Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Intuitive

There are different kinds of healthful eaters and I fall into a category that doesn't eat kale. That's actually not true. I eat kale whenever it suits me, which just happens to be rarely. I had a really bad experience with it once so I'm gun shy. What can I say? I'm not a tree-eater. Anything that reminds me of grass or trees isn't going to get my love, unless it's contained holistically in some dish that I enjoy.

I do like quite a few vegetables and vary them in my diet but, honestly, if you ask me about my food impetus, they don't rate. They're a pleasant accompaniment, a reprieve from the substantial.

Moreover, while I believe in eating vegetables for health (though I'm only motivated by desire), and while I know we need to treat this world better and consume less meat, I eat it or fish/seafood pretty much daily, in small amounts.

I'm effectively a person who doesn't eat sugar, processed food, beans (though I flirt with these because I like them) and grains of any description. My wine consumption is regulated, but I've hit a sweet spot.  Oh, and it happens that I'm not super into vegetables.

These factors can coexist and I am, nonetheless, a healthful eater- though some of you may be wondering wtf I actually do eat (read on). But, here's the thing, I've spent a shit ton of time over the past 6 months considering what food resonates. What food gets me off? Because, remember, when I started this thing I was beyond satisfaction.  I inhabited emptiness, or it did me, and everything was cavernously bland.

I'd been such a mess of sugar addiction that it affected my sense of taste. Sure, I'm a food discerner from way back, but there was always a fundamental disconnect between my appetite, my hunger - and the needs of my autonomic body. I was driven by an irrational, semi-regular compulsion to eat sugar in whatever form was easiest.

It sounds really bad when I put it that way...

So I made a decision. In my new landscape, I would only eat food that I want. If the thrill was elusive, my job was to find it. I've undertaken this with sincerity :-)

Foods I love to eat and so I eat them pretty well as much as I want, as often as I want (and I'm not known for my moderation):
  • Full fat dairy, theoretically, in unrestricted amounts (but I must remain mindful, in the scheme of things, to ingest this food group in balance with the others - because I could eat only dairy for the rest of my life and, let's face it, that wouldn't really be smart): butter, cream, yogurt, cheese, milk... Cream is my perfect dairy. Sometimes I drink 4 oz of heavy cream at a go, in one form or another. Dairy has a notable effect on my mood, it calms me the fuck down and it makes me happy. I just have to perfect my creme patissiere without grain sugar or flour (but 1 tsp maple syrup) so I can eat it for dinner when the mood strikes - and use it in dessert, natch. With berries. It's high in good mood chemicals, protein and fat. What's not to love??
  • Other oils - cuz if I'm going to eat vegetables (and I do appreciate them for their many gifts), they need to be oily. Also, oil is good on or in everything.
  • The coconut in all it's forms, but particularly the cream and oil (notice a trend?).
  • Meats that are on the more raw vs more cooked side. Preferably salty and saucy.
  • Potatoes - but not in large quantities and generally smothered in some sort of fat (or rich sauce). I particularly love roasted and mashed.
  • Cacao/Cocoa/Chocolate - Also ridiculous mood enhancer. It tastes like earth and when you mix it with fat, it's soporific. But without sugar, this is a totally different food than any choc bar (even the 80%).
  • Pistachio nuts (and I eat other nuts but these are my faves). Really salty or spicy ones.
  • Eggs for their spectacular versatility. They give richness to everything.
  • Bacon. Look, let's just give this one its own line item and move on.
  • Berries, pears, apples, stone fruits - the things that make the best crumbles
  • Coffee and wine - in moderation, but only because if I have more than 3 shots of coffee in a day, I start to shake (sad) and when I drink booze as I used to, it makes me feel sick. Note: It would appear, though I didn't realize it at the time, that I used to drink wine as a blood sugar stabilization mechanism. Now that I don't eat sugar, I don't find wine anywhere near as biologically compelling (though it is a beautiful accompaniment to meals).
With few exceptions, I eat for texture first. That's what makes or breaks food for me and rich textures are endlessly pleasurable. Next I taste for umami. Then sweet. With sugar, I want only a tease. I love the dense, fatty, saucy things (in proper proportions). I do live in a cold climate, after all.

Also, I don't love chewing unless I'm in the mood (which is strangely infrequently in the scheme of things). What do all of my faves (soups and sauces and mashed potatoes and mince and scrambled eggs and drinking chocolate and soft cheese and vegetables sauteed in sauce) have in common? You don't have to feel like chewing in order to enjoy them. Note: This isn't about my TMJD for the most part. It's about an undercurrent of physical revulsion at the thought of eating something that must be chewed/absorbed. Yeah, I agree, it's fucking weird. I used to mask my aversion with a constant infusion of sugar and simple carbs.

I've decided not to worry about any of this. This is how I'm eating right now. It suits more of me than it doesn't suit (which is more than I can say for my former eating styles). I only eat what I want. If I desire sweet things before savoury, I eat them. If I want a quarter stick of butter in my scoop-sized mashed potatoes, I eat it.  If I want veggies braised in bacon fat, I eat them. I do not restrict salt or spices or fat or protein. I also welcome fruit and sweet-aligned foods (cocoa, wine, coffee). I pair them with the most stupidly fatty and moldy cheese I can find.

Is this low carb or ketogenic or primal, I have no fucking idea. It seems that most of my calories come from fat but nuts, fruit, veg and dairy have carbs and I eat them daily, sometimes in substantive quantities. I drink wine sometimes. I make dessert many nights of the week. I just cut the sugar almost entirely, eliminate the grain and use beautiful dairy, fruits, eggs and spices. You'd be amazed by how dessert can serve as an decadent main when you do this well. I don't know if this is healthy on paper. I know it's healthy for me.

Is it immoderate? Well, maybe, if you don't like the idea of mainlining fat, but does that matter if the end result is feeling and looking better? One could say I am exceedingly moderate about the sugar and grains. I sense I'm a vegan's nightmare.

Is this a good idea for others? Who can say? It can't hurt to try if you have mood or memory issues, an arrythmia, chronic pain or an illness caused by systemic inflammation or degeneration. Bio-available fat stabilizes the nervous system. But who can say what impacts come to those with high lipids or fat-sensitive systems? We are not all the same. We shouldn't all do the same thing.

So, today's question: What kind of eater are you? Emotional, Whole 30, health nut, gluttonous, austere - define yourself in the moment :-) and let's talk!

24 comments:

  1. The fats you're eating are good fats, not bad. The sugar you are avoiding is bad for you, so I'd say you are an extremely healthy eater. To say you consume dairy in unrestricted amounts, but within reason, is an oxymoron, don't you think? 4 oz. for someone like me, who has lost over 100 pounds and didn't get over 100 pounds overweight by eating healthy, is a few sips. Perspective is everything, after all. I suspect I have the potential to feel much better, as I suffer greatly from degenerative disc disease, degenerative arthritis systemically and a host of ailments, but due to being caregiver for two children, my 7 year old with special needs, and three elderly family members, one with dementia, I'm simply surviving at this point in any way I can. I read sewing blogs to fall asleep, and yours when you post about sewing or diet. :) Intriguing from a nutritional standpoint, and totally agree there is NOT a one size fits all diet lifestyle.

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    1. OK - you are SO right. I was totally oxymoronic there :-) Will change the text to clarify but what I meant was that there are things that I think are good, healthy and enjoyable in moderation and I can get with that naturally (when it comes to coffee and chocolate and alcohol). When it comes to dairy, what I meant to say is that I'm not allowing myself to eat primarily dairy (to the detriment of other things) because I could eat that stuff all day long. Let me find better words...

      Let me also say that I am so impressed by how you are managing so many stressors with your own health condition. I know what kind of pain I live with, given my OA, and I don't have disc degeneration. I hope you have friends and family who support you - as I can see you love and support them. I remember being at a time in my life when it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and man, it was tough. Things have improved with time, experience and circumstance, mercifully. I wish the same for you. Thank you for considering my blog worthy of your reading when you have so many competing priorities. :-) And thanks for this thoughtful comment! xo

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    2. One other thing - to respond to your point about perspective being everything. I actually have a fairly low appetite for food. When I was eating sugar constantly - it was more about the constancy than the volume. So 4 oz of cream is a lot for me because I have an aversion to eating when I'm not "starving" and, now that my blood sugar is more stable, I'm rarely hungry. This is implicated in my disinterest to chew, I believe. I just haven't figured it out yet.

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  2. I have been a vegetarian since the 1980's, so I find this subject really interesting. Nuts and cheese are my addiction. Have you had gjetost cheese? Sweet and salty with the natural sugars and salt in the milk.

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    1. I have not and now I have to look that up! Do you mean it's got crystals (like aged beemster sometimes does?) Nuts, cheese and booze, man. Add some cream and those are my dessert island foods!

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    2. Thanks for telling me about this. I'm going to have to find it. I've never seen it in the store... This is a really interesting recipe, btw: http://www.thekitchn.com/closest-cheese-to-fudge-gjetos-139961

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  3. I find this journey of your endlessly fascinating.

    I'm so glad you're finding some harmony, and if this is the form it takes for you then, I say, go for it and enjoy!

    I'm working really hard to get the sugar out of my diet. It's my go to for emotional times. The trashier the better. Haribo anyone? It's so bad for me. I had some biscuits (cookies) the other day for the first time in weeks and promptly fell asleep. I felt sluggish for the rest of the day. It just isn't worth it. So I'm getting on top of it.

    I've also cut right back on the booze and that's making me feel good too. It's a work in progress and sadly, at the moment, I'm swamped so have little time to experiment with food. So we're eating a lot of steak or chicken with mash/jacket potatoes and veg. It's quick and comforting and hitting the spot, for now. I look forward to a few months time when things have slowed down again and I can get back to cooking and start tweaking again for more improvements.

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    1. I really find this process interesting - and I know some peeps must think it's solopsism at its finest. And it is. But this is the one body and mind I have. I want to experiment. I actually see this phase as an extension of my yoga. Which comes off so irritating, but what I mean is that I need to bring this sort of focus to what I ingest because, on a cellular level, it becomes me. If I am the product of what I'm eating, how can I eat harmfully while I struggle with pain caused by inflammation caused by food that I eat? I feel I'm finally starting to understand ahimsa (yoga term for nonviolence) at a cellular level. My bones are metabolized food and if they're not healthy that's probably because I'm not feeding them right. Note: This is not a victim blaming argument. I might do everything in the world for my bones and they may still hurt and degenerate, but at least I may have bought myself some time, I can hope. And I'm still being kind to myself on the principle.

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    2. Also, candy is so compelling (you know we share that addiction!) I miss it. I don't miss what it does to me, but I do love eating it. Keep on. You will find the right time and the right constellation of circumstances to move your own personal yardstick forward.

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    3. I think your argument is so valid. If you know you've done every.single.thing you can to improve your health, then at the very least, you know you've done everything you can. Does that make sense. And I miss candy. I'm typing this wishing I had a cookie to go with my tea. But it's not worth it!

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  4. I could have written this post almost word for word (except for the pistaccios--no nuts for highly allergic me!) I just went for the keto-type approach you describe (but with more fruit than strictly recommended on the induction phase) and I feel better overall. I eat almost exactly the way you write about, and it is so much better than my former sugar/high carb ways. I'm still getting used to it, and figuring out what sorts of things to make that work for my lower GI conditions, but overall, much, much better. I really enjoy reading about this food journey of yours. It helps me think through my own approach.

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    1. J: That's so strange! And I love that. I wondered if anyone would say that this seems normal for them. I have to say that I would find it more difficult to do this without nuts and seeds (and all of their oils) - because it just adds variety. But it's totally doable - as you exemplify!

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  5. I'm on day 8 of Whole 30, which I'm undertaking to reset my diet and find out which foods do and do not resonate. Should be sailing out of the sugar DTs in the next day or so.

    Am enjoying your journey. Yes, I absolutely believe you're eating healthfully. Have you read Nourishing Traditions, perchance?

    Will where I end up look like where you are? In some aspects. Both of us have northern European bodies, and I crave fat, particularly dairy and animal fat. But I like veggies. Lots of veggies. And I live somewhere warm, where excellent produce is something to be taken for granted. Being in the DTs is showing me just how bad sugar is for me... :( I can do non-wheat grains well, at least oats and rice. Not corn.

    Am making my 13yo do this with me (she was ready) and helping her see what works and does not for HER body brings me joy. I can only hope she uses this time to base her diet in wisdom going forward. (The diet is so much easier on a 13yo body than a 44yo body, even though she ate 5x the sugar/wheat I did).

    Well done, you!

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    1. Good for you! When my friends have gone on that diet, man, the first few days are ROUGH. Mind you, my diet is less extreme and I was a DT nutcase for a good 4 weeks. So it goes to show we're all different when it comes to getting over the hump. It does happen. Gradually, I find.

      If I lived somewhere warm, I would definitely be more into veggies. I mean, I love the roots and tubers and apples and onions - all of those things that grow in cold climates. When I am in warm places, I want green veggies. It's weird.

      My daughter is watching me and has dipped her toe in and taken it back. She just doesn't have the commitment level at this point. But I think she will model this behaviour when she's ready.

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  6. Low FODMAP. Finally have an answer to the question I started asking 20 years ago about inflammation, pain, and IBS- Leaky Gut.

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    1. Yeah - that one's not for me but a friend with IBS said her life changed on the diet.

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  7. I love reading your diet posts, even though it would totally wreck my body. The one time I tried eating a high-dairy diet--while studying abroad in France, which is totally the right time to do it--I came home with high cholesterol and a VERY sensitive lactose intolerance that apparently got kicked into overdrive by 6 months of eating cheese and then 2 months of no dairy (after which I couldn't touch even butter for a while).

    But you've come to your dietary restrictions and preferences through careful trial and error, figuring out what works for YOU. I wish I was as disciplined about it... I still eat dairy sometimes, although only butter unless I've taken a lactase pill within 20 minutes (and I try to restrict the latter indulgence, because the lactase supplement only dials my symptoms down from debilitating to inconvenience so I suspect it's still bad for my health).

    Recently I've gone semi-pescetarian for ethical reasons, while remaining mostly no-dairy--I say "semi" because I find it hard to resist a tasty dish with a small amount of meat in it. Absolute food prohibitions in general, are very hard for me unless I don't like the food in the first place (e.g. I've spent my whole life avoiding lamb for sundry reasons and find that quite easy because I dislike the taste).

    I could happily live my life eating just fish and shellfish, tofu, eggs, fruit, and a very few vegetables (eggplant, asparagus, mushrooms)... but that's not really practical when I don't cook much.

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    1. So you're the person who could live on fish, tofu and eggplant! :-) I don't like lamb either! It's one of the few meats that really puts me off. Not only do I have a ridic love of sheep when they're alive, but they don't taste good to me.

      BTW, I don't know that I would say I'm impressively disciplined. I do, on occasion, say fuck it and just eat something. But I know I can't do this unless I do it. So it's kept me a bit on the straight.

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  8. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years now. And I'm not all that fond of veggie, myself. It's all about the fruit for me: berries & stone fruits. I could eat them all day, every day. But don't even try to sneak a slimy mushroom or a gag-inducing bitter-caustic olive my way. Not that I have strong feelings about them or anything. I also love dairy & eggs. People are always confused by this and I have to patiently (or not) explain that veggie is not vegan - we're the moderate ones, yo. Usually I just distill it to: Nothing with a face, or that ever had a mother. Caveat: occasionally, weird anti-choice peeps will try to engage in debate about eggs and moment of conception. No, I do not succeed in controlling my mirth at these times.

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    1. Hilarious - I love a vegetarian who's not super into veggies! You see, we are all individual! BTW, amongst my fave veggies (not that I think of them as veggies, strangely) are mushrooms and olives :-) I've never had anyone try to tell me why eggs aren't ok (but then I'm really not interested in defending my love of previously-sentient things) but I can imagine I would also be smirking!

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  9. Interesting experiences! I'm not an emotional eater, at least. Aside from my tea, which is a comfort that gets me through my early morning work days and I wouldn't worry about it except that I only like it sweet. Very sweet. I am definitely a sweets person. In a vacuum this isn't too bad because I'm pretty good about not buying sweets for home consumption or packing them in my lunches, but if they're present because someone else brought them or socially mandated (say, Easter chocolate 😂) I have no self control. This has become a problem this past winter.

    Mainly, though, I'm a lazy eater. I hate taking time away from other things to cook. Contemplating cooking when I'm not hungry is nauseating, and by the time I'm willing to cook it's too late to do anything fancy. Cold cereal is about the right amount of effort for a meal. 😂

    I should probably focus my snacking routine more on proteins than my current carb-heavy selections. My blood sugar tends to be a bit low (or rather, I tend to eat because I'm getting shaky rather than because I'm actually "hungry") and I'm sure more protein would help with that. But making an egg for breakfast in the morning isn't going to happen and protein powder is generally gross. I could actually seriously get into a meal replacement type thing if I could convince myself any were actually good for you. Oh, but I do like chewing, at least a moderate amount. Liquid doesn't count as food---soup is the most annoying food to eat and needs a lot of crackers to make it palateable. 😂

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    1. I used to say I wasn't an emotional eater and, it would appear, I am an epic emotional eater :-) How I wish I weren't. I think life would be easier. But I too am a lazy eater. After working all the time and being pulled in may directions, it's difficult to have the impulse to cook. My go to (like your cereal) was chips. BTW, what I do about breakfast is wait until 9:30 to eat it. I buy bacon and eggs at work (or bring a boiled egg and some fruit). It makes the eating tolerable to wait till then.

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  10. I am a vegan. We're just about opposites in terms of food! I eat mainly vegetables, grains (whole as much as possible but not exclusively), tofu, beans and fruit. And plenty of wine, beer, and chocolate. I don't really restrict anything within the limits of my vegan diet. I find it's healthy enough. Having been vegan for about 20 years I have become a good cook, and I mainly do cook at home, but I live in the Bay Area so there are plenty of places to go out as well. I would be pretty unhappy trying to cut anything out of my diet, including several of the items you no longer eat--but that is just to say, I agree with your point about individualism and diet. I am glad you've found things that work for you and that you also love.

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    1. G: Finally a vegan weighs in :-) We really are on opposite sides of the spectrum but your diet has suited you well for 20 years and that's where individuality is everything. BTW, it's pretty easy to be vegan in TO - and to eat out because we have many restaurants that cater to that crowd. Also, most "regular" restaurants provide a vegan option given how popular that lifestyle is. At least we totally agree when it comes to chocolate and wine! :-) Beer is one of the few things I loath.

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