OOTK: CHANGING My Diet, Fixing My Sleep + Intermittent Fasting (Life Update)
Happy May, friends and I’m back with another Out of the Kitchen post! A lot has happened since my last life update, which was on my birthday. It was difficult trying to figure out what to name this post, since I go into even more here. Either way, this is a positive post, because I have been doing so much better than I have been in years. This story is so much more than just changing my diet, it’s about changing my life. Friends, this is a long one! I do want to start by saying that this is a difficult post to write since it’s my life, so I would appreciate love & kindness (especially since I may make a typo. I’ve cried while writing this post because it brings up so many emotions. I am sharing this because I HOPE it helps someone else, too.
A week ago I shared that I had finally “fixed my sleep” on Instagram and I got an overwhelming amount of you guys saying “HOW?!”. While I was going to just casually share it, that response made me realise that this needed to be addressed in an entire post. The answer is simple: I listened to my body, finally, and it rewarded me with low anxiety, high energy, and amazing sleep. I’m hoping that what I’m sharing will help you or someone in your life who might be going through something similar. Let’s get into it.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
As you guys may or may not know, I became vegetarian in April/May 2014 officially (hence why Jessica in the Kitchen started!). Then I became vegan early last year. Over that time I have seen tremendous strides in my health, which I credit to the lifestyle. But then, a few things happened. I began to have pretty bad sleep, so much so that I just became used to it. I got really into Jessica in the Kitchen and spent pretty much all of my time growing my brand. Then, I gained weight, had energy fluctuations and because I work so late, I would eat late pretty often.
All in all, I kind of got used to this way of living. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you put everything above your own health, without even realising it. It’s not until I’m typing this now that I’ve ever really acknowledged it. I was working 90% of the time, eating whatever was convenient and having poor sleep. I stopped taking care of myself. Now, the funny thing is that I wasn’t eating fast food or drinking soda or any typical “habits”.
Pretty tired of feeling this way, in January I put on my goal list to “meal prep at least three salads a week” “30 minutes of exercise, starting with 3 times a week” and “have some greens daily” and I just left those there. Little did I know that was my body’s way of screaming at me for help.
I began to have daily headaches, complaining to my mom about then, and I was feeling weak pretty much all the time and faint-ish. I was having endless panic attacks, first one a week, then up to so many a week that I was just crying all the time. Now, I haven’t had panic attacks in about 5 years, for context. All in all, I wasn’t feeling like Jessica. If you read my word of the year blog post then you know that my word is SEEK, and that I have SEEKING in so many ways already and ready for even more.
BREAKING POINT (Literally)
Then I broke my foot, again. It felt like the worst possible timing, and I definitely had a lot to say about it. I began to accept it as a part of my path. Long story short – there is a strong possibility, no, guarantee, that breaking my leg was a direct part of my SEEK path. As I found out a few weeks later, breaking my leg basically saved my life.
When I started doing physiotherapy for my leg, my physiotherapist took my blood pressure. Now I’ve always had 110/80, it’s like my standard for years. My blood pressure that day was 179/90. We both looked at each other and noted that something must have been off. I told her that earlier that day I spilled water all over my laptop and had yet another panic attack, and was wondering if that had raised it. She said likely but not that high. We took it again and it was about 154/83 . This was unbelievable for me but we proceeded with the session.
A week later we did it again and it was now 149/80+. Friends. These are hypertensive measurements. I called my doctor who was in the loop and long story short, I went on anti-anxiety medication that would also lower my blood pressure. This was really a wake up call for me, as I wondered when did I get so wrapped up in work that I had forgotten to take care of me, Jessica. We got the medication (I hadn’t taken them yet) and that night, as I was falling asleep I heard a voice “check your multivitamins“. I fell asleep and woke up and it was the very first thing on my mind.
You see, I had started a new multivitamin in early January of this year, the same month I began getting those daily headaches, weak feelings and more. I checked my vitamins and noted the super high Vitamin D levels. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it until I began to Google search “vitamin D in vitamins and high blood pressure”. Forums of women were talking about how their new vitamins had spiked their blood pressure levels. I began to freak out, yet feel relieved at the same time. I decided to stop taking my vitamins that same day. We bought a blood pressure machine later that night and took my pressure. It was a perfect 120/80. Just like that – in 24 hours. No dietary changes, no medicine, nothing. Just removed my vitamins.
ETA: I’m not on any medication for either my anxiety or blood pressure (a few of you were asking so clarifying this!) – it (the spike) went away immediately when I stopped the vitamins.
I noticed that my headaches and weak feelings had also stopped by the next day. As it turns out, the high blood pressure was causing these things. It was a relief to know that it went away immediately, and that I wasn’t actually hypertensive, but also terrifying. I had felt all those symptoms, for months, and did nothing. I kept working, kept staying up late, kept crying, and kept going. I’m going to say this here. Do not expect anyone to take care of your body except you. Sure you can have loved ones who will try and help, BUT if you feel like something is wrong, only YOU can decide to check it out. As someone who hasn’t been to a doctor’s office in years, if I didn’t break my leg, I would’ve never known what was going on.
Needless to say, this led to an immediate decision: I need to take care of Jessica, and now. If I don’t do it, who will? No more endless late nights, no more “career first”, no more. Knowing that I could’ve had a stroke at such a young age kicked me immediately into gear.
THEN…CHANGING MY DIET
I noticed last year when in Israel that I was moving daily, eating lots of food and I came home and lost weight. My anxiety was almost at naught, I slept ridiculously well and I had energy all day. We were all puzzled. I mean, I ate. I didn’t know it then, but now I do: I was essentially eating a lower carb, higher fat diet.
I’ve been taught that a “high carb, low fat” diet is a good thing. Avoid fats, focus on good carbs, and you’ll be fine! Except along the way my sweet tooth kicked in. Plus my love of veggie burgers meant lots of burger buns. Cue lots of vegan desserts (good grief, the best kind!), enjoying my many grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade pizzas, and waffles and pancakes for breakfasts. Yes, all my recipes are on the healthier side, and there’s nothing wrong with any of the above. Many people thrive on a higher carb lifestyle. I was not. For my body and my anxiety, this amount of carbs wasn’t giving me the energy I needed. The funny thing is, I’ve never had an issue with overeating. In fact when I began to track my diets I realised I was coming short of my calories every single day.
I came across a YouTuber’s page who shares similar mental issues as myself and I was intrigued. As far as I’m concerned, she’s a God-sent for me. She shared her fitness journey and how eating a “higher fat, lower carb” diet helped her anxiety a lot. I did tons of reading and research and decided to give it a go. This was my menu-ish for my experimental week:
First, lettuce leaf tacos. Delicious, filling and I felt light but full. I whipped up some chia puddings for meal prep and my next dish was a tofu salad with lots of my homemade harissa tahini dressing. It was my first salad since before my birthday (a month earlier) and it tasted great. The next day I had a gluten free veggie burger, za’atar cauliflower and a salad for lunch. That same day I dropped my crutch and said enough is enough, I’m ready to walk (with the approval of my physiotherapist of course). That night for dinner I had a bit of quinoa, baked tofu, lots of spinach, and a half of an avocado sprinkled with sesame seed with some high fat, good protein vegan cheese. I felt, different. Energised. I forgot about my anxiety – it was no longer haunting my every thought. That night I slept – ALL NIGHT. I was convinced.
So, I changed my diet. Yes I’m still 100% vegan, in fact I’m now also incredibly plant based! I switched my diet to a lower carb, higher fat diet. This in combination with intermittent fasting has ridiculously, incomprehensibly changed my life. Now I have essentially switched my fuel source for energy from carbs to healthy fats. I have way more avocado, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts than I ever have. I may actually finish my bag of chia seeds before they expire! My sleep has been really great. My energy levels have skyrocketed. No drops throughout the day. No eating a lot of white carbs and lots of sugar first thing in the morning then crashing around 4pm, only to hit my second wind at 9pm and keep going. It’s shocking to me how much my body positively adapted in only three weeks so far.
Now, I tried vegan keto for a week and while it was too restrictive for me, it was a great starter week. It really boosted me into recognising just how GREAT I could feel to be ALIVE! I will still be eating my sweet potatoes, and my organic homemade popcorn and my quinoa, but also far more vegetables too. I have had way more kale and broccoli and lettuce and mushrooms and all the other amazing veggies than I have my entire time being vegetarian and vegan. Wow I mean, it’s like I got a new view on life. Even better, a new lease on life. Funny enough too, everything is sweeter. We’ve had to decrease the sugar in my matcha because it was tasting too sweet for me. I’ve started to just have my matcha with my protein powder on workout days. I feel like Jessica again.
While I would rather go into this in a separate post after a few months so I can share this I better detail, intermittent fasting is now a daily part of my life. The late night eating was severely affecting my sleep apparently (as I learned going out late with friends one night in the middle of this and the difference that made to sleep). It has helped to curb my sweet tooth severely, and has helped so much with my gratitude and just recognising my blessings. Long story short for me: don’t eat right before bed. Let your body rest, refuel and focus on giving you a great sleep. I love what Elsa’s Wholesome Life writes about intermittent fasting if you want to read about it now.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES & MOVING FORWARD
All of the above has led to one more major thing: I’ve started back exercise. That’s an update for a few months down the line, but when I say I have my life back, I really mean it. Although I take a rest day, every day I move. I do cardio I love, and I lift weights. I am recognising this amazing body and the strength it is equipped with, daily. My foot is still healing but it no longer bothers me. Instead I am happy every time, because it reminds me that this is why I am here.
TL:DR: If you want a quick summary on this entire post, I:
- Switched from a high carb, lower fat life to a higher fat, lower carb life. It’s helped my mood, to quiet my anxiety incredibly, and help me to focus on my life. Before, I used to get so many scary thoughts: I haven’t had one since I started to do this just a few weeks ago. I check my macros now which has made eating so much easier, and ensure it’s fats and protein, then carbs. I rely on complex carbs now and haven’t had a simple carb since I’ve started doing this. This doesn’t mean I’ll never have fries again, but I’m focusing on listening to my body and my gut and feeding it accordingly.
- I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about three weeks now, more specifically 16:8 (although it tends to be 18:6 for me most days).
- I’ve made exercise a part of my daily life again, for the first time since undergrad university.
- I fixed my sleep by properly fuelling my body with what it needed, and creating an eating window that doesn’t come close to my sleep time.
I am so grateful for my work ethic that allowed me to grow a business to 100% sustain Gavin and I. It is an incredible blessing. That being said, I’m ready to enjoy my last two years of my 20’s. Of course I know my life will only get better after 30, but I’m ready now. I have decided to cut back on my blog schedule. Believe it or not, I wanted to share this with you guys in January but I was too afraid! I’ll now be posting twice a week. This also means even higher quality content – I can’t wait to share!
No, I don’t plan to make every single recipe high fat low carb on Jessica in the Kitchen from now on. I will be incorporating a lot more of them now though, since that’s how I’m trying to eat in general. They’ll still all be delicious, vegan and healthy and focus on health and nourishment. I know a lot of you have been asking for more recipes like this, so I can’t wait to help you with that! Here are some of my current favourites:
Vegan Quiche Muffins with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Spinach
In conclusion..haha. Seriously though, I hope that me sharing has really helped to inspire you to live your very best life. A life with balance. A life with gratitude. We are growing every single day and we should recognise that in our own lives. Also, remember to always take care of yourself. Love you all and thank you for reading! If you have any questions let me know below!
Thank you for that post. That kind of diet has always interested me but I never knew how to do it. So recipe post would help tremendously. I also just started my vegan diet at the first of the year and trying to lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and blood sugar. So thank you again for the inspiration you’ve given to me and determination..
Wow you’re so welcome Sarah! I hope that you hit all of your goals this year. I must say that I’m feeding off of your determination to keep going so thank you too. This means so much to me! I just did a list which consists of low carb meals which can definitely help I don’t know if you’ve seen it but I’ll leave it here just incase! Have a great day!
Thank you Jess for your openness and honesty. I have had knee pains because of bad eating habits and lack of exercise I am sure. I recently went keto and can attest to being more energised. I still struggle cause of.my sweet tooth but I am.not giving up.
Thank you so much Nicole for reading and receiving my message! I’m so happy that you are seeing the benefits of this style of eating. I believe in you and if you ever need to talk we can!
I loved reading this Jessica! I have been doing intermittent fasting for a few months now and I’m loving it!! I really like not having to even think about food until noon and I don’t feel bad about enjoying a cup or two of black coffee during that time. I also do 2 low-carb days a week. I can’t go fully low-carb, my body definitely needs the carbs to fuel me. I’m tracking my macros on all days and on low-carb days I eat about double the recommended fat to make up for the lack of energy from carbs. I have more energy than ever before and I’ve lost a lot of the bloat that I used to carry around. Glad to see someone else having success with this too!
Hey Jenn!!! I’m so happy that you’re getting happiness from this eating style! The bloat loss was so surprising for me too! Thanks so much for giving some feedback!
Loved your post and admire you for changing your lifestyle.
Thank you so much for reading Char! We appreciate it so much.
I just stumbled across your blog. This one in particular has completely been God-sent!!! I have been having the same issues..feeling restless, blood pressure high, fluctuation in energy, anxiety, etc. I have high blood pressure and I’m pre-diabetic. I also had both thyroids removed. I have hypothyroidism..so my metabolism is beyond slow. I have been vegan for 2 yrs but have gained alot of my weight back due to eating too much carbs and refined sugar. Too see a woman who looks like me (Woman of Color) take control of her health AND is vegan is very motivating and inspiring!! Thank you!!!! I am going to try the low carb, high fat eating to see if it also helps me.
Wow thank you so much for sharing with me and it warms my heart to know this blog post really touched you. Happy to report months later that I’ve not only lost weight, I’ve been able to keep it off. Plus, I don’t have to stick strictly to a very low carb diet each day, I just watch my carbs daily and keep lower carb items in the house which makes maintenance VERY easy now. For example instead of keeping white bread in the house I keep like Dave’s Killer Bread instead which is nice and high in fibre, and keep white bread for only certain occasions. It’s really made a difference for me and I really hope it does for you too!! Feel free to email me if you have any questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the road again. I did intermittent fasting and keto for a while, then I stopped. Too much constraints, it was too much to think about and also a lot of money. Right now I’m just eating what’s convenient. I think I’m going to do this over again.
Thank you for sharing your journey. I think I’ll use your low carb recipes. It’s not super easy where I live, some quite important veggies are not available, such as avocado (or pay 3 bucks your avocado) or kale. But I think you’re right.
I don’t know what else to say. I want to show gratitude, love, consideration, acknowledgement to you. Hopefully you can see here performative speech.
Thank you so much for all the love and gratitude you’ve shown. I hope this helps and don’t be afraid to reach out. I’ll try to help any way I can.