When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is right, medicine is of no need.
- Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb.
The older I get, the more I realise how important it is to choose the right food to fuel my body. As the years go by, it gets harder to drop weight, easier to succumb to injury, harder to recover afterwards. It takes longer to build fitness, less time to lose tone, and greater are the effects of gravity.
Also, adding insult to injury, it seems that many of the foods I have always taken for granted as being part of a normal, everyday diet now cause unwanted and uncomfortable reactions. My pregnancy with Brannen, particularly, left me more sensitive than ever to lactose, for example.
You all know how much I love food. I love to cook, I love playing with new ingredients, creating dishes and flavours and memories. However, over the past few months, I have cooked less. I have felt uninspired. The kids' lunchboxes have not been filled with wholesome home cooking like they used to be. The evening meals have often been a throw-together affair nearly void of passion for good ingredients.
Part of the problem for me has been marrying the food ethics I have been carefully shaping for myself (and continue to do so, as I read more and more and talk with different people) with other priorities, such as the desire to lose some weight, or my love of sweet baked goods, or my hankering for iced coffee.
When I think of losing weight, I think of the 'nutritional experts' advice' that has been drummed into me - low fat, higher carb than protein, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. I have lost weight this way before - by counting points and eating low fat (but often higher in sugar and 'numbers') foods. However, my food journey has brought me to the point where I no longer feel comfortable eating low fat foods. I am a whole foods girl, and I am not okay with how low fat foods become low fat, or what is added back in place of the fat.
When I think of warm baked goods straight from the oven, I think about all the varying forms of sweeteners, and how more and more research is suggesting that fructose is not only seriously overused, but could be responsible for obesity and a bunch of other nasties. I think about my own experiments with forgoing sweeteners, and how much better I feel, physically and mentally, when they are not a part of my diet. I think about the availability of sweeteners in our local environment, and how much processing and transport is required to get them to our table (honey aside). I think about wheat, and how it makes me feel bloated and heavy, and sluggish and vague. How much of our diet relies on that crop of wheat!!
When I think about how my body reacts well to meat, that leads me to think about how reducing our meat intake can be one of the biggest ways we as individuals can reduce our environmental impact. I think about all the issues surrounding a carnivorous/omnivorous diet, and my own value of only eating local, grassfed, preferably organic meat (which is an expensive way to eat meat!)
So, what, then, do I eat? This question has been niggling away at me for a couple of months. I read, I read some more..... one blog clicks into another... one person's research is debunked by another's.... it becomes an impossible quest to find a settling place, where my soul meets my stomach perfectly. Add into all of this that food is a social medium, and entertaining in a healthy, ethical way is more challenging again, and it all begins to feel too hard.
I revisit my heroes. My food gurus, whose advice and philosophy I know to be sound. Jude Blereau, the queen of wholefood cooking. Sally Fallon, whose commonsense approach and skepticism of modern day nutrition/dietetics I find refreshing. Lesh Karan (The Mindful Foodie), who reassures me that I can eat in a way that nourishes my body as well as respecting the Earth. Jo Whitton (Quirky Jo), a fellow Thermomix owner, who wades through the territory of multiple food intolerances to provide good, wholesome meals for her large family. I learn from the principles of Weston Price and, following on from there, from blogs such as The Nourishing Gourmet.
I listen to my body. I learn more and more everyday about what my body is trying to tell me. I go a few days without eating a particular ingredient, then when I eat it again, I take notice of what happens. I don't assume that it is normal to feel uncomfortable, or headache-y, or tired. I also listen to my body when it is feeling good. I learn that protein in the morning keeps me going, makes me feel clearer and more energetic throughout the day. I learn that eating no sugar or gluten reduces my bloating and clears my skin.
I am no expert. I am not even an expert on my own body. I am learning to listen, and that is more than I have ever given myself. I beat myself up, and feel depressed when I eat the wrong things. But I try to remind myself that this is a journey, and every mistake teaches me something new, if I take the time to listen. Being on holidays is a time of indulgence, and I have to be careful not to get too caught up in feeling guilty about what is going into my body. I look forward to returning to my kitchen with a fresh mind and some post-holiday inspiration, and cooking good food. I try to remind myself that the number on the scales is not a reflection of who I am as a person, just a gentle reminder to make sure that I am fueling my body in good, wholesome ways. I get excited about learning more ways to cook delicious, dairy-free, gluten-free, naturally sweetened food, and I look forward to feeling the benefits of such a way of eating.