Eating Clean But Feeling Worse

How is it possible to feel worse once you’ve ditch the Frosted Flakes and french fries for kale and chia seeds?

After following health blogs, impressive Instagram accounts and Facebook Pages that offer daily nutrition tips, you’ve decided to say adios to the processed foods in your life and begin eating clean. The gorgeous visuals of real, whole food seem to pretty much guarantee massive amounts of energy, a lean physique and a new way of life.

You’re sold! From now on, it’s green smoothies twice a day and veggie based meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Quinoa cupcakes and raw hemp seed cookies become your new norm. You’ve done a 180 in “cleaning up” your diet- and good on you. You’ve made some huge, fabulous changes.

But.. you don’t feel so fabulous.

Instead, you’re bloated and tired. Where’s that energy everyone is talking about? Why aren’t you feeling the way you’re supposed to feel by eating life-giving nutrients at every meal? You may have even started to see your skin break out, or, what’s more confusing is that you’ve gained a little bit of weight. What the !*@#^!?

How is it possible to feel WORSE when you have been eating clean and healthier than ever?

Yes, there can exist a time where eating a ton of plants doesn’t feel so sexy. And if this sounds familiar to you, I get it. There’s no logical reason why you should be feeling worse when you’re giving your body proper nutrition.

But, the body is smarter than all of us, and indeed there is a perfectly logical reason.

Changing your diet for the better is a big transition. Like any adjustment in life, it takes time to get used to change. Changing your diet is just like starting a new job and going through the training process to become an expert in your new position. Just as you need time to review the training and apply what you’ve learned, your body needs time to adjust to digesting and metabolizing the nutrient dense, whole foods that it may have never seen before.

It’s during this adjustment period that you may experience digestive distress such as bloating, fatigue and even weight gain. Since fruits, vegetables and whole grains are fibrous foods, they have properties to help the body detoxify, which is why you may notice a change in your skin for the worse.

At this point, you may be thinking all of this holistic nutrition talk is a load of crap and things seemed so much better before you made the switch. And I get it, girl. But before you throw the towel in, let me assure you of two things:

1. This is temporary. When you’re used to eating a certain way for a long period of time, your body needs time to adjust to the changes. The length of the transition period varies for everyone but I promise you- it will pass.

2. There are things you can do right now to help make the transition easier and reduce the intensity of symptoms. Here they are:

If you’ve gone veggie happy (meaning you’re having veggies with every meal) keep the veggies, but reduce the portion sizes. Ideally your main fruit and veggies will come from a small (roughly 1 cup, not a whole blender full) green smoothie in the morning. Blending is easiest on digestion.

Incorporate small amounts of the foods you used to eat. When your body doesn’t recognize the foods you’re eating, it can think it’s going into starvation mode and elicit a stress response.

So yes, as a nutritionist, I’m telling you to occasionally (as in once a week) have that muffin or pastry you were used to. Eventually you won’t want or need it, but it can help you ease in to the transition to eating clean and maintaining a healthier diet.

Give your body digestive support. Dandelion tea with lemon and ginger is an excellent digestive remedy, and so is good ol’ plain room temp lemon water.

Listen to the signs. This is so important because we often think that what is healthy is good for us. And while it will feed our cells proper nutrition, if it’s causing you to feel bloated, heavy or tired, your body is having issues digesting it. Pay attention to what these foods are by writing down the food and respective symptoms. These are the foods you will need to incorporate very slowly.

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Brandi Wagner

Brandi Wagner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) and graduate of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Vancouver. The desire to find natural solutions to her own health imbalances allowed her to become so passionate in the area of holistic health. Her love for holistic nutrition is reflected in the fulfillment she has for bringing people closer to feeling their most vibrant and nourished selves!