If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.
For you completionists, you might be interested in charting my ridiculous relationship with food as shown in my posts on anorexia, being a vegetarian, or imposing assorted food restrictions on myself for what I deemed health reasons.
Last week’s food restriction-related post included some general notes about my relationship with food. It might also be a somewhat interesting contrast to today’s post. You see, after all that health-related food restricting, I now have only a couple things I restrict (corn syrup and linoleic acid), and even those are just when I’m doing my own shopping. Actually, there are times when what my body tells me it Needs includes a little of that and I go ahead and just eat it (like that time I ate only Lucky Charms cereal for a week, because my body was Very Clear about that, which means some vegetable oil—one of the main ways many of us take in linoleic acid).
I wasn’t thriving on all that careful, clean eating I was doing. In fact, I was finding that some long-term issues I’d had were getting worse, even stuff that, per the persuasive web sites and my own ideas about what must surely be Right, ought to have been improving. Now, here is where my cool nutritional therapist comes up again.
Before I started working with her, I assumed that she was going to insist I eat broiled, skinless chicken breasts and brown rice with a side of kale, that I ditch all red meat and bread and so forth. Fortunately, she’s the sort of sensible person who believes that all bodies are unique and, therefore, have unique needs. So, sure, some of what she started encouraging was the clean eating…But then she sent me an email one day, and she started by saying that she knew I’d be dubious, that she was hesitant but that it was something we hadn’t tried, so…
I read the stories first, the blog posts from people who’d tried this same thing and had success. And they seemed to have quite a lot of the same concerns I had.
When I found that my knee-jerk distrust of anything but so-called clean eating had eased a little, I followed the stories through to http://180degreehealth.com. And I was kind of horrified at what the person wanted me to do. The site has been a bit reorganised, but, at least then, the blog posts gave you all this information for free, so at least I didn’t suspect he just wanted my money. And I was desperate.
So I buried a lifetime of beliefs and I went to town on sugars, simple carbs, saturated fats (fortunately, paleo had already gotten me okay with that), and salt (okay, I’ve always gone to town on salt…mmmm…). That wasn’t the whole of it, but you can hunt down this guy’s essays on your own if you get curious (cos I know that even people who know me tend to have a horrified reaction like my own initial reaction when I tell them about the change). And, after I saw a number of positive health changes (plus, as verified by my doctor, I grew an inch taller), I shifted to mindful eating (which is basically what step 2 of this guy’s approach is). I only do a mediocre job at it…but I do pretty well at the part where I let my body tell me what it wants and I eat it, no shame.
If I don’t fight the cravings but try to feed them immediately, and, if I pay attention as I do that, I usually only need a bite or two (but no worries if I need more) and the craving then buggers off. And stays away for much longer than usual. (My life used to feature daily, serious cravings.)
It took a while. After a lifetime of teaching myself that I couldn’t eat certain things or classes of things, I had to convince myself that I meant it. Had to prove to my body and brain that it really could have what it needed, what it asked for. The week of Lucky Charms appears to have been the last bit of that. (I was walking through Costco and passed the massive boxes of Lucky Charms and my body said, “NEED.” And I asked if it was sure, and it was. So I put a box in my cart and strolled through the rest of my shopping with a big grin on my face, feeling very cheeky.) I still start most days with a sweet, usually something from the UK or Europe or homemade (so generally no vegetable oils or corn syrup). That chocolate or biscuit appears to be enough to remind my body and brain that we still do what we need, and then I don’t generally have sweet cravings the rest the day.
And the positive health effects have remained. And I didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe. But! I should note that there’s a genetic component here (one of my grandfathers was always rail thin and very warm and lived mainly on coffee and sweets) and that this is what my body wants and needs. Every body, in the long run, will have unique needs. And those needs will almost certainly change over time.
Right now, I have no allergies and my body thrives on foods I used to avoid or look down on. Which means, now, I eat sugar and meat and simple carbs and dairy and whatever else my body wants.
Which also means that all kinds of clean eaters look on me with pity, disdain. If they know I used to eat like them, it’s almost certainly more that they feel I should be very ashamed. After all, I obviously know better and have wilfully lost my way. And all kinds of vegetarians and vegans now just see me as another murderer. Even the ones who hear about how my doctor who was a vegetarian asked me to eat me still kind of see me as damaged goods. (I know not all of you folks in the clean or non-meat camps are that way, but plenty are, at least to me.)
People used to look at me with respect. What a clean eater! What discipline! What healthy choices! And now, I have fallen from grace. Shame on me…
But, like I said last week: I have to make the choices that I feel are me doing the right thing for my health. And, whilst I did actually feel ashamed at first…Now that I see how my body thrives (and my brain and my emotional health) and now that I’ve had time to really think about how silly (in my opinion) it is to eat a way that others admire to the detriment of my own health…I am so, so not ashamed.
That doesn’t mean I think everyone should just fall face first into all the junk food they can find. (I promise that I still eat fruits and vegetables and fish and so forth.) I believe that we need to eat the food that is right for us, which may leave room for treats. (It better…in my body, it sure does…because chocolate and pizza and crisps and chips and…yeah…I’m hungry now…) I also believe that introducing shame into matters of eating is detrimental. I think I’ve even read studies that showed that. So, let’s stop with the shame.
I’m going to go eat a massive bowl of pasta (chicken and bacon borsetti with loads of parmesan and romano and salt). Maybe you can google those studies about how shame is detrimental to health or you can evaluate your own eating attitudes (I seriously recommend stuff like mindful eating and normal eating). Or just go have a meal of your own. Don’t forget dessert. (Shame never, ever counts as dessert. Or a side. And it makes a horrid sauce. Shame doesn’t belong at the table, lovely.)
Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).