Waiting at the school gate yesterday, two of the moms were chatting about their experiences giving up dairy – one because of the potential links to cancer, the other due to skin and digestive troubles. They were talking about how it’s become a full-time job to be disciplined about what they eat, have an exercise routine that keeps the fat down and the bone density up, and to “study every night so you know what to do the next day”.
I doubt our mothers, certainly not our grandmothers put so much mental time and effort into what they ate or fed us.
What happened to change that perception, and how can we fix it?
We’ve changed 3 ways that have driven our current obsession with the right food:
1. Growing awareness.
We’ve become more aware of the connection between food and health beyond weight loss, calories and nutrients.
We’ve become aware that the space-age breakthroughs which extended the shelf-life of what we eat – removing parts that go bad, adding stabilizers & preservatives – have left us with food stripped of vital elements and flavour (for which we compensate with sugar and salt). Because it’s made to not go bad, it’s also devoid of life.
We’ve become more aware that a lot of what our grandmothers did was, in fact, healthy. Now we’re scrambling to re-establish a way of life that we’ve lost touch with, and that doesn’t always fit into our busy modern lifestyles.
2. Growing perfectionism.
One of the advantages of our global community is how much we can learn and share because we’re so easily connected. On the other side of that coin, we have far too much scope to compare ourselves to the Jones’.
Mrs. Jones likely only posts on social media when she’s had a good day. How many of you take selfies when you look like the dog’s breakfast after no sleep and a huge fight with your man? Or when you’ve gained 20 lbs thanks to your new meds? People post about healing everything from hangnails to stage 4 cancer with any given diet. What are we to do but raise the bar for our own looks, relationship and health expectations.
Not only do we want it all perfect, we want it to happen ASAP.
3. Growing choice.
Things might have been simpler for Grandma because there wasn’t much choice. There were certain cuts of meat she could afford and knew how to cook, the seasonal vegetables and a couple of breads and cookies to go with it (that she’d made herself with fresh ingredients).
Not only can you now buy any type of food, from anywhere in the world, at any time of year, you can go online and have just as many sites explain why what you’re eating is crap, as there are those who’ll say it’s the best.
The solution? Think about your grandmother.
Think about the simplicity of her meals, the love she put into preparing them and the joy you felt eating them.
Think about how dinner at Grandma’s meant everyone was sitting at the table together, having conversations between bites. Sometimes there would be bickering and sometimes you’d all be laughing – both were welcome and taken in stride.
Think about how you were allowed to have seconds of the parts you liked and were forgiven if you left the ones didn’t.
It was slower. It was peaceful. It had soul. …It was delicious.
Yes, the reality of our lives, and ever-changing female bodies, is that there will be times when dietary changes are necessary. (I wrote a whole piece about how to ease that transition.) Your belly and your skin may indeed be much happier without dairy.
It may also take a bit of time to let go of it completely. The emotional ties we have to food & eating go far and deep. If it were as easy as buying different groceries and learning a few new recipes, my colleagues and I would be out of work.
Remember this: No matter what your health requires you to eliminate, you don’t ever have to give up the simplicity, the relaxed pace or the love or the soulful enjoyment of a meal. Indulge in those nutrients daily and your health will improve no matter what’s on your plate.
What practice do you incorporate into your mealtime to keep it fresh and nourishing? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.
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