I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately as part of some longer term projects I’m interested in, namely cooking my way through Super Natural Cooking, a cookbook by Heidi Swanson that I’ve loved for a long time. It’s exposed me to a lot of ingredients I haven’t been eating lately, like heirloom grains, tofu, certain kinds of vegetables and nuts, and quite a few exotic spices and condiments. It’s been pretty neat, getting to play with all kinds of different ingredients, but it did raise a few questions for me.
As someone who has been off-and-on Paleo for the last 2 years, was this going to make me feel terrible? Was I going to gain a bunch of weight? Were my guts going to become inflamed? Were the harbingers of the clean eating apocalypse going to come get me?
I am happy to say that none of these things happened. And you know why they didn’t happen? Because I paid attention to scale.
No, not THE scale, but the scale of my project. Instead of going all-grain-all-the-time, I incorporated these foods in slowly, not all at once, and not in large quantities. I’m finding that portion size is the key to everything. If you have appropriate portion sizes – appropriate to you, and your own body – you can’t easily falter into extremes.
It’s so funny: when I came out about starting to eat some carbs again, it was like I’d hit a live wire. I got some comments that were super handwringy about the quantities and kinds of carbs they were, and so on and so forth, as if I didn’t know. As if I hadn’t read a ton of research about this very thing. As if I needed to be mansplained to about the dangers of the big gigantic oatmeal monster and his quinoa minions. You guys, I ate ¼ cup of oats in my smoothie for a week. That was it. That was the big reveal!
Anyway, this new experiment and also this post by Lacy got me thinking about my Food Rules. You know, general principles I live by when I eat stuff. It’s helpful to have them, because you can easily become mired in all the conflicting advice and bad science on the internet and elsewhere. I know I sometimes have to tune all that out and focus on what works for me based on my own carefully-tested experience.
So here we go:
Eliminating any one food group leaves me feeling tired, sad, and dissatisfied, and makes me binge down the road. So, I don’t do that anymore. I eat real food, mostly plants, in appropriate quantities for my body.
I am happiest when my plate is colorful and diverse. I like to eat a mostly vegetable-based diet of whole, minimally-processed foods. That’s why it was so funny to me when people assumed that when I decided to eat carbs again that it meant I was going to dive into Doritos Late Night Cheeseburger chips. Nope. My splurge is steel cut oatmeal, some amaranth now and again, and the occasional quinoa bowl. Oh, and small quantities of homemade ice cream once a quarter. Yep, real scandal right there.
My food needs to taste good. I will not bend on this one. No more flavorless pedestrian swill for this girl.
I enjoy eating in a way that affords me the freedom to go out, socialize, and travel. I don’t do these things all the time, but a life where you can’t celebrate major life events, holidays, or even just commiserate over a beer now and again is no life at all. Again, the key here is scale. I have one beer maybe 2-3 times per month. That’s what feels right for me. It might be different for you. Either way, alienating my loved ones was a horrible feeling, and that’s what my eating disorder did to me—shredded my relationships. That cost is too high.
I enjoy being mindful, but not obsessed by food or calories. I pay attention to this stuff. I am careful about satiety signals. I food journal still. But I don’t beat myself up. I honor the long journey. It’s all part of a bigger picture and as long as I like where the trend is going, I don’t get too caught up in the details.
I thrive on creativity in the kitchen. Man, it really sucked when I felt like all my choices were curtailed and I couldn’t cook anything other than meat and vegetables with minimal oil. I still like meat and vegetables of course, but I no longer think they’re the ONLY thing I can ever eat. A diet balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrate brings me a lot of joy, but there will be days where it can’t be super balanced, and that’s okay too!
I eat minimally-processed foods as much as I can, and I avoid high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Those things feel like a nuclear attack in my body, so I don’t like to eat them.
So as you can see, I’m still working it out, but I’m also feeling really good about it. Staying true to oneself has some big rewards.