Back in February, if you recall, I did a reader survey. One of the comments that was checked on nearly every single submission was, “I never feel like what I’m making for dinner is healthy enough.”
I added that line-item on a whim…and it was mostly because, I get that feeling. Maybe instead of making regular old macaroni and cheese with the artificial Yellow coloring that’s been banned in most countries, you make the organic stuff, or you make it from scratch…but you still think, “Gosh, I should really be eating greens right now.” When you multiply that feeling times every meal, every day, knowing that someone somewhere out there is eating green smoothies and kale salads and some miracle food you’ve never even heard of…that shit gets exhausting. The guilt of not being better, always, is heavy.
The trend online, in the news, and in the break room at offices across the country has been an increase in food health discussions all around, and it feels like they’ve intensified over the last few years. More people are eating vegetarian and vegan. Cutting out processed foods and trans fats. Going gluten free, or dairy free, or low-fat, or eating only Power Foods. You’re still eating dairy? “Oh, I quit that months ago, and I’ll never go back.” Good gracious, people are quitting gluten and they don’t even know what gluten is. (Props to my cousin Kate for sharing that hilarious video!)
At one point, I had it in the back of my head that I needed be on a path to eliminating huge categories of food from my diet, because the “experts” say they’re “bad” for me.
The biggest hurdle has been cheese. I have felt like I should stop eating it…but I also know I could never cut cheese out of my life completely. I love it too much. But I felt guilty each time I ate it. “Am I clogging my arteries right now? Am I causing distress to my digestive system? Is this going to cause cancer later? Are kittens dying because I’m eating melted cheese on a tortilla?” As I said…the weight was heavy.
Thanks in part several wise resources (among them, Food Rules*, Foodist and the health coaching of Meg Worden, who is an amazing specimen of a human), I declare my conflict resolved today. I am no longer hunting for my Food Solution. I have found it, and it’s delightfully simple.
(You know how much I like ease.)
Henceforth, I will have zero tolerance for foods that taste bad. Nor will I tolerate foods that make my body feel bad. (Can I please get a high five for being Captain Obvious again and saying the thing I should have said at the start of my whole “crisis” to make it all moot?)
I will eat foods that taste good and feel good.
That is the new standard I’m holding myself to. And I will forever stop comparing what’s on my plate to the latest fad, or an expert’s infographic. (Even though I still think infographics are super fun, for the record.) And I sure as shit will never go on a diet. Blah, that sounds awful.
In light of this new development, I would like to share the things I know are working well for me. These are the things that have been feeling true for me lately. Take what you will, and leave the rest.
1. Simplicity + gourmet + whatever I want
Even though I deeply love to cook, my lifestyle also demands simple foods. (I have a business to run, websites to design, cats to play with, a husband to play with, plus friends and family and awesome hobbies, some of which are NOT cooking.)
With a full and awesome life, my ideal food prep scenario is a mix of elaborate gourmet concoctions that use every dish and utensil in my kitchen…and dead-simple, delicious meals that are ready to enjoy in a flash. The sway of the mix depends on my schedule and my cravings.
2. Say yes to fat…sometimes.
I thoroughly enjoy rich, heavy, decadent foods. I dare you to eat one of my made-from-scratch jalapeño poppers, and tell me they don’t make life worth living. Sometimes I like to enjoy food that is full of fat and flavor and—yes—sometimes, deep fried. I will continue to enjoy them in moderation, forever, and not apologize for it. As long as I feel good about what I’m eating, and my body feels good too, there is no problem.
3. Just because you aren’t vegan (or gluten free, or vegetarian, or WHATEVER) doesn’t mean you can’t dabble.
I was raised in a meat-and-potatoes family, but my husband and I eat meat-free meals several times a week. Not because we’re avoiding meat, per say, but because there are some really good meals that don’t have meat. And they taste good. My brother ate gluten-free for a while, so I learned lots of gluten-free recipes. He doesn’t eat that way anymore, but we still make most of our favorites from that period of time, just because we can.
For example, I thoroughly enjoy making vegan meals—even though I’m not a vegan, and love eating meat. But I’ve found a lot of vegan meals to be delicious, and they make me feel good, and generally, the people who write vegan cookbooks also happen to be awesome.
4. I love talking about food…but only in a certain way.
I’m tired of talking about fat grams. And restriction. And elimination.
On the other hand, I will never tire of talking about food in terms of:
- How to make it
- How to make it easier
- How to make it taste better
- What we are going to eat next
5. Try all the things, and keep the ones that work.
Last month I did a dietary cleanse…for fun. Not because I needed to, or because I wanted to lose weight, or because I like the pain of depriving myself of good things, or out of penance for the horrible way I eat. I did it because I was curious how good my body could feel, and I promised myself it wouldn’t include anything that sucks or tastes like nothing. (Novel idea, eh?)
I made it my own. I learned a ton. I wrote my own rules, and it was an eye-opening experience.
6. Foods that taste good + feel good are worth collecting.
This cake batter smoothie by Oh She Glows is a culinary miracle. Because it’s easy, and eating it feels good, and like I’m taking care of myself in every way. It seriously tastes damn close to eating cake batter from a cup, which is amazing all on its own. But then you read through the ingredient list, and realize that every single item nourishes your body…period. No strings, no guilt. AMAZING TASTE + NOURISHING INGREDIENTS. That’s the goal, and the smoothie is a slam dunk. (Do you have a favorite slam dunk? Link it to me in the comments please!)
Sidenote: I make my cake batter smoothies with dairy milk, because I don’t have an intolerance to dairy. Some do, some don’t. Some do it because it’s trendy. Who cares, really?
7. I will never be the thinnest girl on the block.
That always sounded boring anyway. But I’ll love my body enough to give her what she wants, and to be a shape that feels good. Not too big, or too small. Juuuuust right.
Tell me, darling, what’s working for you these days when it comes to food?
*Food Rules by Michael Pollen happens to be my favorite “nutrition book”. I also tried reading In Defense of Food and found it dreadfully dull (SORRY GUYS) but Food Rules is the simple, just-the-essentials version that you can read in one sitting, and not get overwhelmed by jargon and trying to fit your complex, beautiful self into a little tiny scientifically defined box. So there’s that.