Paleo. Keto. Zone. Gluten Free. Dairy Free. Raw Foods. Vegetarian. Alkaline. Mediterranean.
That doesn’t even begin to include the protein shakes (soy? bone broth? whey? casein? egg? rice? hemp?) or the myriad of prepackaged diet foods that are available for purchase and consumption.
With all these options and the opinions about what’s best for you, how do you even begin to decide what to consume? Should you use the dairy-free cream in your coffee or toss a slab of butter in there for a bullet? Is coffee even OK or is on the blacklist now of what you should be staying away from?
I don’t have the answers, nor do I even know where to begin. What I do propose is that we stop looking for the RIGHT way to eat and telling everyone we meet about the new fad and how it is going to help us lose weight or increase our performance. I’m not arguing that your diet of choice hasn’t helped you to do that. What I am arguing, however, is that your diet of choice isn’t necessarily right for me.
I grew up in an Italian family where food was a big deal.
We celebrated with food. We showed our appreciation to friends, neighbors, and loved ones with pans of lasagna and rigatoni. There was always room for one more at the table and we never skipped out on dessert. If food was a love language, I can tell you that I was very loved.
As I’ve gotten older and have become more sensitive to certain foods, I’ve realized a meal of lasagna followed by cheesecake isn’t necessarily good for me. and my lactose intolerant belly.
As I’ve gone through various phases of limiting my diet, I’ve struggled to keep my appreciation for a shared meal alive. As I’ve adjusted my eating habits to specific diets, I’ve taken the pleasure away from enjoying a good meal with family and friends. As I’ve learned to say no to the birthday cake because I was watching my calories, I’ve recognized the look of disappointment on the face of the person who was expressing their love through the language of food.
I’m not arguing that you should eat the cake to make someone else happy. What I am arguing is that you listen to your body and make your own judgements about what is right for you. I believe that there isn’t one choice of eating or diet that is right for everyone. I also think that eating can and should be a pleasurable endeavor and when we are eating nourishing foods for our bodies, it is an act of self-care and love.
I’ve come up with an acronym that helps me to feel good about how I eat, what I eat, and why I eat.
My new EATING philosophy:
Eat for ENJOYMENT.
Yes, you read that right. I want to take back the pleasure of sharing a meal, of cooking a flavorful dinner to share with my loved ones and not worry about the fat to protein to carb quotient.
Eat with ATTENTION.
Slow down, step away from your computer, and focus your full attention on your meal.
Not surprisingly you may then actually enjoy your food more, from the aroma as it enters your nostrils to the moment it lands on your tongue to the flavor as you swallow the last bite.
Eat for TASTE.
Taste every bite you take as if it is your first. Linger on the flavors. Notice the spices, the sweet, the salty. Eat foods that taste good to you, not foods that you think you “should” eat because it was on a list of “approved foods”.
If you listen to your body you will undoubtedly learn what foods make you sluggish or give you brain fog, which foods give you energy and make you feel good. Doctors are now saying your gut is your second brain; listen to your gut and follow your instincts instead of the latest fad.
Eat for NOURISHMENT.
We need food for sustenance. Our grandparents always told us to start our day with a good breakfast or we wouldn’t be able to listen and learn at school. We know our brains need nourishment to function appropriately as do our bodies for all the amazing functions they do without our awareness.
Eat with GRATITUDE.
Be grateful for the food you are blessed with, for the farmers who cultivate it, for what it took to get the food on your plate in front of you. It’s amazing how much better a plate of homegrown or CSA vegetables can taste than a vegetable powder that you toss into your morning smoothie.
If all else fails, I rely on food author Michael Pollen’s advice, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” I would add, enjoy the heck out of those plants, acknowledge that they are nourishing your body, and be grateful for all it took to get the from the earth to your mouth.