Before we begin, I would like to share a little bit about my personal experiences with the principles of this simple, yet life-transforming, program.
I grew up in Russia, immigrating to the U.S. half my lifetime ago, when I was sixteen. Russia is, of course, virtually an “undeveloped” country compared to the United States – most notable when I come to food.
Certainly at that time, we did not have routine access to the processed foods and drinks, artificial sweeteners, chemically- and hormonally- infused meats and poultry, preservative-laden TV dinners, or fatty fast foods that make up the standard American diet.
In fact, I didn’t even taste Coca Cola or a Snickers candy bar until I was more than 16 years old. By American standards, I was deprived. In reality, I was protected.
You see, while our food supply in Russia might have seemed quite modest and unimaginative compared to that of the U.S. (with its always-innovating packaged and prepared food industries), it was whole and healthy.
We bought most of our food at the local farmers’ market and ate it fresh or prepared it on the stove the very same day. Whole, healthy foods lined our shelves and filled our baskets. Whole, healthy foods nurtured us and kept us whole and healthy.
I remember the first time I went to a grocery store here in the U.S. with my mother. The thousands upon thousands of brightly-labeled and branded food products rushing past me as we walked down each and every aisle were overwhelming.
I felt I had moved not just to another country but to another world. How did one choose between this chocolate-chip cookie brand and that one? Between that one and 19 others lines up next to (and on top of) it?
Can you imagine how I felt when I had my first experience at MacDonald’s? I was in shock.
Now, I didn’t let go the whole-food, healthy way of eating I’d grown up with right away. But eventually, as I became accustomed to my new American lifestyle, I also became more and more accustomed to eating the packaged and processed foods that seemed so foreign to me just a few years before – and I ate more and more, over time.
I’ll be totally honest with you: I was not ignorant about health and nutrition. I knew that whole foods were good for me and processed foods were anything but good for me. Still, I totally disregarded what I knew and ate them, anyway. (I started smoking and drinking occasionally, as well.)
My excuse? Oh, I was busy. Busy, busy, busy. And I was immersed in the junk-food culture of college. All my friends ate that kind of food. It tasted good, and it wasn’t like I was eating poison or anything, for crying out load! (Or so I thought)
I can remember buying a bag of M&Ms and a Coca Cola from vending machines and making lunch out of it relatively often. These and similar sins (against myself!) made up the majority of my diet for about four years, while I was getting an education. So, even as I was training my brain and filling my mind with useful information, I was depleting my body of the nutrients, minerals and phyto-nutrients (unique mini “vitamins”) I desperately needed to make that education worthwhile to me.
I gained weight and lost energy. I felt terrible. And I looked as bad as I felt.
I fact, if you could see a picture of me during that people of my life, you wouldn’t recognize me; I looked years older than I do now, and I was only 24 at the time. (I’m 32 now.)
I was in a downward spiral. Stress and anxiety (seemingly from my schoolwork and intense schedule) pushed me to eat more and more sugary foods and drink more and more caffeinated sodas. Consuming those sugary foods and caffeinated sodas exhausted my body and frayed my nerves.
Sure, they gave me a temporary sense of relief – but then they created more and more of the very stress and anxiety I was trying to escape.
In my heart, I knew I was hurting myself, at that time I didn’t know how to reverse the process that seemingly had me imprisoned. And my “food fogginess” (the mental confusion that comes with being nutrient-poor and sugar-/caffeine-addicted) kept me too hazy to face my addiction. Denial, of course, told me both that I wasn’t really addicted to the junk I was eating, and that the junk I was eating really wasn’t responsive for making me feel as terrible as I felt.
After I graduated from college, I moved to Baltimore and took a high-pressure job in the corporate world. Trying to keep a schedule that moved faster that I possible could meant many, many skipped meals (even days without eating), on top of my already draining junk-food habits.
Of course, with that schedule I lost weight. You’d think it would have been a good thing, after my chubby college years. But my weight loss was meaningless, in real-life terms. Not-overweight doesn’t necessarily equal healthy, and I can assure you it didn’t in this case!
I looked as sick as I felt. My skin was dry, gray, and lifeless, my hair and nails were brittle, and I was absolutely exhausted all the time. I lived in a state of exhaustion.
Every day, I accomplished less than the day before. (I just didn’t have the energy!) At one time, I had been ambitious about my career and my life, in general. But now, my ambition to succeed and live the life of my dreams was sifting through my fingers like sand. My motivation to work was disappearing like a snowflake when you blow on it. At my wit’s end, I even considered anti-depressants, a path I’d never wanted to take.
That last year, I drank more coffee than anyone I’ve ever known. (Well, to my knowledge! I suppose I might have a friend or loved one with a secret coffee habit!) I wouldn’t even get out of bed unless I had a pot of coffee brewing in the kitchen. I thought the coffee was the only thing getting me through my days. Now, I know it was the problem. (Or a big part of the problem, at least!)
I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had continued on that path much longer. I could have lost my career and my dreams. I could have become seriously, chronically ill, and I probably would have, within a few years. My lifestyle, I know now, wasn’t just “unhealthy” in some nebulous “We’re-not-being-a-very-good-girl-are-we-Maria?” kind of way; it was killing me.
One day on my way home from work, I noticed a Whole Foods store and wandered in. I’d been taking the same way home from work for nearly a year, and I’d never noticed the store before. (Actually, at that time, I didn’t get the “Whole Foods” terminology, so I didn’t understand what the store was about!)
As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. My walk into that store was the beginning of my new life.
The journey I began that day healed me and brought me here to you – to share what I have learned, what has healed me, restored me, and brought me back to life.
I began learning the lifestyle principles that have revolutionized my life (including my energy levels) and my looks. I immersed myself in books and magazines on nutrition, whole foods and supplements, researched and learned all I could.
I stated analyzing my eating habits – making the connection between the way I ate (and drank) and the way I looked and felt.
I noticed and paid close attention to people who looked and felt good. I observed what they did, how they ate and lived their lives. And I asked them what they did that made the difference. Each new piece of information led to another new piece of information until I had a “big picture” understanding of what really works.
Before long, I returned to the whole-food lifestyle I had enjoyed (without realizing it) in my childhood.
My transformation happened quite quickly – almost instantly. My energy levels skyrocketed; they went through the roof. My skin started to glow and became smoother. My hair became shiny, my nails stronger. I felt clean, clear, balanced, happy and whole. I knew this was how I was meant to live. Since then, I’ve never looked back.
I’ve been living my whole-food whole lifestyle for over 5 years. I look and feel amazing. I have energy of a 5-year old kid. I function at my best every day, often on only 4 hours of sleep. (Most people need more, although as you become healthier and more whole you often begin to need less than 8-9 hours people eating the standard American diet, not exercising and /or under stress should be sure to get.)
I have the energy and stamina to work out 5 times a week. I take 3 spinning classes and do 2 full-body weight training sessions weekly.
Within a few months of changing the way I ate, I went from a size 10 to a svelte size 4 without trying to diet, going hungry, or counting carbs, fat, or calories.
I just follow my simple plan – the one I’m about to share with you in this program.
The principles and strategies I’m going to share with you will super-charge your body while they heal and renew your systems – so you can look and feel your best, and enjoy a great quality of life every day.
Many people believe that it’s hard to eat healthy. The truth is, though it can be uncomfortable (and even inconvenient) at first, you’ll probably be surprised at how easy it can be to make whole-food eating your way of life. The strategies I’m going to share with you will help you make this happen.
Best of all, when you begin seeing drastic results in how you look and feel, your motivation will kick into high gear, and there will be no stopping you!