I’ve already written a bit here about my food philosophy for which I owe a massive debt to writers like Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle and Barbara Kingsolver: Eat food you like, and like the food you eat. Eat real food, not processed food-esque things. Try to eat seasonally, sustainably and humanely. Luckily, local, fresh organically grown produce, humanely raised animals and fresh eggs and milk taste way better than their SuperMegaHyperMart counterparts, so it’s not difficult to eat this way and love what you eat. (Assuming that you have the time and disposable income to find these foods and prepare them, which is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. One blog keeps me busy enough.)
There’s another important piece of my food philosophy: eating intuitively. Here, I owe an equally huge debt to bloggers like Kate Harding over at Shapely Prose. When you eat intuitively, you eat what your body wants when your body wants it, and you don’t assign moral value to food. This might sound like a pretty obvious thing, and for some people it is (If you’re one of those people, confound you! <shaking fist> You don’t know how good you have it!).
For a lot of people – especially women – intuitive eating is anything but. Many of us have been trained from childhood by our families, friends, advertising, and the diet industry to regard some foods as “good” (e.g., celery) and others as “bad” (e.g., delicious, delicious Haagen Dasz Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream. Have you had this yet? If not, you should remedy that shortcoming, post haste.) Creating and self-enforcing a false dichotomy of food makes listening to your body really, really hard, precisely because it’s false. Food doesn’t take sides. Food is Switzerland.
Rather than eating what your body is telling you it wants – and your body is pretty smart, and tends to want a balanced diet – you try to be “good.” Your body says it wants a burger, maybe because it really needs some protein or iron? Too bad, because a burger is “bad.” Eat a salad instead, and feel virtuous for a little while. Then, after a few weeks or months of virtuosity, crumble like a low-fat cookie and eat 5 burgers and a package of oreos and 2 bags of Cheez Doodles, even if you don’t want all those things.* And feel like crap. Rinse, repeat.
*Additional piece of food philosophy that is only marginally relevant here: Try not to eat foodstuffs spelled incorrectly, as this is usually an indication that the product can be considered “food” only by the most loose of criteria.
After doing this for long enough, you have no idea what you want. You think you want the burger ALL THE TIME, because it is forbidden fruit. Sometimes, you eat the burger when you want the salad, because you’re so disconnected from your body’s signals.
Anyway, a big part of my food philosophy is to say “fuck that shit.” It is truly ridiculous to be 30 years old and not be able to tell what your OWN BODY wants to eat. So I say screw the rules, and start eating what you think you want. Nothing is “bad” and nothing is off limits. It’s scary at the beginning, but then your head and your gut declare a truce and start working together – and then it becomes freeing. Because you won’t live on cake (although you might eat a lot of it at the beginning). Sooner or later, your body will ask you for some spinach. And you’ll listen.
All that is to say, if you’re reading this blog (and if you are, hi! and thanks!) and you find yourself drawn to something you think of as “bad” – really drawn to it – recognize that it’s what you want, and that there’s probably a good reason your body wants it. Declare food neutrality. Eat it. Enjoy it.
ADDED: As usual, Kate Harding says it way better than me. Check out her awesome post (and all the great comments) here.