Traded my diet for a lifestyle.
2018 was the year I said “Good-bye!” to diets forever.
I know it’s a cliche, but I swapped diets for a lifestyle and a gentle, patient attitude towards myself — and everything shifted. I started losing weight, gaining muscle mass, increased confidence and an empowered sense of identity.
It’s curious, but it seems that my wanting to lose weight has been precisely what has been holding me back from my goal. Has that ever happened to you?
Now I know what to do and what I believe in regarding nutrition to reach my goals. Aaand I want to share that with you.
So keep an open mind until the very end of this post, I’ll walk you through everything that I eat, do and think and how this all started for me.
+ I’ll give you all the tools I use!
Once you’re done, it’s up to you to figure out if this is a lifestyle you’d want for yourself.
Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be!
I’m just really eager to learn and try out things, then share them if they work. So be smart and get used to drawing your own conclusions from everything you read, anywhere really, including my own blog. Let me know how you feel about this in the comments below and allow yourself the time to question and research these things further.
I can’t stress how important all of this is for an energy-filled, long and beautiful life and a vibrant, magnetic body!
Ready? Let’s dive in.
IN THIS ARTICLE YOU’LL FIND:
0. My story: How my relationship to diet changed over the last two years and how I get motivation.
1. The Glow Diet: A healing, natural and exciting culinary lifestyle.
2. Quality over quantity: I focus on what I eat more than how much I eat.
3. Intermittent fasting: I also focus on when I eat.
5. A guide to what I drink
6. The Supplements I take
7. My mentality
+ My own personal, printable planner.
HOW FOOD BECAME A PROBLEM
It all started two years ago, when I laid foot on American soil once again. I had promised myself that, this time, I wasn’t going to put on any extra weight while in the States. The effort that went into getting my balance back the last time around I spent time in America and put on 7kg of fat, was not worth any of the burgers or ice cream. It just wasn’t.
When I arrived in California, I was in my very best physical shape I’ve ever been. I was at the weight I considered ideal at that time, I had a little waist and unshakable confidence. I felt sexy, fresh and light. — I loved it.
But the days had gone by and even though I was taking care of what was coming on my plate, slowly, I started losing the shape and the confidence I came with, yet I thought I was keeping a healthy diet.
I had no clue what was happening. I couldn’t explain any bit of it. And that left me feeling powerless, frustrated and angry with myself.
I decided I would do the only thing I knew I could do: I started digging for answers.
Soon enough, I was reading everything I could lay my hands on. From gender differences, to hormonal imbalances, to how stress relates to body composition, to doing a complex type of blood test (Imupro) done to see if I had any food intolerances, out of a list of over 300 foods, that could be messing with my body.
And indeed, I found I did have quite a few. So I started selecting out the ones that did most damage. It helped.
Of course, knowledge alone didn’t trim my body back to how I had wanted it, but it opened my mind to the complexity of the field and the many conflicting beliefs people all over the world had about what is right and what is wrong. At first, it left me confused and struggling.
By this time, I was passionately committed to finding the ideal diet for myself. I had invested so much time, I felt I needed a good conclusion so I can adopt the right strategy and move on learning something else.
I wanted to close this chapter with a simple recipe for an eating plan that was fit for me.
After a year of testing out different approaches and mindsets, I hadn’t really changed at all physically. It seemed I was somehow stuck. But one day, I stumbled upon a cute little book written by a Romanian nutritionist, that opened my eyes to the psychological component.
From then on, mindfulness took a leading role in my research. Somehow, she showed me my way back to myself. Of really looking into my habits and triggers.
What made me overeat?
What was I feeling?
How was my relationship with food? How about my own body?
It wasn’t too long until I noticed I was constantly punishing myself for every time I went astray. I was so eager to find the perfect solution and fit myself in the perfect box, that I completely forgot that I’m in the same team with my own body and mind — and that I had to work with my emotions, needs and habits — not against them! That was my first massive shift and I do encourage you to check out her book, Mihaela Bilic (Am mâncat, o fi păcat?).
My second huge shift happened right after I bought the book and decided I’ll never ever diet again. I was going to fix my lifestyle and my relationship with food once and for all, when the news hit.
I got a call from one of my doctors letting me know some test results I’ve had were alarming and that I should start making more investigations. My heart skipped a few beats that night and the following days were crippling with anxiety.
In such a state, everything anyone can wish for is health.
The hell with looks, weight and bikini bodies!
I don’t believe in coincidences, but what happened next was close to magic. After getting more blood work done, my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to change my condition, my thyroid was going to fail me sooner or lated.
I was just to wait and hope it wouldn’t deteriorate..
This explained why my weight was so hard to predict.
I fell apart. — until, I got a second opinion.
I was introduced to the idea that it can be fixed. That most diseases start from a state of chronic inflammation in the body and that, with the right choices and a loving approach, it can be at least lowered, if not completely removed.
So I started on a new mission. A mission of healing, of preventing, of creating health through balance and self nurture and love.
HOW FOOD BECAME A SOLUTION
The people who introduced me to this idea were the medical team working in Cluj, at Diasan. I had just met these people and it seemed out of nowhere, but they were there at the right place and time in order to help me get through it. I still remember the intense feeling of gratitude that flood over me the first time I left the clinic. That was the time I decided everything was going to turn out okay. That I would be just fine, if not better than before!
They were suited to help me out better than any other nutritionist I’ve met in these past two years, because they had a complete crew, from a respected doctor, to a practical nutritionist and a psychologist, all of whom reminded me that my body is my body and my health is in my control. Having that revelation was truly beyond words.
So, what was their approach?
They believe that, by fixing the balance within the body and by healing the gut microbiome, I had a chance —and that was literally everything I needed to hear.
Nowadays, the gut is considered the second brain, because of the way it regulates the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system — literally how we think, act and feel.
The gut microbiome is a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body.
With their help, a change in perspective and a commitment to a truly healthy lifestyle, I finally saw my body fall back to normal, my mind find peace and my muscles growing. I had started reversing the problem. I had found the solution.
In just two months my metabolic age jumped from 25 down to 17, over 3kg of my fat turned to muscles and I started losing overall weight, all while eating plenty of tasty food. I stopped having those dreaded panic attacts and all the anxiety regarding my health and my shape had literally left my life.
I felt empowered, strong and supported. And now I want you to feel the same.
That’s why I’ll share everything I learned right now!
I truly feel the need to give back, because I have been given so much when I was the most fragile.
Now, I’m glad to say I found my recipe, my lifestyle and more importantly, a powerful sense of identity out of this entire journey.
And you know what? I’m really happy. Like really happy.
I now think of all the downs along the road as being a necessary part for me to learn all of this and create an even better life for myself than I’ve had before.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Well, I want to be stronger, healthier and happier out of this —and maybe even add some of that sexy back. Play some Justin Timberlake for me, will ya?
CLARITY AND MOTIVATION
With all of these changes occurring in my life, I found I never clearly defined what I wanted out of my diet. I never took the time to figure out what I was important for me long term, as a lifestyle. How can you find a good answer if you don’t know what the question is?
So I asked myself, what am I actually looking for?
I came up with a powerful, highly personal list that would guide me later on.
- — Health. The ability to fight off viruses and diseases, by keeping an unshakable inner balance. The peace of mind that I have a strong body that can take adversity.
- — Stamina. The energy to get up every morning feeling vibrant and fully alive. To keep that physical sense of I-can-do-anything consistently from dusk till dawn.
- — Beauty. Everything from a tight, radiant skin, rich hair to lean legs or a flat tummy.
- — Strength. The ability to grow in muscle mass and density, in order to be fully capable of going on intense adventures, trips or trying out new sports, to feeling safe in my own body and have the ability to get hard things done independently.
- — Satisfaction. Other than wanting to treat my body with love and respect, I know I want my food to smell incredible, taste delicious, look amazing and just literally make me feel like celebrating every meal.
- — Joy. I want to have a blast out of my lifestyle, not feel guilty or deprived. I want my self esteem to bloom and I want to feel proud of who I am, because of it, not the other way around!
- — Ease. I want things to be simple, clear and easy. I’m not a big fan of pushing through life, but rather of outsmarting norms and feeling pulled by passion and curiosity. I asked myself, how would this look like if it was easy? How would my diet have to be, for me to love it so much, I’d want to keep at it forever?
And, to my surprise, as I’m growing older, I started finding an intense motivation from thinking about the day I’ll carry a child. ( or 3 )
8. — When the time will come, to be strong, happy and sexy in my pregnancy. I picture myself this fit, healthy and glowing young woman, that offers her very best genes to that little soul living inside of her. Being a fit, happy and healthy mother is a goal that is very real to me these days. I haven’t started planning brining a new member in our family, but I can’t picture myself any other way than being strong for that critical, yet beautiful time. And I’m well aware that I’ll need an empowering lifestyle to be already set in place long before that, to make sure it sticks and doesn’t break under pressure.
THE GLOW DIET
The word diet comes from the Greek diaita, originally “way of life” — not a one-week recipe to lose weight, but a consistent habit of food choices.
So what I’ll call diet further in this article refers to a lifestyle, that is based on my particular needs and desires, paired with medical guidance. It is also adapted to my personality and beliefs.
So what is the diet that I’m following?
I like to think of it as a diet that makes me glow, through it’s powerful healing powers
— and for the excitement I get from living this way every day.
The theory is simple: add enough of the good stuff in — and make it so rich in flavour with amazing natural spices — that you don’t even think about the bad stuff.
The point is to heal the GUT MICROBIOM. We do that, by giving it plenty of fibre, a large variety of different types of natural foods and less of what is deteriorating it, like chemicals, refined sugars or carbs, stress, etc.
I’m taking a probiotic to help boost the good bacteria in my gut and make sure I have enough “bacteria families” inhabiting it, but I’ll talk more about this later. For now, if you don’t know what your gut microbiom is — and why it’s SO important, check out this video explaining exactly what I’m talking about.
I’d describe the diet as: varied, plant-based, low carb and really spicy.
#1: Chose anti inflammatory foods: Whole foods that are rich in fiber and antioxidants are my go to choices.
Why Fibre? — because it’s the only food source for the good bacteria in our gut. Refined sugars, on the other hand, promote the over growth of bad bacteria, that can result in an imbalance. I’m sure you know how too much Candida can feel, for example.
- High amount of: Greens, veggies and fruit. (Especially spinach, avocados, dark berries and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli or cabbage.)
- High amount of: Legumes like peas, beans, lentils and quinoa.
- High amount of: Spices and herbs. (Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano, chilly etc)
- Moderate amount of: Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds (Eaten raw, whole, unprocessed and usually hydrated.)
- Moderate amount of: Poultry, fish, seafood and eggs.
- Moderate amount of: Fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles.
- Small amount of: Red meat.
- Small amount of: Rice, corn, potatos or oats.
- Small amount of: High fat butter, raw coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, instead of other vegetable oils.
#2. Oven broiled, boil, steam, slow cook or serve your food raw with minimal amount of fat for cooking— avoid heating oils and butters and enjoy them as extra flavour while serving.
#3. Make sure 70% of the plate is made of vegetables or legumes.
#4. If you need it, you can have 1 cheat meal every week.
The lifestyle is what matters here. What happens once in a while is really not that relevant as long as you have a healthy inner environment that can take it.
I do have a cheat meal most weeks, but I keep it on the same day, usually Sunday for lunch or Friday for dinner, so I don’t talk myself into cheating with every meal.
The less negotiating with myself, the happier I am.
#5. Avoid: Everything that is refined, processed and has more than 2-3 ingredients.
- Heavily processed fats and meats.
- Fast food & deep fried anything.
- Sugar, processed sweets, soda. ( Letting go of sugar means letting go of cravings.)
- Refined carbs, like pastries, cookies (and in my case, everything that contains gluten.)
- Dairy products (except for butter and lactose-free milk that I add to my coffee)
- Alcohol (except for 1-2 glasses of red wine or prosseco once in a while)
- Fruit juices (even the ones you make at home! Eat the fruit, don’t drink it, because you’ll lose all the fiber and the store all the fructose as fat in the body)
- Breakfast: Fruit; A 2egg mushroom fritatta with rucola; Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks; A chocolate chia pudding with crunchy almonds; A shakshuka; etc
- Lunch: Grilled salmon with pea puree; Tuna salad with lots of greens; Broccoli cream soup; Zuchini noodles with chicken; Oven backed sweet potato with guacamole; Backed apple with lots of cinnamon; etc
- Dinner: Chicken curry; A quinoa buddah bowl; Any type of salad; Sea food; Backed pumpkin; Cabbage stew; Tomato soup; Duck with sourkraut; Chicken legs with grilled veggies; etc
QUALITY VS. QUANTITY
As long as you pack your plates with a variety the rainbow of all veggies, leafy greens and legumes, spices and seeds, you really don’t have to worry about eating too much.
Fiber is filling and it takes some time to chew. Trust your intuition, because while eating healthy foods, you natrually get a sense of what is enough for you. There’s no need to count calories, stress about food combinations or otherwise, as long as you focus on eating whole foods that you love.
Follow your sense and make sure you enjoy what you’re eating. I’ll share a few of my favorite go-to meals in a minute, but make sure you make your own list.
Take time to make your plate beautiful and explore flavours. Garlic, ginger, onions, cumin, rosemary, golden curry, cinnamon, mint and cloves are fantastic for adding a little sophisticated twist and some adventure to your culinary experience.
Fasting is basically going an amount of time without eating anything. Intermittent fasting is restricting your eating window to a specific amount of time and not eating in between.
Fasting is a terrific way to give the body a break from digesting and let it get it’s job done in cleansing the entire system. (Listen to dr. Rhonda Patrick explain it best.)
Nowadays, fasting has become a world-wide trend, but it has been around for thousands of years in many spiritual practices. Thankfully, today, we have the scientific evidence to back up why going without food for a while is not only beneficial for short term health, but can also promote longevity and fight off serious diseases by a process called autophagy — and unwanted fat.
Read more about the benefits: https://steinerhealth.org/health/fasting and about different variations of it here: http://diasan.ro/cum-pot-sa-tin-post-cu-lichide-si-la-ce-ma-ajuta
THIS IS THE METHOD I USE:
#1. I fast 16hrs and have an eating window of 8hrs. It’s generally best to fast between 10-16hrs when doing intermittent fasting.
So, I have breakfast at 10, lunch at about 13, and dinner before 18.
I sometimes have a snack in between these meals if I crave it, like a pomegranate or other types of fruit, a nice-cream, a chia pudding, a handful of nuts or a bit of dark chocolate.
Then, I don’t eat anything until the next day at 10.
#2. Every monday, I do a 24hrs fast. Starting Sunday evening, I don’t eat anything until Monday evening, when I have a nice, warm dinner.
In an usual day, I will have 2 litres of water and/or tea; When I’m exercising, I normally add another litre, that I finish during my training.
I drink plenty of unsweetened teas. I have a cupboard with at least 20 different types that I mix up to keep things exciting. But generally speaking, ginger and green tea is the strongest one to promote a fast metabolism.
I drink bone-broth and chicken soup for the anti inflammatory benefits and the aid in collagen to help keep the body comfortable, flexible and beautiful.
I have coffee every day.
I never drink soda, I almost never have alcohol and I don’t drink fresh juices.
I do, on the other hand, enjoy making myself smoothies. I like to add raw cacao to them, cinnamon, turmeric or mint, to make them even better.
Green smoothies are also a fantastic way to fuel up on those greens, if you didn’t have a chance to get in the fibre during your meals.
I think about supplements as an extra that we’re lucky enough to be able to gift ourselves.
As long as we get all our micro and macro nutrients from having a full variety of food, we don’t generally have to worry about needing supplements, but I do think of them as a privilege I have for living in this time in history, where we can significantly boost our health with such a minimal effort as swallowing a pill in the morning.
The cost is too low for such a huge benefit.
So, here’s what I take on a daily basis:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
- A multivitamin
Because I don’t get enough sunshine these days and because vitamin D is such a crucial element in the functioning of our brains and entire bodies, I take a daily supplement of 4000 IU. Having a vitamin D deficiency can lead to general fatigue, depression, a low immune system and even put you at risk of some serious health issues. Why take that risk?
I also get Omega 3 from about 3 soft pills of fish oil every day.
I take a good probiotic called MegaSpore, with a huge amount of Bacillus species and it’s probably been the main helper in boosting my mood, curving my cravings and feeling more comfortable over-all. I used to have bloating issues that are far gone now.
Probiotics are a fast way to rebalance your microbiome and heal your gut. If you’ve had a lot of antibiotics during your life, have had a bad diet for a long time, have had too much sugar or feel any symptoms of a too slow or too fast bowl movement, then you should definitely give them a try. They also promote weight loss and an over-all healthier immune system.
A multivitamin is also a nice way to make sure you get everything you need during the day, but if you’re confident you’ve got your meals right, then you should be fine without it.
Whenever I decided I was going to clean up my act and commit to a healthy diet, my brain started working against me.
But one day, I noticed I was asking myself the wrong questions: Why me? Why do I have to give up on what I like? Why is everything that taste good bad for you? etc.
Mindfulness and keeping a meal journal were undoubtedly immensely powerful tools.
I still use a journal to track my meals, over on my phone, using an app called Griddiary.
I noticed my pattern and understood I needed to start asking better questions, that led me to find better answers:
How can I have a healthy diet and love it? How can I enjoy my dietary choices even MORE than I enjoy junk food? What would it take for me to find pleasure and passion in this? Who would I have to become in order to live this way? What would living this way offer me today?
Once I finally let go of the idea that healthy foods mean a sacrifice on pleasure and taste, I started discovering a gazillion ways and ideas to make my food not only healthy, but an absolute highlight of the day.
I developed a passion for cooking and I play a little game of chemistry during the day, finding ways to add as many colors, vitamins and minerals to my plate.
I was also worried about my social life deteriorating, but I found it actually improved! I get to explain to people what makes a dish so amazing, how the ingredients and the spices boost our well being and how being more mindful about food changes everything. It has become a part of my identity that I truly love.
It has been a gift, not a curse. And now my friends come over so they can treat themselves with my healthy dishes!
I am now more confident and more capable of deciding independently what is good for my body, because I have followed it with great care and patience as it gave me signs of energy or discomfort. Trusting my intuition is now part of who I am and I can’t believe how many years I’ve spent trying to numb myself or shut my body up when it tried to show me what I was doing wrong.
I find I have made peace with my relationship with food and have regained my self esteem and self trust.
And I KNOW you can do the same!
Please let me know if this helped!