Lifestyle Nutrition :: Debbie
I’ve recently started exercising regularly and eating a more nutritious diet. Honestly, the biggest change I’ve made is to think of healthy living as a lifestyle and less of something that I’m going to do for 30 days or until I hit my “ideal weight” (whatever that is!).
While I feel very confident and happy about the changes I’ve made, there are days when it’s difficult to make good decisions and I could definitely use some encouragement. Because of this, I decided to seek out women I know who have maintained a healthy lifestyle for years and to ask them how they do it. I hope what they have to say is as encouraging to you as it was to me!
We’ve already heard from Shaylea, Suzanne, and Amber, and this week I have the joy of interviewing Debbie Greer. Debbie is Logan’s aunt and well-known for her healthy lifestyle, so I couldn’t wait to interview her. However, I was blown away by what she had to say. Not only is her diet insanely intense, but so is her reason for keeping it. Also, she has such a firm grasp of the theology of health, which was so interesting for me to learn more about.
First off, can you tell us a little about yourself, your lifestyle and the basics of how you eat?
I am now eating a diet very similar to the Paleo lifestyle. I have not always embraced this. In fact, I used to be somewhat of a vegetarian. I am also gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and carb free. If you think that is a bit extreme, it is. And very challenging. In fact, I tell people it is a full time job just to take care of myself! So I am completely aware that most people are a little less restrictive than this.
As you are probably well aware, knowledge is power, so I am continually reading about nutrition. Always keep yourself informed about the latest research, newest diets, crazy fads, what the experts are saying, because things are changing all the time.
I’d like to add that as our bodies change, so do our diets and nutritional needs. For example, the needs of a young mother who is caring for small children will be dramatically different than the needs of a woman in menopause. The outstanding difference is that the younger woman can and needs to eat more because of her metabolism. The older woman is now eating very little as her metabolism is almost not existent, or very slow to say the least. But what should stay the same is the quality of the food they both take in.
What’s your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. Therefore, it can be my biggest meal of the day. Now I know this is an unpopular notion, to have a big breakfast everyday, especially with the younger generation. But it is critical to eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast has been said to be a huge factor for obesity. The experts say that by eating breakfast you kick start your metabolism. I look forward to breakfast every morning! Here are some of my favorites ::
- Eggs—the best way to have them is poached or boiled. Scrambled and fried are good, but not the best.
- Bacon is a favorite! (I know, crazy huh? But I don’t buy just any bacon. Shop around, it does make a difference.)
- Turkey sausage and chicken sausage
- Toast on gluten free bread, usually with almond butter and no-sugar jam.
- A mix of dried fruit and nuts which I eat as cereal with almond milk/coconut milk. I will add blueberries to this as well as walnuts, pecans, sliced almonds, coconut, raisins, dried cranberries, sesame seeds or whatever I have on hand.
- Smoothies in the morning are a fav!
Most importantly, I try to put as much protein in my breakfast as I can.
And oh yes, lots of coffee!! I simply must have coffee!
What are some good snack foods to keep around?
Aw snack foods! Being able to snack seems to make or break people, but I have to ask myself, “What are we feeding?” I have to continually place myself under the microscope of desire and longing.
We know and are reminded in the scriptures of our desire and longing for God, and as C.S. Lewis so profoundly told us, this is how we know we are made for another world. But in our culture many people will use desire and longing when referring to food. With the epidemic of diabetes and obesity I have often felt we are a depressed nation. People are trying to fill up the hurt and pain and emptiness in their heart and soul. And food can be a way they try to do that. The scriptures promise us a great banquet feast in heaven, so we know there is food there, heavenly food. (Can’t even imagine that.)
But we are told that we should be eating something every 3 ½ to 4 hours to keep our metabolism working. So good healthy snacks are a critical piece to our daily routine. Here are some of my favorites ::
- Always go for fresh fruit. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is not just a cute saying—it is true. I have read that eating an apple is like drinking a cup of coffee. Dip it in almond or peanut butter and it is even better. So instead of the Joe in the middle of the day, grab a fresh crisp apple.
- Organic string cheese. I allow myself mozzarella, parmesan and asiago cheese, as well as a few organic cheddars. I grab a handful of crackers and some nuts. Mixed nuts without peanuts are great.
- There are a variety of granola bars out there. Be choosy, not all of them are good for you because of all the sugar. Once again, eating protein for snacks is a good idea.
- Dark chocolate is good and fills a craving, but don’t over do it.
- Bags of gluten free chips and popcorn have made their appearance. Small bags are best.
- Larabars are one of my go to snacks.
- Rice snacks of any kind.
- A slice of turkey rolled around a string cheese is full of protein.
- Avocado should be eaten everyday if possible.
Have you always been a healthy eater? Was there a moment in your life when you decided to prioritize nutrition? If so, what caused it?
It wasn’t until I had my second child that I began to look seriously at nutrition. It was the title of a book that caught my attention—How To Control Your Child’s Behavior Through Diet. Any young mom would be curious. I was like a sponge, it just made sense. And so 30 years ago was my first encounter with nutrition. My eyes were opened. My kids don’t remember too well, but I changed everything they were eating. My mistake was, I just changed the kids diet, not ours.
Then in 1994 I found myself in the ER, and after I had my gallbladder removed, my life was never the same. My health began to decline in unexplainable ways. Loosing weight, lots of pain, many doctors, and two years later moving to Missouri. The Lord had my attention for sure as I began to beg and pray for healing. The pain was unbearable.
So my health crisis caused my choice of lifestyle. I have to choose wisely and eat well and take care of myself. I am taking responsibility for my body and my disease.
But really, the truth is that we all need to take responsibility for our bodies. Rick Warren said, “God made this body, Jesus died for this body, I am going to take care of this body.” It truly is a choice, a decision of the mind, an act of the will to take care of ourselves. Scripture tells us, “To whom much is given, much is required.” For you see, my health or lack of it, doesn’t just effect me, it affects my husband and my children and now my grand children. I cannot and will not take it lightly. I have promised my family that I will take care of myself so that as God wills it I can be around to watch as the Lord uses my sons and daughters-in-law and to see my grand kids grow.
I’ve found that when I start eating more healthfully, it’s often for a certain amount of time (e.g. no sugar or caffeine for a month, Whole30, etc.). How were you able to shift your mindset from dieting to making nutrition a lifestyle?
I am as human as anyone. There are moments of weakness, times when eating out or with friends I have not chosen wisely. For me personally, I pay a price. My whole system is thrown out of wack! That in and of itself keeps me in check. I don’t like the way it makes me feel when I don’t eat right. I will confess that it has become easier over the years, but I am totally vulnerable, as we all are. It must come from a desire down deep to live well, eat well, chose well, think well, serve well…you get the point. There will be times when we are weak, but I believe that is exactly where he wants us, totally dependent on him, even in how we eat.
If you could cut one thing from everyone’s diet, what would it be?
Sugar, sugar, sugar!!! It’s addictive, produces bacteria in our gut, it destroys our will power, it makes us fat, it is the culprit of many diseases.
Hippocrates said many centuries ago, “Let thy food be thy medicine.” He knew even then that food was more than just feeding our hunger. We must change our minds and reclaim what has been lost. And there are many ways to do just that. (Read Jordan Rubin’s new book, Planet Heal Thyself. Great read.)
Where do you like to shop for your groceries?
Jordan Rubin talks about supporting your local Farmer’s Market. I want and need to make a habit of going weekly. Price Cutter’s has a section of organic foods and produce, albeit a bit pricey. I find myself there because I just try to avoid Walmart. There is also a new little place called The Marketplace that I frequent, but it, too, is a little pricey. Sam’s seems to have a good selection of fruits and veggies. And of course Fox Farm has a variety of things as well. Anytime I am in or around a big city I try to go to a Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s.
Is it more expensive to eat healthy food? If so, how do you manage your budget?
Hmmmmm, budget!? I’m probably not the best person to talk to about budgets. There is only the two of us, and our schedules are not exactly on the same page. So our meals together are few and far between. My big meal is breakfast, his big meal is lunch, which is always out. Dinner is very light, and for good reason.
Rule of thumb, don’t make your big meal in the evenings. Be together in the evenings, but eat light. Many times I have cheese and crackers, wine and fruit. So I guess what I am saying is determine your schedules and then determine the food budget. Be flexible from week to week. I think it is quite feasible to eat well and for it to be totally affordable. But it always takes effort and a little planning. We shouldn’t expect it to be easy.
Any tips for encouraging your family to eat well, too?
Good luck!!! My experience with this has so been up and down! When my kids were growing up I taught them everyday about good nutrition and how important it is. Fed them well, spoke into their minds good sense about how to live well and make good choices. And when they grew up they did what they darn well pleased! Free will, I believe is what it’s called. Even my own husband didn’t come around till about four years ago.
So here is my advise—Live such a good life in front of them that they can’t help but catch it. I believe the scriptures talk about that. My sons saving grace has been the women they married. All three of them get it! Truly. So blessed by them. Their wives are super intelligent and know that this part of their lives can’t be ignored.
How do you handle special occasions like going to a dinner party or when someone gives you a box of chocolates? Do you have any rules you follow? Do you turn down unhealthy food when it’s offered to you? If so, any tips for doing this politely?
This is a great question and one that bears thinking through. Our calling is to gently lead and teach and live lives of character and integrity for all to see. A light in the darkness. Something as simple as going to dinner at a friend’s house when you know the menu is not exactly going to pass the test as healthy presents an opportunity to be gracious.
You have two options—One, call ahead a few days before and let them know your food restrictions. I always appreciate when people do that. Two, just suck it up. Eat what is presented, but eat very little helpings. Be gracious and grateful. Our small group knows that I eat very different than they do. In fact, I call them my toxic small group. (They think it’s funny.) They try to plan some good meals, which I appreciate. But the next day I am always paying the price for eating what they prepared. Their friendship is worth more to me. I just have to suck it up!
What are your favorite resources for finding good information about nutrition and diet? Any books, websites, or experts that you recommend?
- Anything written by Jordan Rubin is good
- About Food
- Whole Foods
- Web MD is surprisingly good
- Pinterest has some great info
- Suzanne’s Foods
- Too many to mention. The important thing is just read!
What do you find most challenging about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
I work so hard at taking care of myself that at times I feel the payback is small. But the reality is that we are all aging, the clock is ticking. And so this is a battle that will not end till I leave this life. It is daily, constant and demanding. I will not achieve wellness here on this side of heaven. We are not promised an easy life, I get that. No one is going to stand up and applaud because I am taking care of myself and eating right. How does it go—”We don’t live for the applause of men, but for the nod of God.” But I continue to persevere, because I want to be able to be used by God for as long as possible for his good and perfect and pleasing will. It should be the cry of all our hearts.
What do you find most rewarding about maintaining a lifestyle of good nutrition?
My new favorite author Andrew Murray said this, “As long as we expect God to do for us what we ask or think, we limit Him. When we believe that as high as the heavens are above the earth, His thoughts are above our thoughts and wait on Him as God, to do unto us according to His word, as he means it, we shall be prepared to live the truly supernatural heavenly life.” I love that, don’t you? Just recently I spoke with a friend and we shared about how at times we feel guilty because of so much grace that the Lord has poured into our laps. I thank God so often that I am alive to see all that he is doing in the lives of our sons and even in our extended family. Amazing things! I share with my patients at the hospital that even in the midst of trial and heartache God is still good. Who I am and what the Lord is doing in our lives is undeserved. And so it produces in me a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving. This and so much more is why it is worth all the work of eating well and taking care of this body. I know that one day I will receive a new body, but until then I remain faithful with what he has given me. In the end, all the pain and struggle and even humiliation is totally and absolutely worth it!
Thank you so much, Debbie!