Food Relationships


189862_1722265936658_7006532_nThese days, it seems like everyone wants a prescription for health. Some turn naively to the pharmacy, hoping for a quick fix that requires minimal effort. Many others are realizing that prescription drugs only treat the symptoms–of diabetes, or high cholesterol, or skin ailments–and not the cause.

I’m a big believer that a healthy diet is at the core of keeping your body free of disease. I’ve come to this conclusion through personal trial and error, through the advice of my wonderful, knowledgeable sister Risha, and through reading (especially Michael Pollan’s books…and really anything he writes…that man is my hero).

Improving your diet can be an arduous task. Most of this is due to the word “diet,” being such a loaded term. I’m speaking of diet in the purest sense: it consists of the foods you decide to stick in your mouth and swallow on a regular basis. Fad diets are about deprivation of certain foods: usually a specific category like fats or carbohydrates. And deprivation performs a kind of perverse trick on the mind, at least in my case–if I “can’t” have something, I’m going to think about it more often and want it more.

I can’t recommend the right diet for everyone. I have no accolades–you’ll need to ask my sister if you want some professional assistance. Everyone has different dietary needs and restrictions; I can’t dictate a program for every vegan, Celiac, nut-allergic, lactose intolerant, or fruit enzyme-sensitive person in the world, because I don’t know enough. But I can tell you my personal strategies, and give some general advice.196979_1722285297142_6713901_n

Foods aren’t “evil.”

Nothing irritates me more than when people look at a chocolate truffle and say “keep that away from me; I’m being good today!” Why do we make our food into an enemy? You probably shouldn’t sit down and eat an entire holiday ham, but it’s not terrible to have a chocolate truffle, especially if it’s made with care and with quality ingredients.

I don’t want to get into a comparison between France and the US, because it’s been done so many times when talking about food, and because I’m sick of the US being bullied by Europeans. European countries have their own slew of problems, and the US, while certainly far from perfect, is not the most awful place in the world. ANYWAY… There was a study (which I can’t seem to find!! Somebody find it for me, please! I only seem to find articles that mention it but don’t cite!) where researchers asked French and American participants which words they associated with the phrase “chocolate cake.” The French said “pleasure,” and the Americans said “guilt.” That’s just messed up. We shouldn’t feel guilty about a delicious slice of cake.

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Get creative!

Not everyone has the time, desire, or resources with which to prepare healthy food. But if you do have those things, get creative! You know from my polenta post that I love cooking. I experience some serious zen while sauteing a pan of onions and listening to music. The challenge of figuring out how to work with different vegetables gives me thrills, so when I’m feeling like I need more veggies in my diet, I try to experiment. Making the activity into a problem, (the solution to which is finding the most tasty method of preparation) means the process will be fun. I often only have time to cook after getting home from work, and sometimes I’m too tired. But other times, I’ll look forward to it all day as a kind of escape.

Drink some water.

Pretty much everyone needs to drink more water. It’s just good stuff. Water = life, and all that. Personally, I’m more likely to drink water if it’s through a straw. Don’t ask me why. I have some reusable plastic straws at home, but plastic sucks and I’m going to buy some glass straws. I also like to add lemon, which is both delicious and beneficial for the body. I need to start drinking hot water with lemon in the morning. It’s healthy and it really wakes me up. Of course, I need to be awake enough to make it to the fridge, to procure the lemon…

Eat some salad. Or some freakin’ kale. 

I never used to be much of a salad person, but I’m more into them as of late. It’s a great way to get a bunch of vegetables. I’m a fan of mesclun greens, or even just plain spinach. Raw kale is delicious when “massaged” with dressing. (Do you sense a recipe post coming?) I also like to roast beets, cauliflower, or other root vegetables and top the salad with those. Steamed broccoli is delicious, as are sauteed onions and garlic. A little crumbled goat cheese is wonderful, especially with the roasted beets. For dressing, I like lemon and olive oil, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or my mom’s fantastic dressing, with fresh parsley and dill; I’ll get her recipe sometime soon and post it here.218088_1785590279727_5579584_n

Plan

If I don’t make my lunch the night before my next work day, I’ll end up buying something to eat instead. This is not only expensive, but also means that the meal will likely be less healthy. It often only takes me 30 minutes to prepare lunch and something simple for breakfast. This gets difficult when I have after-work plans, but I can usually do it for at least 3 out of 5 work days.

Get a juicer!

I recently invested in an Omega juicer. There was a special deal online and I jumped at the chance to own one. It’s a wonderful way to supplement your diet with more fruits and vegetables. I usually make about 16 oz of that for part of my breakfast; I chop the ingredients the night before, so that juicing and cleaning up in the morning is super quick. I’ll probably do a post soon that’s specifically about juicing!

Eat less meat.

This is going to sound super defensive, but here it goes: I’m an omnivore. I’ve read dozens of articles and books, and seen several documentaries about the horrors of the meat industry. I know how meat impacts the environment and how factory farming treats animals unethically. But I don’t think it’s morally wrong to eat animals if they haven’t lived in suffering, and I’m lucky to live in an area that offers many options for locally-raised, free-range, grass-fed, and organic meats. There are many arguments for a meatless lifestyle, but it’s not for me. I am always trying to cut down my meat consumption and eat smaller portions, and I always search for the healthiest and most ethical option. But a vegetarian, I am not, and currently, it’s not something I’m trying to change.

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Savor and Share

I’m obsessed with the truffle fries at The Dirty Truth (a local hangout). They’re everything I’ve ever wanted in a french fry, which is saying a lot. In addition to being scrumptious on their own, there is also an option to drizzle them with truffle oil. Truffle oil! They’re heavenly, but having the plate to myself would make me feel sick and would probably kill my enjoyment. (And of course, eating fries all the time isn’t super healthy.) So when I do want to indulge, I call up a few friends and we share them, and it becomes a bonding experience. I grew up in a family where large, delicious meals were our bonding time. My siblings live in another state and my parents don’t cook that often, since we’re all on different schedules. But when we all get together, meal time is for sharing, and laughter, and memories. I consider myself to be so lucky that I grew up with parents who cooked well and often. It’s a rare and immeasurably precious gift to have been given.

If you have anxiety or guilt about food, I urge you to follow some of those tips. Freeing yourself from those kinds of negative thoughts will set you free, and make your eating experience happier and healthier! 

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My own diet-related goal is to have better skin. I’ve never been overweight and I don’t have high cholesterol or diabetes, but I’ve always had skin issues. I have noticed a definite correlation between the things I eat and the way I feel. If I eat a ton of sugar or drink alcohol–even as little as two drinks–I will usually break out within the next two days and I’ll often get itchy immediately. I don’t eat a lot of sugar anymore, (because my cravings have changed to encompass only fatty and salty foods–hah!) but I do enjoy alcoholic beverages, especially beer. (Wine seems to have a less detrimental effect, I’ve noticed.) I’ve also read some literature (in particular: The Clear Skin Diet) about the relationship between dairy consumption and acne. And though I don’t drink much milk, cheese is one of my top 5 favorite foods, and I can’t seem to give it up.

In the future, I might gradually implement more dietary changes. I prefer to improve my diet incrementally, as it minimizes stress and guilt. I want to take pleasure from my food. I don’t want to feel bad about my truffle fry obsession, because they’re a treat. I want to have the occasional wine and cheese party. I want to eat chocolate, whipped cream-filled cupcakes from my mom’s friend Mary’s amazing recipe on my birthday. I want to sample fancy and exotic dishes at restaurants, because it’s incredibly fun to try new things. Food is colorful, sensual, and memory-triggering. Let’s savor it.

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And now I’ve officially used all of the food-related photographs I could glean from the depths of my computer. Guess I’ll have to break out the camera.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Food Relationships”
  1. pioneerannie says:

    You should read Nourishing Traditions, it’s an awesome book! It gives you a whole new look on the foods we eat, the science behind them, and the way they are prepared or processed. It’s very unconventional just to warn you. You can check out some info at http://www.westonaprice.org/ don’t be alarmed if the search engine site gives you B.S warnings. These people are always under attack because they believe in eating food in it’s natural form and promote good health. Since I have been following this book, (we live on a farm so it makes it easier for me,) I have never been healthier. Eating more fat and protein in my diet actually caused me to loose weight, go figure eh?

    Regarding your skin, there are Ayurvedic face scrubs you can use, I have sensitive skin that will break out if I use the wrong products. This stuff is amazing! the brand I get is from kayakelpherbals.com I would recommend walnut scrub, clove acne treatment and the cactus wash. It’s seriously all you need and lasts forever. Also, and this sounds gross. But I wash my skin and hair every 3-4 days. This has helped big time, I think it’s because it allows my body to balance natural oils. I’m Scandinavian decent, so I’m not sure how other skin types are, but it might be worth a try. You could also wash your hair with baking soda and rinse with apple cider vinegar. Your shampoo and conditioner can give you skin issues.

    Make sure you don’t drink too much water before or after meals too, it will dilute your stomach acids and you wont digest food as well. just give yourself an hour either side of eating. Other than that do what you are doing.

    Keep listening to your body and gaining knowledge about nutrition, sounds like you are on the right path and there is so much support and information out there now a days!

    Sorry for talking your ear off.

    • Casey says:

      Hi! You didn’t talk my ear off–I was really grateful to receive your thoughtful comment. I looked briefly at that website and I’m definitely intrigued. Have you read any of my other blog posts? I did one about oils and I actually referenced Mary Enig’s work; I noticed her name on the website. I’ll definitely look into that book, as well!

      As for the skin stuff, I also did a separate post about that. I’m open to trying new things. And I don’t think you’re gross! As I mentioned in my skin care post, I actually advocate washing less often. And again, (haha, this is getting redundant) I’ve got my hair care pretty under control, and I’ve done a whole post about that as well. I’ll be sure to check out your blog; I think we are kindred spirits.

      Have a lovely day, and thanks for reaching out!

      -Casey

      • pioneerannie says:

        lol kindred indeed, too funny! I will have to look through your blog as well, being that we do think alike… well you know what they say about great minds right? 😉

  2. Yesenia says:

    I love this post! I can definitely relate to alot of the advise and tips. I’ve also been noticing a correlation between the food I eat and my skin. I must check out that book! thanks for sharing 🙂

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