Why does my body feel worse when I eat better?
“If kale is supposed to be sooooo good, why do I feel like garbage now that I’m eating it?!” (said dieting women everywhere).
I LOVE this subject, because when you dig into it, you start to see how incredibly adaptable and super smart our bodies actually are.
Here’s why: your body was designed to function on a diet high in plant foods, good fats, fibre and protein. Instead, our typical modern diet is high in processed sugars, trans fats, and refined carbs that offer virtually no nutrition and create a host of issues.
Would it surprise you to know that scientists say when we were first introduced to ‘bad food’ like hamburgers and pizza, our cells revolted? This stuff is not helpful, they said!
But then, your amazing little cells transformed and adapted so they could recognise those foods as the new norm, and you wouldn’t keel over and die.
Those ‘unhelpful’ foods don’t contain phytonutrients, amino acids, proteins and all the good stuff that feeds your cells and resists disease, so when you do suddenly start eating high-nutrient foods, your cells don’t have a clue what they are anymore.
So, your body is going to have to change and adapt AGAIN. And while it’s doing that, you are going to feel a whole lot of uncomfortable.
Here’s what’s going on:
1. Your body releases toxins from fat cells, which increase oxidative stress (aka, flu symptoms).
Eating a diet high in whole foods will naturally help to reduce oxidative stress, but during the transition (especially if you go cold turkey), the release of toxins stored in fat cells can make you feel a bit like you’ve got the flu: fatigue, pain in your muscles or joints, brain fog, and nasty headaches.
2. Foods high in sugar and rubbish fats release ‘feel-good’ dopamine in your brain, so essentially, you’ll start going through withdrawals.
Yes, that’s right, like a smoker, or a drug addict, or an alcoholic, your body is going to go through serious withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, headaches, and even nausea. You just cancelled Christmas on your body, and it is not going to be happy.
Until, of course, it realises it feels MUCH better having more sustainable and nutrient-fueled energy sources to thrive on (in 3-7 days, for example).
3. Good foods feed different gut bacteria, resulting in some unpleasant airborne side effects.
Farts. I’m talking about farts. And bloating, and gas. The good news is that as you feed your good bacteria all those yummy good foods, the inflammation inside your body will reduce, which starts to move you further away from chronic illnesses, asthma and allergies. And yes, no more embarrassing farts.
How do we make the change a little easier?
Start slow, and take some care and time to prepare. That includes recognising that discomfort is normal during the transition, and staying strong.
Here’s some simple tips to help you out:
- Drink lots of water to help with digestion and to flush out your organs during the detoxification process. 1.5 to 2 litres a day is average.
- You can change your diet slowly; add in a salad for lunch for a few days, then eliminate soft drinks and muffins over the next week, then replace chocolate milk with a smoothie, and so on. It’s ok if it takes 2 to 3 weeks to transition out of bad habits and into healthy eating. It’ll make the change less extreme for your body.
- Blended foods like green smoothies are easier for your body to handle.
- Eat fats and protein for breakfast. These foods help your cells to send out the right signals and help with long-lasting energy.
- Don’t eat less; eat the same amount you always have, just eat lots of wholefoods, good fats and protein. Starving yourself or skipping meals will only add to your woes.
- Don’t give up! I have literally heard people say, “My body doesn’t agree with greens.” Um no, it’s highly unlikely that you have an intolerance to vegetables, the source of life!
Treat your body with the respect it has earned and give it some time to get reacquainted with an old friend: nutrients. It’ll love you for it… eventually!
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