When it comes to food

February 2, 2016

Lately I’ve been entertaining the idea that the last thing the world needs is another person telling people what to eat. An interesting idea, one would accurately say, coming from someone who studies functional nutrition and has devoted the last five years of her life to learning all she can about food, the body, and how the latter is affected by the former.

A lot of people come to me as a food guide of sorts. (Lately, Food Strategist has been the official-unofficial title given to what I do when I’m not working the Food Bar.) For about four years, I’ve been sharing (with great enthusiasm, I might add) what I know from my studies and experiences. But I’ll be honest with you: Recently I’ve found myself tip-toeing around the subject.

Since 2011, food in my world has been used as a tool to combat some alarming ailments in my body that showed up, rather intensely, around that time. After attempts at finding answers and solutions from my then-doctors proved unsatisfactory, I decided to give food a chance, and see what kind of solutions it had to offer me and my very angry body. As anyone in the food-as-medicine camp will tell you, it had a lot to offer — it still does — by way of solutions. In between then (2011) and now, I’ve found a pretty straight-forward way of eating that keeps me healthy, level-headed(ish), and mostly ailment free. But those solutions came by way of elimination diets, a lot of NO foods, and a general fussing that left me feeling tired, confused, and annoyed with myself.

People have very strong opinions when it comes to food, and there are plenty of perspectives to sift through on the internet and the shelves of book stores. I enjoy reading and learning about the various guidelines and approaches, but, when traveling down the food-as-medicine route, I can easily find myself feeling overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. As someone with somewhat of a voice in this arena — albeit, a verrrrry soft one — the last thing I want to do is create feelings of fear around the topic of food. If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that food guidelines and recommendations change so often that it’s hard to know which to stand behind. I know what works for me right now — but even that changes. What works and is true today might not work tomorrow.

Something that stays true always, though, is a deep respect for real, whole food. What started as a food-as-medicine mentality — think good versus bad; yes versus no; healing versus harmful — is shaping up to be one that views food as fun, pleasurable, and nourishing. If I had to sum up our approach to eating these days it would be this: Eat in a way that helps you, your body, and your headspace function as decently as possible. There’s a time and place for all foods, with the exception of allergies and intolerances. Certain foods are better and necessary for our bodies. Some food isn’t really food at all, but it’s fun to eat every now and again either way.

At this point in life, this approach feels mostly easy and intuitive. More often than not, Jamie and I try to eat sensible, healthy meals that leave us feeling better than we did before eating them, for one reason or another. But five years ago, I was most definitely not singing such a practical tune. I tried several different ways of eating before slowly, but surely, settling into a routine that works for me and my life.

I realize that my perspective might be different if I were still dealing with some of the health issues I was experiencing a few years back. I still do deal with them, but they are much, much better at this point in time. My respect for and approach to food encompasses all of my experiences: The good, the bad, the fun, and the uncomfortable. It’s this respect that’s got me carefully considering my words, my actions, and how to continue the conversation around food and eating. I’m treading lightly for now, finishing up my functional nutrition studies, and exploring what all of this means for my work in food education.

In the meantime, I’ll keep cooking, experimenting, and finding my voice in the food world. Thanks for being here and allowing us to share.

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