Last time I felt this fatigued was when my son was three-years-old. That was eight years ago. I’d gained about 30 pounds and it wasn’t “baby fat”; I lost all of my pregnancy weight three weeks after the delivery of my boy without dieting (hate me). Breastfeeding turned my metabolism into that of a teenager. When it stopped, I think I continued to eat the same foods in the same quantities and before long, I’d gone up about three sizes in clothes. But it wasn’t really the extra lbs that brought me to my knees, it was an unrelenting fatigue that forced me to seek dietary intervention. With the help of a naturopath, I evolved a highly acidic diet into an alkaline diet.
Let me explain, with a disclaimer; I’m not a dietitian nor am I a naturopath, so what I’m about to describe is anecdotal. It’s a combination of personal experience and tidbits gleaned from several online articles. There are a number of foods that produce acid as a byproduct in the body and an abundance of this acid byproduct can lead to difficulties with metabolism, energy, and general resiliency. The route to neutralize this acid is through increasing the amount of alkaline producing foods that you eat. Simple enough, right?
So, which foods are acid-producers?
Most meat is acidic, with chicken breasts being one exception. Drinks that contain phosphates, alcohol, and caffeine (oh coffee! how could you betray me?!) are also considered to be acid-producers. Also add sugars, dairy, mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegars to this list. The rule of thumb that I found helpful when I was alkalizing my diet eight years ago was this: if it’s delicious and I love it, it’s got to go.
It’s not so grim. There are good eats in the alkaline family too. Take for example eggs, yogurt, sesame seeds, almost all vegetables, and a lot of fruits as well as legumes. I have a massive sweet tooth and while some people will tell you that the craving for sugar goes away, it just never did for me. I used brown rice syrup as well as maple syrup though, and they were lovely.
Another thing you’ve no doubt found in your searches for diet-fixes online are articles with information about so-called substitutes. For example, I was told by my naturopath and read in several articles to substitute soy milk or brown rice milk for dairy milk, and it always felt as if I was playing a cruel prank on myself. The day I decided that I was going to get used to drinking these drinks instead of dairy, and using brown rice syrup instead of sugar, I was much more content.
Notice I didn’t use the word, “happy”. I wasn’t actually happy until about Week Eight of the big change. By then I was feeling energized and my body craved the foods it was supposed to crave.
So where did it all derail?
It started with a birthday party about a year into the new regime. I had a piece of cake and a(n amazing) cup of coffee. Woke up the next day and felt fine and dandy. So I slowly reintroduced coffee and milk into my world (hello old friend!). It all just kind of snowballed from there.
Even as I write, I’m telling myself that I don’t have to do this thing full monty-style. Maybe that level of extremism was unsustainable for me (I do so love my coffee and milk). What I’m sure of is that I need to even things out a bit.
Today I took a bit of an inventory of my cupboards and fridge and this is some of what I found:
One shelf & two drawers
Here we see LOTS of milk (acid), fruits and veggies (alkaline), and sparkling wine (for a brunch I’m hosting on the weekend, it’s not a staple, honest). Aside from the condiments in the fridge, the rest of the fridge had about the same ratio of acid to alkaline.
My typical breakfast
Here is an example of a typical breakfast for me. In this image we see my cafe au lait (acidic) and a mini-cup of yogurt (alkaline). In the background there’s a container of brown sugar (acid) and oatmeal (alkaline). So again, not a bad balance.
I’ve never been able to eat a lot of food first thing in the day. Also, I tend to require quick energy. I struggled with the traditional high protein energy breakkie even when I was a competing athlete who trained four hours a day.
What about calcium?
Any diet that omits vital nutrients can’t be good for you, right?
Correct, but alkaline diets can be rich in calcium. For example, kidney beans, black beans, and quinoa are excellent sources of calcium as are leafy greens, figs, and molasses.
I believe the imbalance occurs in the combination of foods I choose throughout the day. Typically I’ll continue drinking coffee, will grab something bready, and munch on apples until dinner. Dinner includes meat (not always chicken breasts), potatoes (acidic), green veggies, and one other vegetable. I have a variety of healthy foods that I prepare for my son and I take moderately from those pickings.
Also, it’s important to note that I cater to my sweet tooth whenever it beckons. I deny myself nothing. I believe this is they key to success whenever you’re changing your diet. Wait, bear with me. Currently I’m choosing white sugary snacks, rich in animal fats. If I’m going to feel a change in my energy I’m going to have to develop a new favorite treat: The Copycat Cook‘s black bean brownie anyone?