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My 30-Day Challenge To Overhaul My Unhealthy Habits

In today’s installment of the TFD Team’s attempt to better ourselves and our lives via a 30-day challenge, I’m going to talk a little bit about food. (In case you missed it, Lauren is challenging herself to work in her sketchbook at least once per day, Chelsea is trying to hit 500k steps this month and improve her fitness level, and Holly is decluttering her apartment in preparation for her impending move.)

Food has never really been something on my radar.

I mean, I know what it is obviously, and I do actively seek it out as humans tend to –- I love cooking it and eating it, and enjoy it daily for both pleasure and fuel. But what I mean is, my food consumption has never really been a thing I’ve had to think twice about.

It seems that people only really start to think actively about what they’re eating when they have a reason to, like feeling sick, having an allergy, or feeling uncomfortable with their weight.

I’ve always been pretty naturally thin, and although I am a very physical active person, I also know that even in bouts of laziness where I drop all of my activity and keep my consumption the same, I’m not likely to gain weight. I’m still young enough and my body is still efficient enough that I don’t really need to think too much about what I’m shoving in my gullet. This sounds like a humblebrag, and maybe it is, but mostly I’m just trying to be honest: even though I like the idea of eating better and having a cleaner, healthier diet (for health reasons completely aside from losing weight), I’ve never really done it because I’ve never really felt like I had to. I ate French fries three times this weekend, and as I write this, I am sitting on the couch in my bikini feeling perfectly comfortable. I’m grateful for this era of my metabolism, especially because I have zero idea how long it will last.

However, something inside of my body is changing, even though the outside still somehow feels comfortable in a bikini after three separate servings of French fries. Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of unwell. It isn’t something I can quite put my finger on (and believe me, I’ve had a team of doctors trying to help me figure it out), but the symptoms look a bit like this: I’m exhausted even after a 12-hour sleep. I’m achy all over, all the time. My skin is dry and sad-looking. I often feel dizzy –- like, world-spinning dizzy. And everything makes me feel nauseated – the smell of most foods, eating most foods (except French fries, apparently), car rides of any length, and even a ride on an elevator is enough to make me feel like I’m going to be sick. It isn’t terrible, because I never actually get sick. But feeling nauseated and dizzy still isn’t fun.

With no rhyme or reason to the pattern of all of this sick yuckiness, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands in the only way I can: I’m going to change the way I eat. I’m not really going to change it in a dramatic way — I’m definitely not a trendy-diet person. I looked into Whole30, and although it seems to work for a lot of people trying to lose weight, it wasn’t for me. My boyfriend sticks pretty religiously to low-carb to keep his weight healthy and his energy up, and it works for him -– but it sounds highly fucking terrible to me.

A life without even the possibility of French fries isn’t a life I want to live.

However, although I’m not planning on beginning a fancy, labeled, Capital-D Diet, I am implementing a change in the way I see food. The change being: just because you can eat it and not see a noticeable difference in your body doesn’t mean you should eat it. French fries are incredible, but they weren’t meant to be eaten every day, even if you won’t gain weight.

In general, it is important to remind myself often that my size isn’t the thing I should be worrying about when I eat food. I need to remember that what I eat affects so many things besides my weight, and some of those things may be contributing to why I’m feeling so awful lately. Basically, instead of eating something and saying “I can eat this because I won’t get fat if I eat it,” I should be saying “I can eat this and won’t feel sick or exhausted after I eat it.”

For the next 30 days, I will be actively monitoring what I eat, and thinking a lot more mindfully about what I choose to put in my body. I am going to cut back on alcohol for sure, not mess with over-processed grocery store snacks (even though we all know I love me some Ritz Bits), and try to keep away from sugar as much as possible. (I would say I’m cutting out dairy too, because I know that is a thing that gives a lot of people stomach issues, but I truly hardly consume any dairy besides the occasional ice cream.)

This will also require a lot less “eating out” and a lot more at-home food prep. My boyfriend and I already try our best to cook most nights and eat at restaurants rarely, but with the celebrations surrounding my college graduation and the fact that we’re two weeks from moving to a new place and have a cluttered, packed up apartment, we’ve definitely found ourselves grabbing food out more than our bellies and wallets would probably prefer. I’m swiping some cookbooks from my mom, compiling a list of simple, healthy Pinterest recipes, and hoping to actually plan out my week in meals to make sure I don’t run to unhealthy takeout on a stressful or busy night.

I will be measuring my progress during my journey in a food diary –- basically, I plan to write down what I eat at the end of the day and then write a short journal entry to myself about how I feel. During my half-way update, I’ll share with TFD any noteworthy findings from my food journal, and any tips or tricks I’ve found helpful in improving my overall health along the way.

Hopefully, I’ll uncover some sort of food-secret, like “I feel worlds better when I eat French fries, and only have belly-issues when I eat kale! Crazy!” But like, who knows. Stay tuned.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at!

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  • Maddy Meredith

    Hey Mary! As someone with a diagnosed GI condition, keeping a food journal is a great idea and can be very helpful. I like this article because you’re taking matters of your health into your own hands, which is definitely easier said than done. Good luck with your 30 day challenge, I hope you start feeling better soon.

  • Anja D’Anjou

    I have health problems that make me feel sick to my stomach, nauseated by the smell of food, tired and body ache. I found out I have a water-borne viral infection I can’t shake. I also have Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid disease). I had to see an infectious disease specialist and a endocrinologist / internal medicine doctor to get diagnosed.

    To get rid of the body ache I stopped eating sugar with the exception of fresh fruit or dried fruit. That helped. Sugar causes inflammation and pain. Sugar gives me pain and messes up my energy level. Sugar elimination and fake sugar elimination means I cook my own food. I eat trail mix and fresh fruit for snacks.

    I switched from French fries to a baked potato with coconut oil. That soothes my stomach. Chicken Phố is helpful to soothe my stomach (chicken noodle soup with no gluten).

    My diet is mostly plant-based: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, rice, seeds, nuts and little meat. I’m a flexitarian. I eat vegetarian 3-4 days a week. I eat a small amount of meat the other days. Meat hurts my stomach and must be limited.

    I eliminated my food allergens and food sensitivities which helped a great deal. Food allergies are an immune system problem.

    I eat fennel seeds to settle my stomach. They work better than ginger pills, apple cider vinegar, probiotics, etc. I buy them online by the pound from Rose Mountain Herbs. It’s cheaper than the spices in the market.

    I drink only herbal teas (no sugar or honey) and water. I increased my water intake to 10-12 glasses of water per day. My skin is less dry. I eat coconut oil now instead of butter and my skin improved. I stopped showering every day during the winter to help with the dry skin.

    I experimented a lot to find what works for me. Using a food tracking app helped me change my diet. I saw I wasn’t taking in enough calories for energy. I didn’t eat enough food daily. I lose my appetite due to Hashimoto’s and my viral infection. Food makes me gag just by smelling it. Food is repulsive to me due to my viral infection making everything smell like it’s rancid, rotten and disgusting. The change of odor is a symptom of a viral infection. The viral infection highjacks my sense of smell and taste. I’m working on eating enough because I get way too thin, weak and in poor health from not eating enough food. It’s hard when everything smells repulsive and nothing tastes right. I eat more spicy food because it’s the only thing that tastes right.

    Good luck to you.

    • Jack

      I’m curious why you still eat meat some days if it bothers your stomach?

      • Anja D’Anjou

        I don’t know enough yet to go full vegan. I’m still learning. I am a flexitarian at this point. I limit my meat intake to 3-4 ounces per day on meat days. I get tired and rundown if I don’t get enough Protein. It’s a process…. I don’t do things until I’m sure I’ve got my ducks in a row. I don’t know enough about food combing to go completely vegan or vegetarian. You get sick if you don’t know what you’re doing.

        • Jack

          There’s a really great documentary I’d recommend if you’re interested in taking plant based eating further!
          I’ve watched a lot of them and this is by far the best. Good luck in your food journey!

          • Anja D’Anjou

            Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out. I’m allergic to gluten and soy which makes going veg complicated and not easy.

  • TreeTownGirl

    Good luck with your journey! Advocate for yourself with doctors and don’t settle for anything less than an answer! Take it from me as a 20-something woman that learned that lesson the hard way with a major medical issue that was never going to be solved by lifestyle changes I tried. I hope the dietary changes make a big impact and that there’s nothing more serious going on for you!

  • Jack

    There are some amazing food documentaries out there that you should watch if you’re interested. What the Health is incredible, and with regards to sugar (which is my huge downfall), That Sugar Film on Netflix.
    And really, just avoiding anything processed can change things in a huge way. Good luck!

  • Wolf

    I’ve had similar nausea problems, and it turned out I simply wasn’t eating enough protein.
    I’d recommend that when you do your journal, you make a (very rough) estimate of how much protein you get, just to see if it’s in a healthy range.

  • I had a similar problem a year or so ago – I was constantly feeling nauseated and dizzy, and eventually I realised it was because I was iron deficient. Good luck with your challenge, I hope you figure it out!

  • bridzs333

    As someone who is naturally slim, it took me quite a while to realize that being skinny does not mean im strong or healthy as well. People have been not helpful, they asked me why i run, or eat healthy, do i want to loose weight? (Not to mention while being pregnant, the same people told me i should not excercise and informed me now i not only have permission, but a legitimate reason to stuff my face with cake :)). I wanna say good luck with your challange, but really, it will hopefully turn out more than that: a long-lasting change in your mindset and lifestyle 🙂