Saturday, February 20, 2016

As if It was Your Last

"Live every day as if it was your last." This is the message I received from a man I met on Instagram. I thought about that for a bit. What would I do if this were my last day? How would I behave? If I am going to be honest, the first few hours of the day would most likely be aimlessly reckless and frantic. Last day on earth? That is a lot of pressure, and frankly, I am not sure I am equipped to handle it.

Most of the things I would want to do, I actually do already, and it brings me great comfort knowing that I am spending my time so well. There is just one thing, one plan I would make that would ensure that I made my last day the very best it could be.

After the dust settled and the shock wore off, I would go about finding the best food I could, the most beautiful, delicious, amazing food, and I would spend my last day eating. I would eat only what I want, only as much as I want, being careful to save room for the next amazing and delicious meal that I had planned for myself. 

I would share my meals with certain people, have specific people cook for me, and in general, include the special people in my life in specific ways so that they understood how much they have meant to me.

This is my relationship with food; I love that it can be comforting, that it can be art, that it can be medicine, and orgasmic, and community building, and of course, satisfying. Food brings people together. Food is a universal experience that each one of us experiences differently. This is why it is magical; because it can be anything to anyone, depending on the person.

I used to have a very different experience of food. At the age of 21, my body all but stopped digesting. It sounds crazy, but after 21 years of emotional and physical stress, my intestines were pretty much ready to call it quits. To that point, I had been eating lots of deep fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and really, anything else I could get my hands on when I was either drunk or stoned. My body was pissed and it showed me this by sending intense stabbing pains throughout my intestines and stomach every time I tried to eat just about anything.

I went to my Naturopath and she gave me three options: eat a carefully planned and balanced diet, take a bunch of pharmaceuticals for who knows how long, or surgery. I opted for the food plan, I started eating Macrobiotically, and this was tough; all the food was plant-based, and every meal contained fermented foods such as pickles, miso and some type of sea vegetable like Wakame,, Kombu, or Hijiki. No raw veggies. No fruit juice. The only things I could drink were Twig tea, Amazake, and water. Coming from Chicago, and being used to the wide variety of crappy food I had been eating, this plan was somewhat heart wrenching. I could never eat out. Everything took hours to prepare. I had to balance the energy of my food in order for it to do the proper things for my body. I actually had a Macrobiotic coach,  but I fired her when she scared the crap out of me because I accidentally cut my collards wrong. Long story short, there was a lot of pressure associated with this diet.

A year later, my Naturopath and Acupuncturist each told me I could stop the insanity; that my body needed meat, and I could start, very slowly, re-introducing regular people food into my diet. So, naturally, I went to the store and purchased a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. I remember feeling anxious; I had worked so hard for so long eating clean, that while I desperately wanted the ice cream, I was kind of freaked out about what it would do to me.

So began my several-decade struggle with food. It started with the stress around the strictness with which I had to eat for that year, and then, became this weird pendulum swinging back and forth from overeating sugary fatty treats to picking at kale, brown rice and miso covered tofu. My weight fluctuated wildly though I worked out constantly. I was always thinking about what I should and shouldn't eat, always worried about how much of what I could eat. I still wasn't eating a whole lot of meat, but my sugar intake was insane.

Years later I read a book that stated that in order to have a good relationship with food, you must eat whatever you want, whenever you want, but make sure that before and after, you really check in with your body and see if what you want is really what you want. This practice took years to perfect, because there was always some part of me, in the back of my mind, that doubted. WAS I really allowed to eat whatever I want, whenever I want? Wouldn't I just wind up eating Macrobiotics again? Wouldn't I gain a bajillion pounds if I ate anything I wanted at any time I wanted? Actually, it was weird. The better I got at checking in with how my body actually felt about my food, before and after I ate it, the easier it was to eat.  I read that sentence and it seems like a thunderclap of obvious followed by a lightning bolt of epiphany, but for some reason, listening to my body had never occurred to me, even AFTER I went through a year of eating fermented food and sea vegetables. Years later, I would find myself working at a food co-op, overseeing a bakery and eating cake every day for breakfast. Why? Because I really, really wanted to. Until I didn't. Then I stopped. Roughly six months later. Roughly.

But I know I am lucky. I have put myself in a place where eating high quality, local, organic food is encouraged, supported and most importantly, affordable. It is not like that for most of the people in the US, nor is it possible to get actual truthful information about food or even how to eat. Even if you are listening to your body, there is so much misinformation out there about food and how to eat, in addition to the body shaming and ridiculous expectations for body image that we put on ourselves, it can be pretty challenging.

I hear about all kinds of diets and eating plans, but the best one I have ever found is the one that my body dictates. If I am really listening to my body, I know I won't go wrong. Even if it is my last day. Even if I am with friends who are all eating differently. The food that is best for me is the food my body chooses.

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