For the last few months I have been reading Shapely Prose (SP), the blog site of Kate Harding, a leading Fat Acceptance (FA) advocate. She and her two cohorts on SP assert that diets do not work, and are in fact unhealthy for both the human body and the human psyche. That one’s weight is no indicator of one’s health, that bodies naturally vary in girth as well as in coloring and height. She encourages us to think of our bodies and our health in more constructive ways. She advocates the adoption of HAES (Healthy At Every Size), in which one pursues the act of eating and exercising with awareness of one’s unique physical and spiritual needs.
In addition, I have started watching the BBC show “You Are What You Eat” and though it is not FA-friendly, it does promote healthy, body-conscious eating, and I have learned a lot about food, and healthy eating, and unhealthy bodies. The show has confirmed what I have long felt deep inside–that I am unhealthy and unfit; that I am a sugar-junkie; and that my over consumption of fat and sugar is the most significant contributor to all the negative symptoms I feel inside my body: bloat, mood swings, lethargy, insomnia, distractability, moodiness, cellulite, weakness, acne, and ironically enough, depression and stress. Gillian McKeith, the star and driving force of the show, would insist that I immediately begin a no-sugar detox diet to eliminate all the toxins in my body’s cells, and replace it with the healthier sugar found in raw fruits and veggies.
And you know what? My recent venture into healthy eating–into paying attention to what my body responds to and how, in trying to follow the principles of HAES, tells me that in this much at least, McKeith is right.
In recent weeks, I have tried eating more healthy foods and I am pleased with the results. My attitude towards food is changing. My palate is gravitating towards the simpler, lighter, and naturally flavorful foods. Even though I love the taste of pizza and cheeseburgers and french fries, those foods (red meat, dairy, fat) make me ill. They give me heartburn, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloat. They give me IBS. I feel lethargic and get halitosis. I love chocolate and soda pop, but they make me gassy, and the fluctuating sugar highs wreak havoc on my moods. And I have reason to suspect that my sugar-heavy diet is a significant cause of my insomnia.
In contrast, “rabbit food” and low fat, whole grain meals make me feel energized and content. My body does not feel bloated and dense. I am not tired or lethargic. The desire to be active is stronger. I sleep better.
The more I associate the “bad foods” with feeling ill, the less strongly I desire them. And recently, I am amazed to discover that the more “good food” I consume, the more I come to prefer their taste!
The other day, I was eating veggies with hummus, and had a craving for potato chips. I went out and got some, and with the first bite, I was disappointed with the flavor. It tasted like salt and bland, greasy potato. In contrast, the veggies and hummus were much more satisfying: crisp carrots, celery, cucumber, and snap peas in roasted pepper hummus. I threw out the chips, and I doubt I will ever have a craving for chips again.
The same process is happening to my experience of sugar. Compared to the sweetness of fresh fruit, a chocolate candy bar is mild and bland. (But chocolate satisfies me on an emotional level that I cannot explain. Fruit satisfies my sweet tooth, but it does not yet replace emotional satisfaction I get from chocolate.)
Red meat and dairy are nearly distasteful to me now, and the thought of consuming fried anything is enough to make me feel a little queasy. Instead, I am now eating raw or blanched produce, whole grains, and the occasional serving of chicken, pork, or salmon. I don’t think I shall ever become a true vegetarian, but going as far as I have has made me feel more healthy than I have felt in many months, perhaps years.
I am a Foodie. I love food. I love experimenting with it. I love eating it. I love going to fancy restaurants and trying out unpronounceable menus. I love reading recipe collections, drooling over the pictures, and cooking from those recipes. I like altering recipes and creating my own meals.
Food has always been a emotional comfort to me (which is as it should be–if eating were a an unpleasant, dreadful task, we would avoid eating. Consider the anorexic: she fears food and finds the task itself a horror, and goes out of her way to avoid eating, despite a biological imperative. The joy of eating is part of the healthy mind). But experience has taught me that certain foods do not sit well inside my body; the more so as I grow older, and the more I realize that the more of certain foods I consume, the less healthy I feel, even if the consumption of that food brings me a transient joy.
I think I shall always have room in my diet for rich, fat-heavy foods and fine cuisine, and sweet, luscious chocolate. But it will no longer be my main source of sustenance, as it has been for most of my life. I will be an omnivorous vegetarian: a diet that revolves around the abundant power of the sun, where meat is of secondary importance. My body is the most important indicator of my health, and it is telling me in no uncertain terms that this is the path I must choose. And it makes me happy to know that this is not in any way a “diet” or a “lifestyle change”: something that I must force myself to do. Instead, it is only the way I am becoming.