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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

my food journey

I love food, and I love to eat.  I love to cook, I love meal time, I love sharing food with others, I love trying new recipes, I love to garden, I love farmer's markets.  I even have a blog about food justice.  Food plays a very important part of my life (as it does for most people) nutritionally obviously, but my connection to food goes beyond that.  Food is connected to my emotions, my sense of community, my memories.  

And yet, despite the important role that food plays in my life, I've never had to put too much thought into the nutritional quality of the food I'm eating.  As a vegetarian and food justice advocate, I try to pay attention to where my food comes from, buy organic when possible, and support local farmers through our CSA.  But beyond that, I've still been able to eat pretty much whatever I've wanted.  I can load up on the carbs, dairy, and desserts, and because of my height, if I put a little extra weight on it's usually not noticeable.  In the past, I would just exercise a bit more and call it a day.  

Well, it seems like my body has finally had enough of all the delicious crap I've put in it.  

Over the past few months, most of the foods (and drinks) that I used to find satisfying and comforting have begun causing me pain and discomfort.  My doctor recommended increasing my fiber and cutting out caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, fatty foods, some dairy, heavily processed foods, and some carbs.  That means that soda, chai lattes, rich desserts, wine, dessert bread, tomato soup, grilled cheese, falafel, even my favorite Jimmy Johns sub - are all on the offenders list.  This weekend, I caved to my taste buds and indulged in one of my favorite guilty pleasure "meals" (a slice of Costco cheese pizza and chocolate-vanilla-swirl frozen yogurt), and my body went into immediate revolt mode.  The saddest part was that I knew as I was eating the pizza that my body would hate me for it, and I ate it anyway.  

Physically, I've felt sick almost daily for about three months.  Emotionally, I've felt semi depressed not being able to eat all the foods I find so enjoyable.  It is very unsettling to feel that all the foods that I used to eat and enjoy are essentially acting like poison to my body.  Emotional eating goes beyond eating when I feel stressed or sad; emotional eating for me is also enjoying Christmas cookies, Thanksgiving stuffing, ball park nachos, birthday cake, etc.  There's so much of ourselves that is put into the food we eat.

Now, there is an upside to all this (this blog is about finding joy in all things after all).  After dealing with the period of mourning for my old eating habits, I've started to see the great opportunity that my revolting digestive track has brought me.  While a lot of food that I used to eat tasted amazing, it really wasn't good for me.  Sticking to the standard American diet would have put me at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, even cancer.  

Trading unhealthy fatty, high-sugar, acidic food for healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has started to make me feel better.  Instead of eating a piece of pumpkin bread for breakfast, I now eat a bowl of oatmeal with berries or almond butter.  Instead of pizza for lunch, I'll have a bowl of miso or vegetable soup.  Yes, it's been a bit of an adjustment, but my taste buds are starting to hop on board and my body is so much happier.  The amazing thing is that knowing a food will make me feel well actually makes it taste better - trippy.   

The other piece to the puzzle is that the prescriptions my doctor recommended had not helped make my stomach feel better, but radically changing my diet slowly has.  Essentially, the foods I put in my body have started to decrease the inflammation and irritation my old diet was creating in my body.  

I'm looking forward to putting the same emotional and physical energy into my new diet that I put into the old, crappier diet.  I had a great time shopping at our local co-op this past weekend, and I'm excited to find new recipes to try.  I'll be able to find new Christmas dessert recipes that leave me feeling much better than eating a dozen Christmas cookies left me.  I'll be able to sneak healthier snacks in to the ball park to enjoy while watching the Cardinals win (12 in 12!).  

While feeling ill gave me the motivation to start a whole new diet, I would invite you to join me on this new journey too if you feel a spark of interest - before your diet starts making you sick.  I'll be sharing new recipes and reflections from my journey to better health (it promises to be a joy-filled one!).  I feel that we owe it to ourselves to treat our bodies with respect, care and love, and that includes being mindful of the things we put in our bodies.  While we don't have to be extremely healthy 100% of the time (who could avoid wine and cheese forever?), every little step helps.  

Thanks so much for taking the time to read!  Please feel free to share your own reflections. 

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