Listen To Your Body, Be Patient With Yourself — Steps Toward Healthy Eating

Cecelia Hamilton, Heartfelt Catering Chef/Owner

Cecelia Hamilton, Heartfelt Catering Chef/Owner

February is American Heart Month. Heartfelt Catering Chef/Owner Cecelia Hamilton shares her personal healthy eating journey and lifestyle.

We’re one full month into the new year and this is the time that many healthy eating resolutions fall by the wayside. If this sounds like you, don’t be too hard on yourself. Studies show that it takes about 66 days to form a healthy habit. Personally, I stopped making resolutions around eating years ago. Instead, I began listening to the signals my body was sending me. 

I first noticed signs that I should listen to my body while in my mid 30s. I was physically active and thought I could eat anything that I wanted. Ice cream in particular. I loved ice cream. I’d eat 2-3 pints every week. Yes, I really Ioved ice cream! My preference was vanilla Häagen-Dazs, nothing elaborate — I’m a simple woman. About a year into my weekly ice cream eating habit, my stomach didn’t feel so great anymore and one day I had an upset stomach that grabbed my attention. That is when I began to listen to what my body was telling me.

I knew that I had to make a change in my diet, but I wasn’t ready to completely cut ice cream out of my life yet. Instead, I’d reduce my indulgence to just once a month. You see, my body and I made an agreement that if I’d limited my intake to just once a month, I’d be okay. But if I went against that agreement and consumed any more, my body would react and I would immediately feel discomfort. Of course, there were enzyme pills that I could have taken to allow me to happily consume more ice cream, but I refused to take them because it was clear, my body was saying, “NO!”. As time passed, however, my stomach eventually began to react to my monthly, then later, my six week treat, to the point that I had to end my love affair with traditional ice cream. 

I added a once-in-a-while pint of plant based alternative ice cream to my diet and listened to my body’s response. While my stomach felt slightly better with plant based ice cream, most products included sugar which triggered my hot flashes. But it wasn’t just the lactose and sugar that made my body react, it was also wine (boo-hoo!), gluten and corn. Later, I’d recall a conversation with my physician from a few years prior, telling me to stay away from processed starches and sugars if I wanted to reduce my risk of Type 2 diabetes due to my family history. It’s interesting, most of the foods my body rejects are those that I shouldn’t have eaten anyway. Sure, part of me is disappointed that I can’t have all of the things that I enjoyed anymore, but I do find solace in knowing that my body is protecting me — if I pay attention.

Listening to your body is a process that takes time to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. There are occasional moments like the holidays and cold Chicago winters when I crave heavy comfort foods and want to overindulge. I try to be mindful of these instances by preparing for them in advance. For example, I eat breakfast that’s full of fiber such as old-fashioned oatmeal prepared with seeds and dates as a sweetener, or I’ll eat non-dairy yogurt and fruit on days that I’m unable to workout. And I’ll eat small portions of lean meats and soups or vegetables for lunch. Step-by-step I intentionally wane my body from the bad stuff.

You may already know how my familial and personal dietary restrictions served as inspiration for the way that we cook at Heartfelt Catering; and we have many clients who also have dietary preferences or restrictions, food allergies, or certain health issues. Of course, we also have serve many, many clients who don’t have any dietary restrictions at all and we prepare just what they crave with our special signature touches that are fresh, simple and soulful. All of which makes for a more thoughtful approach to menu design as we ensure that we offer something delicious for everyone.

For those of you having trouble sticking to a plan or even starting one, I understand. Just remember that small, incremental steps work best. Start by listening to your body and please don’t forget to add an extra helping of patience.

Happy healthy eating!

Peace & Love,
Chef Cecelia

Cecelia Hamilton