How I Stopped Being Afraid to EatI just want to let you know that posting myself in a swimsuit as a main shot of the post is completely outside of my comfort zone. But I need to make a point, so I will do it for you.

And who knows, maybe Alex will get a promotion. And I need to buy a new bottom piece before March, that doesn’t look like a Speedo.

It took me almost 6 years and many diets to develop a healthy relationship with food. It was not about an eating disorder but rather to find a comfortable middle between avoiding processed foods, eating healthy without going extreme and still looking good. One of 2017 resolutions!

“Oh, just eat normal food” wasn’t an option because unfortunately today’s norm in North America is the Western diet full of processed foods. It is not normal, people. The rest of the world doesn’t eat like that. I have seen normal where I grew up.

2016 was a breaking point nutrition wise because real life really slapped me in the face: raising two children properly (if that can ever be defined), taking care of myself, trying to keep a healthy marriage after 15 years together, do what I love and that generates income, and eating clean has been a hell of a task past year.

I lost patience. I lost last bits of patience for anything/anyone complicated that makes me tired and uncomfortable. I have no room in my brain for anything extra besides a bare minimum that keeps my family healthy, happy and balanced.

Now that January is here, and it is that time of the year when many people are trying to figure out how to become healthy going forward. Which is very confusing and scary, I agree.

Everyone jumps on Google and that is when majority of people throw in a towel after a few weeks.

Because it is just too much. Too much info, too many rules, too much load for any average North American family. Not if you are single when you have all time of your life (you do, trust me), but that is not about me. Me and Alex decided long time ago – there are people and then there are parents.

The other day, I was driving and listening to the radio. Some another BS cancer foundation was encouraging people to work out every day for the month of January to support cancer something. Here, a perfect recipe for failure. Nobody should or can do that for a sustainable long-term success. But they don’t care.

So, today I’m sharing my real food journey.

How I, as a busy mom, stopped being afraid to eat and gain weight.

How I stopped calculating.

How I stopped thinking about it all the time.

It is work in progress but I think I did it. I’m sharing my journey of figuring out what to eat from 2011 to 2016. It was one hell of a ride.

For you, busy moms who do it all and want to feel and look good.

So, you stop feeling bad when you see a perfectly groomed skinny food blogger eating a smoothie bowl for breakfast, sitting at a glass tabletop table with golden legs, and looking dreamily in the window. And then she goes to a yoga class deciding what to wear for 30 minutes. And then she comes home and makes a balanced perfectly looking buddha bowl for dinner.

I know exactly how that makes you feel. I know that that amazing human being looks freaking amazing and must have a good heart but has no freaking idea about my nutrition as a mom who is choking while eating. Lucky if I sat down to eat and lucky if I’m not eating my kids’ leftovers. She has no idea what pregnancy does to a woman’s body and how it is all downhill after that with every year. She just can’t teach me how to maintain my weight because no matter what she puts into her 20 something year old body, it will stay that way.

Before we dive in, I want to give big kudos to my friend, Jenn, who inspired me to write this post! While she was visiting in spring with her family, I served veggie burgers from Costco on a whole grain bun for lunch. What she said next, made a giant light bulb go off in my head: “You can eat this and stay so skinny?”. And later on I heard “You eat a lot!”. Another girl said this in her email to me: “I also loved hearing you say to have brown rice and sweet potatoes – so you believe that I can still lose weight eating some of these foods?”. Um, we have a problem.

Ladies, we have a problem and we are going to deal with this bitch right now. Grab a glass of wine because you can!

How I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

2011: Counting Calories, Fake Foods and Crazy Workouts

I had my second child January 1, 2011 and ended up being 50 lbs overweight.

Somehow, I decided to be in the best shape of my life and get a six pack. My decision was mainly influenced by perfect Instagram selfies. And because I’m Ms. Can-Do-It-All. Social media is extremely dangerous for your weight loss success. Lesson learnt.

I started working out like crazy, 5 – 6 times a week, in my home gym. At same time fitness community was preaching lean proteins in abundance and keeping a food journal. I was surrounded by a few friends who drank diet Coke and ate I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, along with low fat sour cream and cream cheese, and counting calories with MyFitness Pal. I did the same.

I lost majority of baby weight, acquired loose skin on my stomach and still haven’t seen the abs. But I was so skinny and still I thought it wasn’t good enough.

How I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

2012-2013: High Protein Low Carb Diet

Still determined to see my abs (because “determination” could be my middle name and “never give up” a last name) and influenced by “wonderful” Instagram #fitspo selfies, I embarked on a high protein low carb diet.

Because carbs. Those damn carbs. Ugh, I hated carbs with all my heart.

Still working out like crazy, my diet consisted 40% of protein, 40% of fats and only 20% of carbs.

How I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

I got leaner, yes. But, man, was I obsessed with protein.

I was buying all sorts of animal products by tens of lbs. I was scared to eat outside of home because there was never enough protein anywhere and carbs everywhere.

Carbs, carbs, carbs. I became so scared of anything but meat and veggies. I was scared to eat fruit because carbs. It was a disaster.

For 2 years, I was super lean, with loose belly skin, without a six pack and completely hungry. All I could think of what am I going to eat next. And next meal always looked so sad except the cheat days.

2014 – 2015: Strict Clean Eating

In summer of 2014, during our camping trip I came across the concept of “clean eating”. Somehow, I got a hold of Clean Eating magazine and became obsessed.

I loved how Tosca Reno looked and food seemed normal. Like there was fruit, unprocessed sugars, lean meat, whole grain pasta, dairy, plant-based fats. It was all there. I could eat complex carbs. Yay. I loved it and I still do!

Finally, I stopped being hungry. So, I would say for entire 2014 – 2015 I have been a strict clean eater still eating quite a bit of meat but less. I wouldn’t touch a slice of pizza or a cookie during Holidays. And it felt fine. It was fine. I even didn’t have any kind of sugar or white flour in my house. All cool. I also stopped working out that much because still I haven’t seen my abs.

In last hopes to get a six pack, I decided to try a few other diets. Just to see what happens because I was still not 100% convinced I’m on the right path. I tried to eat gluten free thinking maybe, just maybe, gluten is the reason for my “extra fat”. I tried and failed at it miserably because it is a diet.

Sometime, in between clean eating, high protein low carb and gluten free extravaganza, my mom got diagnosed with a tumour, which we all thought was cancer, and I started doing my research on “what causes cancer”.

We started eating a lot organic on a budget. Somewhere around the same time, a friend posted an article on the side effects eating too much protein. Basically, an article about a typical Western diet and a diet of many fitness professionals. “But wait, I’m not eating a typical Western Diet. Am I? It just can’t be me.”

But it was! While I ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, I ate too much protein. Which can’t be healthy. It just can’t be. Too much of anything is not a good thing.

Considering my mom’s scary diagnosis, I had to let go of eating animal based products every day and dive into full of carbs plant-based dinners, lunches and oatmeal breakfasts. You can eat plant-based protein powder only that much. I was sick of it. So, I just let it go because having cancer is scarier than gaining 5 lbs.

Since then, I am very sceptical of high protein diets like paleo and Whole 30. No matter who says what, when I look at photos and posts of people who follow those diets, it is just too much meat. I can’t wrap my head around how wholesome carbs can be worse for us than a steak.

I am not stupid. And interesting enough, people embark on a Whole 30 month long journey and then they quit. Because it is a diet which is not sustainable. Whatever you lost, you will gain back. This is why I preach a healthy lifestyle vs. diets.

It has to be day in and day out comfortable eating. But we all learn, right?!

2016-Now: Real Food, Less Meat and Balance

In 2016, I turned 35. I felt like I have gained some life experience with which came confidence in everything I do.

The days when I questioned myself as a mother are long gone – I’m amazing! Past year I felt much more calm while everything around me was freaking out.

I started taking one day at a time and seeing my inner peace a top priority. I got so tired of the outside noise. All of it. I use social media and internet strictly for business and research purposes.

In terms of eating. What do I eat now?! In 2016, I came to a complete peace about my food as well. I stopped freaking out about every single food item being wholesome, organic and good for me. It just isn’t possible. It is not real.

I am still eating clean 80% of time, the rest 20% I eat what there is to eat. We still eat a lot of organic. I mean, we still eat VERY clean but I do buy an occasional salami for kids for lunches, organic ice cream with sugar instead of making my own with honey, sprinkles for Christmas cookie making.

Because I am too tired to go to 10 different stores to get best ingredients possible. Tired to make dinner some nights. Want to relax with friends and at restaurants where I have less control over food. Want to let it all go sometimes. However, I still make best choices possible most of the times. At restaurants, I wouldn’t order fries, pasta or burger because I just don’t crave it! I order salads, quinoa bowls, lean protein etc.

How I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

But the main thing is that I let go off my fears of eating something that might contain sugar or white flour. I eat a bit of it and I am good.

  • I now eat whole grain bread.
  • I seriously stopped stressing out about food 100% of times.
  • I buy wholesome foods 90% and allow some room for our and kids’ treats.

We eat what we want to eat but here is the coolest part – we do not crave junk! We don’t. Very little. And that is why real food diet is such a cool way to live. I did say clean eating is not a diet but a lifestyle. Your taste buds get clean, you crave physical activity, you drink water without forcing yourself and you live happily ever after.

During these Holidays my kids were offered so many sweets. Guess what? They ate some, they did. But half the time they said “no”. A neighbour couldn’t feed them any pretty icing sugar coated cookies. They didn’t want any. They find majority of baking too sweet. Unless I make it. See?

I’m not even stressing out anymore. I don’t have to. I will be posting more on the topic of how to make your kids eat healthy and clean. As always, my very different outlook from the rest of North America. I beat my kids to eat kale and quinoa, call social services.

What about my weight? Of course, after jumping off the high protein band wagon and allowing more healthy carbs in my normal life now, I gained some weight. Of course, I did. Maybe 5 lbs, maybe 10 lbs.

I honestly don’t own a scale. I don’t care about a scale. I fit into majority of clothes (pants are a bit of a challenge but that is what Lululemon is for).

How I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

Do I look fat? Alex loves my “extra meat” and I love drinking cold white wine under hot Mexican sky. Worth it? 100%.

This picture is so me. Like this is real me. The way I am.

The reality is what happened is that I gained back what I am supposed to have. I was unnaturally too skinny for my body type. It was artificial. Six pack is artificial. Anything that you have to maintain with a special treatment is artificial. It’s OK if you are enjoying doing that. I wasn’t.

By age of 35, I finally realized that personal trainers are not health professionals and know it all. Nope. They know how to work out. Nutrition wise you have to use your common sense and do your own research. I honestly wouldn’t trust anyone to tell me what to eat because it could have a life changing effect.

And I definitely offer only my own story. You have to use your own common sense and do your own thing when it comes to eating. It’s like asking a friend for a divorce advice. Um, excuse me. No, nobody should advise on that. No, thank you. Let them figure it out on their own.

What about workouts? I still work out 2-3 times a week. I like strenuous DVD workouts to a certain extent mixed with long walks, bike rides and skiing, with occasional lazy days. I love how exercise makes me feel. And yes, it helps me to maintain weight. For sure. My weight fluctuates with seasons, like anyone’s. Now winter time, I miss my walks because I gained a few lbs. While in Mexico walking on deep sand every day I lost those lbs. Sure, I would love to be leaner a bit but that will come if I want to and start moving a bit more with warmer weather. So, things like those. I hope this post helped you a bit to figure out your relationship with real food.

The bottom line is that I am not afraid to eat anymore while still looking good and being healthy!

P.S. And I have bit of cellulite on my butt. I do. Whatever. It is covered by a swimsuit and underwear. Alex still says he can’t see it so who cares. In fact, all my friends and family love my butt, girlfriends want my butt. I am not a butt person but I will take it. Fine. If they insist. So really, extra bit of fat is not that much of a problem, my friends.

You can eat real food! All of it!

How I Stopped Being Afraid to EatHow I Stopped Being Afraid to EatHow I Stopped Being Afraid to Eat

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. Olena, I haven’t tried your recipes yet, but I love your attitude and outlook on life! I’m sure I am going to really enjoy your recipes!

  2. Thank you so much for this article. Finding a healthy balance in life, especially for women, is challenging. I found your site while searching for healthy dinner ideas and ended up reading your other blogs as well. This article hit home for me. I’m 54 and have spent a lifetime wrestling with my relationship with food, body image, weight, ever-changing “do’s and don’t’s” and while I’m sure that giving up alcohol and eating a completely organic, plant-based diet would make you feel amazing, always seem to chalk that endeavor up to something I would never be able to sustain. Who am I kidding? I’ve never even gotten through day 1! Anyway, what I hope for my daughters, myself, and all my sisters out there is that we learn to embrace who we are, our essence, our amazing bodies and spirits and minds, and become everything we have the potential to become…within reason, of course:) Thank you, Olena, for your transparency and honesty! You’re making a difference!

    1. I agree. It’s hard to strike a balance in life for women because of all the messages we are being bombarded with. That’s why I’m against any diets, they ruin our relationship with food. It’s very important not to follow the herd but rather listen to your gut and be honest with yourself.

  3. Hi Olena! I just discovered your sight while searching for clean eating / plant-based diet recipes. My family has been on this adventure of eliminating processed foods since my middle child was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease last winter. I have not been able to find a nutritionist I trust to help her with food choices so we’ve been relying on the internet. There is so much confusing and conflicting information!! Thank you for sharing your journey. I’m looking forward to trying many of your recipes. I’m looking forward to the healthy benefits of clean eating, both nutritionally and emotionally. If you know of anyone, or websites, you trust with information about IBD-safe clean eating I’d love to have you share with me. Take care! <3

    1. Hi Heidi. I’m truly sorry to hear what you have to go through. Food is our medicine, so you are on the right path for sure. A few years ago, I have met a local nutritionist, Desiree Nielsen, who seems to be making sense and is popular in Vancouver. Check her out. Good luck!

  4. Fat? No, dear, you look healthy and beautiful… I have anorexia-related issues myself. I suffer every day- still working on this… 🙁 I wish I’ll come at that point too

    1. It takes some hard work to reset your mind and get rid of all stigma that has been projected on us by social media! Limiting social media in my life has helped tremendously to improve my mental health!!!

  5. Olena, my dear!!! You spoke to my heart! Let me repeat what others have already told you: thank you for beying honest)
    I believe that many of us, mothers, have similar struggles….
    I had to hear these words(or read)
    such an encouragement!
    think of it as saying words of encouragement and giving hand to the one who has fallen …
    Hugging you!!! Be blessed?

    1. Hi Viktoriya. We all have these struggles, even me, I still do sometimes. This stupid noise in our heads…hate it. But we can make things better together by helping each other, by saying truth out loud and sharing our feelings. Glad I could help!!!

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