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My wife and I threw away almost everything in our pantry. We dumped liquids down our drains, washed containers, and threw them into recycling. We felt duped. This was back in March of 2013. Not that we ate chips and candy bars all day, but we were far from eating a clean diet. A trip to Taco Bell here, hamburger helper for dinner, bags, cans, boxes, and grains upon grains.
This isn’t going to be a lecture, just a quick story of us ripping out the unnatural foods from our diet, and how it has an effect on your martial arts training and entire life. I mean your entire life, not just this month or this year, but if you are setting your body up for success 20-30 years from now, for example. You don’t have to purchase a certain supplement, or subscribe to an exact sub segment of a diet. It is more about removing the contaminants from your diet, and being conscious of where you food comes from.
The Rule to Remember – Eat as Close to the Sun as Possible
If you forget everything else, at least remember this rule: “Eat as close to the sun as possible.” Yes, I repeated it in the title and this paragraph for a reason. If you eat a piece of meat, that was once an animal, that once ate stale grains, that were once live shoots of wheat, that were once seeds, that were once grown by the sun’s energy….well, dang, that is pretty far removed from the sun! If you eat a fresh, leafy green, that was just harvested a few days ago, that is very close to the sun. There is a reason that greens are considered the most vibrant and healthful vegetables, they are so high in chlorophyll, and related phytochemicals.
Buy your produce from a local farmer’s market, locally-sourced produce section, or local farm when possible. The fresher the food, the more vital life force that it still contains. The living body deserves living food. Start to consume probiotics, which literally have live bacteria. Kombucha is now our favorite drink, my wife has even begun to make it at home for us. This is a perfect replacement for soda, as it is naturally effervescent, and so tasty.
Rip Off the Band-Aid
First, the foods that we unconsciously choose and grab for throughout the day: sugars and grains. Initially, we removed grains from our diet, and basically followed the Paleo Diet. It is a great concept. Eat like our great-great-great to the “nth” degree grandparents ate. Our primordial ancestors moved a lot, they hunted, they scavenged, they foraged, and fought for food on a daily basis. This was pre-agricultural revolution. I have since added some grains back into the mix, but much more sparingly than before.
It is crazy how badly your body craves grains once you stop eating them. Bread, cereal, granola, bagels, muffins, pretzels, crackers, pizza, pie, and you know the list can go on and on. Here is the kicker, once you greatly reduce your grain intake, and replace it with a smarter snack or main meal, you become leaner and cleaner. Whenever you replace a bagel with a banana boat for breakfast, or trade-out crackers for carrots with a dip, your diet drastically changes.
GMO beet sugar (just about any form of modified sugar) has been compared to crack cocaine by many researchers. It changes your biochemistry, and not in that wholesome, healing, strengthening kind-of-way. If you like to keep it sweet, start to use honey. Get the highest quality, locally sourced honey you can. We make a special trip to a beekeeper, which lives about an hour away, twice a year to purchase about 5 gallons of honey. Not only does this help us to save money, compared to buying it from a local retail store, but we get it as fresh as possible. And, we can go out and meet the bees; we actually know where it comes from! We do use pure organic cane sugar from time to time, but honey is much more common in our home.
Away with Boxes, Cans, Pre-Packaged, and Processed Foods
Before this big change, we would spend very little time on food preparation. Guess what, we got sick more often, and were on a path to a less vibrant and joyful life of health. Food is preventative medicine. No, really, it is. Pre-packaged food helps us to reduce the amount of time spent on eating, in this all-too-busy world. If you get smart about the whole foods that you purchase, it will take less time than you think. Cooking large meals on the weekends, and using them as leftovers, or freezing them for later consumption is an important way to stretch your time. Pre-washing and sorting fruits and veggies on your day off, makes them really easy to grab throughout the week.
These packaged foods were harvested a long time ago. There are preservatives, there is additional waste in the packaging, and they give your body less potent nutrients.
Along with my inconsistent energy, digestive issues, and lack of emotional balance was the obvious reliance on caffeine. I would roll out of bed, slowly crawl to the coffeemaker, brew a cup, and then somehow actually wake up. Now, I step out of bed, and am off to the races. I don’t rely on coffee, specifically for high doses of caffeine in the morning, and in the afternoon lull.
I switched it out with a significantly healthier and more meaningful morning routine, juicing. Almost every single morning since March 2013, I have drunk a homemade vegetable juice. I am a little extreme about this. In 2014, I did a lot of traveling; I visited about 100 elementary schools on an author visit tour. I literally checked luggage with a travel juicer inside, arrived to the destination, got into my rental car, and went to the local health foods store. This was always my first stop. I cooked my own meals, and made my own juice every morning. Sans some important dinners, and hangout sessions, everything was on my own terms, and in my hotel room’s kitchenette.
The reason why I am so religious about juicing is that it is so darn good for you. Way more potent than taking a multivitamin. Way better for your biochemistry and energy levels than relying on a stimulant like coffee. Our normal juice consists of: cucumbers, celery, carrots, purple beet, an inch of ginger, green apples, and lemons. After it’s made, I mix in some collagen protein.
It is time consuming (mainly the cleanup), so I now make juices for two days at a time, in the evening before I go to bed. That way, I can roll out and grab that juice without thinking twice.
If you haven’t learned about the trials and experiments on lab mice showing adverse effects to GMO consumption in the second and third generations, you might want to look into it. It seems pretty obvious the genetically modified food is a poor choice for your body. It is up to you to do your own research, but we have starkly chosen to exclude anything with GMO ingredients from our household.
For a period of time, we just about exclusively purchased organic produce. This ended up getting very expensive. At the least, always purchase “The Dirty Dozen” organic. And, “The Clean List” is a bit safer if you must buy it in the conventional form.
Products labeled as “natural” are usually far from it. Products labeled “Organic” may very well be grown and sourced without pesticides and herbacides, but that does not mean it is incredibly healthy to eat. Eating an apple is better for you, than eating a box of organic chocolate chip cookies. You see where I am going with this. There are some items that may not be organic, but are actually produced with fewer ingredients, and often times, this can be a better choice. Fewer ingredients = better.
Now that we eat real food, we truly appreciate everything we put into our body. My wife is constantly on pinterest finding new recipes. We eat a lot of sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, spinach, homemade pizza, homemade bread, cream cheese, and broccoli. We snack on prunes, dates, raisins, dark chocolate, coconut clusters, chia bars, cashews, and walnuts. We drink kombucha, fresh lemonade, ginger ale, raw milk, and herbal teas. Our food is our medicine, and this means we don’t have to take pharmaceuticals (barring a major illness).
It is true; eating clean is for everyone, not just martial artists. Martial artists have a wonderful control over their own movements and body. But often don’t consider what goes into their body, which allows it to move? Do you want to be sidelined due to health problems, visiting doctors, popping pills, and slowing down as your life passes? I’d imagine the answer is no. Proper nutrition is a huge component of a happy and healthy life.
Martial artists expend a great deal of energy in training. You will want to add plenty of protein to your diet. Eating immediately after working out, even if just a snack, is a smart way to recover and rebuild. You don’t have to buy the latest pre or post-workout drink, mix, or pills. Eating clean, natural, fresh, and real food is never a gamble. It’s clearly the way it was meant to be.
A lot of people look at diets as a short period of time when they try to lose some weight, they finally give in, and start eating hamburgers and beer again all the time. It doesn’t have to be that way. It is about eating clean, actually appreciating our food again, and treating our body as a temple.
If you are fed up with seeing your friends and family get sick around you, or your own personal health situation, throw in the towel. Don’t take baby steps. Just go to your pantry and get rid of that junk. Stop drinking sugary drinks, get rid of anything with high-fructose corn syrup, drink more water than you think you need, enjoy trying new foods, train hard on the mat, share what you learn with others, and change the world!