For Love of Salad

sw chk salad
Southwest Chicken Salad with Monterrey Jack, Corn and Beans

A few months ago, I had to tweak my heavily southern comfort cooking preferences to a more heart health conscious style for someone in my life who suffered from heart arrhythmia and palpitations. It was a scary time in my life, when I thought someone I cared about could die if I did not change the way I cooked for them, as well as encourage them to lead healthier lives. I learned that to help, I needed to lead by example. I looked at myself and saw that I was almost twenty pounds overweight, depressed, and generally unhealthy. I knew it was bad when climbing the hills and stairs on campus left me breathless, light-headed and wheezing, and finally realized how unhealthy I had become when I decided to check out the gym at my university one day, and could barely last ten minutes on an elliptical machine!

Desperate times called for desperate measures. If I wanted to help others, I needed to learn to help myself. So I tried fad dieting, the 17-day diet, in which I completely cut out carbs and reduced my sugar intake dramatically. I’m talking no breads, pastas, potatoes, rice, corn, fatty meats, melted cheeses or anything within an inch of frying oil or breading. Fast food was out. White sugar was replaced with agave nectar, and I ended up surviving on only turkey bacon, egg whites and cottage cheese for two weeks straight. Survive I did. At first, I was hungry all of the time which made me cranky, tired and nervous. I got used to stomach pangs and dizziness. I hadn’t realized how acclimated my body had gotten to fried foods, butter, full fat dairy, oily pastas and fatty cuts of meat, not to mention portion control. But eventually, my mind became sharper. My body became leaner, even without exercise, and I lost 10 pounds in two weeks, just from a low carb, veggie-heavy diet. Not to mention the strange fact that my palate actually became more sensitive. That is, I could taste my food better! When you’re accustomed to only noting how much butter, salt or rich fat you taste in your food (I know, totally gross!) it is eye opening to detect different flavors. I added beans, corn, raspberries and nuts to salads with chicken or canned tuna for lunch and dinner. I used cheese in place of meat, and relied more on spices and sauces than on salt and fats for flavor. I learned how to make the best fish tacos on the planet and started working out at home and staying on my diet, albeit with a few allowances.

Today, I might grab a burger on a Saturday or grab a pumpkin spice latte (420 calories!) on my way to class one morning during the week. I don’t force myself to work out every day, but love the treadmill, and have developed a true appreciation for my health . My body is leaner, my mind is sharper, and I feel more confident and happy. All in all, altering my food habits didn’t just help someone I cared for… it changed my life!

Check out my story – and experience with eating healthier on Storify! Just click the link below.

The Art of Salad – ln Storify

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