I’ve always been amused by the assumptions people make about you when they find out I’m a Naturopath. Walking into a social gathering it’s often like, ‘cripes, the fun police are here, hide the booze and crisps!’ For others, a halo appears and all they want to talk about is this or that ‘diet,’ how it has changed their life and just how healthy they really are because the don’t eat this or that. I remember when I first started practicing, some of the young girls in the dispensary of the pharmacy where my rooms were, affectionately referred to all of the Naturopaths as the ‘fruit and nut bars.’ They also hid their chocolates and lollies, like we didn’t know!
I’ll admit, there have been many years of my life where I’ve experimented with different ‘diets’ and rather extreme health philosophies. All of which had positives and I’ve learned a lot from partaking – they all have served a purpose.
But now, 43 years into my life, I have decided that by focussing on one part of a food, I give away too much power to it. I believe the real power and healing that comes from food, is in its pure deliciousness and appreciation of how amazing it can make us feel. How it can bring people together and how you can form relationships and bonds about the pleasures of sharing a meal. Rigid food rules have no place in my life – I don’t eat food just because it is healthy, but because I love the way it tastes, the way it nourishes me and makes me feel on top of the world. I also know that having a relaxed outlook on life, practicing gratitude for all that we have and not taking food so seriously is an important foundation of being ‘healthy’.
I don’t believe there is one way of eating that suits everyone (this is one of the reasons why I try to offer as many variations on my recipes as possible). One thing I’ve learned from consulting with many different people with various health complaints is that we are all individual, with individual nutritional requirements. What works for one, does not alway suit another. For example, some people do well on lots of raw food, for others, it is really not a good choice. Individual nutritional requirements also vary day to day, season to season, year to year. Life is fluid, as are your needs.
I get that it is human nature to follow, to like to have guidelines and thus be accountable to someone or something. This is why diet trends and fads are so popular. I’m not bagging ‘diets’ here – but if you’re giving power to them and relinquishing the joys of nourishing your body, maybe you should reassess their purpose and place in your life. Some diets are almost cult like (and their popularity depends upon this being the case). The one advantage of having worked in this industry for as long as I have, is I’ve gained perspective on ‘diets’ – early in my career the be all and end all was the Pritikin Diet (which demonised fat/protein) with grain hailed the holy grail. Ironic, that the polar opposite diet is the now so popular.
I recently saw a Current Affair TV show where a group of people were interviewed about their dietary preferences. Most of the people interviewed had a really poor understanding of why they chose to eat, or not eat certain foods. For example; many people who ate ‘gluten free’ were unable to explain what gluten was or exactly why they didn’t eat it. They avoided it because they thought it was a healthy way to eat.
I know a gorgeous lady who unless eating at an organic or paleo cafe (even though not too long ago she was a strict vegan), will eat a full meal before going out to dinner. She says it doesn’t bother her, but I feel sad for her. Food stresses her and consumes her. I’m not suggesting her perceived intolerance’s and health issues aren’t real. But I do know that when she is forced to relax her self-imposed food restrictions (like on holiday), she actually feels better. She has endured so many years of dietary restriction, searching to demonise a food (or part of it), has just become part of her identity.
Confessions of a Naturopath and food lover
Nowadays, I derive so much pleasure from eating a variety of SLOW (Seasonal, local, organic if possible, whole) foods. Fresh, good quality food always tastes best. They are the foods I love and the foods that love my body back. Like Michael Pollan, I advocate to simply ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’ The ‘not too much’ is a work in progress for me (sometimes I get carried away with the deliciousness/ pleasure part of eating) – I’m sure some of you can relate?
I think becoming a parent has forced me to find the middle ground, for my kids sake as much as my own. It is important to me to instil a love of food in my kids, and not frighten them to find fault in the things they eat. So I eat a little of everything and a lot of nothing.
I’m asked on a daily basis for a confession about those not so nourishing indulgences, so here’s the dirt – good coffee and fine wine are my weakness (I’m a self-confessed coffee and wine snob). Neither are daily, just when the occasion arises and I am fairly fussy with both. Oh, okay there’s more…and an albeit infrequent, but oh so pleasurable gelato with my kids (again I’m picky), oh, and 85% cacao chocolate.
It’s funny having the profession I do because I genuinely care about the health and wellbeing of others and my natural instinct is to help others. However, I learned quite early on in my career as a Naturopath that I can’t be responsible for what others (including my nearest and dearest) eat. I can only lead by example and do the best I can do as a person, who like everyone else is governed by desires and circumstances sometimes beyond my control – I’m not perfect and never will be. After many years of scrutinising and experimenting with ‘diets’ – I’ve finally found peace with my plate!
Have you a happy relationship with food? I’d love for you to share your thoughts by posting a comment below.