It seems almost impossible, at this time of year, to resist being caught up in the frenzy of diet and health ‘advice’ that is in abundance. We are meant to begin the calendar year with a sense of purpose, a redefining of ourselves and all at the time of the year when we most want to pull the duvet over our heads and sleep for the next quarter year or so.
Doesn’t sound fun.
Like everyone else I struggle to balance out all of the contradictory advice about food and health that exists in the world. There are so many variations of what is ‘healthy’ now that it really boggles the mind. Much as I love new information, I find myself in overload when I try to tackle the myriad possibilities of what I ‘should’ be putting on my plate. Frankly I’m tired of it all. I’m tired of feeling that only some slimmer, younger, more vibrant version of me is acceptable to the world. That I must be less in order to be more. I’m tired of fighting an endless fight that I’m never going to win. And on top of all that I’m actually just tired. It’s been winter for a long time and, well, ugh.
So I have a new watchword that I’m trying to use to steer my choices over the coming months and it is the title of this post. Nourish. It’s a simple yet complex notion that I can decide for myself what works for me based on how I feel. I can decide to eat, or not eat, foods based on a few questions I ask myself.
Does this food make me feel good?
How do I feel 10-20 mins after eating?
Does it feel nourishing to me right now?
Simple enough really and of course, very personal. What is nourishing will mean different things at different times, even on the same day. Does it feel nourishing to eat delicious meats I raised on my own farm? Yes! Go right ahead. Does it feel nourishing to enjoy a delicious tea with even more delicious company, snacking on cookies or special occasion treats? Most certainly! Enjoy to the fullest. Does it feel nourishing to sneak an entire handbag of peanut M&M’s into the cinema when you have a once a year opportunity to be out without the children and stay up crazy late watching bizarre Sci-Fi movies on a sold fuel of lemon flavoured water and sugar? Hell yes!
I’m a grown up person with many pairs of big girl pants, therefore I know that if I eat a handbag full of M&M’s every day I will probably be violently ill or die of malnutrition. But as the old saying goes, All things in moderation, including moderation. It can feel good to cut loose, just as it can feel good to acknowledge when something isn’t working for you and make a change. It is nourishing to care enough about your own wellbeing to craft foods that make you feel strong and healthy; it’s also kind to recognise your own humanity and just do your best as much as you can.
In a world where even the humble potato has been demonised, where food is ‘clean’ or ‘detoxifying’ (as opposed to dirty, naughty and just plain filthy one presumes) it is easy to get sidetracked and confused. It is easy to miss signals your own body is sending, telling you what works for you, right now. What works in the winter, is different to what works in the summer. In the summer I am thrilled to eat garden raised salad with every meal, in the winter I want potatoes with some potatoes on top, don’t hold the potatoes. Our needs change with different phases of our lives and, I think, tuning into that is more important that what the internet says is good this year.
So when I feel the panic that tells me that a perfectly healthy food that I’m really craving is bad, I ask myself the question, does this feel nourishing to me right now? The reason why the answer is yes might be layered, but if it is yes then that’s good by me. I’m looking for my food to make me feel full, to give me energy, to encourage strength and movement in my body. I need meals that will allow me to garden, to pig wrestle and to do more laundry than there are clothes in our house. I also need for it to not include ingredients that have to be sourced by climbing up a Himalayan mountain, barefoot in December or requires me to spiralize fairy wings into a smoothie made from Kale and wishes. That just doesn’t work for me.
I’m never going to be a teeny person, I’m never going to be small or unnoticeable. I don’t think I want to be. What I want is to feel energetic, full of life and enthusiasm. I want to laugh, move, eat, create and generally enjoy life. And sometimes, I just want to eat cake, damnit.