Reader Story: Real Food Helped Me Break Free

This is a reader story by Katie Haines, a certified health coach who works with women to help them simplify healthy eating so they can stick with it. She lives in Maryland with her husband and sweet little boy. If you’d like to submit your own real food story, you can do so here.

Breaking free. That’s how I’d summarize my real food story.

Growing up a ballet dancer, my friends and I were all very body-conscious. The prevailing dietary trend was fat-free, and I bought into it. To be a successful dancer, I thought I needed to be thin, and it made sense that fat-free foods would help me get there.

My diet was filled with fat-free everything – salad dressing, frozen yogurt, cookies, yogurt, and margarine. I thought that because it was fat-free that meant it was good for me. And I had no concept of portions. I didn’t just have a couple fat-free cookies – I had ten!

Back then, I never had the level of energy I wanted, and I always felt bloated. I had near constant sugar cravings and ate a lot of candy (but it was fat-free, so it was okay). Isn’t it funny how we tend to think something is good for us just because it fits into the rules of a specific diet or current trend?

Reader Story: Real Food Helped Me Break Free on 100 Days of Real Food

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My Wake-Up Call

Later in life, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disease. It forced me to really evaluate how my diet and lifestyle could affect my health, not just my weight. It was my wake-up call. And, much like Lisa, reading Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, started me on the path toward real food.

As a vegetarian who ate a lot of fruit and veggies, I’d always considered myself a healthy eater. So it was a total shock when I began reading the ingredients lists on the boxes in my pantry and fridge. There were loads of added flavors, added colors, and added sugar. A lot of sugar.

At first, the thought of eating fat completely scared me. Wouldn’t that avocado make me fat? Shouldn’t I buy the low-fat coconut milk? Buying full-fat yogurt nearly put me over the edge! Another challenge was finding real food replacements for a few long-standing favorites like my beloved Lite Raspberry Vinaigrette, sandwiches from a “healthy” fast food chain, or a crunchy high-protein breakfast cereal I was addicted to.

The real food options at the store all tasted bland. The food wasn’t bursting with flavor or as sweet as I was used to. I didn’t realize how my taste buds had gotten used to those artificial and natural flavors. It took time, but now I can fully appreciate the natural taste of a ripe strawberry (it doesn’t taste like strawberry flavoring!) or a slice of homemade chocolate cake, without the extra chocolatey-ness.

My New Normal

Eating real food has helped me break free from dieting. I’ve learned to tune into my body and eat foods that work for me and tune out the latest diet fads. I don’t have to memorize a new set of diet rules every couple of months. In the end, eating real food is much simpler.

I easily maintain my weight. I feel like I have more energy than I did in high school, and I have far fewer cravings.

These days, I feel like I can eat normally. I don’t want ten low-fat cookies – one or two (real ones) does the trick. I don’t have to keep a running tally of fat grams or calories. Very occasionally I’ll eat something that doesn’t have all real ingredients, and that’s okay, too. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about feeling good. And I finally do.

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14 thoughts on “Reader Story: Real Food Helped Me Break Free”

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  1. Michelle Christine


    Could you please share your recipe you replaced Raspberry Vinaigrette with? Thank you!

    Michelle Christine

  2. Jessica, I am not an expert but I have been an avid fan of Lisa for 2 years. She is not deceptive. She is here to help everyone. I have printed countless recipes from her website and have her 2 books. She has one (or more–I’m not sure) programs you can buy to help you. I have not purchased them, and you don’t need to. You can trust Lisa. She is not trying to “rip” everyone off. If you haven’t done so, you might want to print a lot of her recipes from her website and perhaps consider buying one of her books, that are loaded with such valuable information and scores of recipes. That is a great place to start. I hope this has been helpful. Clean and healthy foods are excellent ways to be healthier.

  3. I would love to eliminate sugar from my diet. I feel like I had to have my caffeine so I drink Mountain Dew. I also love my coffee but I want a bunch of creamer. I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and my medication just keeps increasing and my symptoms are never at Bay. They had talked about removing it but with the medications I was able to stabilize it I did not want to surgery. I feel like an evidently though that’s what I’m going to have to have to be free of all these symptoms that come with it. I would love to try to 30 day challenge. I’m unsure of where to start or what to do. I don’t want any gimmicks or things I have to keep on buying. I love to eat fruits and vegetables honestly I don’t like a lot of red meat but I will do what’s necessary to change my diet. I need a basis of where to start I’m completely lost as I eat how I was raised. Any input or any insight would be much appreciated. I also want to do this for my two boys. One has a low Vitamin-D level and potassium that we have been struggling with and we have had to use supplements but I would like for him to get it through all natural foods at some point. Again any and all information would be appreciated I’m very interested in not just the recipes but how everything affects our body the additives I know that sugars but I would even like more info on that

  4. Well written! Eating real food is not a “diet”, it’s a way of life. I have no idea how many calories I eat now, I just eat whole, filling foods when I’m hungry and stop when I’m not. That might be half a glass a milk or half a chicken (!!).

    It does take time to break your little taste buds’ addiction. I didn’t flavor anything I ate for about 6 weeks. It was rough, food was very bland. But pretty quickly I picked up that texture is an element to taste, and then I could finally taste the food. Eating corn without mountains of salt and butter was a revelation!

    Hopefully people read your testimony and aren’t afraid to give up the sugar, fat and other artificial stuff. There is that adjustment period, but it’s worth it.

  5. Hi Katie — Thank you so much for sharing your story. I loved taking your 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge last September 26-October 25. I can strongly recommend your next Challenge to anyone who wants to make dramatic progress in Healthy Eating. Best, Mary Buckmaster

  6. You say it so well. Fake sugar is just as bad–you get a funny taste in your mouth, and then real food (like fruit) tastes odd. I gave up the diet sodas and now drink only water, coffee and wine (hey, I live in France). Since I’ve been eliminating added sugar, I find that plain Greek yogurt with frozen raspberries (no sugar added) is plenty sweet as is. Taste buds adjust, and sugar cravings fade.
    I use butter, not margarine, but I try to use olive oil instead of butter. Some fat is essential, but I don’t want to end up with high cholesterol either.
    That said, I know someone who is constantly dieting, who takes every kind of supplement and pill and quick fix, and who considers vegetables to be punishment. She will eat an entire box of “low-fat” cookies in seconds, but she won’t touch carrots, avocados or red or black beans because they all are full of fat and carbs. I don’t think anybody ever gained weight eating carrots.

    1. Hey there, Taste of France :-) Isn’t it interesting how our taste buds adjust? And, congratulations on moving diet soda out of your diet– that’s a big win!