The Food Game
I always thought I could eat what I wanted and it had no impact on my life.
Here is what an average day used to look like :
- I’d eat a bacon and sausage sandwich for breakfast
- I’d eat a chicken, bacon and avocado sandwich for lunch
- I’d eat a bowl of pasta for dinner.
- I was constantly snacking on Coca Cola, sweets and crisps.
- I thought it was normal to drink 4-5 coffees a day to keep me going.
At the time life wasn’t going very well. I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings. I was nearly always tired. I didn’t want to do anything. I had no control over my emotions. I couldn’t focus on my work. I was having panic attacks, and I was irritated by nearly everyone.
One day my mum suggested that I read a few books on diet to help my panic attacks. This began an incredible journey for me that ended up with me creating a Food Game for living a life I love. This game changed my life and probably is the single most important aspect in why I now love my life people. Now I am long free of panic attacks and depression, but my Food Game helps me achieve what I want in life – keeping me happy and productive.
Now we know all games must have rules, the rules to this game are unlike your usual “perfect” eating rule. Yes – they include a diet that keeps me mentally and physically in shape, but they mostly outline the mindset I have around food. I’ve built a diet that enables me to sustainably live an amazing life, not something that enables me to make the next deadline or look good on the beach. (That just comes with it)!
THE RULES OF MY FOOD GAME
Rule 1 – Never punish yourself
I want to be as honest as possible, this wasn’t always a easy journey of changing what I ate and everything working – at points I became fixated on what I ate, I punished myself for eating badly. Now, I would never give anyone advice about food without making it very clear that nothing in your diet will kill you today or tomorrow, shifting your diet is a gradual process over time that will reap rewards for the rest of your life.
I tried to do it overnight, it’s not possible without a lot of pain and restriction. We need to deal with cravings and our body doesn’t always find this easy, but I would never want anyone to be angry at themselves for eating chocolate or having pizza. It’s way more damaging for your body to put yourself through the stress of being angry with yourself about eating a pizza than eating the pizza itself.
Rule 2 – Stabilising my mood
The first book I ever read on diet was Potatoes not Prozacs because it discussed how stabilising your energy levels has a huge impact on your mood. Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. persuaded me that cutting out stimulants, such as caffeine, sugar (and alcohol) can have a huge impact on your mood. I tried it and it made a huge difference. I’ll spare you the long science lesson, you can find out everything you need to here.
Let’s be honest, to start off with it wasn’t the easiest thing to give up “my” coffee and sugar. For the first week or so, I had physical cravings and after that I just had mental cravings (I’d dream about coffee). However, after I got through the first week of physical cravings my quality of life was so much better.
Firstly, my mood stopped fluctuating. I began to be able to trust that I could stay in a good mood. Before I wouldn’t know when my body would take over and I’d be grumpy or miserable. Life was no longer a fight, or unpredictable – I felt free. Secondly, my concentration increased massively. I went from being someone who couldn’t study for more than half an hour, to someone that learnt to code and built my first tech business in three months. Yes, the stimulants make you feel great for a while, but is it worth the down time afterwards. Why not live a life where you always feel great and you don’t need these stimulants to keep you on the road. Imagine being able to do what you want from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. No need to run out and grab a coffee or a Crunchie just to get through the afternoon.
Everyone loves something sweet, but we don’t need to eat things with refined sugar – they spike our blood sugar more than anything else and they are very addictive. We can switch to fruit and natural sugars. I no longer eat sweets or chocolate, but I love dates or raw chocolate with coconut sugar. I don’t get the mood swings that I get if I eat refined sugar! I’ve eaten non-stop chocolate and I’ve cut out everything sweet (including fruit), but finding this happy medium is easily the best way for living a busy life.
Rule 3 – Portion Size
This is so important. I was eating amazing food, but I was eating too much. Every meal I’d eat twice as much as I needed to. I felt tired and full after meals and then I felt like I needed to eat more to increase my energy levels. This obviously only made matters worse. Once you eat too much at one meal, you then want to eat more at the next meal. Your body is likely still digesting the food from the last meal, and you feel like you need more energy. This cycle gripped me for a long time and I have seen it grip lots of other people.
Trick – Small Breakfast
I always have a small breakfast. In the winter it’s a small bowl of porridge with some fruit and in the summer it’s just fruit with Almond Milk. Why fruit? Because it just works for me. It makes me go to the loo straight after breakfast and then I feel like all of the toxins are out of my body.
Rule 4 – Reduce Processed Food & Animal Products
Processed food – I stay away from anything that is heavily processed and has preservatives or additives in. Consistently eating real food with real ingredients pays off. I nearly always feel good, high in energy and I don’t crave bad food. The moment I start to eat processed food, I start to crave it so I just don’t allow the cycle to start. Animal Products – As I am typing this I know this one is a controversial one but I know it makes a huge difference to me. I never eat meat and I eat fish, eggs and cheese maybe once a week. I still occasionally eat fish and cheese, not because I think I need it, but because I enjoy it. Remember Lesson 1. Since I went predominantly vegetarian I have so much more energy. It’s been 4 years now and it will be something that stays with me for life. I’ve run marathons and ultra-marathons as a meat eater and a veggie, and I had to train much less to get the same results when I was a veggie.
Rule 5 – Take the pressure off
I have a simple rule that makes it easy to stick to eating well. I never buy animal products or processed ingredients when I am at home. However, if I am out or at a friends house for dinner then I am much more relaxed. I pretty much eat what I am given. This takes all the stress out, I used to sit around the table stressing about eating bad things and not enjoying the experience. Now I can go to any event and enjoy my evening. Weirdly, since I’ve started taking the pressure off, I choose the veggie option most of the time anyway.
Rule 6 – Patience
Eating well without your body craving “bad” food doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that happens over time. Be patient with your body, you want to create a diet that lasts you a lifetime, where you are always on your game and you are physically health. It took me time but if you persist with my habits, it all fits into place. Now I am always full of energy, my brain is always ready to focus and I can concentrate for hours. The best bit is that it has all become effortless. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was too tired to do a task or stopped myself from eating something that I didn’t want. My body just works now. It’s also worth noting that this way of eating also has an impact on my weight. I can do very little exercise and I remain in good physical shape. I used to do endless exercise and still struggle to stay in shape.
Rule 7 – Know that food is emotional
We all have things we do when we are stressed or emotional. Some people drink, some people smoke, some people eat chocolate, some people binge eat, some people don’t eat. It’s important to know what your triggers are. I binge eat. When I am stressed I eat as a comfort. I used to smoke, now I eat. Identifying this has really helped me stop it from happening. Now when I start binge eating, I know that I must be stressed. That realisation in itself gives me the chance to look for another way to relieve my stress and stop a bad habit in its tracks. It works wonders!!!
I really hope you found this hopeful. Play the game and start to make food choices that are going to enable you to live an amazing life. Once you build the habits I have built, they will last you a lifetime. No more restrictive diets, no more frustration and disappointment when you let yourself down. Just a simple lifestyle that makes life amazing.