It is not a conscious effort to switch to a healthy diet. For me, it started with a desire to rebuild my health through eating well. It is part of my recovery program. Learning to eat well is a lifelong journey, and an exciting one. I am not a vegetarian. I do not eat meat. I do not eat fish, prawn or crab, but I eat sashimi and shells. My favorite is la-la shells. My aunty and I can finish 1 kg in a meal!
Eating well vs eating right
During the initial stage of my diet change, I used to say, learn to eat right. As I moved on to learn more, I realized that food is a controversial topic. There are different opinions from different experts. So, who do I listen to? There is no absolute right or wrong. So I changed my slogan from “eat right” to “eat well”.
What to eat and what not to eat?
So what is meant by eating well? First of all, learn what to avoid – processed food, canned food, deep fried, sweet stuff, white stuff (bread, rice, sugar, salt), fast food, meat and dairy products. At the same time, expand the variety of healthy choices. For me, it is anything under the category of 蔬菜水果, 五谷杂粮, meaning, vegetables and fruits, seeds/nuts and grains. I visit organic stores and restaurants to find out the options. To my surprise, there is quite a good variety. I also learn from friends and the internet. After staying away from the unhealthy stuff for some time, I have no craving for it at all. It is out of sight, out of mind.
Eat and be happy
It is ok to satisfy one’s craving at times for unhealthy food. I still like to eat char kuay teow, with cockles and chilli. Eat and be happy. I don’t want to feel deprived and depressed. The emotional state will affect my well being. Let the body decides. If I don’t feel well, I will give up eating that soon. My body will tell me what is good for me.
Desire vs discipline
The desire to regain health will give us the discipline to change our diet. I don’t force myself.
Vegetarian vs harmony
I do not want to create disharmony in order to achieve my personal goal. I feel free to join any social group and they do not have to specially cater for my vegetarian need. I also have no right to impose on my family to follow what I eat. Nevertheless, I influence them gradually. I show them the way. Harmony does not mean compromise. It is taking proactive measures and mindful effort to find the balance and achieve harmony with family and friends, with the environment and within my own body.
Start from something that we can achieve. It is not possible to achieve perfect score for every meal. I started with juicing. It need not be organic food for everything. I do not like vegetable juice. So initially I had about 80% fruits with 20% vegetables. Gradually, I try to add more vegetables like ginger, potatoes, beetroot, capsicum, green bitter gourd, etc. I also learned to add seeds and nuts to get essential fatty acids as I do not like to take fish oil gel. I also add bee pollen and dried figs. There is no absolute right or wrong. Keep on trying. 凡事不要强求，顺其自然。
Food source and method of cooking
After learning what to eat and what not to eat, the next step is to learn about the food source. Freshness is the keyword. It need not be organic. If local organic is available, it’s even better. I also realized that organic food stuff is not really that expensive. For example, a pack of organic Chinese spinach costs $2.50, and can provide for 3 meal portions. A pack of Chinese spinach from the local wet market costs $1.00 but is only for 1 meal because much of the stalk is discarded as it is too hard to chew. Some food is best eaten raw, but not all. When cooked, the properties of some food change and more nutrition is released and better absorbed by the body. Again, I learn through trial and error. Of course, the best way is to eat simple - simple food and simple way of cooking.
DIY vs eating out
To control my diet, I learn to cook. I take it upon myself to be responsible for what I put into my body. It is not a smooth journey though. It is challenging. I make vegetable/fruit juice every morning. I make my own bread and jam. 2 to 3 times a week, I make porridge for lunch and eat with soy floss, seaweed and boiled broccoli. I am working full time. It is not a chore. I enjoy making my own meals. When I am in the mood, I make dessert such as red bean soup for afternoon snack. I also brew nourishing drink such as dried longan and gojizi, or American ginseng tea for the afternoon. At times when I eat outside and have digestion problem thereafter, I counter it with a cup of green tea or roselle tea.
Lack of nutrition vs over nourishment
Over nourishment is just as bad as malnutrition. My body is unable to process so much nutrition. At times I need to give my digestive system a break and be kind to my body.
Natural food vs nutritional supplements
Natural food is always better than supplements. I always suffer from constipation when I try to take supplements. This is because supplements are concentrated and require lots of water in order to be assimilated by the body. It takes some time to understand what my body really needs. And my body keeps changing. What was good 6 months ago may not be workable now. So I have learnt to be sensitive to my body needs instead of just book knowledge.
Peer pressure vs peer support
Stay away from people who have poor eating habits and diet. Get to know friends who have similar aspiration and learn from one another. This will make the journey much more fun and fulfilling.
Last but not least, EXERCISE to help in digestion, absorption and elimination of waste. And my slogan has always been – Exercise, Eat Well and Be Happy!
Contributed by : Lim Wai Cheng/ NPC survivor
Dated 16 May 2013
Survivor since 2005
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