So, we come to the end. Finally. I’ve felt it necessary to recite this story and conclude with my food philosophy, because food will be a major part of this blog. Like I said, I love it.
To be noted: I’m not set out to convince anyone to eat the way I do. A lot of Pagans think deeply about the food choices they make and come to very different conclusions than I. That’s great. Fodder for debate later, I’m sure.
I am not an expert. I’m not a nutritional biochemist or a molecular biologist. I’m not a nutritionist, a dietician, a cardiologist, an obesity researcher or a physician. Primarily, I’m a reader. I read. It’s what I do best.
After that night at Target I began to read. Slowly. First I picked up the South Beach Diet (SBD). It was on sale at our local used book store and though I wasn’t looking for a diet I had heard that his concept helped some fellow bloggers of mine. It was interesting–I’d characterize it as moderate-carb, moderate-protein, low-fat. I tried it, again, curious.
I noticed something interesting as I reduced my carbohydrate intake–specifically refined sugar and flour–that my cravings became less constant. If I partook in dessert, say during a party or something, cravings would come back. But even then I was able to resist them. It was encouraging, no doubt.
I began to think about where I had gotten derailed. For someone always so interested in food I had certainly taken to eating a lot of crap. Crap that I in no way condoned on an ethical, environmental level: processed snacks, desserts, fast-food. A binge is certainly an altered state of mind, not unlike being drunk, but eating that left me feeling gross on more than a physical level.
After reading South Beach and kind of trying it, but ultimately not agreeing with its condoning of processed food I rooted around for some information. Most of the nutritional research I had done had been geared toward vegan/vegetarian sources, so in my mind ‘healthy’ eating couldn’t include animals (though I did). Friends batted around titles like The China Study and Skinny Bitch. They cited environmental statistics (which annoyed me, being a Natural Resource Studies major…I know, I get it, and guess what? It’s not quiet right…so…that’s another post).
But it seemed to be a given that if I wanted to be healthy then I’d at least need to be a strict vegetarian/vegan, again, or even moving towards high-raw. However, on these diets I gained weight and still struggled with cravings/binges/mood problems. I never felt satisfied, and I just didn’t like the food.
One day while reading my usual blogs someone mentioned how reading Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes had changed her life. Mmm, I thought. Interesting title. So I bought it and gobbled it up. Then I purchased Good Calories, Bad Calories by the same author and Protein Power by Michael and Mary Dan Eades. I started to read blogs on the Paleo/low-carb diets. Diets that promoted high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb. I had, of course, heard of Atkins but had this image of a plate of double-bacon-double-cheeseburgers. As I read I found a paradigm of eating that really fit with what I liked and the positive effects I saw on SBD.
The low-carb/Paleo diets are varied in their details but mainly involve eating a variety of fats, animal protein, fresh veggies, fruits and (here they vary) dairy products. Ideally, all animal proteins and fats (including dairy) would come from pastured, organic animals. Carbohydrate allowances range widely depending on what your individual metabolism can handle; most carbs are composed of fruits and starchy vegetables like winter squash.
Finally all the threads of what I desired in a diet began to come together. As I began to eat that way my cravings really did vanish. I’m just not that interested in carby-sugary-fatty desserts. Even if I don’t lose another ounce being off that rollercoaster is worth it. Absolutely. My mind has more space for my daughter, my family, my spirituality, etc. It’s incredible.
To this baseline I’ve added my own values of seasonality. We eat differently during the winter than the summer. We eat differently during times of grief and times of joy. That’s appropriate. Food is social cohesion and it can serve to comfort us, to energize and fuel us, to pleasure us. In Pagan traditions it serves to ground us after a ritual; we offer it to our gods. We serve it to those around us and use it as a very primal bond. We prepare it, weaving in bits of magic and prayer. It’s sacred to us. As it should be.
I also take note of tradition. Traditional foods, foods grown and processed by hand, are something of value. They contain so much intention and love that I think that including them in a diet is almost necessary. I’m talking about a slice of bread from a loaf kneaded by hand, artisanal made chocolates, cheese and beers, home-made jams and preserves. To me those foods are worth their weight in gold. Consumed with prudence? Certainly. But works of art meant to be delighted in.
And, a note: do I eat ‘perfectly’ (what does that even mean?)? Well…I mean. No. There is no ‘perfect’. There’s what works for you. Do you feel good being vegan? Have energy? Good mood regulation? Good health? That’s great. Keep doing it. Do I make choices that I know aren’t the best–say, the piece of cake for my brother’s birthday I had this weekend? Yes, of course. What’s life without it? But with my history I probably have to keep a tighter reign than most on treats like that. For a long time I railed against that fact, but now I’ve accepted it (made easier now that I don’t crave it).
So there you go. My food philosophy: good food, real food, practical food. Yes, please!