The Deal with Diets

What IS the deal with diets?

Today I read that if you eat a sandwich every now and again, then you’ve been a bit naughty.  Honestly? A sandwich? It leads me to the question – what is a healthy diet?  Is it only when you eat only vegetables, with some lentils for protein and have a green smoothie every morning.  Seriously, what is the deal with diets?  Every time I read the newspaper or any magazine, there is some sort of something advising people on what they should and should not eat.  Honestly, having started dieting at 10 (gymnastics, they make you do that), I have had enough of dieting.  Eat meat. Don’t eat meat.  Drink coffee. No, don’t drink coffee. Have a smoothie. But no, smoothies are full of sugar.  Fruits are good. No, they have too much fructose.  There just seems to be no end to it.  Does healthy mean that your ribs can be seen through your t-shirt and your hip bones stick out at the top of your shorts?

Well fuck that.  I love pizza, a yummy fresh margherita with loads of basil, fresh tomato and cheese.  Yes, cheese.  And I bloody well love a good pub steak with fried chips every now and again (yup, ahimsa is still beyond me).  I mean, it’s good to know what you’re putting in your body.  Any processed mess with ingredients that you can’t pronounce, let alone spell would probably be something that was mixed up in a lab.  Whether you want this in your body is a choice you make of course.  Personally, I’d rather not.  In fact, between an artificial sweetener that I can’t pronounce and sugar, I would choose sugar.  Even if it’s bad for me, I know what it is.

However, I think over excessive focus on food trends and fads are just another way that modern medicine teaches us to separate our bodies from our feelings and thoughts.  How many times have you something because you read that it was good for you? Yes, you read that it was good for you, but do you take note of how your body feels about it? There is nothing wrong with trying things out to see how they make you feel, but do we really feel?  Yes, feel, because your body has it’s own wisdom and it communicates to you in feeling, in sensations.  Something you read somewhere might say that you should start with raw fruit for breakfast, but if you’re doing that, and after a week your body hasn’t adjusted and your tummy is still bloating, why would you continue?  Because your brain says it’s good for you?

My dear friend Angie, of Angie Gluten Free (http://www.angieglutenfree.com/) has taught me a lot about nutrition.  To her, food is not just to nourish your body but is also an experience to nourish your other senses including sight, smell and touch (with textures).  Food also nourishes you emotionally.  In a way, she’s made me realise that my grandmother was right in the following points:

Abrizah

My late grandmother

  • If you don’t know what it is, then why would you eat it?
  • Cooking is a great skill to have – she had me helping out in the kitchen at the tender age of 9, by 12 she had me preparing full meals, waddawoman!
  • Go to the market and look around before you buy anything. If you meet a monger you like and can trust and whose fish is always fresh, be faithful to them – growing up, Sunday mornings were always market days for us and not supermarkets either. We went to the wet market to get stuff that was not out of the refrigerated section
  • Don’t eat standing up or reading a book or watching TV – savour your meal and don’t rush it
  • Appreciate your food – my grandmother grew up during WW2, when food was scarce, so to her food should be appreciated and not wasted. Leftovers were always kept for meals the next day
  • Keep it interesting – herbs, spices, different flavours, they’re all there, just try them out.  When I was much younger, my aunt had this massive mortar and pestel which was pretty much a slab of rock and a rolling pin type thing which she used to make chili paste. The thing was a bitch to clean but she used it anyway. Now we have food processors so it’s way easier for us. Also, we can be flexible when following recipes (unless it really needs to be precise). Everything can be adjusted to taste.  In fact some people thought it was blasphemy how she would amend recipes as she saw fit and as was convenient to her
  • Make cooking a social thing – as a child, whenever we were having a big family get-together, my grandmother would recruit all of us to help in the kitchen. If we couldn’t fit in the kitchen, there was always the backyard where gas powered portable stoves were put out. It was a gossip session, a bonding session and a learning experience for all present
  • There’s no need for fancy cook ware – a scan pan or whatever fancy plastic thing will not make the food taste better
  • You don’t need 8 different things on your plate at one time – keep it simple (well, we’re Asian, it’s usually rice with a fish/meat/egg dish, a vegetable and probably a small side of sambal or something)

And the best one of all:

  • You make the food, it’s not the food making you, so you can break rules and try new things, and if your body is so inclined, have a plate of rice for breakfast and a bowl of oats for dinner

Honestly, I must say that my relationship with food has changed through the years.  At a point in life, it used to be all about convenience and those who worked with me would often see me scoffing a Whopper, a bag of chips, a pack of nuggets and a large coke all while finishing a spreadsheet.  By the time I ate, I was often starving and the rumbling in my stomach could no longer be ignored.  After I ate, I would feel like I’d been hit by the food truck.  Now, although I still do love hot chips, a meal like that would make me feel quite queasy.

But that’s the thing.  We do develop a relationship with the food we eat.  It’s a continuous evolution based on your body’s needs.  Your body changes with time and reacts differently to different things.  For me personally, it’s still a journey and with the amazing people in my life, I look forward to the explorations to come.  And the food fads? Well, I’ll read them, but if they make me feel in any way off balance then they can fuck off.  Food is one of the few things in life that can be simple and pleasurable at the same time, so why ruin it by thinking too much and not feeling enough?

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