When I was in my twenties I wanted to lose weight. I became a Susan Powter fan – she was the low fat guru back in the nineties. Her whole premise was eating very low fat – no exceptions. It worked. I lost about forty pounds and felt great. I never “cheated”. It became somewhat of an obsession. No cake, no butter, no oil, no nuts – none of that. I missed it, but to me it was “bad”. I especially missed eating nuts. I love them. I continued this way for several years. I wasn't always eating healthy though. Lots of unhealthy things are low or no fat – sugar and alcohol being two big ones – and I consumed quite a bit of both pretty regularly.
Ways of eating go in and out of fashion. Currently Keto is the big one. I tried this awhile back – I like to try different eating styles and see how they make me feel. For me, it's not sustainable, and it's particularly difficult as a vegan. I've also tried meal shakes, low glycemic index, plain old calorie counting and a few others. It's been a long and interesting journey, and I've learned a lot along the way.
What have I learned? It's very easy to become obsessed with eating a particular way, or NOT eating certain things. It's easy to let it take over, to label carbs, or fat, or sugar, or even protein as “bad”, to believe that if you eat bread, or you eat nuts you'll be unhealthy, you'll be fat or you'll get fat. Our bodies need fat, they need carbs and protein, and a little sugar or alcohol sometimes is fine. It's the “M” word – moderation.
I have a bit of an addictive personality and it's easy for me to get all hell bent on an idea. One of the good parts about getting older is the ability to see yourself more clearly – to know what your faults are – to recognize when you're getting “fixated” on something. In this culture, women in particular, are under such enormous pressure to look good – or society's perception of good. As I age, I care less and less about what others think; I still care for sure, but not like I did even a few years back.
These days, I eat the nuts, and the carbs, and the fat. I don't drink by choice but I definitely indulge in sugar. My veganism is an ethical choice as opposed to a food one. If I want vegan cheesecake I have some. If I want some fast food I have it. Balance is the thing. And balance can most definitely be a struggle – but deprivation is a struggle of equal, or perhaps greater value. It's difficult to sustain over the long haul. I think it's all about treating your body like the amazing machine it is. You don't abuse it, and you do your best to take care of and maintain it; exercise, balanced diet most of the time, sleep, regular doctor checks, etc. Depriving your body of something that is essential to it is counterproductive. So eat the whole grain bread, instead of the white, or the healthy fat instead of the trans fat, have the plain nuts instead of the ones covered in flavourings, but eat the stuff – don't make something “bad”.
The thing is – a new way of eating will become all the rage and “everybody” does it. And then a few years down the road there's yet another study and it's discounted and then there's another new thing and people jump on that bandwagon, while potentially hurting their health in the process - and I've certainly been guilty of this as well.
I'm far from perfect. I struggle with my diet, and my self image regularly. I google, I read studies, I try to decide if what I'm doing is helpful or detrimental. I'm currently taking a holistic nutrition diploma in order to educate myself further. Food, or rather what's in it, fascinates me. Its effect on culture and on individual people fascinates me. The plight of mass food production on the world fascinates (and horrifies) me. I can never read enough or learn enough about the effects of food on the human body.
So if you like nuts, eat them. Or bread, or whatever. Eat the food, and take care of yourself. If you have some cake, go for a walk, and maybe don't have cake the next day. Don't deprive yourself for months or years on end. Enjoy your food. Taste it, savour it and be conscious of what's good for you and have more of that than the other stuff. If you have a bad day, try not to obsess about it – it's done. Move forward and do better the next day. This afternoon I ate so much guacamole at a friend's house that I thought I would explode! Tomorrow I won't do that, but I might have a bowl of nuts.....