Oh I Can't Eat That
Since the onset of COVID-19, I have been with my parents and in exchange for refuge, I have been cooking for them! Which has been (maybe) with slightly ulterior motive. I choose to be plant-based/mostly vegan, and honestly, I worry about the health of my parents so I have loved the opportunity to cook and prepare food for them. I am very close to my family and I want them to be healthy! We have a saying in our family- "Don't let that old man/woman in!"
Okay, so I've been cooking for my parents almost exclusively vegan and to their surprise, they have actually liked everything I've cooked! Because of all this cooking, and discussion about food (not just with them), I've seen a recurring theme.
One of the biggest things that I come across when I tell someone I eat vegan is they ask me (or tell me) what I CAN'T eat...
My Philosophy on the Mindset on Food
I CAN eat anything I want. I choose not to eat meat or animal-based products because of all the reading, listening and researching I have done over the last several years. It is a choice that I make every time I eat something. And sometimes, honestly, I do choose to eat something that I may not otherwise eat. I can eat the bacon, I just don't.
With this, it puts an intentional and purposeful reaction to my options. I am not forced to not eat something because I have subscribed to a label. Instead, I mostly follow this particular philosophy that I would rather not eat these things at this time. It keeps the control with me. It keeps my choices MINE.
Partly why the diction matters...
On the flip side, my niece CANNOT eat sesame, because she is highly allergic. Here, she actually CAN'T eat that. This is not a choice, her body literally rejects it and it is dangerous for her to eat. It will result in a bad reaction that she will require emergency medical attention.
I think we often use words too loosely which ultimately devalues the word. This is an instance of that. For someone who actually CANNOT eat peanuts, it's inaccurate for me to say I CAN'T eat meat. Again, I CHOOSE not to eat meat.
Maybe for the people who "can't" eat carbs, they use this word strategy as a way to take the choice from them. I would bet that makes it a lot harder though. It's no longer a choice. It's a deprivation of something you like or want. It's always different when you're mom told you that you can't have that cookie, then when you were reminded of the stomach ache you got from eating that cookie and so you ultimately chose not to eat it.
Here is the second part to my philosophy.
I don't believe in cutting something out completely. Similarly, I won't tell anyone, including myself, that they can't eat something. Zero carbs, zero fat, zero sugar, etc.
Our bodies immediate source of energy is carbohydrates. You would actually die if you literally had ZERO carbs. Fat is also essential to human life, and helps control the satiation levels (the hunger sensation!). Sugar is/turns to glucose, which is what carbs break down to, so same thing. Now, of course we have different kinds of these things. Processed sugar is different than the sugar in fruit. The fat from avocado is a considerably healthier fat than butter. Maybe what people mean when they say carbs is bread, potatoes, pasta... I still wouldn't tell someone they can't have these but if they want to choose not to eat these things, then more power to them. Again, the choice they deliberately make. The purposeful response to stimulus.
I believe that the method of ZERO X, Y, or Z leads to feelings of guilt when we do choose to have something or feelings of punishment, as if we are put in an indefinite time-out and cannot be allowed to eat whatever it is... ever.
Instead, I welcome the idea of having whatever it is that we think we "shouldn't" and ENJOY EVERY BITE. That doesn't mean eat 800 servings of it or eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but when we make the choice to eat something, it's important to genuinely savor every bite WITHOUT GUILT. Because otherwise what good was it?? Maybe next time, we'll make a different choice. But if we make the choice, then stick to it and enjoy it. Feeling bad about your choice just leads to a cycle of negative feelings surrounding our dietary intake. And in this, we practice our control over our choices.
Ultimately, what I personally think is more important than calories or carbs is our relationship with food.
Although there is one exception that I can think of that begins with an elimination diet... meaning we remove many categories of foods and then gradually add them back. This would be the Whole 30 and it is for the sole purpose of finding out how the body reacts to certain foods. I love the idea of learning and understanding your relationship with food, and that's why this is an exception.
Our relationship with food is so much more personal than just what I ate for lunch.
What we put into our bodies can be heavily related to how we treat ourselves and how we feel about ourselves. I really changed my view on what I was eating because I started thinking about how food is the fuel for our bodies and our lives. Plus watching so many documentaries and listening to doctors and dietitians and learning about nutrition and the food industries. But really, it's the idea of treating my body with respect.
Have you ever had a long day and thought to yourself, "I deserve this pint of ice cream"?
I have. And it's this pint of ice cream that gave me a stomach ache in the morning, or was the root cause of me not sleeping well. So what part of me deserved that? It's such a funny thing!
The idea that I deserve a little treat that makes me happy and feel good is warranted... but there is a line in which, it's no longer going to make me happy. In fact, it's going to perpetuate the cycle of me not feeling good. Instead, I have a bite or two and think about how tomorrow I will feel free to have another bite or two. Or I pick something else that will make me happy, like calling a friend, or choosing some fruit instead. Point is, it's looking past the immediate satisfaction of eating whatever it may be and realizing the bigger picture, which takes a lot of awareness... and purposeful reaction.
Our relationship with food is a personal one, which is why I do not do a lot of nutrition coaching. I do love to talk about habit-building. What we eat goes a lot deeper than counting calories and protein. As it should! I don't believe that our dietary intake should be so heavily involved in numbers. Nor do I think that a sustainable lifestyle will include being so vigorous in our counting. I, like many, have more things that I would rather put my focus on than refusing myself the joy of certain foods at all times and keeping track of these numbers!
Actually learning about food and cooking has made me so much more aware of my dietary habits and has also helped me fall in love with how I fuel my body. I workout so hard, and I try to treat my body well and that is supplemented by the nourishment I give it!
Next blog, I'll share some of my favorite choices of what I have been cooking!
As always, I hope this was helpful in viewing nutrition and food from a different lens. Any questions, I would love to chat and and thoughts, I would love to hear. Thanks for reading.
I hope everyone has a great day and weekend!
<3 Coach Kwo