Rethink13 was born from my own experience and years of my own research into healthy living. The website can be used as a resource on different topics or you can do the six week program, where you review two topics each week for six weeks in order to keep making small but significant changes. While I’ve been putting it all in action, little by little, for years, I decided to do the six week program and share my experience.

First, as recommended, I read the Rethink Food section to inspire me to get clear on what my motivations are for making dietary changes. A big motivation for me is my desire to be slim, however, what I love about this way of eating- eating real, wholesome food in keeping with what traditional cultures ate- is that one naturally loses weight, even while feeling very satiated. There’s nothing wrong with being motivated to stay in shape but in the past this led me to do punitive and depressing things like juice cleanses, which didn’t even give me the results I wanted. I was trying way too hard! Eating real, wholesome food lets you love yourself and nourish yourself, all while losing weight!

As I’m approaching my 36th birthday, I’m also motivated to eat better to stay looking young, as well as my understanding that our gut health affects our overall health so significantly. I can tend to get anxious, and while meditation helps this tremendously, I am mindful that the foods I eat play a role too. And when it comes to meat, eating ethically raised animals is very important to me. I was a vegetarian for years and while I now believe animal protein and fat is essential for good health, I believe that we have a moral obligation to treat animals with kindness and respect. For more on this, you can read my blog post on why being vegan isn’t a good idea.

A few things to ask yourself: Do you think you have a healthy relationship with food? What motivates you to eat better? What inspired you to want to make dietary changes? What processed foods do you eat and how could you eat more “real” foods? Take note of how you feel after you eat. Do you feel healthy and energized or sick and tired?

Next up I chose two rethink categories to delve into this week. Here we go!

I read the Rethink Grains and Sugar section. While I already, for the most part, avoid grains (choosing instead to get my carbs from things like fruit and sweet potatoes…and chocolate) I occasionally enjoy sourdough bread, but I noticed this week that after eating it at the beginning of the week, I felt bloated. However, I’d also added organic flour as a thickener in a stew even though I know that grains should always be properly prepared (soaked, fermented, sprouted etc). Moving forward I will use organic cornstarch or arrowroot powder as a thickener and skip the white flour. Wanting to avoid unnecessary grains, I left the bread out of my meatloaf recipe and I found it came out just as well (my meatloaf secret is to add 2 eggs to the pound of ground beef, with sautéed vegetables, spices and fermented ketchup, to make a really excellent texture. I also try to add a small amount of organ meat, like heart or liver).

Over the weekend I was traveling and ate both rice and bread, neither of which were properly prepared (besides Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley it’s nearly impossible to find ready-made-food with properly prepared grains, with the exception of injera at Ethiopian restaurants and organic sourdough which is thankfully pretty common). I definitely felt bloated and it’s a reminder of why it’s best to skip grains when eating out (although I’m also a big believer in vacations being a time to indulge). Now the question is whether it is the gluten that doesn’t agree with me, so I’ll just keep seeing how I feel when I eat sourdough. Something is still making my skin breakout and if that doesn’t clear up soon then I might have to experiment with further restrictions but I hate saying I’m not going to have something at all because I think being that restrictive can make me rebel and turn it into a bigger deal (in my mind) than it needs to be. However, that logic doesn’t apply to forbidden items like high fructose corn syrup or aspartame which I have no trouble saying I will never eat, so I guess it again comes back to what motivates you. I’m not convinced yet that I need to avoid gluten but I’m certainly convinced everyone needs to avoid those other two items I mentioned.

I don’t drink soda, preferring kombucha, jun or sparkling water if I want something other than plain ol’ spring water.

I also don’t eat much sugar but lately I’ve been enjoying a few squares of dark chocolate in the afternoon. I don’t think this is a big deal but will try to curb this from being a daily habit as having sugar inevitably makes me crave more sugar (and also be what is affecting my skin). I love to indulge in ice cream but next time the craving hits I’m going to try a homemade yogurt popsicle. My son was teething and I made him popsicles using organic sheep’s milk yogurt and homemade elderberry syrup (raw honey, elderberries, water and spices) and they were delicious. This is what the dietary changes on Rethink13 are all about; not berating yourself for the times you do eat ice cream but rather continuing to ask yourself, “Is there a way to make this healthier that I would still enjoy?” And making homemade popsicles also goes to the root of Rethink13 in that homemade means you have control of the ingredients and making it yourself almost always saves money too! Straus organic ice cream, while worth it, can be a bit pricey.

I’m motivated to eat less sugar because I know that it affects gut health and also the health of our teeth. Not only through direct contact but because of how it affects us internally and the health of our teeth comes from the inside out.

I don’t eat breakfast cereals so another check mark on the action steps! And just a note on carbs. If one is trying to lose weight then I think cutting carbs is a good idea. This is why I recommend doing the Rethink Grains and Sugars topic alongside Rethink Fats, because eating lots of fat helps reduce carb cravings. I’m not trying to lose weight though, so I’m not specifically watching my carb intake. Each day I have some fruit and most days I have sweet potatoes or regular potatoes with dinner.

A few things to ask yourself: Are you motivated to reduce grains and sugars in your diet? Do you think gluten affects you? Do you want to reduce or eliminate gluten from your diet? If so, what alternatives will you use? If you want to keep eating grains, Do you understand why they should be properly prepared? do you understand how to soak, sprout or ferment them to incase digestibility? Do you use artificial sweeteners? If yes, is this something you are willing to cut out. What steps can you take to do so? Are you able to use natural sweeteners like honey instead of refined sugars? Do you drink soda? Are you open to cutting soda out of your life? Are you motivated to lose weight and therefore eat less carbs? Take note of how you feel after you eat. Do you feel healthy and energized or sick and tired?

Next, I reviewed the Rethink Fats section. Again, I’m pretty good on this topic but we can always keep improving. For cooking I mostly use lard, ghee or coconut oil. I add raw butter to vegetables and use Barini olive oil. I had been buying cheaper brands but read this article explaining that a lot of olive oil brands dilute the oil with cheaper polyunsaturated fats like canola oil, which we should all be avoiding.

One aspect that I need to work on is chips. I love corn chips with salsa and sour cream but almost all brands contain terrible oils like soybean and canola. Jackson’s Honest is one brand that doesn’t. Instead they us coconut oil, so I must keep these on hand so I don’t find myself reaching for other brands. Another goal is to make my own corn chips using organic tortillas. In order to make tortillas, corn is nixtamalized, a healthy process that reduces phytic acid and improves digestibility. Just make sure to buy organic corn tortillas as otherwise corn is almost always GMO (probably safe to say ALWAYS GMO considering that 88% of corn grown in the USA is GMO corn- so sad!).

Unhealthy fats sneak into a lot of condiments but because I make homemade salad dressing, mustard and ketchup already and use avocado oil based mayo, my condiments are quite clean but I am going to try making my own mayo to save money. My husband loves steak sauce and right now we don’t have one on hand so that’s another DIY project to add to the list!

I’m motivated to avoid eating polyunsaturated fats for a number of reasons but the main one on my mind lately is the idea that these fats make us more susceptible to sun damage. I believe we need a healthy amount of sun exposure and I don’t wear sunscreen unless I’m going to be in the sun for an unavoidable amount of time (and then I would only ever use a chemical free sunscreen, like Badger brand). So in order to benefit from the sun’s healthy, life-giving rays, I want to avoid rancid polyunsaturated fats.

A few things to ask yourself: What motivates you to eat healthier fats? Do you eat many polyunsaturated fats like soybean and canola oil? What could you replace these with? How could you clean up your condiments?Are you worried that eating fat will make you fat? Take note of how you feel after you eat. Do you feel healthy and energized or sick and tired?

In conclusion, goals to round out week one: make homemade popsicles, aim to reduce sugar by not having chocolate every day, make mayonnaise, steak sauce and corn chips, and keep Jackson’s Honest chips on hand so that I don’t buy brands containing soybean or canola oil.

For week two I’m going to explore Rethink Nuts, Seeds and Beans and Rethink Beverages and Condiments.

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