FOOD: #2 Most Contemplated Topic in All of Modern Times (and Perhaps Antiquity)
Can I back that with science? Haha, no. But it’s true right? I feel bloated, I’m tired, I’m sniffly, I’m breaking out, my poops suck, my endurance crashes, I’m overweight, I’m, I’m, I’m,… so much of it boils down to what we’re ingesting.
I assume it’s second only to sex.
So for sure it’s important. And also I kind of just want to get it out of the way because I get asked about it all the time and it’s one of my least favorite topics. Least favorite because, as I see it, diet is rarely the actual underlying issue.
But ok, here goes it.
As you can imagine, there is no single answer as far as I can tell. Some people can smell a donut and put on 3 pounds. Others live off candy and soda like they’re freaking hummingbirds. Some people crave animal protein, others crave beans and rice, I crave pastries. It’s not simple and I’m not a dietician.
And before your thoughts interject with the facts of science that you know to be true, let me present two things:
When I was taking undergrad biology classes, there was a common theme harped on by the professors. They would remind us that all science is theory. All scientific “facts” are best guesses until a new study proves it wrong. That doesn’t mean there isn’t truth or value to it. Science has paved the way for the eradication of smallpox, robots on Mars, and I don’t know, Kardashian butts. While it certainly has value, it doesn’t mean that we should be married to any particular study that comes out. Embrace it but keep the relationship open. Much like the French.
Ok, now let’s all take a step back to 1993. I was a wee one and getting some friendly advice from my dentist, who, I would soon come to find out, was actually offering me fatherly advice (story for another day). Anyways, he told me, “be careful how many eggs you eat! No more than 3 per week.” Maybe it was 5. Point was, cholesterol is bad for you. Now fast forward a decade to 2003, the boom of Dr. Atkins and the realization that we could live off of bacon, cream, and, you guessed it—eggs (!!) while apparently losing weight and gaining health. Since then we have had South Beach, Mediterranean, Paleo, Keto, on and on. Were they all wrong? Were they all right? I’m sure the answer is very complex so whatever it is, let’s touch back to the first bullet point and not be married to any one in particular.
So then what do we do if our food compass has countless norths, or maybe none at all?? Here’s my non-MD, non-dietician, educated approach that works for me:
Eat as much unprocessed as possible. If what you’re eating looks basically the same as the way this miraculous Earth made it, you’re doing great!
Eat as many fibrous and colorful fruits and veggies as possible. This doesn’t mean OJ, apple sauce, or banana bread (note number 1), but for me it does mean oranges, apples, and bananas. I like to set the goal of eating the rainbow – as many unique and colorful foods as I can before I top them off with the more indulgent foods. If you’re thinking to yourself that that’s a financial luxury, you’re going to be hard-pressed to convince me that bananas, kale, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes are more expensive than chicken and beef. And girl, trust-you-me, I could back that with a spreadsheet
Adjust your perspective from eating to nourishing. Realize that your body needs X, Y, and Z to operate optimally. You wouldn’t feed your newborn candy bars and Whoppers, even if you could blend them up and put them in a bottle. Why? Because we know that their bodies have specific needs. When possible, breastmilk supports immunity while formula or breastmilk supply ample nutrients that their growing bodies need and handle. Similarly, we need sufficient water, fiber, protein, fats, carbs, phytonutrients, specific minerals, etc. Our body does not handle chemicals and overly processed foods well. Love yourself like you love your baby.
Be present, don’t diet!! Really enjoy your luscious meals. From shopping for the ingredients, to crafting the dish, to savoring in the smells and textures, soak it all in. It can also look like seeping in the roasty toasty smells and happy sounds of Starbucks while your mouth gets a giant hug from your num-num drink that was kindly crafted for you by a beautifully smiling barista. That’s also rich and wonderful and to be enjoyed fully! On the flip side, notice when there’s unhealthy energy behind your eating and you start needing a Trente daily. Don’t judge yourself, just take notice. It’s a balance of being aware but not beating yourself up about it. Thus my general distaste for diets. They tend to breed obsessiveness, control, shaming, and a disconnect from what your body is communicating to you. All that negativity tends to make us feel worse, our body goes into survival mode, and then we break and eat like garbage, spiraling in this ugly feedback loop. Deeply enjoying a rich life seems to be the antidote.
How irritating is this answer for you? I’m willing to bet, at least moderately. I get it but if you know me at all, you know I’m not going to lie to you with some magic smoothie or fancy app and pretend like that’s the complete answer. I understand we each may need something more specific for our individual needs at times but as a rule of thumb I say NOURISH yourself fully.
NOURISH [ nur-ish, nuhr- ] verb (used with object)
1. to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth.
2. to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.
3. to strengthen, build up, or promote