Rarely are people honest about just how much food we need to eat in order to be healthy. It’s more than you’d think. But really, who actually knows? It’s so variable from person to person, and is dependent on metabolic function, sleep, physical and mental activity, stress, and so many other variables – it’s impossible to calculate.
So how do you tell?
Hunger should be enjoyed, as food should be enjoyed. To eat is to celebrate life. There’s pleasure in hunger, there’s anticipation with the knowledge that the payoff’s going to be awesome. There’s comfort in hunger, too, because there’s comfort in feeding, and to sit and wait on food, and contemplate what’s coming – this is an incredibly rare pleasure, that really should be a daily one.
But if you’re dieting – hunger’s excruciating. Firstly, it never abates. Secondly, it feels all-consuming. Thirdly... oh, fuck it, those first two make it almost unbearable.
But what is dieting? Dieting is nothing more than failing to feed yourself.
What makes hunger unbearable is the absence of satiety. It’s the guilt that surrounds hunger in the first place, and the overwhelming socially-accepted but seriously fucked up underlying belief that food is the enemy and it must be vanquished.
_ It’s the job of cravings to keep us alive when we fail to feed ourselves. There’s this weird idea that permeates our culture that if you’re eating plentifully, you’re eating too much, but if you’re not eating enough, that’s okay because you’re just dieting. Why not acknowledge that dieting equates to not eating enough? Why is it okay to fail to feed ourselves? To just ‘not be hungry’ at lunchtime? To have tea or coffee because we’re afraid if we eat, we’ll get fatter?
It’s strange that we think not eating enough is the right thing to do. We don’t even think of it as not eating enough – we call it healthy choices, but ‘healthy choices’ actually means something different than ‘eating less’. We think it’s the disciplined thing to do, it’s morally superior, it’s good for us, we think indulgence is a sign of weakness, not of care. And to eat plentifully – we think that means we’re undisciplined, lazy, decadent, corrupt; that we pander to the demands of a body we do not respect, we do not appreciate or love. We think that because we want to be thinner, we don’t have the right to eat what we want, when we want it. We think being fat means there’s no such thing as ‘not eating enough’.
And so we try to hide food from ourselves. If we want to lose weight, we’re loathe to sit down to table, to have a meal – the guilt’s too much. Because we don’t deserve to eat – we’re too fat – we have to restrict. So what do we do? Eat on the run, snack here and there, get food in however we can, without having to admit to ourselves that we are, in fact, eating. Without having to admit that we do actually deserve to eat what we want, when we want, in amounts that satisfy us. Without allowing us the freedom to enjoy our food.
Not the easiest diet to follow...
This kinda follows on from my previous post. Lately, some people have been asking me what I eat, and it takes a while to explain the process.
I’ve been trying to get in touch with what nourishes me, without preconception.
Actually that didn’t take long at all, but if you want the detailed version, read on...
Worrying about what’s healthy, what’s unhealthy, what’s okay and what’s forbidden, what’s a treat, what has to be rationed, what can be eaten freely – all this gets in the way of identifying what you need. Preconceptions make us sick, as much as they make us healthy. So why bother with them at all?
What you need should never be rationed. And we all need food. I don’t care whether it’s for emotional reasons, for the pure nutritional makeup, or for any other reason you like. Systems of rationing make cravings worse and often make for complications later on.
When it comes to rewarding yourself, I tend to think we either deserve what we want, or we don’t. Why on earth would we not deserve what is our right? Why would we not deserve health and happiness – for life? Why would you only deserve good things when you’ve ‘been’ good?
And what does ‘been good’ mean, anyway? Is it code for ‘harming yourself with exercise’?
I don’t get the idea of rewarding yourself by indulging in what appears to be holding you back. Is the idea supposed to be that we will automatically choose to reward ourselves with what hurts us? I don’t buy it. Something about that assumption always seemed a bit wrong. Deluded. There’s a lot about this whole topic that’s based in self-delusion, and I don’t like it.
If you’ve been exercising strenuously, you get hungry because you need to eat. The notion that you can or cannot ‘earn the right to eat’ is complete bullshit.
You cannot ‘earn the right’ to ‘eat what you want’, whether through exercise or any other means, because you’re human, you’re alive, you already have the right to eat what you want.
You already have the right to eat, no matter what size you are, because all people must eat. It doesn’t matter how much you ate at Christmas, today you have to eat. It doesn’t matter what you’re going to eat next week, today you have to eat.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not opposed to fasting, I’m opposed to cruelty.
I have a weakness for chocolate-coated almonds, which is to say - I like them.
Considering that, I suppose I have a weakness for sweet potato, salmon and broccoli, and weightlifting too. I guess the difference is that I don’t think of these things as being bad.
When we want to do something nice for ourselves, why do we think of being indulgent? Pandering to our ego? Is that treating ourselves with kindness? It may be, but it’s not all there is.
What about doing something that nourishes your true self - whatever that is?
I like being indulgent, I think it’s great! I enjoy it very much, which is precious. It’s much better than indulging and only feeling guilty - what’s the point of that? But being indulgent is not all I think of when I want to be nice to myself, when I’m in need of comfort.
There are reasons we have cravings; they’re not all bad and I don’t think they should be ignored.
Be aware. What do you truly, genuinely need, without preconception?
That’s key. Take away the judgment – both the positive and negative. What do you need, for you?
This recipe is based on one I've been making for a long time, but I spontaneously decided to add carrot and celery and it resulted in a greater complexity of flavour that I liked very much. So I thought I'd share it!
Basically you take all the following ingredients, cook them together in a saucepan for like half an hour, add some water as you go if you like, and then you mash it all up with a masher.
I like serving it with crusty sourdough toast, because that's the kind of thing I like to have with my soups. But that's just me, of course.
Anyway, to the ingredients!
Speaking of struggling... How awesome is this?!?!
I’ve known countless personal trainers who stay thin on a diet of chocolate, donuts, and alcohol. And if I had a dollar for every overweight, frustrated trainee who actually was doing what they were told, and was still making no headway, I’d be a wealthy man.
It doesn’t make sense. Yet we still believe the rules and ignore the countless exceptions, spouting platitudes like ‘the exception proves the rule’. What does that even mean? And how is it supposed to be helpful?
Basically, if you don’t struggle with this stuff, my blog isn’t really for you. But if you are struggling and confused, I hope I can add some helpful perspective to all the prejudice-infused garbage out there.
It’s so hard to know who to believe. When we in the health and fitness industry interpret scientific papers to the broader community, we who have varying scientific knowledge to begin with and our own agendas anyway, it’s easy to misrepresent (intentionally or not) the findings of certain studies... Studies which might only have been undertaken to try to discredit someone else, anyway.
What results is confusion and fear, and people start to make food choices contrary to what their intuition (note: not their whimsy) is telling them. This can be problematic in so many ways.
Why should we ‘eat less’? To lose weight?
We know that starvation’s bad for thin people. Guess what? It’s also bad for fat people. So what’s healthy? Irrespective of what size is healthy, what kind of approach to eating is healthy? What if you’re too fat, or too thin? Does that actually mean anything?
What about your cholesterol? Your blood work? There are tests you can take to determine whether or not your dietary intake of vitamins and minerals is inadequate. And they’re actually specific, and they reveal a lot about the health of your body, regardless of what size you are.
What’s interesting is that with the high rate of obesity, we also seem to see a high rate of nutritional deficiency. I’m confused; aren’t we overeating? Shouldn’t we be trying, all the damn time, to be eating less? Vitamins D, B12, Iron, Calcium, Selenium, the other B’s, all the time people are found to be deficient in these and other nutrients. There was an ad I saw recently for low-fat milk with added Vitamin D. But D is fat-soluble. You need to take it with fat in order to be able to absorb it.