Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A SIMPLE GUIDE TO FOOD & THE CHOICES WE MAKE
Of course this inquiry has many answers depending on who you are, your specific needs, and a host of other factors. But what I'm finding is this question is generally a plea in disguise. Most of the people I run into are so confused by the mass-information found thoroughout the media they are desperate for someone, someone they trust, to give them the answer.
Eat grain! No, don't eat grain! Eat meat! No, don't eat meat! Eat local rather than organic! Eat organic rather than local! Juice! Don't juice! Only eat certain foods in combination with other certain foods! Take vitamins! Don't take vitamins! Drink a lot of water! Don't drink too much water! Eat raw! Cook your foods! Drink green smoothies! No, don't drink green smoothies! Vaccinate! No, don't vaccinate! Go out! Eat in! Eat whatever the heck you want! Don't eat ANYTHING!
My head is spinning. You?
This onslaught of contradicting information can be crippling. It's such an unfortunate by-product of the info-mania we live in today and I'm thinking it has robbed [well that and the golden arches] many of us of the ability to think critically. The media and over-zealous dieticians / doctors / nutritionists [yes, they are out there] have convinced us that we need their help, their direction, their books and websites and blogs and trainings. Their clothes and blenders and cars and hair styles and personalities. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration [maybe] but I think you know what I mean.
The food system has so sweetly stepped in to rescue us from this barage. "Don't worry, I'll take care of dinner [and breakfast, and lunch, and snacks, and coffee break, and midnight snacks...]. I have the answer and it comes in a box with instructions for microwaving and scooping and crunching."
Somehow, we've bought into this and taken the plunge, shedding the intuition and mindfulness necessary to tune into our own bodies, needs, and the needs of our families on the way.
But deep down, underneath all this noise, is a small voice that urges us to do the right thing for our bodies, for our children, and for the world. It is cheering us on saying "You already have the answer! Your body is designed to know what you need!"
This is all great Tina, real inspiring. But I'm still confused. What is the "right" thing? Where do I start? Is there a diet that works? How do I know what to eat? What to feed my kids?
I get it. I'm a tactile, visual, "give me a plan" person too.
First a little secret the food industry and all those diet-crazed people don't want me to tell you.
One diet doesn't fit all.
Really, at some level we all know this. How can one-size-fit-all when our bodies are designed so uniquely? We want to believe there is one solution, one pill, one diet, one life style. We try to convince ourselves "This will be the one that works!", so we hop from one diet to the next until, once again, we are completely let down and out some more money.
But we keep searching because, come on, there must be some diet out there that will actually make us thinner, better looking, more employable, date-able, marry-able, happier, and content. Essentially make our lives easier.
And let's be serious, most of us enjoy a little easy.
But where's the fun in that? Where's the growth and journey and excitement and challenge and accomplishment and health in easy and same-ness and boring?
I enjoy the choices I have, the way my body changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season. I love that my body screamed for meat when I was pregnant and begged for beans and greens following the birth of my child. I look forward to the craving for fresh-picked food when spring comes to call and the warmth of soups when winter closes in. It begins to feel a bit sacred - like food is bigger than the next bite or meal or diet. Almost like my food choices really, really matter. And if they matter, then they have meaning. And if they have meaning, then food is special and holy and good.
And that's exciting.
So. A plan.
Well, to begin, disregard any book or advertisement or person telling you they have the answer for everyone. Smile, clear your shelves or wish them well, and run the other way.
After you've made some space for your own voice and thoughts and preferences, set the intention to learn.
Learn to cook, learn about new foods, learn new recipes, new flavors, new restaurants [yes, new restaurants], new drinks, new ways to eat and gather and decorate the table, new routines, even new people.
Clear your mind of all your preconceived ideas of the "right" thing to do and start with a blank slate. You know the answers you just haven't been given the space to think about them. Remove the shoulds and have-tos and give yourself a moment to enjoy the freedom of choice and adventure.
[SOME TIPS ON FOOD]
1) Start with what you already like and go from there. If you like Mac N' Cheese, try making it from scratch. Once you've done that, add some veggies or different flavors or try a different recipe. If you like burgers, try a turkey burger or a veggie burger or find some pasture-raised, organic beef. It doesn't matter what you start with but start somewhere.
2) Eat mostly plants. Yes plants. If you can pick it or dig it up, most likely it will fall in the fruit or vegetable category. This doesn't mean canned fruits or veggies or cakes with fruit topping or pies or take-out Chinese food. This means fresh fruits and vegetables. From a farm not a factory.
3) Make friends with a farmer or two. Farmer's Markets are in full swing and are not only the most happenin' place to be on a Saturday morning [obviously] but are also a place to find great produce, in season, at awesome prices.
4) Purchase organic if you can but don't sweat it if you can't. The important thing is to get fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. A non-organic vegetable is always better than a Big Mac. Buy local, in season produce whenever you can - it'll taste better and save you some cash.
5) Don't buy or eat products you see on TV. You don't see a lot of real farmers sporting their wares across the media. Generally it's packaged, chem-filled, franken-food annoyingly popping up every ten minutes interrupting your show.
6) Make a plan. If you plan out your meals for the week, in general you will feel less stressed about food because, hey!, you've thought ahead and have a plan!
7) Double the recipe and make friends with the freezer. I almost always make more than I need, jar the leftovers, throw on a label, and stash in the freezer. This allows me the freedom to not cook, and not rely on take-out, on those days.
8) Look at the ingredients list on any packaged foods. If there are words that take more than a second to comprehend put it back. If you have no idea what any of the words are, run.
9) Do your best to pay attention to how foods affect you. A food diary is a great way to do this but if that seems overwhelming at first, begin by noticing each time you have a headache or stomache or inflamed muscles. Ask yourself, "Is there something I ate that could have given me this headache or feeling of being bloated? Have I drank enough water today? Did I eat something out of the ordinary? Am I eating something too much or not enough of something?" The more you ask these questions, the more you will become aware of the food-health relationship in your own body.
Now the most important tip of all,
10) Enjoy your food! Don't eat food just because it's "healthy" or you think you should. This is not sustainable and one of the primary reasons most diets fail. Hunger does not equate to success and blah does not mean it must be working. The more you enjoy your food the greater respect you will have for it. The more you look forward to your meals the greater the chances you will slow down and enjoy each bite. The more fun you have making your food the more likely you are to return to the kitchen to do it again, and again, and again.
So may you find ways to take food seriously but not too seriously. May you find choices that meet your needs and the needs of your family and care for them well through those choices. May you find yourself taking a step towards healthy habits and celebrate that step without thinking about the next one.
Above all, may you find that food is fun and a gift and exciting and something to be enjoyed. Every day. Over and over again.