As a naturopathic doctor, much of my day is spent discussing food. Over the years, first studying and then in practice, I have seen a heightened sense of awareness emerge around food. What I’ve seen, and have experienced within myself, verges on obsession. Questions abound around whether raw kale is healthy or toxic, how harmful it is to have ‘cheat’ days, whether carrots are too high on the glycemic index, and if all fruit needs to be abandoned to kill candida. Questions questioning questions.
Obsession becomes our new fuel.
We choose rules over nourishment; ‘fight or flight’ over ‘rest and digest’. Even worse, we may extend these rules beyond ourselves, shaming those around us who make choices that differ from our own.
While I enthusiastically encourage an understanding of the benefits of various foods, how it is grown, and where it comes from, this latest trend is worrisome. When we create strict rules around food, we disconnect from our intuitive ability to recognize how food makes us feel. And this is dangerous.
I have fluctuated over the years between severely restricting my diet (and becoming a shell of my former self) to following whatever trend diet was being sold on the cover of women’s magazines. Paleo, ketogenic, Atkins, vegan, vegan before 6, etc, etc. I’ve done it all. Within each plan there were rules that determined how much self-loathing I should carry around with me each day. Each meal became an opportunity for judgment – I was inadequate if I couldn’t follow the rules; I was disciplined and of value if I could limit my diet.
Ultimately, each experience ended the same way – I was a failure for being unable to sustain a strict way of eating for the rest of my life. By determining my self worth through an external measure, I had given it away. It existed ‘out there’, instead of deep in here, in the place within us that knows truly we are good enough just as we are.
This place of deep knowing always wants what is nourishing for me.
Now, this is the place I check in with before I eat.
Sometimes it shouts ‘give me greens!’ and I long for a salad. Other days I ache for warm, soothing foods. Beautifully, it always changes – based on the weather, how much I’ve moved, whether I’m feeling under the weather, and where I am in the world. Wonderfully, this voice is always true and isn’t swayed by a magazine promising me a diet to quickly lose 5lbs. This voice cares not for ambiguous research that does not take into account individual differences. And if I listen really closely, she knows exactly what I need, beyond the influence of marketing, media, and shame.
Naturally, at times this voice gets crowded out and I find myself eating something that doesn’t feel that good. Or felt really, really good and yet horrible after (we’ve all been there). This used to be an opportunity for meltdown, a reinforcing sign that ‘yes, I am a failure’ (I knew it!). Now, it’s just a meal. It’s just one meal in a sea of thousands of meals that I will move on from and forget. It doesn’t influence how I feel about any future meals or myself.
I am not shameful because I ate a burger just like I am not a vegan simply because I drank a greens juice.
Fuck labels, eat food.
When we create strict rules around food, we disconnect from our intuition Click To Tweet Fuck labels, eat food Click To Tweet