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When You’re Feeling Off Balance…

02.18.14

Health

There are a handful of things you can do when you’re feeling off balance. You can rev up the self control and eat a super clean diet, do a plant-based cleanse, up your exercise level, perform an elimination diet to see which foods are not agreeing with your system, sleep more, meditate, get into yoga or see a nutritionist.

Or a million other things under the sun. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which method is the best to choose, especially when you’re feeling crappy.

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As someone who struggles with maintaining balance because of countless food intolerances and a severely sensitive stomach, I have tried just about everything and have found solace in certain practices at different points in my life.

These past few weeks I have been feeling very bogged down by the food I’ve been putting into my body – which is frustrating, since I follow a super clean, oil-free, low fat vegan diet. But because of how sensitive my stomach is, if I get knocked off balance even a little bit then I will feel sick no matter how healthy I eat or how hard I work out.

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So… what did I do about it? I made an appointment with a nutritionist. How did I find him? Well…

Last week I went to lunch with some girlfriends and the lovely Lottie of Running On Veggies told us about her journey to finding a plant-based diet. She explained that a nutritionist she met with taught her about the science of nutrition, how important it is to let yourself get hungry between meals and how to find balance when it comes to food and nutrition. Ultimately her lifestyle change helped her lose nearly 50 pounds (and more importantly, made her feel so much healthier and balanced as an individual.)

So, naturally I knew I had to get this guy’s number.

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I was lucky enough to get an appointment with him right away. This past Saturday I trekked out to Brighton Beach in a serious snowstorm (if you live in Manhattan you know what I’m talking about!), but nothing was about to deter my excitement and hopefulness about regaining my balance.

By the books on his bookshelf I could tell that he was a master in the subject of nutrition (specially plant-based nutrition – heck yeah) and I had a good feeling from the very beginning that he was going to be able to help me.

We discussed the problems I’d been having, he took all of my stats (including body fat percentage… Believe it or not, I had never had that done before, so that was extremely interesting!), and then we discussed nutrition, and he reassured me that a 100% plant-based diet is the way to go for my body composition.

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As I have shared in the past, there have been times I have struggled with my plant-based food choices. Being 100% vegan and plant-based worked so well for me for so long, but when my stomach problems returned last fall I couldn’t help but wonder if I needed to add something more into my diet. (By something more I mean freshwater fish and free-range eggs… but I never ended up taking the leap, because I was so afraid that would make it worse!)

He told me that I am absolutely getting enough nutrients from my plant-based diet, and that if I do ever want to add those two things back into my diet then that is also fine (as long as I do so slowly and only eat them about once or twice a week). He explained that the reason a plant-based vegan diet can sometimes feel impractical is because “practical” in our culture means walking into a fast food place on the street corner, whereas healthy options are so much fewer and further between.

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He also explained that health basically equals nutrients divided by calories (if you’re a visual person like me: H = N/C). If you are eating nutrient-dense food, the calories you’re consuming are going to fuel you with vitamins and minerals instead of bog you down.

“But… but, that’s what I already do!” I wanted to say. But I know it goes so much deeper than that. I have gotten so stuck on the “green smoothie topped with granola for breakfast, salad with berries and nuts and veggies for lunch, roasted veggies for dinner, raw dessert if I feel like it” train that I no longer eat what my body tells me to or when my body tells me too… and for someone with a stomach as sensitive as mine, that is a fatal combo.

Even though I have been eating an extremely healthy diet for so long, I still have not been listening to my body as thoroughly as I need to. I hate being hungry. I work out every day, at least once a day, and I stress myself out trying to balance work, school, writing, the blog, social life, creating new recipes, and trying to keep myself from feeling sick. Of course I eat when it’s convenient, and of course I eat more or less than I need to in order to try to satisfy what I think my body is trying to tell me.

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Regardless, I needed some help. So he wrote me a very detailed 7-day meal plan that I will follow each week for the next three weeks. There are three meals a day (100% plant-based) that will fill me up, fuel me, and help me break down the myth that I can only eat fruits, vegetables and nuts if I want to feel my healthiest.

In fact, one of my breakfasts coming up is a piece of sprouted grain whole-wheat toast with almond butter and bananas… Ummm, YUM! That is something I would never allow myself to eat on my previous diet. Not because I restrict myself from eating what I want, but because I thought for so long that gluten would make me feel terrible and that a green smoothie would be a much smarter breakfast.

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Then, while writing my meal plan, he asked if I would eat whole-wheat pasta for dinner on one of the nights. Out of pure surprise I said no, but the more I’ve thought about it the past few days the more I’m willing to try it. If an expert tells me it’s going to set me back into balance, I’m willing to give anything a try.

The best thing that came from my meeting with him (aside from the awesome meal plan I now have) is that he opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t have to be nearly as strict as I was being with myself. (Which, by the way, was not working out for me at all! Mentally or physically.) I can eat whatever I want, when I am hungry, and need to stop snacking so I can actually allow myself to be hungry for meals and enjoy my food.

This may sound like a very simple answer to many of you, but for someone who has struggled with food for a long time these very direct guidelines are going to be life changing.

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He also prescribed me a few different supplements to take to supplement my vegan diet, which is a new realm for me.

I am so very excited to see how I feel after a few weeks of following my new meal plan. Other exciting things I get to make on the plan? Tofu scramble, hummus veggie wrap on an Ezekial sprouted grain tortilla, a raw nut and fruit plate and lots of yummy steamed veggie dishes.

Wish me luck on this journey… I am hoping it will do the trick to set me back into my most balanced, happy state and keep me from feeling nauseous and yucky. Three days in and I am already starting to see positive changes. Yahoo!

P.S.

I recently wrote a story on “My Vegan Journey: Before & After” that went live on WorldLifestyle.com today. This is my first time sharing any “before & after” photos of myself (scary!) and I would love your feedback and support. I also want to stress that this transformation was not about the weight (although losing a few pounds is always a plus) – it was about the health and how much more balanced I felt after making the changes. Maybe I will have a new “Before & After” after I follow my new nutritionist’s plan for the next several weeks/months! Read the article here.

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