A 10 years foods journey – from rice to paleo and anything else in between

by Helen

Growing up in Canada, I had a typical diet of a North American teenager. If I was happy or sad, I would want ice cream. Ice cream was the magic food that took away my pain, stress and injected happiness into my body. Coffee, yes…coffee was a must. After all, it was the best part of waking up. Coffee much like water, is a need for me. Then there were chips, desert, hotdog and burger…. yum. But my relationship with food has always been rocky much like a bad boyfriend. I have loved food knowing it brings me many pains and yet I couldn’t just walk away.

My teenager years were fine, but my body was resilient then. The stamina of youth was a marvellous thing. When I turned 25, it all went downhill. I started to have really bad acid reflux. You may know it. It is the burning sensation risen up in your throat that makes you want to rip your throat out. I also had a lot of digestion problems like constant bowel pain, indigestion issues and bloated belly.

Then there was acne skin. I had break out that covered most of my face  and used to have to put tons of foundation to cover them up. I still have nightmares about acne. Karen wasn’t spared from this. She and I had the same eating habit and tastes, and so we both suffered the same fate. The last straw for Karen was the muffin top. I wasn’t so obsessed over it, she was. She tried many insane ideas, and she dragged me along. Seriously, the woman was crazy. Cucumber salad, cabbage soup, juice cleanse. You named it. She probably did it. Well, nothing worked out permanently. We lose a few pounds and then we put the same or more weight back once we went back to our routine foods. The one flaw of any of these diets was: it couldn’t be a permanent solution. I couldn’t imagine eating cucumber salad, drinking cayenne honey drink or eating cabbage soup only for the rest of my life? Just end my life now. I don’t want to live in a world with such terrible foods.

Frustrated with these short-term diet fixes, I went on a healthy eating craze. I read a bunch of books on food, different diets and followed health-food bloggers online. Soon, words like whole food, processed food and organic entered my vocabulary. Like a portal was opened, I learned that how you cook matters, majority of canned foods are bad and yes, freshness is great for your body.

I dramatically cut down canned foods (like from 30% to 1%), eat more fresh green (frozen peas are my one exception) and cut fried foods down to minimal. The fried foods elimination was painful because I love the crispy and crunchy texture of fried food. You know what I am talking about. Don’t deny it! We all love the crunch. Gradually, I noticed changes with my body. Most noticeably was the acne, it went away.

To be fair, I think it is a combination of eating the right foods and Korean skincare that saved my skin from total destruction. Seriously, the Koreans (Taiwanese and Japanese too) know skincare, and they are not afraid of going all out for sake of beauty and healthy skin. Only the Korean would put snail mucus and fermented herbs in skincare, but they work. And…I digress. For me, I finally free from foundation and make up. My skin can breathe again. But other health issues still persisted. My acid reflex and digestion issues were out of control. I passed out from stomach pain a couple of time, and my family doctor could not identify the causes. My health issues were slowly impacting my moods and other aspects of my life. Who could be happy and blissful when your stomach was constantly in pain?

By chance, I was introduced to Ariell Graff. She is a holistic nutritionist, naturopath and herbalist who specializes in gut bacteria among many other things. I got to admit, I didn’t think that she could help me with my health issues but I gave it a shot because I was desperate. So off I went to an almost 3 hours consultation/introduction meeting with Ariel. We spoke in length of my health issues and dietary habits. I was very intrigued by what Ariell had to share.

In a nutshell, she believed that a lot of health problem a person experience can be a result of an unhealthy gut. If you can clean your body of bad foods and sugar (yes, sugar is your enemy), while taking herbs or supplements to treat your health issues, your body can heal your gut, balance your hormones and get healthy. Ariel’s logics make a lot of sense to me. She designed a 6-months program for me, and it was a painful 6 months. Think of a bad breakup. It was very similar. I went thru all seven stages of desperate, denial, bargaining, relapse, anger, acceptance and then a tiny ray of hope in the first month.

The git of the program is to remove all bad foods from your system. You can only eat vegetables, protein and some nut. That’s all. Say good bye to sugar, dairy, carbohydrate, and any other foods that I loved. The last bullet was coffee. No coffee allows, only green tea. WHAT? Not even matcha latte was spared from this list of diet tragedy because there is sugar mix in the matcha powder. Did I mention I also banned from alcohol? So instead of a deep ruby glass of Merlot with my juicy steak, I would have a glass of water or worst, green tea. Green tea only, what kind of sick joke is this?

Looking at the list of forbidden foods, I felt a sense of desperation. I am an Asian woman and I work in finance; how can you ask me not to eat rice or have coffee? Desperate, I tried negotiation and bargaining: can I have just 1 cup of bubble tea per week? How about half cup of coffee? Just a taste…. How about a graduate building up approach? Do I have to follow this to the T on the first day? You got the picture. I tried to talk myself into eating these forbidden foods with all sort of reasons. But Ariel was firm on this. Do it right or don’t do it at all. Life should end now, because there was no hope for me.

I always seek Karen’s advice when I run into a problem and this time was no different. First, she laughed hysterically because she was picturing me not having coffee at quarter end. By the time I show her the forbidden foods list, she was rolling on the floor laughing. This woman could be so heartless sometime. After she had stopped laughing, she asked me 2 questions: do I believe that Ariell can help me get healthier? And do I want to get healthy? Darn it. Acceptance was near. Almost in tears, but I said yes to both questions. Ariell’s program was very tough but I believed in her ability and her explanations made sense to me. I accepted my fate and followed her program. I will write another post on the program and share more details.

During the 6 months program, I learn that I have bacteria that could potentially cause stomach cancer or ulcer. Coconut juice and few other foods would activate these bacteria and make it worst. Guess what, I used to love coconut juice and drank quite a bit of this delicious juice. Again, I blamed my Asian taste bud. I found out few other health issues on top of existing issues that I was aware of. Using the supplement and herb, I was able to resolve most of my health issues and I no longer have acid reflect. I also learn that I allergic to rice, gluten, coffee and most canned/processed foods. Growing up Asian I never dream that I could be allergic to rice and don’t talk to me about coffee anymore. This knowledge gave me the power to change my diet and my way of cooking. I realized that I needed to make some serious changes to my diet. Trade-off is required if I want to live healthy and happy.

Today, my diet is semi-Paleo. I remove carbohydrate, process foods and sugars, deep fried foods and dairy completely from my normal diet and learn to be very creative with my food, and the best news is: I still love foods and I am living healthier. (I will share with creative recipes to deal with sugar and carb craving in my recipe session). You can still have desert, you just have to cook or bake differently and yes, the foods can still taste great. There is an unexpected gain beside my health: savings. With my diet, I cook more at home and thus end up saving quite a bit. Now, I do have a social life, so I do have the forbidden foods occasionally when I eat out with friends. But the amount of forbidden food that I consume is so small and insignificant to my total diet that it doesn’t do much damage to my body. In my youth, I viewed food as craving and consumption, but now I see foods as nutrients to nurture and heal my body. It is all about perspective. Lastly, I want to leave you with a few thoughts.

  • Do food allergy test to see if what foods will impact your body and health. Don’t assume that your body can digest the food because you always eat the same food. Just remember me; an Asian woman can be allergic to rice
  • Learn to be creative with your food. You can still have fun and enjoy food if you learn to adapt and willing to embrace changes. Check out my zoodle recipe, you may like it
  • Cook at home is good for your wallet and body. Learn to cook your food more often because you will save big time and you can control what goes into your food
  • It is all about perspective. See foods as nutrients to nurture and heal your body. Love your body and it will love you in return.

I hope you find this article useful. Share with me your food journey. I love to know.

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