How your body feels after eating healthy food vs unhealthy food: A comparison of physical & psychological symptoms


This morning as I arrived at work, our new boss placed a fresh, warm, just-out-of-the-oven croissant on each of our desks. My resistance didn’t crumble. It crashed in a single almighty explosion at my feet, sending shards of flaky, buttery pastry everywhere. The croissant didn’t make it (any further than my mouth).

The guilt was immediate – but what surprised me was that the physical symptoms set in almost as quickly. I don’t usually react so quickly to refined carbs and dairy, but today I did – and it got me thinking about how (great) I feel when I eat healthily, and how (bad) I feel when I don’t. I also immediately wanted – no, CRAVED – more. MOOOOOOORE!!! In fact I could easily have swallowed another three or four pastries without blinking. Possibly five. Definitely five.

After switching to a clean or healing diet, it’s easy to forget just how bad those ‘bad’ foods can make you feel. Which isn’t exactly helpful, because it makes it all too easy to go back down that sparkling, sugar-paved road. So, for my edification (and yours, if you need it), here’s a comparison of today’s croissant breakfast versus what I usually eat, and how my body feels after consuming each.

Cheat breakfast: Butter croissant

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating:

  • Instant headache that lasted several hours
  • Immediate craving for more junk food/sugar
  • Not satisfied/satiated
  • ‘Popping’ eyes, like my eyes were really wide open and everything was very bright (this usually happens when I have too much sugar)
  • Gurgling stomach (probably a reaction to lactose)
  • Hungry soon after
  • Guilty

Regular breakfast: Boiled egg on gluten-free seed toast 

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating

  • Immediately satisfied after eating
  • No cravings afterwards
  • Full/satiated
  • Not hungry for 3 to 4 hours afterwards
  • Not guilty

While the differences are vast, they’re probably not going to surprise you. But in the same way that keeping a food journal can alert you to issues that you may not have been aware of, writing down these differences is a great way to remind myself of just how bad bad food can make me feel.

If I’m 100% honest, every day is a battle between the foods that I should eat and those I shouldn’t. I find it really, really hard to stay on track, and that little ‘just eat it – go on, it’s not going to hurt you’ voice never, ever stops. Ever. At least, by writing out this list, I can show that little voice that YES, it is going to hurt me – here’s the proof! (I guarantee that won’t shut it up though. It’ll probably pause for moment, regroup its thoughts and then say, ‘Yeeees, but how bad will it really be? What’s a little headache between friends? A little bloating? You own a baggy shirt, don’t you?’).

I shouldn’t have cheated today but at least I gained something from the experience apart from just a headache, a sugar rush and a large serving of guilt. A little insight never hurts, after all.

Day 81: My foodie inspiration & today’s new food

Today, I started thinking about my mom, one of the healthiest people I know, and incidentally, someone who’s overcome ‘chronic’ disease. ‘Chronic’ is in inverted commas for a reason – you’ll see why. My mom is my foodie (and lifestyle) inspiration! Here’s why:

About eight years ago, she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disease that mainly affects the thyroid. She lost a ton of weight and had a lot of other nasty symptoms that led to her diagnosis.

The specialist she consulted immediately recommended that she have her thyroid destroyed, which in itself can have very serious health implications. She declined this course of treatment and stuck to her meds. Fast forward eight or so years, and there hasn’t been a hint of her Graves Disease in years. Regular tests reveal, over and over again, absolutely no further indication of the illness in her body.

Why it spontaneously manifested, and why it subsequently beat its retreat, is not known. What I do know is that my mom lives one of the healthiest lifestyles of anyone I know. My whole life, until about three years ago, she was the same steady weight of 50kg (she’s very short so this weight is perfect for her). It’s increased a little over the past few years due to regular ageing (she’s 63 53 49), but she’s still a small little person with an excellent figure for her age.

Mom, my sister (on the right) and me

Mom, my sister (on the right) and me

She’s been a vegetarian for more than 35 years and eats every fruit and vegetable under the sun. When I was growing up, she cooked three to four different kinds of vegetables every night, and EVERY night we had a fresh salad with supper (and she worked a full day!). She snacks on things like nuts and never drinks alcohol, fizzy drinks or juice.

Instead, she loves her tea, which she consumes by the bucket-load every day (with the tiniest drop of milk and half a teaspoon of sugar), and her milky cappucinos. You’ll never see her eating takeaways or junk food, bingeing on cake or eating dessert after supper, as she simply doesn’t have a taste for these things. She’s never been given to over-indulgence, except when it comes to chocolate, which she seems able to consume in unlimited amounts, and of course that never-ending stream of tea and cappucino with the odd bran muffin thrown in.

At 63 53 49, she’s incredibly good for her age. She can’t sit still, so she walks her hyperactive Jack Russell several times a day, often for an hour at a time (a habit she’s had for decades – not the same dog of course) and she’s constantly on the go. She also practices yoga twice a week, which she’s done for years, and works as a voluteer teacher at a school for underprivileged kids.

This is what my mom and her Jack Russell are working towards!

This is what my mom and her Jack Russell are working towards!

Although she doesn’t sleep well and has the occasional ache or pain, overall her health is excellent. She’s fit, hardly ever gets sick, and her body is in good shape. If you ask me, I think so much of it has to do with the food she eats, her level of activity and, of course, genetics (yay for me!). So this is why I’d say my mom is my foodie inspiration. When it comes to living clean, my mom’s got it waxed.

Who’s your foodie inspiration?

Springing a leek

Thankfully, not that kind of leak. Tonight I introduced leeks, which is not a vegetable I’d eat very often, but it adds such a great flavour to your food. Also, the supermarket had such a limited variety of veg available this evening, and the Brussels Sprouts that I’d been planning on buying were super overpriced.
Who knew there was good bacteria in leeks!

Who knew there was good bacteria in leeks!

The leeks were fresh and organic, and they just looked amazing. I added them to some venison ‘bolognaise’ and thoroughly enjoyed them. Best of all? I can sneak them into meals without K realising – like soups, stews, sauces, etc. She thinks she doesn’t like them but I plan to sneak them into our food tomorrow night (oh, that’s another thing: I’m cooking an SCD meal for her tomorrow) and I’m 99% sure she won’t notice 🙂

There are still loads of fruits I can add now on Phase 3 but I’m still not in love with the idea of cooking my fruit so I’m giving it a skip until I can eat them raw.

How’s your diet going? How far are you and what new foods have you introduced?

Day 30: 30! 30! 30! 30! 30! 30! 30!

Did you catch that?

I can’t BELIEVE I’m on day 30 already. In fact I just had to go back and double-check all my posts because I really cannot believe that I’m already a third of the way through.


I’ve gone for a month without coffee, wine, chocolate, cake, cookies, most of the veg I love, pretty much all the fruit I enjoy – basically everything fun. And you know what? The cravings are pretty much gone. Funnily enough, when I do crave something, it’s usually something healthy that I can’t eat right now, but will be able to in the future.

In these 30 days, my perspective has changed

I started SCD because I wanted to get off my meds, and I wanted to put an end to all the symptoms my meds couldn’t control: Bloating, gas, cramps and the constant fear of unpredictable flares.

But having read so many people’s stories, I realise that there’s an even more important reason to be doing this: I don’t want to end up having surgery. Even if you do everything you can (in your power) to control your IBD, it could always rear its ugly head and turn your life upside down. So you really, really owe it to yourself to do everything you can – everything in your power – to try to prevent that. It’s still no guarantee, but it’s the best you’ve got and it’s the most powerful tool in your armoury. USE it.


Also, I started this as a 90-day challenge. And it still is. But I can’t imagine going back to my old eating habits after this. It doesn’t mean I’ll never eat another morsel of chocolate or bite of sweet potato in my life. But it means that I’m super aware of every little thing that’s going into my body, and I can’t imagine smashing another plastic-filled burger or preservative-laden drink into my face.


I gave my body a day to rest yesterday (ie, no new food) after the mushroom onslaught. Tonight I introduced roasted garlic, and it was delicious! I feel okay as yet, so let’s keep hoping for the best.


A year or two back, a friend (aware of my health woes), bought me a couple of fruit and nut bars that were quite nice, but I didn’t pay much attention to them because I didn’t know about SCD at the time. They’re called Nākd bars, and I spotted them again in the ‘aisle of temptation’ at my local supermarket, while I queued to pay.


Out of curiosity, I picked one up and read the ingredients: Only nuts and dates – they even list the percentages of each – and NO preservatives, no additives, NOTHING extra. So they’re safe for SCD! Well, certain flavours anyway. I can’t wait to get far enough in this diet to be able to eat them.

Beautiful Cape Town

I promised some photos of my city, and here they are. We spent the late afternoon/early evening at Blue Peter Hotel yesterday. It’s one of the most popular summer spots in Cape Town, in an area called Blouberg (‘blue mountain’). Everyone sprawls out on the grass and drinks beer and eats pizza (everyone without IBD that is ;-))

And you’ll spot our gorgeous Table Mountain in the background, sitting pretty over the freeeeezing Atlantic Ocean. Yup, our oceans are nice to look at but challenging to swim in! That’s okay though – it keeps the sharks away. Head to the other side of the peninsula, and you’ll be taking a chance in the warmer water.

Yesterday, as I sat with my friends who were drinking and ordering pizza, I was reminded yet again that it’s about the people and the surroundings, and not the food. And I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself – especially because I knew that if I got really desperate, I had a back-up banana in my bag 😉

Big Bay / Blouberg, Cape Town

Big Bay/Blouberg, Cape Town

The grassy patch outside Blue Peter with the perfect view of the mountain and the sea (but no shade!)

The grassy patch outside Blue Peter with the perfect view of Table Mountain and the sea (but no shade!)

Cape Town's waiting for you :-)

Cape Town’s waiting for you 🙂

Day 21: Like-minded folk

Today I spent time with an old friend, who lives with her partner and their 11-month-old baby in a small seaside town about an hour outside of the city. It was a nice relaxing drive and spending time with them is always interesting.

David, the partner, is 43, and was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, after many years of incredibly unhealthy eating and other poor lifestyle choices. He told me today that an average breakfast would be French toast with bacon and syrup, and from then on, the day would just continue to go downhill with crisps, pies, pastries and anything deep-fried. Basically, anything and everything junk.


He said that if you’d ever spoken to him about ‘healthy’ food, he’d have scoffed and refused to eat it. Until his diagnosis, that is.

He’s completely turned his health around. He’s lost a ton of weight, looks healthy, and only buys organic products. He and my friend are strict adherents of a natural, organic lifestyle, and carefully choose each and every product they buy. They are also keeping their son away from sugar (though I’m sure he’ll root it out eventually), and avoid all processed, unnatural products.

It was great spending time with people who understand, and don’t just think you’re being completely anal and ridiculous in  your eating habits. I even learnt a few things from them, like which honey to buy, and the very useful tip that once an avocado is ripe, you can keep it in that same state in the fridge for up to a week – it won’t ripen further.

Anyway, David has never been better, and he’s fanatical about his diet. He believes, unequivocally, that diet has everything to do with health, and I cannot disagree. He’s in the peak of it and says he’ll never go back to his old lifestyle.

Diabetes is not UC, but the overarching point here is the same: The power to transform your health is totally in your hands. He is living proof. And if he can do it, trust me, so can we.

The tendency to overeat

Tonight we had dinner at my sister. They had a Mexican feast – chilli poppers, quesadillas, the whole shebang. I took leftovers from last night’s dinner – same again with rump steak, gem squash and butternut – and again ate too much! I actually had some cramps after dinner; just short fleeting ones.

As always, I’m reminded of my tendency to overdo it – whether I’m eating carrots or cake – and I must make a concerted effort to keep my portions small.

How I feel (and probably look) after dinner every night

How I feel (and probably look) after the average dinner

Tomorrow is my last day on Phase 1. I haven’t phased in spinach yet, but I’m ready to move on. I’ll get to the spinach in due course.

Had a really good BM this morning and I’m hoping that this trend continues.


I haven’t had unmanageable cravings so far, but today was definitely the worst. Knowing that we were going to my sister for a games’ night with friends made me crave:

– Booze

– Cigarettes

– Crisps

This would kinda have been a perfect day for me

This would kinda have been a perfect day for me

These cravings showed me how much emotional attachment we have to food: When we go to my sister’s place, I always drink wine and gobble up the bowls of crisps in front of me. That also makes me crave a cigarette, which is also out of bounds at the moment: I’m not a full-time smoker and treat myself to a cigarette from time to time, when I feel like one (which is seldom). Since starting the SCD however, I’ve had one cigarette every day… until I met with my financial adviser on Thursday.

UC and dread disease cover

My adviser has suggested I take out dread disease cover, which makes sense now that I’m 30, and while I’m still healthy. If you’re a smoker, they may not cover you – or they might ‘load’ your premium, which means you pay a penalty every month for being a smoker. All traces of your last cigarette need about 10 days to get out of your system, and he wants to send the nurse to do blood tests ASAP, which means no more smoking until after the test (in about a week). I also found out that I won’t be covered for any colon diseases (such as cancer) as a result of my UC diagnosis.

SMOKING IS SO SO SO BAD for you. I know this. I don’t deny it. But I guess I was taking pleasure in it being my last remaining pleasure – and now it is gone too!

(as an interesting aside: doctors aren’t sure why, but smoking has actually been known to have a positive effect on the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. HOWEVER, they warn that the overall negative effects far outweigh any benefits that smoking may offer in terms of UC).

So that’s where I am now. Horrible cravings have abated, and I didn’t cheat – not even by a morsel. Even I am surprised by my steadfast adherence to this diet – but very proud of myself too.

That doesn’t mean I’m not counting down the days ’til WINE!


Day 16: What is your body asking for?

I confess: I stole this topic from the SCDLifestyle guys on Facebook. I was going to write about spices but this really got me thinking.

One’s immediate, knee-jerk response to the question, “What is your body asking for?” is to blurt out something you’re craving. Chocolate. Carbs. Pizza. McDonalds. Fiiiiiizzzzzzy cooldrinks (yes please!).

But wait. That’s not what your body wants. That’s what your brain is telling you that you want. Delicious, high-calorie foods that trigger pleasure centres in your brain. Just thinking about your favourite foods can make you salivate.

In this way, we are all food addicts: Our brains are hardwired to fuel our search for kilojoule-rich food to provide maximum energy, just as it did during our hunter-gatherer days. Seems evolution just hasn’t caught up yet!

Of course, food manufacturers realised this aeons ago, and have for years been modifying the very makeup of food particles: Sugar is sweeter, fat is smoother. These aren’t modifications that we’re consciously aware of when we’re chomping our way through our third straight bar of chocolate, but you can be sure that your brain is aware of them – creating a vicious cycle. Why else would the junk food industry be one of the largest and most lucrative in the world? We all know what’s good for us, but the truth is that boiled carrots just aren’t as appealing as carrot cake – and the food scientists know it too!

You have to know your enemy if you want to beat it

So why do we having cravings? Scientists believe that they’re caused by a number of factors ranging from evolution to stress, unhappiness and a plain ‘ol need for certain foods. But what they know – and even us laypeople know too – is that eating bad food just feels oh so good. 

Quoted in an interesting article on Lifehacker, food scientist Steven Witherly explains exactly why this is:

First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality— known as “orosensation”—can be particularly important. Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Their scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These factors all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.

The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food—the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.

Check out the whole article here.

Scary, isn’t it? How the food industry is actually perpetuating our cravings? I mean, think of your favourite food – the food you’d choose as your last meal. What makes it so desirable? The sugar? The fat? The oozing, dripping cheese? Or maybe it’s the satisfying crunch of a hard chocolate shell.

Less appealing when it comes out of a test tube, isn't it?

Less appealing when it comes out of a test tube, isn’t it?

Today, many hold the food industry responsible for their part in exacerbating food cravings by modifying our foods to trigger maximum pleasure in our brains. Basically, food scientists are spending their 9-5 making food more addictive and making us slaves to our addictions.

Who’re you calling a slave?

Many years ago, the pay-off line for a certain chocolate bar was ‘Resistance is futile’. Ha, ha, ha. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place, isn’t it?

The fact is, if you want to get well, resistance should be the sharpest tool in your armoury.

But here’s the good news…

The less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. Which means that the first few days of cutting out sugar and unhealthy fat are hell. You’ve been main-lining the sweet stuff for years, and now you’re suddenly ripping out the needle. You’re an addict, so don’t expect withdrawal to be easy.

…and the even better news

Withdrawals don’t last that long. It’s not heroin after all – you’re not going to die. You’re going to be cranky for a few days and a real pain in the backside, so perhaps remove yourself from society and sweat it out in private if you feel you’re going to be an insufferable ass.

But after a few days, it’s going to get easier… and easier, and easier. Isn’t the feeling of not craving something something to really crave?

So back to my original question

What is your body craving? Now we know that our brains are craving all that junk that destroyed our bodies in the first place.

But what do our bodies want? Your BMs, your cramps, your bloating, your joint pains are all a great indication of what your body is craving: More water, less sugar. More organic food, less processed crap. Lots of fresh veggies, no more fast food.

I don't think this is what they meant when they said 'choose organic'...

I don’t think this is what they meant when they said ‘choose organic’…

Starting to understand how food can help you to address each of these issues is the way to start remedying them. Remember, your brain tricked you into eating all that rubbish that caused this pain and suffering in the first place. Now it’s time to block out your nagging subconscious and really focus on what your gut needs.

Healing diets

Our brains really screwed us, didn’t they? Or maybe we screwed ourselves by being slaves to them. They conned us into eating all this crap, but they didn’t end up with ulcers all over them – our colons did! And now it’s time to give our colons some respect.


Diets like SCD, Paleo, GAPS and FODMAP are key to restoring your gut to health after a prolonged junk food onslaught. You MUST find the willpower to overcome your brain’s cravings and food science’s clever tricks to help your body to heal.

So what is your body craving? Mine’s craving pure, healthy foods, free of additives and preservatives, cooked with care and prepared in a way that is as easy as possible to digest.

Is it as fun as chocolate cake? No. We all prefer pumpkin pie to pumpkin puree, but we have a responsibility to ourselves to heal. Junk food is poison hidden in a pretty wrapper. And while organic veggies may not look as appealing as as Burger King, it’s what’s on the inside that counts – as we all know so well.

So, stop, listen and feel. What’s your body craving?