It doesn't take much to keep me happy: regularly scheduled meals, a good night's rest (8 uninterrupted hours), and a roll in the hay. A day with just those three components (no achievement, nothing particularly emotional or mental necessary) is a good one. I am an immensely physical person. Last month, I shared a hearty Italian meal with Wolfman and a woman, K, who had come to him for a rune reading and spiritual guidance (does this sound weird, because this is my life with Wolfman; I'm getting used to it). I ate an eggplant panini, but Wolfman and K ate rice balls. K said something like, "Oh, this is good. I need heavy foods to keep me grounded. I'm too floaty lately," which gave me a sort of epiphany about my own corporeal habits.
While not every meal I eat is a heavy one (I do avoid white rice and other simple carbohydrates), I do eat quite a bit. I eat every three hours, in fact, like clockwork. It could be a blood sugar thing (headaches are a constant niusance, with a variety of causes), or it could be a lingering psychological effect of my hungry years (my early childhood was not a stable one)--after all, not only do I eat a lot, but I eat fast. Perhaps my physicality, this preoccupation with the carnal, is what kept me, for so long, from exploring any sort of spiritual or metaphysical fulfillment, of even realizing I needed that in my life? But, I digress.
So, yeah. I like food. A typical day involves either oatmeal or heavy protein (eggs and sausage) and a piece of fruit for breakfast, a snack at around 10 of dried fruit and nuts, a lunch that looks like most people's dinners (and, in fact, often is the dinner I made the night before, or week before [I freeze a lot of lunch-sized portions of the meals I make]) and a piece of fruit, another nut & fruit snack at around 3, a gigantic salad for dinner, and a bowl of unsweetened apple sauce (always, all year long) around 8. Oh, and throw in a smattering of cookies, candies, perhaps even a proper dessert (a piece of cake or a couple scoops of ice cream). I also drink tea (green and rooibos are my favorites) and water constantly. I'm not a calorie counter, but I'm aware that I consume a truck load daily, and then sleep like a rock (typically).
For the most part, they're good calories, though. I'm very aware of the types of food I consume. Here are some general rules I follow:
- I try to eat meat only every other day. Why? Because Americans consume too much meat, and because I made a committment to only eat farm-raised, happy animals, which is expensive.
- I only eat grain (bread, gluten) one meal a day, and grain is always whole wheat/complex. I have a pretty exceptional metabolism, but I'm almost 30; it won't last forever.
- I only snack on whole, raw foods. Thus, my cabinets are always stocked with a variety of nuts, raisins, dates, apricots, prunes, etc.
- I don't drink soda or juice. I like to save my sugar consumption for things with frosting or chocolate chips. Also, I'm one of those people who believes chemical sweeteners are poison (it's easy to believe when aspertame and other like products give you migraines).
- I try to eat a leafy green every day. Thus, all the salads. I also am keen on green smoothies. (My favorite leafy green is kale, because it keeps for a very long time.)
- I follow the general rule, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper." Not in terms of actual expense (fresh, local produce are more expensive than oatmeal, after all), but size of the meal. Full disclosure, lunch is probably my biggest meal of the day, but I always make sure dinner is the lightest.
- After 6 pm, I only eat fruit or veggies. I don't want anything heavy sitting on my belly before I sleep.
But, of course, rules are meant to be broken. I am often tempted by chips and crackers (there's a vending machine at work, and Wolfman does not follow all the same "rules" as I do, as fervently as I attempt to. Eating is also a communal act; it's hard for me to resist Cheese-its if he's eating them.) But, my main food issue is sugar. I eat too many sweets. I am addicted to sugar. I've attempted to forgo sugar before (Lent for example), and each time, within a day I am a cranky, headachey monster. You'd think with all the fruit I eat I wouldn't feel the need for refined, processed sugars, but I do. Desperately. The first thing I crave in the morning when I wake? Sugar. The last thing I crave before hitting the hay? Sugar.
Another problem: I am slightly lactose intolerant. I can get away with, say, putting cream in my coffee. But cream in my coffee and cheese on my lunch soup and dinner salad? Major digestive discomfort--cramping and bloating. I had gotten into the habit of drinking licorice root tea after meals, which helps with digestion, and it worked. Unfortunately, licorice can also strip a person of Vitamin D, and as I easily burn and don't spend too much time in the sun, Vitamin D is not something I can afford to lose.
And, finally: A few years ago I was diagnosed with a mild case of PCOS, one which does not effect my daily life in any major ways (aside from some hormonally-induced depression), but which may cause some reproductive issues. Wolfman and I want to have a baby (or, babies). It's believed that PCOS could be linked with insulin: a woman's body does not properly process insulin, which causes an increase in androgens, which causes a whole slew of problems, from missed menstrual cycles, to acne, to weight gain, to infertility. As such, when women with PCOS attempt to get pregnant, doctors often perscribe an exercise regimen and a low-amylose diet (along with whichever perscription drug is en vogue at the moment). I'm not much for pharmaceuticals (that's putting it lightly), but I do believe in natural remedy. And, aside from certain herbs and vitamins (which I consume in the form of Estroven), diet change and exercise are the most natural of remedies.
I don't plan on switching to a raw vegan diet or giving up sugar completely. I am in love with food, remember? I'm very much of the opinion of Anthony Bourdain who describes vegans as "rejecting most of the world's bounty and the expression of their hopes, dreams and culture." You can't be a good dinner party guest if you're a vegan (or even a vegetarian, as I learned after 3 years of vegetarianism), and you won't have as much fun traveling. The more food you give up, the more of the world's food culture and your own ancestral food culture (Grandma's famous chicken dumplings) you're turning your back on, rejecting. I don't believe in turning my nose up at dead grandmothers' recipes.
What I do believe in, however, is eating consciously and indulging with moderation. Moderation, however, particularly when it comes to sweets, has been a problematic concept for me, though.
So, I'm detoxing. A couple weeks of cold turkey food asceticism, both to gauge my body's response and to help me realize the difference between need and want.
I'd been mulling this over for a few weeks, since becoming intrigued by Joanna Devoe's 80% Raw diet (visit her SadtoSexy website for more info), when my friend Kath, after a couple weeks spent in France enjoying rich French foods, decided to start a detox program by Whole Living. I decided I'd join her, if not in person (so far away we are!), at least in spirit (and through the interwebs). Unlike Kath, I'm not following Whole Living's plan to a T (I'm not giving up animal protein in the first week, for example; if you'd like to see what the plan looks like in action, visit Kath's blog), but I am using the program as a spring board to reinvent my own diet. For two weeks I will give up caffeine, sugar, processed foods, gluten, and dairy. Why not go full-throttle with the program? A. I am dedicated to only eating local, seasonal fruits and veggies. Basically, if I can't find something at my local farm stand or through my CSA, I don't buy it. (Full disclosure: I make exceptions for grapefruit, kale, and teas, and may add avacadoes to that list.) B. I know my body, and I know homegirl cannot survive on smoothies alone, nor does she want to, even for just a week of breakfasts.
My goal is to have a healthier relationship with the food I eat, and to teach myself that there is a vast difference between want and need. I also want to fully explore and celebrate the concept of indulgences. How much sweeter will that piece of red velvet cake be if I haven't already eaten three cookies and half a candy bar in a day, or a week? When these next two weeks have ended, I want to be consuming gluten, dairy, and sugar sparingly, and processed foods not at all. I want my system to be clean and functioning at a higher level. I want to be rid of that over-full feeling after meals or that dreaded cramping and bloating. I want to be disciplined, in regards to my diet, but also in all things.
Here's what Day 1 looked like:
Breakfast: grapefruit & watermelon smoothie, one hard-boiled egg with turmeric.
Snack: walnuts & raisins. Yerba mate tea.
Lunch: sauteed zucchini, tomato, and bell pepper. half a grapefruit (leftover from smoothie). Rooibos Chai tea.
Dinner: tomato, bell pepper, and cucumber tossed with olive oil & apple cider vinegar, spices.
Dessert: spoon full of raw cashew butter and honey.
Here's what Day 1 felt like:
No major hang-ups. Not even particularly hungry. Did suffer a headache, but that could very well have been a heat headache (with which I tend to suffer on and off all summer). While eating my cashew butter and honey (and deciding honey, as long as it's only a spoon full a day, does not count as cheating), I did feel sort of sad. I'm telling you, food is my happy drug. Without it, I'm miserable.