‘Human beings do not eat nutrients, they eat food’
– Mary Catherine Bateson
I can understand people’s growing concerns of food not being ‘clean’, ‘organic’,’ free range’ or ‘ethical’. These apprehensions are well placed if you’ve got a healthy relationship with food, your body and exercise.
What’s more alarming is the heightened fear of being fat or not being muscular enough. This leads individuals avoiding certain foods such as fats or making protein the star macro of the month.
All these worries disconnect us from food and lead us to only see food for a limited purpose; fuel or medicine. Although Hippocrates said ‘Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food’ there’s an article I recently read that helps put this ancient idea that virtually all disease could be treated with diet, into context. I’ll also write about this quote, medicine & food links to explore the context of it a bit more in future blogs. History lessons about food soon to come!
So it’s International No Diet Day (INDD). INDD is an annual celebration where you can say NO to dieting and give your taste buds, your body and your mind the freedom it deserves.
This INDD I want to highlight the diverse role of food in our lives and encourage us to appreciate the circumstances it can stress.
What is the role of food for you?
Food is used for celebrations, it brings out nostalgia, expresses treasured culture, gives us comfort, helps our mood, reflects the seasons and much more. What if, for only day we forgot the ‘diet’ mentality and ate in response to our body & mind’s needs?
For the last few months I’ve been working hard to tune into my hunger and fullness signal as well as validate and explore my cravings. As a Fitness Instructor, Healthy Cook, & a Wellbeing Coach it has been a bit tough striving to integrate the Health At Every Size (HAES) philosophy in every aspect of my life. Over the last three years I have had to suspend some of the things I’ve learnt about nutrients, weight & health. To date, 85% of my diet* contains fresh seasonal fruit & vegetables with sustainable and ethically reared meat or caught fish rarely making an appearance. The other 15% constitutes of overeating (usually when I’m procrastinating) eating experimental homemade vegan baked cake (lots) or salt & vinegar crisps. Recently I was craving Pringles. As I’ve not eaten these in about a year or so, I wonder if the increase in watching TV and all the adverts that comes with it has had an effect on my food choices?
With the ‘HAES’ philosophy in mind I bought a tube of Pringles on the way to stay with my friend and my nephew. The adverts are true! Once you pop you can’t stop.
I ate and checked in with how I was feeling, I ate some more and checked in with my body and mind some more. I got to a point where I was popping but when I was checking in I knew that I was no longer satisfying my nostalgia or taste. It was becoming saltier and less pleasant each time. Fortunately I was also making curry so once I had a popped my last few 12 I focused and accepted how I was really feeling in my body & mind.
First check point was there was no guilt. This is an amazing improvement for me. Guilt can come up when people have had that initial battle at the shop of ‘should’ I buy it, or ‘I want to be good tonight’. Second was the thirst, as I said after a quarter of the tube I noticed how salty it tasted (no surprise but it’s great to explore and learn things on your own), so I drank some more water, this reminded me to fill my water bottle up for tomorrow. Some days my water intake is just about enough for a cactus to survive. Lastly I was no longer hungry for our yummy fresh curry which meant that the chance of me sitting down with my nephew for leisurely dinner was not looking good. My nephew had also been eating Pringles but most children are brilliant at eating what they want and carry on playing once they’ve had their fill. An important lesson learned from children for International No Diet Day.
That evening I had a small portion of rice and curry and reflected on the two different roles the food played. Aside from the difference in nutritional value here is a short summary;
Pringles; I hadn’t seen my friend for a long time or my nephew so I wanted to bring a bit of my childhood, bring forth that excitement. I also wanted a bit of comfort and familiarity for me as being around a 7 year old does not always make me feel at ease. However it was a great three days playing and joking about.
Curry; We were low on funds, low on food and electricity for cooking. I needed a one pot dish that would be quick, tasty and involve minimum washing up. I also wanted to get my nephew involved in creating and cooking the dish. This social element of cooking and eating I’ve found to me the most important aspect for me when I think of the diverse role of food.
This No Diet Day, reflect on the role of food for you. Appreciate that it’s more than just nutrients and celebrate and explore the different roles of food in our lives, taking in account the context. Diet is a small part of a bigger picture of our health and wellbeing.
*Diet: let’s bring back the original meaning of diet. Diet meaning ‘the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats’. Not just a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves to lose weight or be pure or muscular’
By Carol Amoako-Adofo
Carol is currently developing ‘Shapeless’, a Health & Wellbeing enterprise that encourages you to think beyond your body. Follow her sage advice and inspiration on Twitter @ShapelessUK