Food is such a loaded topic for most of us. There are foods that are “good for us”, foods we choke down but hate eating. Foods that we “shouldn’t eat” but go crazy for anyway. Times that we are hungry and want to eat, but don’t because we are on a diet. Times we aren’t hungry, but eat for emotional reasons. All of these imbalances point to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Food is about nourishment and enjoyment, and should be viewed this way. Something to savor. A meal by yourself, or a meal with friends – it doesn’t matter. Food is about communion – between us and what nourishes us.
I have not always had a healthy relationship with food. It seems that most of us, especially women, have not. I dieted in high school, and experimented with purging. In my 20′s I over-exercised and under-ate. I learned that fat was bad, and that low-fat, highly-processed fake foods were good for me. I still see this anti-fat mindset with many patients I work with. At age 19 I could sit down with a whole box of Snackwells and inhale the entire box. And I was still left empty inside. This is because our brains and bodies need fats. Some of the amazing processes that healthy fats contribute to include: building our cell membranes, making hormones, giving us radiant and healthy skin, cushioning our internal organs, and helping the body use fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K). There is also a slew of research pointing to the importance of fats for our brains – both the cognitive and emotional parts. Those sound like really important functions to me!
Back to the lack of satisfaction with the “foods” I was eating. A big reason for the lack of satisfaction was that my body was not getting this important nutrient it needed – healthy fats. It was however, getting a lot of insulin spikes from the high-carb, low-fat diet I was on. And why has diabetes become such an epidemic in the midst of all this low-fat eating? Exactly! So began the endless cycle of elevated blood sugar, the resulting sugar crash, and subsequent reaching for more sugar. What a roller-coaster! Serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, becomes elevated as well after a sugary snack. (The “sugar high.”) Then we crash and crave more sugar to elevate our mood. So we have both of these processes going in our bodies when we eat high-carb foods. No wonder I kept reaching for more!
It took a long time for me to break out of society’s demonization of fats and embrace a healthy relationship with real food. It has been a process of paying attention to how I feel when I eat certain foods, and of learning to be comfortable in the body I have. I eat a lot of fats – nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut products, local, humanely-raised meats. They taste good to me and I feel well when I eat them. I don’t eat grains because they make me feel horrible. Sometimes I eat refined sugar – in the form of ice cream – but I know that I will feel tired and sluggish the next day, and will also have horrible sugar-cravings for a few days afterward. When I choose to eat ice cream, I choose to feel less-than-my-best the next day. I don’t do it when I am working the next day. I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables. I am thankful that I have cultivated a relationship with food where I feel empowered and nourished by the choices I make.
All of this talk about food is making me hungry for dinner. Of real food – local eggs, and a “cauliflower rice” (grain-free!!) and veggie stir-fry. And these for dessert. Delicious, savory, satisfying real food. A communion where I will not be wanting for more.