How I Overhauled My Diet So I Can Meet My Goals and Stop Feeling Like Shit All the Time

May 1, 2018 By Dave Nelson, Survivor, Founder, CEO, Speaker & Teacher at Milestone Mind

Five years ago, I felt like crap. 

I was carrying around some extra flab around my middle. 

My knees, hips, and head hurt. 

I was also dealing with a mysterious autoimmune condition that was seriously bringing down my motivation and drive for living my best life.

To tackle this problem and try to find the best possible solution, I took some radical steps – but eventually I was able to find the right equilibrium for me. 

In this post, I’ll tell you more about the physical problems that plagued me back in 2012, tell you exactly how I was able to get my body and mind back into balance, and lay out the advice I give to all of my clients regarding nutrition and diet.

How I Want From a Fit College Athlete to an Unhealthy Dad

When I was younger, it didn’t matter what I ate. 

When I was playing football, my teammates and I were working out so much that we could just pound down pizza, beer, and chicken wings, and we’d never gain a pound. We weren’t thinking about fueling our bodies well – we were just trying to scarf down as many calories as possible.

But as I got older, settled down and started a family, that strategy no longer worked. 


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Around 2012, my body felt like it was breaking down. I was still exercising a lot, but I felt like I was in a lot of pain. My knees and hips hurt every time I tried to exercise, and I was getting migraines.

I was also having some serious skin issues. I had some sort of mysterious autoimmune condition that gave me a rash throughout my entire body. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but I knew something was really wrong.

I thought to myself, "Man, I thought I was young and healthy – but my body is just not in good shape right now.”

The worst part was that my mind was still going full speed ahead. I had devoted myself to doing endurance training (specifically doing triathlons). I was serious about training, and doing a lot of swimming, biking, and running, but my body just couldn’t keep up with what my mind wanted me to do.

My brain would say, “Come on, body. Let’s go!” and my body would answer back, “Dude...I’m trying. But this is all I can give you right now.”

As an athlete, it was maddening. 

My Epic Quest for an Answer (and How That Journey Involved Huge Amounts of Carrots) 

After a few more months of struggling, I decided to dig into the current research to find out what triggers autoimmune issues, and how I could try to deal with my physical problems. 

I started searching for information online, and immediately discovered that everyone was giving conflicting advice. 

Some people said I should eat a paleo diet to fix autoimmune issues. Other people said I had to eliminate meat if I wanted to get rid of inflammation in my joints. 

The only way to find out what would work for me was to try things out, so I dug in and started experimenting. 

I tried the ketogenic diet. I tried eating raw foods. I even trying drinking tons of carrot juice, which didn’t help my symptoms and actually turned my skin orange. 

None of these changes healed me, but they did give me some valuable information. At least I knew what didn’t work. 

Eventually, I started reading up on something called “leaky gut,” which can cause unhealthy particles to leak into your bloodstream and trigger healthy cells to attack within your body.

Shortly after, I discovered the secret to feeling better – and for me, it was actually very simple. I avoided extremes, and started eating a well-rounded diet with plenty of protein, fruits, and veggies. 

I got rid of unhealthy carbs (like pasta and bread) and got all my carbohydrates from healthy fruits and veggies. 

These days, I’ve eliminated my autoimmune issues and my body has finally caught up with my mind again. 

I have the energy and strength to train and do exactly what I want to do, instead of constantly being held back by my physical problems. 

Most importantly: I’m aware of what goes into my body every day, and what I need to eat to fuel my life. For me, that’s a massive breakthrough. 

Transform Your Diet by Remembering Your Motivation

One of the things that made the biggest difference in my healthy eating journey was keeping my deeper motivations and goals in the forefront of my mind.

If you want to have a healthy mindset and have a physical body that can keep up with everything you want to do in the world, it’s critical that you take a look at the food you’re putting in your body. 

Motivate yourself with positive goals, and try to push yourself towards the place you want to go – don’t try to move away from the place you don't want to be.

I knew I wanted to complete endurance races, be able to tackle certain tasks and jobs, and be creative. 

What do you want to do with this one life?

Once you’ve figured out your motivation, start experimenting with your diet and finding what works for you. Find the very best way to fuel your own body.

Now It’s Your Turn

I will say this: One of the things you may want to try – especially if you’re trying to lose weight – is eliminating simple carbohydrates like bread and pasta to your diet. 

Other people have found that they struggle to digest dairy products, so you can also add that to your list of possible things to cut from your diet to improve your overall health.

Don’t take my advice, though – and don’t follow any nutrition dogma blindly – because what works for other people may not work for you. Find out what really makes you feel great and gives you the energy and drive to move forward with your life.

When you’re about to eat something, ask yourself, "Is this food truly fueling me right now, so I can reach my goals – or is it holding me back?” 

Then adjust your eating habits to better serve your goals and your true path. 

You’ll never regret taking these steps, and your health will thank you for it!

**I'm not a nutritionist, please consult your doctor for any of the above tips.


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