining to my running buddy about the noises that came from my tummy when I ate ice cream last night. I know I shouldn’t eat it, but I do…

    I have been thinking of starting some food journaling to see what sort of patterns I can see. Because of some tests I did with my naturopath, I already eat gluten free and dairy free (except that ice cream and cheese… I can’t seem to stop eating cheese…) most of the time, but I think it might be time to really take a closer look at how each type of food affects me, because I still get belly aches and bloated some times… I just haven’t narrowed it down.

    Thanks for sharing and pushing me to start tracking in more detail. I know that if I have to track it, I will also be more likely to not cheat…

    • Yes, that’s another incredible bonus of tracking – it keeps us accountable! I used a pretty simple method to track (only wrote basic foods/ingredients) but if you’re having trouble figuring out what’s upsetting you, you might want to get a bit more specific. I’d be very curious to hear what you discover! (Also, Daiya makes some amaaazing soft vegan cheeses that could help curb your cravings!)

      • Well… if I’m completely honest, I’m pretty sure I know what the triggers are… dairy products and me not paying close enough attention to ingredients because I know if I do I won’t be able to eat some of the delicious sauces and such that I enjoy so much… I have eaten some Daiya before… I didn’t really like it at the time, but perhaps it is worth another shot… In any case, I’m going to start tracking my food… And I’ll probably to a post or two about it on my blog to share my results.

        Have a good day and don’t get caught in a thunder storm on your daily walk today.

  • I’ve been on a similar path! I would normally eat pretty clean, but would allow for ‘junk food’ a few times a week, and every time I felt sick after. I read A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan (highly recommend it!) and it just reminded me that in order to feel great, its important to eat real food…so ever since cutting out the junk I’ve been feeling great. It’s so important to listen to your body and see what foods make you feel great after you eat them and which ones don’t. Love this post!

    • Oh I’m so glad you’ve found something that works for you, Julie! I’ll be sure to see if my library has the book. :)

  • Sounds like you were very close to a Whole30 Challenge! My husband and I did the Whole30 last September and it was really eye-opening. I have to say I also found social media a very helpful part of the process. Posting photos of the meals we made helped keep me accountable and on-track, and made me excited about all of the great looking foods we could still eat, rather than focusing on what was “off limits”.

    • That’s great, Katy! I’ve seen lots of friends do the same thing on Instagram before. :)

  • I love this post! It so resonates with me. Purely for health and weight reasons per my obgyn, I had to start monitoring what I was eating during this pregnancy. I use myfitnesspal app to track my calories and keep a log of what I’m eating (it’s free). It helps me to have a boundary of when I’m consuming too much.

    I have had several bouts of nausea after eating during this 2nd trimester when I veered away from the whole foods I had been consuming but I haven’t quite put my finger on what exactly is the trigger. The one thing I know for sure that causes acid reflux and indegestion for me is overeating. I’m careful to measure out portions of oatmeal, berries, nuts and even only 1 tablespoon of coffee creamer in my 1 daily cup of coffee. Using measuring cups and tablespoons isn’t my fav but I know if I eat that allotted amount and don’t go back for seconds, I will be satisfied and not feeling sick later. I try to stick with just eating half a sandwich for lunch with a piece of whole wheat bread and carrots and apple on the side. Your eating plan sounds similar to mine except I do fix myself 1/2 cup of hot cocoa at night when I have a chocolate craving but I haven’t had any side effects with it. Everything in moderation for me I guess. :) love your blog!!!!

    • Everything in moderation is my favourite motto for this! I’ll still avoid refined sugar and white flour, more than all the rest… but moderation, in general, is a key part of making these lifestyle changes. Sounds like you have a great system going, Laura! Hope you’re past the nausea soon :)

  • I cannot eat beef either. It gives me a stomachache. A few years ago, I kept getting that “pregnancy bloat” that you mentioned, and through a process of elimination, I realized that I have a gluten sensitivity. If I eat something that has gluten, I look like I am several months pregnant and I feel awful.

    Glad you are feeling healthy Cait :)

    • Ugghhh being pregnant bloated is so awful. I’m sorry you have that sensitivity, but it’s good you’re aware of it!

  • As someone who has GI issues and has worked with a dietician and a gastro enterologist to modify my diet, I do want to suggest you meet with a dietician.
    It’s really not recommended to try elimination diets on your own as you may not be correctly identifying culprits. Eg there are many types of sugar (google FODMAPs) and not all may be impacting you in the same way, also there is essentially zero lactose in many types of cheese so it may not be lactose but something else in dairy products that you have issues with.
    After a strict elimination diet I have discovered my issues are frustose, fructans and red meat- I doubt I would ever have discovered that wheat and onions have a common element that I can’t handle- but now I know my health is much better!
    It’s really worth the money to meet with a professional to check your diet is the best for you.

    • I can certainly see how it would be worth talking to a professional! I don’t think any of the symptoms I was experiencing felt bad enough that I would seek medical help yet. But if I notice more issues in the future, I’m not opposed to investing in my health. :)

  • Good for you! Sounds like a paleo diet. Even though ‘diet’ is a bad word, now you have a definition to go search for new recipes.

    Couple of my fav blogs:

    I am also severely lactose intolerant and other unknown allergies/sensitivities/ intolerances. I’m following the Autoimmune Paleo diet for now.

    • Yes, many of my friends with severe intolerances seem to follow Paleo and absolutely love it! I’m so glad you found something that’s working for you, Ashley. Thanks for the blog recommendations! :)

  • Sugar is my addiction. I don’t use processed (white) sugar, but I am guilty of putting honey or maple syrup into my tea. I visited a Naturopath about 3 years ago and did a food sensitivity test. It came back with high sensitivity to gluten, dairy, eggs, amongst others. That was pretty frustrating, even the Naturopath didn’t have many suggestions about what I should eat for breakfast, so I ended up making very few changes to my diet. I like your method of recording what I eat and how I feel after. It may not be as scientific as a food sensitivity test, but I think it might make it easier for me to adapt. Thanks for this!

    • Wow, I can definitely understand what you would’ve been frustrated after learning about your sensitivities, Kim. I’d be very curious to hear how tracking how you feel after eating changes things (if at all). Please keep me updated :)

  • I had more energy when I gave up gluten, but I spent it all worrying about what the hell I could eat. (I don’t really cook.) So I gave that up, but I try to keep sugar to a minimum. For a while, I was only eating sugar found in normal foods and in my protein bars (total of 7 grams there including sugar alcohol). It kind of sucked, but my hypoglycemia got MUCH better.

    I’d take breaks for special occasion like my birthday or holidays. It’s also tough to manage during FinCon, so I don’t bother. But each time I’d quit again, I’d feel awful. It kept me going for a while. Right now, I’m back to sugar after a long binge (long story), but I’m keeping it to a minimum. I still have the protein bars, and I can have a small amount of chocolate each night. But beyond that… I need to lose the pounds I gained in the last three months.

    Glad you feel better!

    • Definitely relate to binges, I used to do the same. I feel like all stories about trying to give up sugar sound like a vicious cycle of ups and downs… Something I’ve really tried to work on most is not calling things “treats” anymore. If I eat ice cream, that’s a choice – not a treat. I won’t feel bad about it after. The guilt isn’t welcome in my mind! But if I feel gross or sick or tired, that’s something that should be addressed instead.

  • I cut out fast carbs from my diet for 3 months for the first time about a year ago after my GP noticed high blood sugar levels. After three months the blood tests came back normal and I relaxed my diet again. That was a mistake. After almost a year of trying to ignore the difference in how I feel I am back to not eating anything with added sugar (sweets, pastries), no pasta or white rice and i try to have no more than 1 slice of bread every three days. I feel better than ever. Just like you write, it is the bloating, but above all I wake up with a clear head and feeling happy. For years I would wake up feeling grumpy and tired and I always thought that I simply wasn’t a morning person. Now, I wake at least 1 hour earlier than before, feeling happy and fully of energy.
    But it isn’t easy. I stopped wanting to eat sweets after the first three months and didn’t really go back to eating the same vast amounts as I used to, but not eating bread or white rice is still very very difficult. I am doing my best to eat food with lower GI and it seems to do wonders for my mental health, so I know it’s worth it.

    • Yesss, the mornings are when it’s most noticeable for me too, Maria! I’m so glad you mentioned that. I’ve always been a morning person, but one thing I’ve noticed (and forgot to mention in the post) is I only drink 1 cup of coffee now – whereas before I’d happily drink 2-3. I don’t know what that’s about, other than that perhaps I don’t need the extra boost anymore, because I’m naturally feeling pretty good. Anyway, hooray for better mornings!

  • Great post! I just wanted to suggest that organic, grass fed beef, has made a huge difference to me in how beef, or any meat for that matter, can affect my body. Obviously not something to eat daily, but that burger or stew or soup every now and then tastes much better!

    • Good to know! Truthfully, it’s not a meat I crave often anyway… but I’ll try that! Thanks :)

  • Your timing is incredible. I finally decided I needed to do something about my lethargy, and it seems to be coming down to anxiety and diet. Keeping a food diary would definitely be useful for me. It’s so hard to change habits with a husband who loves potatoes and “hearty” food, but he’s willing to support the change. Beginning is so difficult I feel like because I don’t yet have the energy to WANT to make the healthier decisions…

    I really appreciate your sample meal plan, too, although I would also love to know what sort of approaches you take to cooking protein, as I’m not pleased with the ones I’ve been cooking, but worry about getting food “too bland” or too similar for my husband and daughter.

    • Yes, do try the food diary, Rochelle! As for protein, I guess it depends on what I eat, but I mostly BBQ stuff (easy and fast).

  • I’ll have to try this out after I get the hang of doing weekly spending reports. My digestive system is horrible and I always feel sluggish and bloated after eating. This will also force me to take into account what I am eating. I like that you didn’t restrict, instead just focused on what you are eating versus trying to diet and lose weight. That tends to make me crash after a while.

    • I think keeping track of what you eat + how you feel after will be very eye-opening for you, Markita! Over time, you’ll probably start restricting some of the foods that make you feel tired and bloated, but just start by eating what you always eat and paying attention to how your body reacts. Good luck!

  • I am lactose intolerant and grains cause midriff bulge yet pizza is my favorite food. I’ve been told we crave those things to which we are allergic. I am retired so I just stay home and cope with the after effects of eating those things. I need a new motivator.

    • Interesting, I hadn’t heard that! I’d say, if you notice any foods affect your energy levels, focus on cutting those out first.

  • Hey Cait. I’m enjoying the progress of your blog. I know you quit alcohol. I’ve thought about it a few times myself, for the budget and for my body and energy level, but I miss it when around friends who are drinking. I’m not at an addiction level or anything, but I would love some insight on how making that change went in your life, both financially and health-wise, and socially. If you already have a blog post on this, I would love to check it out.

    • Hi Keith,
      Not sure if you will check back here, but Cait has a few posts about this, try putting “sobriety” in the search bar above.

    • Cait published one recently titled something like the money she wasted getting wasted that was amazing.

    • Hey Keith! That’s an important topic, and not sure one I’ve fully tackled yet. I did write this post re: the questions friends ask (and why they should stop asking). https://caitflanders.com/2015/04/03/the-worst-questions-you-could-ask-your-sober-friends/ – It will take time to stop missing it. I don’t think I felt 100% comfortable with being sober until I hit the 3-year mark. But giving up alcohol is the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ve talked about that in several posts, like Dayle and Linda mentioned. :)

  • Since last fall I have cut out dairy products–so I know it is not milk that causes my stomach trauma–but eating oatmeal makes me miserable! I have not commonly heard others say this– have you? I have tried regular rolled oats, steel cut, gluten-free, instant– all.with same results.

    • Oh wow. Nope, I can’t say I know what that means… but I have that with quinoa! With that, it’s apparently an oil that is stuck to the seed and only some people are bothered by it. Have you considered talking to a dietician about it? (Or are you just ok with not eating it?)

  • How timely Cait! I have just been diagnosed with type2 diabetes although i have been ‘borderline’ most of my adult life. I am struggling to make the switch to more natural foods. STRUGGLING!
    The mindful budgeting planner saved my financial life and after reading this post i am encouraged and hopeful for my nutritional life!
    I have tracked my food intake in the past but have never tracked how it made me feel. I am looking forward to seeing what a difference it makes!
    I really appreciate that you share your story.
    Thank you!

    • Oh wow, well I hope you’ll find this exercise helpful, Sheryl! And I’m obviously not an expert, but I have family members who have done such a great job with changing their diet that they now barely need insulin and are *this* close to kicking the diabetes altogether. If you want to chat more about that, email me anytime :)

  • I’ve been tracking my eating over the last couple of months to aid in losing the extreme excess weight I’m carrying (was 112 pounds, now 79). While my main goal has been calorie/nutrient count, it’s been interesting to focus on this to see what I really need to eat.

    • Wow, amazing progress so far, Ronnica! And great to hear you’re learning about what you should/shouldn’t be eating too :)

  • Love this. I’ve started to notice that I have a slight gluten intolerance. So cutting out/down on this has been super helpful. Ok I had some yesterday. Whoops! When I went to bed my stomach was incredibly sore. Very important to listen to your body!

    • It’s so very important to listen to our bodies! No foods give me pain, but I’ve heard that’s what gluten intolerance feels like and can only imagine how awful that is. Remember the “why” of why you don’t want to eat it :)

  • ahhhh…. story of my life.
    I KNOW I am addicted to sugar and that it’s ruining my health (I’m obese and get depressed when eat a lot of sugar)…. but every time I try giving it up I feel deprived and I go back to it after a couple of weeks and then I lose all the gains I’ve made. I did stop eating desserts (not all sugars) and white flour for a 2 years period (+ no snackings between meals) and during that time I dropped to an healthy weight. But then I started eating crap again and, of course, the weight came back. I’m just sooooo fed up with diets and restrictions, but if I want to see my kids grow up I HAVE to make changes… Why is junk food so addictive and hard to give up?!??
    Ok, you know what, I am COMMITING, right here and right now, to not eating desserts anymore. That’s it. I don’t even have such a sweet tooth anyways, it’s just an addiction. (I know your post is not about weight loss, but for myself it’s a necessity. Plus, I feel better when I eat less sugar).

    • The cycle you described is what drinking was like for me: I’d drink way too much, feel awful about it, commit to being good, be good for a while then drink way too much again. And the cycle would repeat. I think it’s really important to pull one sentence out of what you wrote in your comment – that you want to see your kids grow up – and remember that whenever you feel like giving in. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you slip, as guilt can play a devilish role in making you stay on that cycle. Just accept that you made the choice to eat it, and try not to make the same choice the next day. Good luck :)

  • I understand you at 100%, in March I’ve started a diet to have strict rules to follow and well apart losing weight I understood that by body dislike: dairy also if I am still a cheese lover but I tend to eat it few times and small bites, white flour and white dugar products, while I don’t have any kind of problems with rice/almond/soy milk, I tried some good vegan cheeses and I am in love for whole pasta also if I don’t eat it often. But I must to say that I love potatoes and they like to my stomach too:P however is important understand what is good and what is bad for our stomach and healty”””

    • It’s great you’ve figured out what your body doesn’t like, so you can avoid it, Giulia! :)

  • I am also lactose intolerant, but I have found that fresh goat milk (NOT the processed stuff) settles easily with me. It’s hard to find someone who will sell raw goat milk because of governmental regulations and laws concerning pasteurization, but it’s worth the search for it. I love yogurt and have found one store that sells plain goat yogurt that also doesn’t bother me. They sell a good goat cheese, too.
    Somebody with a more scientific mind than mine told me that cheddar cheese has compounds that make it easier for lactose intolerant people to digest. I’ve found that to be true for me and eat it in moderation.

    • Interesting, Barbara! I try to avoid cheese altogether, but know that goat cheese doesn’t bother me either (I just don’t eat it much). Good to know about goat milk :)

  • The crash from grains and sugar! YAAAS! It’s amazing how much better one feels once they get off that roller coaster–the brain fog has lifted!

    A quick note: cheese (in general) has very little lactose. If you’re feeling bloated after eating cheese (especially a harder cheese like cheddar or parmigiano) you may actually have an allergy or sensitivity to casein which is in some breads and other prepared goods as well as vegetarian (non-vegan) cheeses.

    • Interesting! Well, I don’t eat the vegan stuff either, and usually only buy bread that’s made of no more than a handful of ingredients. But that’s good to know! Thanks, Kimberly :)

  • Do you find you get sick often before this change and now your immune system is also boosted? I don’t feel sluggish with my current diet, but I seem to get colds a lot which makes me think I must lack some essential nutrients.

    Do you take a multivitamin or any other supplements?

    • Hmm, maybe it’s too soon to tell? Since it’s only been a few months. I usually only get sick maybe once/year, though, so I’m sure that will stay the same. And no, I don’t take a multi-vitamin. If you eat a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need one!

  • Had to learn what and how to eat for myself the hard way. Last year I developed a bad case of acid reflux that had me dry heaving each day and required an endoscopy, (not fun!) Thankfully it was treatable with medication and dietary/eating habit changes. I had to eliminate all kinds of foods from my diet and reintroduce them to see what would trigger symptoms. Spicy, acidic, highly processed and fried foods as well as alcohol are all off my diet now. I eat a lot of whole foods and healthy fats like avocado and salmon. I also had to change a few habits such as no food within three hours of bed and smaller portions eaten slowly. It was tough at first but the upside is I didn’t have to stay on Prilosec permanently, (just until my esophagus healed) and I’ve lost 50 pounds since last August. I feel so much better. It has really made me much more aware of the effect what I eat has on me. Like you I don’t feel great after too much sweet stuff so I limit it to a rare occasion and a very small portion. The one thing I truly miss is coffee, even decaf bothers me since it’s due to the acid not the caffeine, my compromise is a small scoop of coffee ice cream once in a blue moon.

    • Oh my gosh, Annie, that sounds terrible! I’m so glad you were able to fix that. And your weight loss is inspiring. Was that mostly through diet? (Also mmm, I love avocado.)

      • Mostly through diet. I barely ate the first month because my esophagus was not happy with anything except soft foods like yogurt and liquids so I took it easy. As I began to heal I added more healthy food and moved more. Although I don’t go to a gym or have a formal exercise routine, I do walk a lot and try to make everyday things like cleaning the house my exercise. It became obvious that my diet was the main culprit for my weight gain over the years. I feel so much better now that it really motivated me to make these changes permanent, not just a temporary diet. I also noticed a big change in my complexion, it’s so much clearer and softer now. It’s not be the reason I changed, but it’s just as motivating.

  • Thanks for sharing your mindful eating journey. I sort of did mindful eating in January when I eliminated some common food triggers like sugar, nightshades and gluten in January. I already gave up dairy because I can’t do it and I see the reaction more on my face with breakouts. It was really hard at first and when I wanted to eat dairy (ok cheese) I would remind myself what I would feel like after I would have it. That mental reminder of what would happen would get me to stop. It took about 1 year of that and I’m totally fine if I never eat cheese or dairy again. After the 5 weeks of elimination I stuck with no sugar and gluten. Sugar was actually more difficult than giving up dairy because it’s in everything so I have been making my own salad dressings. It’s a little bit more effort but I think it’s worth it in the long run.

    • Yes, sugar is literally in EVERYTHING that’s processed. Every. Single. Thing. It’s a good thing salad dressings are fun to make! :)

  • Maybe you could design a “mindful eating” planner to go alongside your first one… or perhaps an integration of the two :)

  • This is something that I really try to work on. There is so much eating that has nothing to do with hunger. For me, I always look for a sweet snack after I get my kids to bed. I have tried to pay attention – I am not hungry, it is just this trigger, a little reward for all the work of the day being done and a sign that it is time to relax. But if I resist it, it goes away. Trying to be more aware of this…

    • I used to do stuff like that – eat when I was bored, essentially. Always having a full glass of water (sometimes with lemon) within reach helps!

  • Great job! I admire your honesty and perseverence. Today is day 6 of giving up diet soda, but I cheated a bit and went backpacking to avoid the temptation and jumpstart the process–just dehydrated food and creek water out there. Now that I’m back it’s in my face everywhere!

    • Oh, I can only imagine! Sugar and chocolate seems to always be in my face, haha. Good luck, Julie! Kicking it will be worth it :)

  • Cait,
    I wish you well on your recovery, I had hip surgery three years ago and I can relate.
    I became really aware of my eating when my daughter was born with PWS, a genetic eating disorder. The whole family cut out sugar and switched to lots of protein and tons of vegetables and yes, the effect on my energy levels has been amazing. And mentally too, I feel more grounded and able to handle what life brings

    • Wow – that must have been so difficult, at first, Emily. It’s fantastic you all switched your diets together, and that it’s been a positive change :)

  • This is a great way to be mindful about how food and your body feel about each other!

    I’ve also given up most refined sugars since about December and feel SO much better! After a month I went out for a friend’s birthday, had NO alcohol but did splurge on a piece of carrot cake. I felt hung over the next day, it was so crazy… sugar hangover. Who knew?

    I’ve been trying to be mindful that I’m eating when I’m eating. A friend told me about a study where people with short term memory issues would overeat because they simply did not remember eating, even when they had just eaten a full-sized meal. “Feeling” full appears to be very closely tied to mindfulness.

    Three cheers for mindfulness!

    • Sugar hangovers are the real deal, Alexa! They are AWFUL. And the study makes sense to me. Something else I’ve noticed is that I always feel full now. Foods made with white flour/sugar have this weird ability to just make you want more more more. Now that they are cut out, I’ve lost that feeling and am satisfied with whatever I eat.

  • Hello,
    Interesting post. I am lactose intolerant (recently discovered) also and try to avoid eating out b/c it is so expensive. My question is how do you politely deal with individuals who do not “believe in” allergies or intolerances or say things “Why don’t you just take lactaid instead of buying almond milk?” Someone was suprised I didn’t want to go to discounted pizza night.

  • Today is day 85 of working with a nutritionist to determine what is causing my gut issues. I did a very strict elimination diet and found that while I can tolerate small amounts of refined sugar (I do try and avoid it and like you the first 3 weeks of the elimination of it, I had crazy cravings), corn, peppers, small amounts of dairy (I have not been eating much dairy for 20+ years), I can’t have – potato, tomato, or soy. Soy was actually the worst (and it is in everything). I had hot flashes, gut pain and the feeling of a panic attack when I reintroduced it. I have yet to re-try gluten, but hope to try it soon. It is hard and sometimes I feel sad seeing other people eating food I can’t have, but when I am stricter, I feel 100% better so worth it. This week I accidentally consumed some potato (I trusted my husband had checked a product, but he hasn’t) and my gut is bloated:( I know if a few days it will pass!

    • Hi Kristen,

      Completely understand about soy. My Dr. diagnosed me with IBS. In talking with a sibling, they mentioned they had been diagnosed with soy intolerance (fermented soy like soy sauce are fine). Their symptoms were identical to my IBS signs (bloat, cramps, nausea, fatigue, etc.). I eliminated soy and IBS symptoms went completely away. If I accidentally eat some (hello commercial bread or mayo in the US), I feel yucky for hours or days. Discussed with GP and allergist – they both agreed to avoid soy. It’s challenging as 70% of food in the inner aisles of the grocery store contains soy (I looking at you Kraft and Skippy peanut butter).

  • Hey Cait!
    I love following your journey!!! I’m proud of you for looking into your diet. For me diet is the NUMBER ONE THING that affects how I feel about life. I’m excited to watch your journey into a more healthful diet because I’m sure you will love it. I’m like you on the dairy thing. I’m def lactose intolerant but not to the extreme extent where like I get super sick if I eat it. But I know my body does not react positively to dairy, but its still hard for me to say no to mac and cheese or hot chocolate on occasion. Please keep me update if you have any good tips to living dairy free even when your not SUPER lactose intolerant but are a little bit.

  • This is so good Cait! I’m always blown away by your dedication to your experiments.

    I’m right with you when it comes to white flour! If I eat white bread or pasta, I blow up like a balloon within 15 minutes. For years I thought I needed to lose weight, but eventually it started to cause me pain, so I spoke to a doctor and he suggested I cut it out of my diet. It only took a few days for me to notice a difference!

  • A lot of food sensitivities and gut issues can be healed. It’s all about bone broth and probiotics. Nourishing soups and fermented veggies. I’ve read that some people who can’t handle white flour, can eat sourdough with no issues. Or can’t drink milk but can drink kefir.
    Look up Cate Shanahan, Sally Fallon and Natasha Campbell-McBride as a starting off point, but there’s so much more info out there but it can get overwhelming.

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