Since I’ve been retired I’m finding time for all sorts of things I’ve wanted to tackle. Such as writing this blog, but also things like getting my food life in order. I’ve always worked at this off and on, but in a very distracted way. Work and social events involving eating, being too tired to fix real food, fit in on-the-run trips to the grocery store that left me with an assortment of unrelated ingredients and junk food.
During the past couple of years, I’ve been focusing more and more. I worked for a while with a holistic practitioner who gave me good advice about food and supplements. She said I needed to eat meat, especially beef. This is a dilemma for me, because I am not easy about eating meat.
And I began to read about food. OMG! I’m sure all these people writing healthy-eating blogs mean well, and I have picked up a couple of really good, go-to recipes. But… well, they have to have something to write about, preferably something that will get attention.
The more I read, the fuzzier I got about how to eat. Paleo, vegan (apparently just vegetarian has no cachet anymore), raw foods. And the prohibitions including a long list of chemicals plus big categories like dairy, gluten, all grains. I’ve struggled with weight all my life and have done many diets (hard-boiled eggs and grapefruit and Atkins stick in my mind. As they stuck in my throat.)
The past few days, I’ve been reading Michael Pollen’s Food Rules and feel that I am going sane. There is very little that I didn’t know, but it is refreshing to see it all laid out so simply. It is so doable. I’ve taken steps and am planning more. Some of the rules that I especially like:
* Pay more, eat less. After a long struggle, I admitted the naturopath was right: I do need to eat beef. Philosophically,I don’t like to, but I distinctly feel better if I eat it. So I buy a couple of small pieces of grain-fed, certified humanely raised and slaughtered. It costs a fortune, and I prepare and eat it with great respect and gratitude.
* Eat whatever you want – as long as you cook it yourself. Fried chicken, french fries, pineapple upside down cake – fine. But you have to make it. I like to make potato chips: slice potato thin, brush with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, bake in hot oven until brown and crispy. But I don’t much like to cook in general, so if I keep to this rule, there will be lots of things I won’t eat.
* There is a section on what basically is eating mindfully. He puts it in a number of different ways. Eating mindfully makes eating a spiritual practice. If I eat mindfully and pay attention to each bite, I want that bite to taste good.
Last year, I lost 20 pounds doing yoga – three or four classes a week and a daily practice (only 20 minutes at first). Even more important was the meditation practice I developed at the same time. And I practiced Yoga Nidra. The words mean ‘yogic sleep’. it is a long, deep meditative state led by a teacher using several techniques and allows you to drop to a level of consciousness not usually reached. The sessions got me in touch with my body and I began to practice body awareness throughout the day: whenever I was going to eat, when I wanted a snack, I took a couple of minutes to ask my body what it really wanted. The answer wasn’t always ‘ice cream.’ Sometimes I realized an orange would taste just as good. Not always. I am an ice cream addict and despite the many reasons for giving it up, I don’t think it will leave my life completely. But once in a while, in summer, I just plain want ice cream. So I get a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (I don’t mess with health food ice cream) and eat it. At one time, I would have eaten it at a sitting, now I eat it over several days and sometimes even forget it’s in the freezer.
It was learning to pay attention that let me cut down on junk food, and food in general, and lose weight. Exercise was limited to a yoga session most days (sometimes a very short one); I didn’t count a single calorie, and I didn’t restrict any food or kind of of food. I just paid attention.
My diet is way better than the Standard American Diet, but I’m no paragon of eating. Every day I eat things I’d probably do better not to eat. But I don’t have to be a paragon. I just have to pay attention.