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The benefits of clean eating

The journey

“I started to change in November of 2014,” said Sam Gulon, a Detroit Lakes teacher and swim/volleyball coach. She was sporadically active, she says, adding that she didn’t eat horribly either. And yet, her migranes, her coughing and her weight all told her she needed to do something different. At first, the changes were smaller.

“I quit eating after 7 p.m., started limiting my portion sizes and started exercising every morning,” said Gulon, who says between November and February, she dropped 32 pounds.

Still though, the headaches, fatigue and coughing continued and she “hit a wall”.

“I felt like I’d hit a rut and wasn’t going anywhere - I knew I needed something more,” said Gulon, who with the help of nutrition expert Missy Sgro, began “eating clean”.

“The first day was the worst,” said Gulon, whose breakfast had usually been a Starbucks frappuccino from a gas station.

She not only cut that out, but all processed, sugar-laced food. No breads, no pastas, no alcohol and very little dairy. She started eating a couple of hard-boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast every day.

“A lot of eggs, chicken, turkey, salad, fruits, vegetables, nuts…” said Gulon, who also started reading labels very carefully.

Before she knew it, Gulon had dropped another 25 pounds.

“And the crazy part is, is that I’m still probably 15 pounds more than my high school weight, but I’m fitting into clothes that are smaller than what I had then,” said Gulon.

“People think they eat healthy, but when they actually start really paying attention, most people don’t eat as good as they think they do,” said Missy Sgro. “They don’t realize how many hidden things are in different foods.”

Sgro has helped several people through this process of clean eating. She says for the most part, it takes very little time for cravings to stop, and people who try it tend to get hooked on it.

“Exercise is amazing, and it’s going to help you really get toned and strong,” said Sgro, “but nutrition is 80 percent of how you’re going to look and feel. You can be working your butt off, but if you’re not eating right, you’re really kind of defeating the purpose.”

Sgro says a lot of people get duped into believing they’re eating healthy, but says certain “health” foods like protein bars and shakes, have a lot of hidden sugars in them. If it doesn’t have an ingredient label, that’s good, she says.

Other misconceptions, says Sgro, is that carbs are bad and so is eating in general.

“You have to eat every three hours or your body goes into starvation mode, and it doesn’t eat fat, it eats lean muscle,” said Sgro, who recommends eating a carb, a protein and a fat all together every three hours.

“It’s about eating the right kinds of carbs, the right kinds of fats,” said Sgro. “That’ll help stabilize your blood sugar and help your metabolism so that you’re not bouncing up and down and crashing.”

Planning is paramount when eating clean, says Sgro, who says when people don’t have a healthy choice in front of them, they get too hungry and make bad decisions.

“On Sundays, cook some meals...they’ll stay good in the fridge,” she said, adding that carrying things like nuts and fruit with for snacks can prevent that quick, binge eating.

Although Sgro says there are very few things that need to be cut out 100 percent, bread happens to be one of those things.

“We want it, but we don’t need it,” she said. “Bread does the same thing in your body that it does in the oven - it rises.”

Gulon says she hasn’t had a piece of bread since starting her clean eating lifestyle, but she has had days when she isn’t perfect either.

“And on those days, I can tell...I just don’t feel good,” said Gulon, whose headaches and coughing disappeared.

“It was nasal drainage that was making me cough until I could just about puke, and now there’s none of that,” said Gulon, who doesn’t get the migraines anymore either. She suspects she had an allergy or intolerance to some of the foods she was eating.

Sgro says this is also very common among people who transition into a clean eating lifestyle. She says people quickly find out just how good they can feel.

“They don’t even realize how crappy they feel because they’ve been living like that for so long and they’re used to it,” said Sgro. “Not until they start eating like this do they understand and see that, hey, this is how good I can actually feel every day.”

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes and Perham, both in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466