How to get your diet back on track

Ricki talks about getting your diet back on track

I was talking with a collegue the other day about our current grocery shopping habits. At the time of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is still in full swing (although many retailers and other services are beginning to open up again), so we were both still “sheltering at home” as much as possible.

There were some items, she said, that she simply couldn’t get online, or else she’d run out of something in between grocery runs, and have to go shop in person. For me, those weren’t viable optons.

You see, when the pandemic began to hit North America hard in March, 2020 and we were all uncertain about how long we’d have to sequester at home, I made a decision to stay away from stores as possible: both the HH and I are in high-risk groups, and it didn’t seem worth the risk (don’t worry; our Girls still get their regular 3 walks a day).

That meant online shopping for everything, including groceries. And while I wasn’t able to get some of the usual items I’d pick out myself (such as our favorite oil-cured olives, for instance), our local health food store offers online ordering plus curbside pickup, so this felt like a perfect compromise.

When I told her that I’d been doing virtually all of my shopping online or with curbside pickup–in other words, I haven’t entered a grocery store since this all began back in mid-March–she was visibly surprised.

I might not get everything I wanted, I explained, but I am adept at finding substitutions for ingredients (I mean, that’s what I do with my clients!), and the hubs and I are both children of Depression-era parents, so we grew up with the phrase, “you’ll still live without it,” as a familiar refrain. In this case, literally, true.

Ricki eating some sugar-free chocolate

[Still mad about chocolate, after all these years!]

However, I didn’t foresee a particularly insidious glitch in my otherwise perfect plan.

Because many foods I normally eat weren’t available online, I ordered alternatives that were often just slightly more processed (artichoke hearts in oil vs water) or those that, previously, had been reserved only for the rare occasions (such as organic corn chips).

Before I knew it, these otherwise “special occasion” foods had become weekly staples. Add to that the additional desires for comfort foods as the pandemic continues, and I’ve recently found that I’m no longer feeling quite as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as I normally am.

If your own diet has gone astray from its usual, more restrictive, parameters and you’re feeling the difference, getting back on track is an important means to shift not only your physical, but also your emotional and psychological health.

Here’s what I did to ensure that the ongoing situation doesn’t derail my healthy eating.

glutenfree dairyfree nachos in a plate

[Healthier nachos!]

1. Recognize the pattern and how it affects you

Before you can change anything, you need to recognize it and be clear about the effects of eating differently.

So ask yourself: what have I been eating that is out of the norm for me? And how am I feeling? It can be fairly easy, in that case, to make a connection between what we eat and how we feel.

For example, do you feel bloated or gassy after eating certain foods? What about the next morning–do you always feel foggy or extra fatigue the morning after having something made with white flour, like wheat pasta or pizza? What about nuts? Do you find you experience cramps after eating them?–and so on.

For me, there is absolutely no doubt that what I eat affects not only my physical health, but also my mental well-being. As I mentioned previously in this post, I suffered from long-term depression and anxiety for decades before I changed my diet.

In this age of COVID, I found that, as I continued to eat the “easier,” prepared foods that came in cans, jars and boxes or bags, my energy and vitality diminished. I woke up feeling tired, I had less energy during the day, and I was generally down emotionally.

There’s a 3-part cycle at play that demonstrates how eating poorly can be so insidious with your health. It goes something like this:

  1. FOOD–> you change what you’re eating
  2. SYMPTOMS–> your symptoms are affected and there is a notable difference in physical symptoms
  3. MOOD–> your mood is affected as a result of #1 and #2.

Now, it’s true that simply living in a situation such as a global pandemic can affect your mental well-being; for me, it was clear there was more than that a play.

Continually eating these processed and packaged foods affected my physical symptoms. as I said. But the third point, my mood, was also eventually impacted. And I knew I had to make a change.

dairy free, sugar free purple smoothie in a bowl

[Simple, beautiful and healthy smoothie bowl.]

2. Interrupt at any point in the cycle

To correct the potentially devastating cycle of food–>symptoms–>mood, you need to interrupt the flow at one of the points; it doesn’t matter where.

So, for example, you get your food back on track. This will allow you to clear the symptoms, which will impact your mood.

That’s what I did: I decided it would be best to get back to basics  regarding my food.

What does that mean? For someone like me, on an anti-candida diet, it means only real food, no highly processed foods, and no ingredients that wouldn’t be acceptable for stage one of my anti-candida diet (such as those corn chips).

But it doesn’t mean missing out on all my favorites! I can still enjoypancakes, waffles, ice cream, pizza, even those nachos–as long as I make the dishes myself from scratch. Honestly, this isn’t that different from what I do day-to-day, anyway.

Or, you start with symptoms; treat them directly to alleviate some of the negative impact. Then, even if it’s just a palliative solution, it will affect your mood; and elevated mood allows you to stick more effectively with your diet.

Finally, if you’re able to change your mood and emotions around the situation, you’ll be in a better place mentally to eat well, which will allow symptoms to improve.

For most of the clients I work with, starting with food is the easiest and most efficient way to break the downward cycle; but if we never get beyond food, progress is usually halted.

Seeing permanent results in symptoms can take time, and changing the way we think and feel requires specific steps and behaviors that, while permanent, also take time to implement and convert into habits. These are usually the longer-term work that I do with clients.

For myself, what I did was change the foods we brought into the house. True, I might not have as many convenience items now, but what I do have can be made into equally appealing recipes, all of which are much more health-supportive for me.

Ricki at a restaurant with healthy food

3. Strengthen changes at all 3 points

Once you start to see improvements in your physical and emotional health, it becomes easier and easier to stick with your healthy eating. Over time, you can cycle through all three points and continue to improve each of them.

As you go, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to maintain your diet–to the point that it no longer feels like effort at all.

I’d love to hear from you! How have you navigated the changes to your shopping, cooking, and eating habits since COVID-19 began to affect our daily lives?

Would you like more in-depth support around sticking with your healthy diet? If so, I’d love to chat and see if we’re a match to work together!

You can sign up for a free clarity call here. In this entirely no-obligation, non-salesy call (totally not my style), we’ll take a close look at the challenges you face and how you can overcome them. Whether or not we end up working together, I promise you’ll leave with at least 3 clear ideas around what you can do next to improve your diet and health. Click here to book your call.

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