Like many kids growing up, I used to consume a ton of junk food and sugary beverages. After school, I would pound chocolate candy bars, Twinkies, gummy bears, and all the cookies and brownies I could get my hands on. I used to eat two candy bars every day right after school. I’m originally from the southern part of the country — Georgia, to be exact — and I used to just crush sweet tea loaded with sugar while taking down heaps of fried chicken, fried fish, fried vegetables, butter rolls, and all that delicious country cooking! I’ve always been active playing sports, so I never really put on the pounds, but needless to say, I wasn’t eating at the level of a champion by any means.
A few years back, I started taking a closer look at my diet, trying to figure out what was optimal, and as a result, I ended up changing pretty much everything I was putting into my body. I’m not 100 percent perfect when it comes to diet, but I cut out all fried foods, trimmed way back on the sugar, and traded in milkshakes and Coke floats for green smoothies and cold press juices. I even flirted with veganism for about eight months or so.
Overall, I’ve found that eating cleaner and healthier has a ton of benefits that come along with it. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, so a good piece of advice is to check with a healthcare professional before embarking on a diet overhaul. But I had a great experience when I took a new approach to food and I wanted to share it with you. Here are some of the great things that have happened to me:
1.) First and foremost, I feel better.
At its simplest, food is energy and energy is one of the core building blocks of the human body. Cells don’t grow without food and beverages going into our mouths, so it’s worthwhile to think about what we consume. My attitude is, whatever I put in is pretty much the equivalent of what I get on the other side. It’s simple science, and by eating cleaner and increasing my intake of raw foods, I’ve ended up having way more energy than when I used to consume more processed goods like Fudge Rounds, Skittles, and Snapple. Instead of short bursts of energy followed by an hour of lethargy, I have more sustained, long-term energy. My ups and downs aren’t as drastic as they once were. I have more energy and just feel all around good for longer periods of time than I did in the past.
2.) I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been.
While I was never particularly heavy or terribly out of shape, I got more tone and muscle definition when I stopped eating garbage food. My skin is clearer than it’s ever been and my clothes fit better. All around, I just feel better about my body and having increased self-confidence is never a bad thing.
3.) I don’t get sick as often.
It’s not that I used to get sick a lot before, but I get sick a lot less now than I did back in the ol’ junk food days. I seem to have a better time fending off diseases, airborne viruses and colds. I feel stronger both internally and externally and better able to battle whatever comes my way.
4.) I feel better than ever when I exercise and I can do more physical activities.
I’ve always been pretty active when it comes to sports, but since I decreased my intake of white bread and rice in favor of brown rice and multigrain bread and traded Gatorade for coconut water, I can perform at a better level than I could 10 years ago. I can exercise and play sports for longer durations and I can push myself harder than I could in my youth. I have more fun, with less cramps and I get an all-around better workout in.
5.) I think more clearly now.
Of course the big thing here is that everything is connected. When I feel good physically, I also perform better mentally. I used to eat junk food for lunch and then sit at my desk all day. My stomach hurt and I felt heavy and foggy in the head. By eating foods that give me energy, like almonds, green juices, salmon, grilled chicken or steamed vegetables, I feel better when I return to my work and I’m able to accomplish more at a faster pace, and that’s also never a bad thing.