I thought the middle of the holiday season would be an appropriate time to hop on here to talk about my approach to eating. I also have been absent from this space for a while and thought it would be good to catch you up on my approach.
My eating journey has been just that, a journey. I find that my beliefs about food are constantly evolving and changing. Somewhere around the time I graduated from college, I found a healthy balance with my food intake and learned how to listen to my body. Even though I was studying nutrition in college, I wouldn’t say I necessarily had a good balance. I got in the trap of calorie counting and didn’t feel confident in my body’s ability to regulate my food intake. I was hooked on My Fitness Pal and thought that I either had to count every calorie, or, if I didn’t have access to my app, it was a free for all. I had an “all or nothing” mentality.
I can’t really articulate the steps I took to finally figure out how to listen to my body but over time I got there. I do know that it started with ditching the calorie counting apps. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I miss the cues from my body and eat too much or not enough, but I have come to realize that it is what I do the majority of the time that matters and I am fully confident in my body’s ability to regulate itself.
As I started listening to my body, I started to realize that I feel my best when eating mostly plant foods. At the time, I was working at an outpatient cancer center and was learning about the benefits of a plant-based diet. At one point I went all in on a WFPB (whole food plant based) diet and was pretty strict about what I ate. Luckily, I have a really supportive husband and family who didn’t roll their eyes (at least to my face) about my new found “enlightenment” and accommodated my choices.
While I truly believe in the benefits of a plant-based diet and know without a doubt that I feel my best when fueling my body this way, something never sat right with me about having strict rules about how I eat. However, I thought since I had committed to a plant-based diet, told people about my commitment, and blogged about it that I couldn’t turn back.
Then I got pregnant. Let me tell you, there is something about growing a little tiny human inside of you that makes you really start paying attention to your body. I started craving eggs while I was pregnant. Like, give me all the custardy French toast and veggie scrambled eggs all the time kind of craving. So I started eating eggs. The world didn’t end, I’m still alive, I still felt really good, and delivered a healthy baby to show for it 9 months later.
And then I had my daughter and it got me thinking about how I eat all over again. I desperately don’t want my daughter to have hang ups about food. and I desperately want my daughter to have all the amazing experiences as a child that I had growing up. As I started thinking back on the experiences I had growing up, I realize most of them have an element of food that goes along with them.
Christmas morning wouldn’t have been the same without Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.
Hot chocolate breaks during a long day of skiing wouldn’t be the same if there was no hot chocolate.
Decorating our Christmas tree wouldn’t have been the same without eating Chinese takeout and finishing it off with my mom’s famous chocolate and caramel covered pretzels.
I certainly don’t regret going out for ice cream when visiting my grandparents or enjoying a cheese fondu ski break while celebrity watching at the Stein Erikson.
I can still remember the first time I had crab legs on a family vacation and the time my siblings and I tried all sorts of different foods on a family cruise.
And all of us are alive and well despite the fact that not every eating experience was jam-packed with nutrition. As I was looking back through old pictures, I came to realize that a lot of these experiences wouldn’t have happened if I had been too worried about the nutrient-density of what I was eating. The experience of enjoying food with each other and the memories that are made that really matter.
Here’s where I struggle, I truly believe in the health benefits of a plant-based diet, I know without a doubt that I feel my absolute best when I am eating a predominantly plant-based diet, I genuinely enjoy plant-based foods and really don’t have any desire for most animal foods. But, I also love the memories and feelings that come along with having certain eating experiences and don’t want to skip out on something I want because of a label I give myself. So all that to say, that I no longer am labeling how I eat. An outsider looking in would probably call it “predominantly plant-based” or “plant-focused” since I still eat a plant-based diet the majority of the time but I also give myself freedom to choose what I want in the moment.
I still think Michael Pollan says it best, “Eat (real) food. Mostly plants. Not too much”.
And of course, Julia Child really gets to the simple heart of the matter and says, “People who love to eat are always the best people”.