Healthy Living: Saying Goodbye to Salt

On New Years Day in 2013 I remember feeling like crap because I was bloated, chubby, hung over, and not excited about my job. I promised myself I would eat healthier and drink less alcohol. By April I was working out three times a week, eating healthier meals, and cut back on my drinking. My family and friends noticed I slimmed down by summer and all the compliments felt great. I signed up for two work out classes at a community centre in the fall and although my muscles ached, my body felt great. I was a machine. At the start of 2014 I was in Brasil with my husband and initially I kept up with running and some at home exercises. I was eating well as the year went on however, my routine started to change because I was exercising less and less. It wasn’t until Halloween that guilt started to creep in, I felt bad for not exercising and falling back on my progress. The yo-yo continued as one week I would exercise and eat well and the next I was snacking, over eating, and chugging too many beers.

To make it worse I’ve always had a salty tooth; I’m the one who adds salt to my poutine and more butter on my butter popcorn. I knew eventually I’d have to adjust my salt intake, my mother always told me it was a bad habit, but I thought I could continue to enjoy all the fatty and salty foods for at least another decade. I was wrong because back in November I had awful pain in my lower back, under my ribs and towards my belly button. I went to the hospital and was honestly surprised by the doctors diagnosis because I did not expect the pain to be a kidney stone. I took my antibiotics as prescribed for another symptom and I didn’t think much about it at the time. It wasn’t until after Christmas when I was eating breakfast with my husband and he mentioned how salt contributes to kidney stone formation that it hit me. I was shocked that I didn’t know that and embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t read into the symptoms, treatment or prevention. I started researching and I was shocked to learn how little salt we are recommended to consume each day (1 teaspoon per day for an adult) and just how ill-informed and in denial I was about my high sodium diet. Going through my cupboards and fridge to check the listed sodium levels on sauces and snacks is what really took my breath away. I was eating food that was already high in sodium and then I would add more salt as I prepared or ate the meal. I was stunned.

Now that my eyes are wide open after my “ah-ha” moment, I decided to start 2015 with a new attitude towards flavour and goodbye to my high sodium diet. I made a list of all the foods I need to avoid and introduce into my diet and hung it up on my fridge. I started on December 29th and the first three days were awful because all I thought about was salt and bacon. I quickly realized that my favourite flavour is salt, at every meal all I wanted to do was reach for the salt shaker and douse my food with it. I managed to control my urge by focusing on the taste of the herbs, veggies, or meats of the meal that I was not use too. Since this is a transition and it was the first week, my meals consisted of yogurt, grains, fruits, eggs, nuts, salad with multiple vegetables, either rice or potatoes, and a few meat dishes. A change I noticed after the first week is how I wake up feeling hungry, my meals satisfy my hunger so I am snacking less, and the best part is I have not been bloated since.

It is over whelming to change eating habits and stick to them, there’s always that chance you get a whiff of pizza on your lunch or the smell of chicken wings as you’re watching a game at the bar. For me to avoid salty foods, I know it is important to go grocery shopping and I’ve accepted that I will have to go at least twice a week. I also understand why I need to take time to read labels and not just buy something because it’s on sale. I’ve also realized why my mother would have all those colourful vegetables at dinner, it’s good for me just like it was good for her, my grandparents, and all great-grandparents before them. My poor eating habits made me sick and it’s finally clicking in my head that it would get worse if I continued to deny the negative health effects and indulge in my salty tooth. Whatever your reason or motivation is to get healthy, keep at it and soon enough the results will follow. I’m feeling energized, determined, and excited to share my journey on the blog!

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