Thursday, January 12, 2012

You are what you eat, pt 1


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about diet, food, nutrition, health and the link it contains to overall well-being and outlook.  There are so very many labels – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, raw, ‘on a diet’, etc. etc.  But does what we eat come to define who we are?  I AM a vegetarian”.  And in many ways, it does define the person.

  I cannot claim one label, but that is a personal choice.  I have been both vegetarian and vegan at various points in my life, but have found the healthiest, happiest route for myself personally -and for my physical and mental needs- is to incorporate some of everything:

-some meat, very occasionally as I honestly don’t really like to cook it, don’t like various kinds of it, and don’t trust anything non-organic.  The iron is important to my diet, however, (I’m anemic) and from time to time I really do enjoy some meat-containing dishes.

-some dairy – again, not a huge part of my diet but a little more prevalent than meat.  I don’t drink milk but I do eat greek yogurt (and use it as a sour cream sub) and eat cheese sometimes.  I find it healthiest not to eat a lot of dairy but I don’t avoid it, either. 

-lots of fruit and veggies ­– this one is obvious: I eat them plentifully because I like them and they make my body feel goooood. 

-whole grains­- I try some gluten-free products and avoid refined grains and refined sugars.  I don’t deprive myself, I just never grew up on white bread and honestly don’t like the taste.

-no unidentifiable ingredients – I wish I had an income that would support buying all organic, all the time.  I don’t, and in all honesty, it would probably mean occasionally not eating something that I actually do want.  I read labels and if there’s a strange modgepodge of letters that sound nothing like a food product I’ve ever seen on it, I don’t eat.  Artificials make me uncomfortable – if its not food that I’ve seen or heard of, exactly what is it that I would be eating?

That said, that is what works for me.  I love fruit, I don’t like touching raw meat, I try to avoid processed foods but I don’t/can’t all the time.  The biggest challenge and focus for me has been taking the stress out of eating choices – now, I eat what I want, however much of it I’m hungry for, and feel good about it. 

The labels that stick on dietary choices are such a positive part of many people’s lives.  It guides them, they are dedicated to it, and their bodies are healthier as a result.  I know so many happy and healthy and proud vegans/vegetarians/gluten-free’s, etc.  Yet, I know many who follow these lifestyles and feel deprived (almost 99% of the time, it is for weight-loss purposes, the great motivator and driver of unhealthy lifestyles it seems to me).

I guess that’s what it really comes down to – are you a happy eater?  We should ALL be able to say “I AM a happy eater”.  The ability and clarity to do this comes number one from having good mental health. 
Remind yourself:

Food should not control your every thought

You don’t have to think of certain food as “treats” or “indulgences”.  You like ‘em?  Eat them!  You don’t have to somehow ‘earn’ your ‘treat’.

Eat the things that make your body feel good.  If you are depriving yourself or restricting yourself in some way… your body does NOT feel good.

The ingredients matter so much more than the calories/fat cals/etc. 

Don’t allow yourself to feel ‘judged’ by what you eat or when you eat it.  We each have personal needs (and wants) and there is no ‘one size fits all’ – in more ways than one!!!

Allow yourself to learn what your body needs.  A happy diet and a happy weight is most often only learned through experience.  Some experiences are harder than others, but when you can affirm you’ve reached the ‘happy’ point, it will be so worth it.

There are 100000 other things that make you a happy, healthy individual than just food.  Food is fuel, food can be fun, but food does not deserve an excess of your mental energy – devote it somewhere else.

And that is (part 1, anyway) of my food outlook.  I have more where that came from, but at the risk of rambling will cut myself off for today.  Power of positive thinking, people! 

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