How My Body Reacted To Leaving the American Diet And Why It Matters

My vice…

You may have noticed the title infers, “leaving,” and not “giving up.” Parting ways with my beloved American diet wasn’t a willful decision.

I don’t consider myself a foodie at all. Instead, the way I can happily eat the same meal 2–3x times a day for months on end may be more closely associated with addiction. But then again you could also say I’m just a creature of habit…

Why stray away from what you know you like, right?

Double cheeseburgers. Buffalo chicken sandwiches with blue cheese and a side of ranch dressing. Fries dipped in mayonnaise… It’s safe to say I had a very unhealthy relationship with food up until the day I left the U.S. for Southeast Asia.

And it was obvious.

I’ve always been very in tune with my body. I’m aware of how I feel at any given time and can trace back to figure out exactly why. Whether that feeling is good or bad, I usually know why.

I also notice if something changes about the way I look. After all I do spend all day every day with myself. So naturally, if something changes, I’m usually the first to notice.

My body was vocal about its distaste for my eating habits, and I was very aware:

I looked like I was aging FAST. At 25, I thought I could still eat like a 17-year-old kid in high school and my body would stay the same. Wrong. I noticed my pants getting tighter. The cold steel of my belt buckle was there to remind me every time I sat down.

Remember that (thankfully) short-lived physique fad people referred to as ‘The Dad Bod’? That was slowly becoming my reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t overweight and haven’t been since Middle School. Yet as a 175-pound guy who is relatively active, I was gaining weight that I knew was more fat than muscle.

I felt terrible most of the time. I would wake up some days and feel okay. Other days I would wake up and feel like a train wreck. It was like being food hung-over.

I guess the body can only take so many Buffalo chicken wraps for breakfast. Way too much sodium. Insane amounts of saturated fats. Simple carbs all day every day. It’s no surprise I felt rough. Yet I continued to use ranch dressing for everything short of shampoo. But that was back then.

Thankfully, things have since changed.

New country, new diet

After spending 6 months living in Singapore and far away from anything resembling authentic Western food (outside of McDonald’s, KFC, etc.), I’ve come to understand some very important things about the body.

Here’s what it comes down to:

Good quality, nutritious food is SO IMPORTANT.

Duh, right? But more specifically:

Food quality determines the type of weight you gain (and loose). I’ve lost close to 15 pounds at this time of writing, most of it fat. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise given my previous diet. Yet four and a half months later I was shocked to find myself nearly three belt notches away from where I began. The biggest variable was the quality of the food.

What you eat controls how you feel. Now that I’m eating better, I feel like an entirely new person. I have more energy and I’m more motivated. No more waking up in the morning feeling like a bag of trash. And, unless I over do it on the chilli padi, I no longer get the raging stomach aches.

Outside of food, the only other things that dictate how I feel in a major way is

· The amount of sleep I get each night

· My caffeine intake

I need a good amount of both to function at what I identify as my ‘optimum state.’

You can get by eating way less. As Louis C.K. put it, “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.” That pretty much sums up the way I used to gorge myself on 3–4 massive, unhealthy meals each day.

Now, depending on how active I am, I can eat 2–3 average-sized meals and feel fine. I could eat more or I could eat less, but my body doesn’t require it.

Balance is everything. I’ll admit it: my diet today isn’t perfect. I still crush the occasional buffalo chicken sandwich. I’m also not afraid to slam-dunk a fistful of fries into a side mayo when it presents itself (it rarely does).

The only key difference when dealing with unhealthy food is:

· The amount of it that I eat

· How often I eat it

· The balance I now have by eating healthier food in between.

Today, I usually eat healthy for 3–5 days consecutively for every plate of trash I consume. For me it works, and I feel great because of it.

The thing is, we all know we should eat better, yet few of us do. It’s a good thing my grandmother always made me eat my vegetables as a kid. It’s too bad I didn’t realize the soundness of that advice until much later.

Now that I’ve seen the best and worst results food can bring, I’ll try harder to eat more green spinach and less ranch dressing throughout the week.

We all know the unwanted effects of alcohol, yet that doesn’t stop many people from drinking it.

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