We are very excited to bring you a guest today; Jennifer Fulwiler from Conversion Diary (a wonderful blog about Jennifer’s journey from atheism to catholicism). One of my favorite things about her blog is how she candidly discusses her diet and relationship to food. Through a combination of prayer, research, medical insight, and just listening to her body, Jen was able to figure out how the foods she was eating affected her health, and she did a complete diet overhaul, which she calls the Saint Diet. Below are some questions I asked her about her diet, both before and after her drastic change. For more info on the Saint Diet, check out Jennifer’s blog!
1. Can you briefly describe your relationship to food before you started your Saint Diet? What a typical dietary day for you and how successful did you feel you were at dieting?
I used to joke that I had an alter ego, whom I not-so-affectionately called Jen-Tron the Eating Machine. There were certain times when I simply could not control myself. When I was in this mode, someone could have offered me $500 not to eat that fifth helping, and I would not have been able to accept that offer. It was that bad.
When I was trying to eat well, I would lean toward natural foods, whole grain breads and pastas, etc. It tended to work okay for a while, but inevitably Jen-Tron would rear her head at some point, and I’d end up eating way, way more than I needed to, in the form of excessive snacks, massive dinner portion sizes, etc.
2. What made it click for you that your relationship to food was much more than willpower, but something physiological?
There was one specific moment when I realized I had a problem: I was at a wedding, and ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. She began talking to me about what was new in her life, and had some exciting news to share. At that same time, the dinner buffet line opened up. I wasn’t all that hungry — I’d eaten a heavy snack right before we left for the wedding — but I became obsessed by the buffet line. I saw that there was fettuccine alfredo, and all I could think about was getting a plate-full of that. I was so terrified at the idea of not getting that pasta that I could not concentrate on what my friend was saying, no matter how much I wanted to. I kept telling myself to listen to her, but my thoughts were utterly fixated on that food, like I was a drug addict in need of a fix. That’s when I realized this was more than just a willpower issue.
3. How did you determine what foods triggered a negative response, and was it difficult to give up those foods?
I had heard a lot of testimonies of people whose lives changed after they gave up wheat, and I suspected that I might have some sort of addictive issues with that food, so I started by just giving up gluten for Lent one year. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hear from Jen-Tron. I could finally exercise some control over what I ate. It was such a powerful experience that I stuck with it.
At first it was hard. In fact, twice I fell back into eating pasta. But after the second time I had a “relapse,” my health got so bad that my husband became seriously concerned. I felt like I was 100 years old, I was in pain all the time, I slept 10 hours at night and still needed naps. As soon as I gave up wheat again my health completely changed and I felt fantastic. That was over a year ago, and I’ve never been tempted to go back to eating wheat. Now when I look at a bowl of pasta I associate it with feeling like I’m on the brink of death.
4. How has the Saint Diet affected your life? What’s your diet like now?
The “Saint Diet” has morphed into a mostly Paelo diet. I basically follow the eating guidelines laid out in the excellent book The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Since I’ve been following that food philosophy, cutting back on portion sizes, and going on regular jogs, I have lost over 30 pounds and have more energy than I did when I was eighteen (I now weigh less than I did when I got married). And it’s worth noting that this all happened after I had my fifth baby in six years. If I can do it, anyone can!
Thank you so much Jennifer for spending some time with us on our blog!
-Sara and Kevin