A few years ago, I had a few revelations. They were followed by a few life-changing decisions. These revelations had to do with taking more responsibility for my health and general wellness, especially when it came to the food I ate. Another one of these revelations-come-decisions was to adopt a dog.
By the time I adopted Luda, my beagle-chihuahua mix, I had already started down my path of conscious consuming. Luda just made the truth I was on my way to discovering blatantly clear: you are what you eat. The dog I drove home from the shelter two years ago was sick, frail, had rotten teeth and terrible skin. He nearly died not four days later from an unknown immune system issue that probably stemmed from his unhealthy living situation before he was rescued and brought to the Humane Society.
Gradually Luda doubled in size, his teeth grew stronger and whiter and his endurance increased. I credit this total health overhaul to the food to which I immediately switched him. The food he ate, and eats to this day, is high in fat in protein (which comes from good quality, human-grade meat), grain-free and is as minimally processed as dry, commercial dog food comes. It is on the pricier side, but it is not the most expensive food offered.
Luda, being a dog, does not have the nightly pleasure of scanning the fridge or pantry for that wonderful meal that just never seems to be there. He, instead, sits next to his shiny bowl that produces food out of thin air once I say the magic words (is this how a dog brain works?). So, via my decisions, Luda became a quitter of overly processed dog food.
Around this time, I was figuring out how to quit the same people foods. I started with an easy one: sodas. I knew they were bad. I knew they were bad. Diet Coke had a power over me, so I made excuse after excuse to keep it in the fridge (“oh, look, it’s on sale” to “I’ll only drink it when I go on road trips”). Since I’m a human, I have the agency to walk into a grocery store and either buy or not buy the Diet Coke. I decided to stop making excuses and start drinking other things (see the resources at the bottom for more information). It took a little while to cut them out completely (a scary fact in and of itself) and now I’ve created alternatives that I enjoy immensely.
Quitting sodas turned into quitting a good many other processed foods (salad dressings, cereal and granola, ultra-pasteurized reduced-fat dairy). My list of foods I’ve quit is growing by the month and in their place I’ve incorporated easy, delicious and nutritious substitutes. I’ve included these ideas at the bottom of the post.
Good. Check. We are all eating awesome, minimally processed foods. Our pets look shiny and new and are chowing down on their new kibble. There’s just one detail that I need to mention. All this whole, natural, nutrient-dense food is just that: dense.
Luda loved his new food and the treats that came after every successful potty break. He loved them so much that, as a new dog mom, I never wanted to stop feeding him. Luda doubled in size, like I said, and then kept going. I must have been blinded by my love for him, because it took me having to cut larger leg holes in his winter sweater (don’t hate) to realize that my little lap dog was about to morph into a pet sausage.
Luckily for me it was easy to put Luda on a diet. I fed him less food and stopped giving him treats as a representation of how much I loved him (too much). His portions looked so measly that I sought help—a family friend told me canned (no salt added) green beans are a good filler for dogs on a diet. Luda quit overeating and now his waistline is visible again.
Unlike most dogs, I tend to stop eating when I feel full (except on my birthday... or at brunch). His weight gain and loss process did help me understand, though, that eating a higher-density diet means you can eat less and be just as satisfied. I do not overeat, and because of the foods I choose to consume I end up eating less than most Americans. It seems simple because it is. If you eat high quality foods at their least processed state you will eat less and feel just as satisfied (But wait, there’s more!). You will also probably end up looking awesome and feeling better in a million ways.
This is my favorite topic. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.
It’s time to start quitting, folks.
Salad dressing to be served with a spinach and strawberry salad:
1/2 cup sugar (you can use honey)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Pour over salad just prior to serving.
1 cup seltzer water
1/2 cup 100 percent grape juice (yes, the expensive kind)
Pour grape juice in a cup and add seltzer until the cup is full. I approximate these measurements—sometimes I'm in a "heavy on the seltzer, sweetie" mood, other times I'm feeling something a little tangier. Be creative - add lemon, or switch up the juice completely. I use this ginger juice to make my own ginger ale.
Breakfast cereal replacement: Power Oats
Using prepared rolled or steel cut oats, I add an assortment of these ingredients:
add while cooking: chia seeds, flax seed meal (lasts forever in the fridge), nut butter, honey, coconut oil.
add after cooking: whole, plain yogurt, raisins or cut fruit (dates, apples, blueberries, strawberries), chopped nuts.
This replacement is far less processed and does not include sugar as a main ingredient. It will keep you full longer and will give you lots of energy.
Dr. Becker's article about selecting quality pet food.
Dr. Mercola on everything Aspartame (the artificial sweetner found in diet sodas). Don't read this unless you're ready to really kick the habit—it's scary stuff.