Caution: Extreme uncomfortable behavior change ahead. If you want to know how to change the world, start with yourself. This site is my personal journal of how I grow my bank account. The fellow in the mirror is the only soul you can control. And today, we start an adventure of making my life better on a physical and financial level. Welcome to another entry in my Frugal Grit series where I become a test subject in some matter of life optimization and share my results with you.
Today’s post is all about food! To start, I am a foodie. Just to stress my passion for food, the formal dining room is the most important room in my house. All the important decisions, board games, business deals, study sessions and dinner dates happen in this room. But the table is only important because it holds food. Food is the great uniter. Food brings people of different cultures and backgrounds together for a shared meal/experience. And this post today is more than a rant but a lesson on how food can either save or destroy your financial situation.
So my aim here is to save us all money by eliminating our doctors visits, medical bills and lost time due to recovery from any illnesses we may encounter. I’d also like to increase our quality of life since we will be healthy, toner, and more energetic depending on what we put into our bodies.
Cold hard facts
Yes, food can destroy your financial situation. How is this you say? It’s so very simple once you see the facts. And instead of complicated charts and graphs, I’ll give a real-world fact. Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the US.
And in the case of my family, death was not the only result as millions of dollars in lost work and medical expenses followed heart disease. The crazy thing here is that you can live a seemingly healthy life and still be at risk for heart disease. But probability dictates that you will have less medical expenses and reduce your chance of heart disease if you eat healthy and workout moderately. And if you examine the top 15 killers on the pic below, you’ll see that lots of the top 15 can be prevented or delayed by simply choosing to eat healthy.
My Actual Cholesterol results
As you can see in my personal cholesterol results for the four categories,
- Total Cholesterol
- HDL Cholesterol
- LDL Cholesterol
Instead of me explaining what all those types of Cholesterol stats mean, I will refer you to Dr. Axe. But as you can see in the screenshot, I’m currently at risk for heart disease. How is this? I exercise consistently 3-4 days a week, I am actually underweight for my height, age group, and I eat vegetables just about every day. Since receiving these cholesterol results, I have studied this topic extensively and assessed my personal diet. My conclusion is that I consume entirely too many foods that cause inflammation. I’ll list my diet below, but first let’s talk about inflammation. Essentially, inflammation is how your body repairs and guards itself from toxins that stem from eating things your body cannot absorb. That is all the detail I am going to list for the sake of simplicity. The more foods you eat that cause inflammation the higher chance you have of heart disease.
So in theory, all I need to do is eliminate foods that cause inflammation and then my cholesterol levels will be good thus I will reduce my chances of heart disease and costly medical bills. Simple. Right? Ha! That couldn’t be further from the truth. Reviewing my personal diet literally broke my heart because there are just so many foods that I enjoy which don’t treat me well in return. And sadly, my personal diet heavily consists of foods that cause inflammation. The items below are major contributors of inflammation.
Wheat: (In my case breads and noodles) Inflammation from wheat is also a problem even for people who aren’t sensitive to gluten specifically. Amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATIs for short) that can provoke an inflammatory immune response in the GI tract by stimulating immune cells. This occurs in people regardless of whether they have celiac disease or not – it’s a completely different problem from gluten and it can cause trouble for you regardless of whether or not you’re sensitive to gluten in particular.
Dairy: (Milk and cheese in my case.) These are consumed multiple times per day by me. The problem is that Pasteurization and homogenization cause inflammation.
Coffee: I routinely consume 3 cups per day. From what I read, it’s not necessarily the coffee that causes inflammation, it’s the caffeine. I should not go over two cups per day.
What exactly is healthy eating?
There are so many trends out there which one is right? I am in no way qualified to make that choice for you. But I can tell you that heart disease has killed many in my family for generations and it looks like I am on my way to becoming another statistic if I stand idle. So, in my case, “healthy” means I will eat a diet that will support a healthy cardiovascular system thus reduce my chance of heart disease.
Since cardiovascular health seems to affect the majority of people in the US, I think my studies will be beneficial for the majority of my readers. Ironically, I have also found that lots of the foods which support a healthy cardiovascular system also fight many cancers. Bonus points to that fact because we all know cancer is a super villain to our bank account.
To be honest, I am not going to eliminate all the inflammation causing foods in my life because that would be a diet of just vegetables and water. Okay, maybe not just veggies and water, but a diet that eliminated all foods which caused inflammation would be very limiting in my life and I just wouldn’t commit to a diet of these extreme limitations. But I can apply the 80/20 rule and knock out the main inflammation contributors in my life. So during the week, I am going to be on my best behavior in terms of my diet and then on the weekend I will relax and take it easy. In addition, I can also introduce anti-inflammatory foods in my lifestyle such as green tea, ginger root, turmeric etc.
My new diet detailed:
In the coming posts, I will share my results from this self-experiment. I plan to get my cholesterol levels checked next month and I am anxious to see if my effort has paid off. Below is the breakdown of my new diet during the week.
Protein shake that consists of:
- 4 tablespoons of raw hemp seeds.
- 1 cup of Green veggie mix (I’ll detail what this is once I know if it works.)
- 1 banana.
- 1 cup of water.
- 1 cup of coconut milk.
- 1 teaspoon of a minced ginger root.
- 1 minced garlic clove.
This recipe is not the most delicious shake, but very tolerable for me and achieves my goal of anti-inflammatory foods. I plan to modify this recipe in the future. But for now, this shake is my breakfast meal.
Sometimes I will also make scrambled eggs with onions, chopped spinach and bacon (nitrate free, organic absolutely NO preservatives).
This can vary, but normally lunch is my leftover dinner which saves me lots of money. The items below are a few default meals my wife and I make. What I mean by default is that we’ll prepare the base ingredients for these meals every Sunday night regardless of what’s going on in our lives.
Pasta and Tomato Sauce: This normally consists of a pasta made with Pea and Lentil noodles (no wheat), Organic Grass-fed beef, and homemade tomato sauce.
Another meal that is a common staple for lunch is a salad made the night before mixed with spinach, red cabbage, garbanzo beans, corn, onions, tomatoes, broccoli with green herbs and a homemade Italian dressing. (all the veggies are organic).
Brown rice and kidney bean mix with seasoning. This sounds basic and limiting. But I can attest that Dominicans, such as my wife, make the most amazing bean and rice combinations. Sometimes we’ll throw some chicken and a side salad in the mix.
A Seed mix of, raw pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cashews. (All organic, no salt added.) This mix does not need any special packing or refrigeration which is very important for me since I travel a lot for work.
Beat chocolate muffins made with Coconut flour. The chocolate has no sugar added and my wife will throw a banana and raw organic honey in the mix to add some sweetness.
Baked sweet potato chips.
Tea: Organic Green tea with a lemon, teaspoon of turmeric, teaspoon of organic raw honey and a few drops of coconut milk.
Who has time to cook?
Efficiency and routine are dire. As mentioned above, I cook and prep the raw ingredients for our meals with my wife twice a week. Stuff like legumes and sweet potatoes will be cooked on Sundays and frozen throughout the week. Then, the frozen items will be defrosted a few days before we think we need them. Because most of my meals are routine, I know with certainty what ingredients I need every week from the grocery store. My wife and I share a grocery list via Google Keep just to make sure we are in tune with what’s needed. My wife and I both work full time and could not pull this tactic off without teamwork and communication. If she cooks, I clean up or help cook. If she’s doing laundry I am prepping the meals. Sometimes she does more work than me and vice-versa. It’s not worrying about equal effort, I am too busy worrying about what I can do to help reach our goals of living frugally and eating healthy.
My questions to you…
Would it be beneficial for me to throw these recipes on YouTube?
What are some hurdles that are stopping you from eating healthier foods?
Are there any details that I have left out?
Please connect with me on the comments or social media so I can get your input.
I have messed up. I have cheated on my diet. And I will continue to fall time from time. But failure is not a reason to continue bad behavior. The regret from failure is just fuel for my passion of continuing on this track. Most of my diet cheating stems from unplanned trips or long nights at the office. Because of these situations, I have created a backup plan. Since I am consistently eating meals with business associates for work, I find that I can always order a salad with chicken of some sort and dressing on the side at any modern restaurant. This is my default meal unless something meets my criteria of anti-inflammatory meals. I call this chicken salad plan my safeguard against last minute dining events that take place.
My diet during the week will consist of:
- no dairy
- no gluten
- no artificial sugars
All meals I consume will come from my house
During the weekend, I am not going to pig out on junk foods. I am just going to relax and try to eat moderate portions of what I crave such as beer, Chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches, a good cheese with wine etc. I will pack all my meals for work and if I find that I cannot meet the bullet points above, I will skip the meal. Since I pack seeds every time I leave the house, they will hold me over until I reach home. Again, the purpose of this endeavor is to achieve a better cholesterol score and reduce my risk of heart disease by the time of my next Dr. Visit which will be in July of this year.
The cholesterol results in the pic above are a few months old. Since that picture has been taken, I have successfully eliminated dairy from my diet during the week and I have literally dropped 18 pounds. I am generally a thin guy but I do tend to get a flabby midsection if I am not careful. I have also noticed that I feel less bloated after eating meals such as my gluten free pasta mentioned above. I am also craving fresh vegetables more.
I will not buy the excuse that by changing my eating behaviors I am not enjoying life. From a theoretical perspective, the lifestyle diet changes in this post are limiting. But if you were to walk a day in my shoes, you would have a different perspective.
For example, my grandfather died of a heart attack at age 40, my uncle died of a heart attack in his early 60s, and my father has been having heart attacks, triple bypass surgeries, numerous artery replacement surgeries, and random types of cancers since I was a child. I would rather die than to go through all that I have seen my father go through. The surgery is not what scares me, death is not what scares me, not being able to retire and care for my family is what scares me. The financial burden of what my poor dad has been through is insane. Yes, organic vegetables are expensive. However, I can definitively tell you, organic vegetables are cheaper than open heart surgery.
I care more about heart disease than I care about how good a cheeseburger tastes. I care more about heart disease and it’s limiting financial burdens than I care about a darn brownie. Moreover, I care more about freeing myself from the ever increasing payroll tax, the 9-5 wake-up everyday grind, and the make someone else’s business a reality because I am not yet working for myself nor have I retired early yet.
Financial independence is what this blog is about and my diet is going to help me get there. Thanks for reading.
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