Kelly DiMaggio – Eating Smart
March was National Nutrition Month, a fact that this time last year I was oblivious to. I'm 28 years old with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a history of blood clots, and newly diagnosed rhythm issues. Just over a year ago, my cardiologist forced me to wake up regarding my diet and exercise habits (or lack thereof). I was carrying around an extra 30 or so pounds and constantly exhausted. Although it wasn't just about the weight, I was eating everything a cardiac patient shouldn't be. Those who know me know how much I love cheese, and I seemed to find ways to add it to every dish. My sodium intake was too high, the amount of fatty foods I was consuming was less than ideal, and fried foods were some of my favorites. I was drinking too much coffee, not enough water, and not paying attention to the quality of things I was putting into my body. Something had to give.
My colleague at work, who embodies healthy, clean eating and exemplifies fitness, gave my husband and I the book "On Target Living Nutrition: The Power of Feeling Your Best" by Chris Johnson. The book stresses the importance of the quality of the foods one is eating. The message isn't about massively cutting caloric intake or depriving yourself of certain indulgences, but rather educates you on the best types of foods to eat from each of the various food groups. The book comes with an insert to take out and hang on your refrigerator, depicting a target that breaks out Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins into best, better, good, fair and poor categories. The concept is simple, do your grocery shopping based on the foods in the innermost circles of the target and you'll be set.
Soon, our fridge and pantry was stocked full of very lean protein (usually chicken, lean turkey meat, and fish) and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. One thing my colleague always told me as a general rule of thumb: if it's packaged, avoid it. The foods that are usually best for you have one ingredient: themselves. (Examples: apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, avocados, fish and nuts, to simply name a few)
Ironically, most people are usually skeptical at first that changing your diet can have that much of an effect. People constantly wanted to know what I was doing exercise wise, when in actuality all I do is walk 20-30 minutes at least four days a week and a bit of planking and light yoga. I'm telling you, the benefits of clean eating are unbelievable. Not only did the pounds fall off, but I felt my entire body change. I suddenly had energy that had been missing for years, felt more stable emotionally, and was getting into the best shape of my life. My husband committed to this healthy lifestyle with me as well, and has lost over 50 pounds!
People are surprised to find that not only are you not drastically cutting calories or skipping meals, you are eating regularly portioned and timed meals and everything you find yourself eating is absolutely delicious. My dad and stepmom committed to the diligent healthy lifestyle at the beginning of 2017 and reflect that they now prefer to stay in as opposed to going out to eat, as they can make it healthier and better tasting themselves! This is a big statement not only for them, but for my husband and I as well, as the four of us have always so enjoyed going out to eat and consider ourselves foodies. Making the commitment together is one of the most powerful forms of accountability! Not only are my husband and I accountable to each other, but we are to my dad and Stacy as well. Since January 1st my father is down 22 lbs. and my stepmother is down 11 lbs! This is all simply from changing their diets!
My mom has started to dabble in this as well, and I can’t wait to help encourage her through it. I’d challenge everyone to really examine the ways in which they are eating and incorporate some healthy, clean eating! With April and May focusing on the importance of physical activity, now is the perfect time to start fueling your body in the best way possibly. Trust me; your heart will thank you! I’m happy to say that a big cardiology appointment I had in October, the doctor specifically commented on what wonderful lifestyle changes I have made and how they will serve me well in my quest to avoid the talk of transplantation for as long as possible.
Happy, healthy eating everyone! J