By Amie Valpone
Sponsored by KeVita
Eating Clean. It’s one of those buzzwords that everyone chats about these days. You see it online, in magazines and on TV, but what is it exactly?
To me, eating clean is all about eating whole, organic foods with a focus on getting back to basics and ‘uncomplicating’ food. Food is simple, yet so many people stress over every calorie, carb and gram of fat. You can easily simplify your lifestyle and your food by eating clean on a daily basis. How? Well, you can base all of your meals and snacks around nutrient-dense, whole foods. What’s in an avocado? An avocado. What’s in an apple? An apple. No need to reach for a processed salad dressing when you can drizzle some lemon juice with olive oil, sea salt and pepper on top of your salad or roasted veggies. Simple. It might sound intimidating to simplify your food since our taste buds are acclimated to the chemical tastes of packed foods, but I’m living proof this can be done and you can have fun while doing it.
Years ago I worked in fashion at Vogue Magazine, and didn’t think twice about what I ate and drank on a daily basis. My life revolved around work, deadlines and being stressed out. Food was simply an afterthought until my life turned upside down. When I was in my early 20s my body started to shut down. I was diagnosed with everything from Lyme disease to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Leaky Gut, Candida, Hypothyroidism and more. At one point, I was given 24 hours to live with c-diff colitis, and as I laid there watching the morphine drip into my arm, I promised myself that if I survived, I’d dedicate my life to helping others get to the root cause of their health issues. I feel compelled to share my story knowing there is something in the sharing that we all find common ground on the journey to self discovery. My hope is that my story speaks to you. It’s funny how sometimes the world seems a little bit smaller when we tell our stories of how we discovered our true self and woke up to live the life we were meant to live.
My process of self-discovery was more of a remembering than a learning. It felt so natural and easy. I remember feeling like my life started to flow instead of feeling stuck and surrounded by chaos and drama. I started letting go of relationships that no longer fed my soul, began eating organic foods and dove into years of self-study on probiotics, prebiotics, how to balance the immune system and how to relax the nervous system. Surprisingly, my body started to balance out, return to homeostasis and heal. I taught myself how to get my body working for me, not against me, and learned how eating clean and mind-body practices can play a prominent role in our health.
Food and meditation were my path to discovering who I really was inside, and what my heart longed for. Trust me, ten years ago you couldn’t have paid me to meditate. Now, I rarely miss a day. Same goes for eating clean. It’s a part of my life, and once you see how amazing you feel with this lifestyle, why would you ever go back to feeling not-so-fabulous ever again? My life revolves around taking care of myself, and making sure that I’m filling my body with nutrients, probiotics, fermented foods, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates on a daily basis. I’ve discovered that, in order to heal completely, I had to make lasting changes to overhaul my lifestyle. Now, I live a gluten-free, dairy-free and plant-based lifestyle where veggies are at the center of every meal. When I travel, some find it strange when they see me eating raw zucchini and hummus on an airplane, or my ripe avocado with a spoon from my hotel room. When I’m home in Manhattan, I’ll roast a bunch of veggies on Sunday nights, then pair them with hummus, avocado, chickpea miso and sauerkraut.
My motto for a simplified life has always been: be happy, be brave, be strong and be you. That’s the message that has gotten me through the last decade with my health, and continues to get me through each day. Being authentic and learning how to be ME, instead of following what everyone else was doing, is what allowed me to embrace the world of wellness, clean eating and wholesome, happy thoughts. Without this well-rounded approach, I wouldn’t be where I am today – in perfect health – vibrant, helping others and embracing life. I feel more open and alive after unwrapping the life that I tucked away for so long and have finally let myself be what I was always meant to be.
The journey to self-discovery is different for everyone, but one thing I know to be true is that spending time alone, following your heart, and shutting off all the noise from what everyone is doing or telling you to do is an easy way to start simplifying your life today. Stop worrying about what others are thinking, stop trying to please everyone, stop eating a perfect diet or overworking yourself at the gym or in the office. Take time for you. Find who you really are and what your soul longs for. The messages will come to you. Trust yourself and trust the process of unfolding to your true self. For me, waking up extra early and having a morning routine was something that truly helped me balance my life. Sounds too simple to be true but it worked wonders.
Every morning, I start my day by feeling grateful for another beautiful opportunity to be alive and healthy. On weekdays, I set my alarm for 6:30 AM, get out of bed, brush my teeth, wash my face and head to my meditation pillow where I meditate for about 20-30 minutes. I usually light a candle, play soft music and drift away.
If I have an early meeting, I’ll move my meditation to the evening before bed, but I love doing it first thing in the morning to jump start my day. Then, I’ll do
something called Skin Brushing, which is taking a skin brush and brushing my dry skin toward my heart to remove
all the dead skin as well as stimulate my lymph, where toxins like to hang out in the body. You can think of the lymph system as a sewer system; however it doesn’t have a pump, so it’s ideal to start moving your lymph each day. Then, I hop into a warm shower and finish off with a quick flush of cold water for about a minute to stimulate my lymphatic system again. After I dry off, I get dressed and make breakfast, which is usually sautéed kale, collard greens or Swiss chard in a spoonful of coconut oil along with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I always add a handful of sprouted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds and drizzle it with organic tomato sauce. Then I’ll top it off with half of a sliced, ripe avocado and fresh parsley. It’s heavenly and I could honestly eat this every morning. Eating leafy green veggies for breakfast keeps me energized and feeling good, which is why it’s a staple in my home for every meal.
I also wanted to share a breakfast recipe that describes my inner self: nutrient-dense, happy and uplifting, yet uncomplicated. To me, this smoothie signifies happiness, authenticity and simplicity, which are three principles I live my life by. It’s important to me to live from a place of happiness and authenticity, which includes eating what makes me feel good instead of what everyone else is eating. My advice to you is to be true to yourself, and start to listen to how your body feels when you are eating certain foods. Listen to what your body wants to eat or craves. These are all signs that should be listened to, not ignored (I ignored these signs for way too many years while living a stressed out life in my twenties). Be authentic to yourself, and feel free to substitute other fruit in this recipe, such as cantaloupe, pears or strawberries, according to the season, so you can enjoy it anytime of the year.
Strawberry Mint Smoothie
1 cup of fresh strawberries, sliced
1 large, ripe banana
¼ cup of KeVita Mango Coconut Sparkling Probiotic Drink
3 mint leaves, fresh
1 tablespoon of chia or hemp seeds
Ice cubes (optional)Puree all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. Add more KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drink for a thinner consistency, if desired. Transfer to a glass and serve.
I love making this smoothie on busy mornings, and I often serve leftovers for a naturally sweet dessert when I’m in the mood for something after dinner that won’t give me a sugar rush before bed. It’s free of gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar and animal products so it’s naturally vegan. Get your blender out tonight, and prep these ingredients for the morning, so you’ll be ready to whip up breakfast in under 5 minutes before you head out the door. Enjoy!