The word 'diet' has such a negative connotation nowadays even though it merely means the food a person habitually eats. When I tell people I no longer eat rice, noodles, bread, potatoes among other high-GI and high sugar foods, I hear the same comments, "Are you on a diet?" "But you're so skinny, aiyoh why are you on a diet? You can afford to eat what!" "Which diet are you on? Low-carb? Keto? Paleo?"
I'm not on any diet. I'm merely eliminating the foods that does not sit well with my body. I still love food! In fact, people who know me well know I'm a greedy eater, I cannot resist food sitting in front of me. Come on, who doesn't love food, or chips, cake or fried chicken? However, I've also learnt how the foods we eat has a huge effect on how our body feels and acts as well as our thoughts and emotions.
A few years ago I started to wake up everyday without fail at 3.30am no matter what time I went to bed. The younger me was able to cope with little sleep, but as I grew ahem, older, the lack of sleep completely took a toll on me. Productivity went down and I was constantly tired and frustrated. I also started to think that since I was not going to get good sleep after 3.30am anyway I might as well wake up and work. Emails were answered at 4am, work was getting done and I was proud that I was not "wasting time". Things kept getting worse since I actually needed to be functional in the day through lessons, rehearsals and teaching. The anxiety of not being as sharp as I needed to during the day, and the inability to be well-rested at night accumulated quickly. Oh, the vicious cycle!
I turned to google, duh! It took me a lot of research, trial and error elimination to realise that sugar and high-GI foods - rice, noodles, bread, potatoes, was what was killing my body. I've grown up eating these as a staple, and having to eliminate them was incredibly difficult. As a student, these staples were also the cheapest and fastest options.
I was totally at a loss of what to do! Changing one's diet takes tremendous effort and the only way that could be achieved was to change one's lifestyle. At some point was so sick of trying to change my diet but there wasn't quite a choice though, it was between being extremely anxious about life or attempting to figure out how to change my diet and lifestyle. What even is GI? What are the high-GI foods I have to avoid? What are the low-GI foods I can eat? What food should I stock in my pantry? What food in my pantry can I no longer eat? How was I going to make sure I had all my meals prepared for the week? What do I eat to ensure I'm not constantly hungry? How often do I have to food prep? What kind of substitutions do I need to make to change my diet and not break my bank? Questions, questions, questions. Reading up made things even more confusing and complicated. There were so many failures, sometimes I got too hungry I ended up snacking the entire day. Frustration led to binging of comfort food which included Popeye's!, bags of chips and resulting in more sleep issues.
I started to restock my pantry bit by bit with food substitutes - coconut flour, beans, barley, quinoa, oats. My refrigerator was stocked with fresh produce, lots of tofu and mushrooms. Rice and noodles were swapped with quinoa, other grains and soba, potatoes were exchanged with sweet potatoes and yams, bread substituted with ezekiel bread.
Weekly food preparation, cooking and eating meals became more organised and my body started to heal itself. I no longer woke up every night at 3.30am. On cheat days where I visit Asian restaurant with friends and indulge in rice or noodles, it is a choice I have made. There is less anxiety even if I know I would definitely wake up in the middle of the night since I already know the cause.
Avoiding bread in Singapore has been trying since it's bakery galore every corner of this tiny island. I've definitely let myself indulge in some of those goodies and suffered for it. I'm still trying to find a balance for my diet in Singapore that would ensure that I get to eat some of these sinful goodness occasionally, but still remain highly functional. Stocking up on food in Singapore also requires an entire thought process since many of the items I stock my pantry and refrigerator with previously in the US is exorbitantly priced here.
I still love food! I work out just so that I can eat more! And yes, if you've seen me devour fried chicken and fries, stuffed my face with bread, that's food-loving me! It's a choice I make, possibly to suffer for later.
I'm not a picky eater. I did not change my diet and lifestyle to look cool, or stay with the newest "diet" trend. And when I say I can't eat certain foods, I really can't. My body hates it, and sometimes I just have to make sure I'm doing the right thing for it.