A Google search for “clean eating for beginners” is really when my life began to transform. I had just been told by my naturopath that I had adrenal fatigue and I was dealing with some seriously debilitating panic disorder.
My naturopath explained that the inflammation markers in my gut were off the charts on one of my test results and higher than she had ever seen.
She suggested that I probably had a gluten sensitivity and possible celiac disease and ran some more tests.
In the meantime, she recommended that I pre-emptively remove gluten and any cross-reactive grains from my diet.
She also recommended that I start eating “clean”.
I shook my head in acknowledgment and said “okay”. But, I didn’t really know what she meant by that.
Like, make sure to wash my produce before eating it?
So, I went home and started my research on clean eating for beginners. And, I learned more than any person ever needs to know on the subject!
What is clean eating?
Clean eating is essentially eating whole foods that haven’t been processed. So, instead of eating vegetable soup from a can, you would buy all of the vegetables from the produce department, cut and cook them and make the soup yourself.
The main idea is not to eat anything from a box or a can. You can also look at it as eating only foods from the outside perimeter of your grocery store.
You’ve probably noticed that when you go into your grocery store the produce department is off to one side and the meat department is along the back or on the opposite side of the store.
And, what is in the middle?
All of the aisles of dry goods that are boxes and cans.
Clean eating means staying out of those middle aisles, except for a select few things like stevia, coconut oil, and rice.
And, to eat the bulk of your food from the sections that are on the outside perimeter of your grocery store.
The idea is that, if your body is in a heightened state of inflammation, eating foods that have been processed and filled with preservatives is going to further agitate your body.
So, foods like produce and meat, which naturally have an expiration date, are both nourishing and healing to your ailing body.
Depending on why you’re eating clean, there are a few important rules to remember.
What are the rules of clean eating?
Since I started clean eating due to some serious physical symptoms, I followed a very strict clean eating diet. I cut out caffeine, sugar, dairy, and gluten.
But, I was seriously motivated to improve my health and my life. I wanted to have the energy to travel and to help my children value experiences over possessions.
The rules of clean eating were pretty simple but, I took it to the next level because I had to.
There are basically seven tenets of clean eating:
Skip the refined foods
We touched on this a little bit earlier. Refined foods are those that come in a box, bag or package. But, there are some exceptions. For instance, I buy bags of organic frozen broccoli and I don’t feel like I’m breaking the rules with that. But, I would never buy a box of cake mix.
Choose whole grains and natural sugars
For me, the whole grains category is a little slim. This is because I have blood work that confirms that I have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. And, a lab report showing the inflammation in my body caused by gluten. Also, because of my adrenal fatigue, I only eat stevia as a sweetener. Stevia does not disrupt my blood sugar or play with my insulin levels. However, if you don’t have either of those conditions, you can definitely eat whole grains. And, natural sugars like maple syrup or honey. Please don’t eat agave syrup. It actually has more fructose in it than white sugar.
Make protein the hero
Protein is an important muscle-builder and is especially needed first thing in the morning for breakfast. It’s usually easy to get enough carbs and fat into your daily meal plan. But, protein is a little more difficult. Think about which times of the day you eat protein. Probably at dinner and maybe at lunch if you eat at a restaurant. But, it’s important to get several servings of lean protein throughout the day to balance your blood sugar. Also, it will help you to feel full longer and can help your body repair from exercise.
Watch out for salt and sugar
If you’re truly eating clean this is an easy one to watch out for. But, if you’re at a restaurant or even out grocery shopping it’s important to read labels. And, skip foods that include added sugar or sodium (salt). This is why not eating anything out of a box is a good rule of thumb. Salt and sugar are usually added for taste and as added preservatives.
Eat five or six small meals throughout the day
My general rule of thumb is to eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Then I eat every two hours after that. This basically works out to be three meals and two or three snacks. And, helps to keep my blood sugar balanced. I set a timer on my phone and get something to eat when my timer goes off. I never find myself out somewhere starving and digging in my purse for a nutrition bar.
Don’t drink your calories
Other than my nutritional breakfast smoothie, I don’t drink any other calories throughout the day. Things like juice, sweetened tea, and soda are full of added sugars. In fact, there are ten teaspoons of sugar in one can of coke. And, nine teaspoons in one 20 oz bottle of Gatorade. Try drinking infused water if plain water is too boring. And, in the winter or fall, a hot cup of tea with stevia or a ½ teaspoon of honey is perfect.
When I first researched clean eating for beginners it was fairly easy for me because I was motivated by the possibility of getting over my panic disorder and adrenal fatigue.
But, if you don’t have physical symptoms yet from eating an unhealthy diet, it might be difficult to understand why making the change to clean eating would be beneficial.
What are the benefits of clean eating for beginners?
Knowing your “why” is important for so many things and, completely changing your diet to clean eating is no exception.
The health benefits of clean eating were enough of a reason for me to make this lifestyle change and I think they will be very compelling to you also:
This was a big one for me. Since I knew that a large portion of my symptoms were due to inflammation, I knew that reducing inflammation would help tremendously. With less inflammation comes less pain too so, that was a big motivator. Eating clean means your filtering organs like your liver and kidneys have less garbage to filter out because you’re not eating processed foods. Also, your endocrine system isn’t working so hard because your food doesn’t include a bunch of added sugar and preservatives. All of these means less overall inflammation in your body.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. Just like your heart and lungs are organs, so is your skin. Since it is on the outside of your body, it is almost like a window into what is going on inside of your body. If you have a rash, it is likely that there is a physical response happening inside of your body to a bug bite, food that you’ve eaten, or some kind of topical reaction. Eating clean helps to reduce any inflammation inside of your body and that means your skin is going to be more vibrant and healthy. Between eating clean and having a clean beauty routine, I’m starting to look like the youngest sister instead of the oldest.
The saying “you are what you eat” rings true more now than ever. People are eating greater amounts of food that is filled with more chemicals than ingredients and all of those chemicals can change the hormone balance of their bodies. When I quit eating sugar, I thought I would eventually go back to having treats at some point. I just needed to get past the bone-crushing exhaustion and anxiety. But, after about eight months, I went to a coffee shop with my best friend and ordered herbal tea with coconut milk. I didn’t realize their coconut milk had sugar in it until I saw them pouring some for another order and, by then, I had drunk half of my tea. When I got home I was more irritable and impatient than I had been in a long time. I had my husband watch the kids for the rest of the day while I hid away and napped until dinner.
I remember the first moment I realized that clean eating and the other lifestyle changes I had made were benefitting me. It used to be that I would always go grocery shopping on a Sunday morning so that I can come home and lay on the couch for the rest of the day. Just the task of grocery shopping would take all of my energy for the day. But, one day, I came home from the grocery store, I put all of the groceries away, and then took the kids to the park! I didn’t even think twice about it. I just said, “put your shoes on we’re going to the park”. It was such an amazing feeling to know that I could do regular household chores AND spend quality time with my kids on the same day and I didn’t have to choose between the two. Plus, having more energy was integral to being able to start exercising, which dramatically improved my wellness.
End Sugar Addictions
I think I’ve mentioned before that I used to be completely addicted to sugar. In fact, I think that was a big contributing factor to my adrenal fatigue. My sugar addiction was so bad that I would eat a king-sized candy bar and a 20 oz soda for breakfast on my way to work. Then, for lunch, I would have another pre-packaged treat of some kind and after dinner, I could polish off a 1-lb bag of M&Ms all by myself. My sugar addiction had to stop if I ever had a chance of getting better. But, I in deep and it was really hard to just give it up. Clean eating really helped because it reduced the cravings and I was able to use things like Stevia in ginger tea to get me over my sugar addiction.
I have three kids and a full-time job. It is essential that I am able to focus on the various responsibilities that I have throughout the day. My kids all go to different schools and that means their vacation schedules are all a little different. I support anywhere from three to five clients at a time. So, I have to be able to bring my A-game to client X for her virtual summit while turning around and showing up 100% for client Z for her online program launch. Implementing clean eating for beginners tips helped me be clear-minded. And, be able to advance my career and be a devoted mom while healing from adrenal fatigue and panic disorder. Without clean eating and a consistent meditation practice, I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
Less Chronic Pain
When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby I was driving to work and a dump truck made a left turn in front of my car. I hit the front passenger side of the dump truck going 40 MPH and was in the hospital for two days after. I gave birth to my baby daughter with my right leg in a cast and my back has never been the same. Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time how much of an impact my diet would have on my chronic pain. In fact, it wasn’t until I had implemented the clean eating for beginners tips I had learned that I realized how much my pain had subsided. I could stand on my feet at family gatherings and visit without having a searing pain running down my tailbone. One key to this is to make sure you’re drinking enough water to help your body push all of the toxins and fiber through from eating more vegetables.
Healing from adrenal fatigue has been a long hard road and I’m not totally 100% yet. But, I am stronger every day. I am just a few weeks away from my 40th birthday and I just did a yoga headstand! The day I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue I knew that I had to make a change. So, that night, I moved my kids’ bedtime up 1-hour and I set myself a new bedtime routine. Ever since I have made getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night my job. And, it has been made so much easier by having a clean diet. I don’t drink caffeine and I don’t eat sugar. So, my body has been able to naturally regulate my circadian rhythm. And, I start to relax and feel ready for bed about an hour before my bedtime. Then, I wake up without an alarm clock. (I still set it just I case). But, I wake up and turn it off usually 10-minutes before it goes off. Getting enough sleep has so many health benefits and has been integral to improving the quality of my life.
Living with intention means reducing your stress and opening your mind to appreciate more of the little things. Things like holistic money management and practicing self-care are great ways to support your mind.
Clean eating for beginners is the perfect first step for supporting your body. You will see so many benefits and start to enjoy the process.