How To Eat What


Food is something I think about a lot, maybe too much. In the past I’ve struggled with disordered thoughts about eating and my body. Now I’m much healthier, but is there such a thing as too healthy? 

Possibly. I laughed when I first heard about orthorexia; it sounded ridiculous, an excuse to succumb to the siren song that is the standard American diet (read: too much processed food, sugar, and carbohydrates. They call it SAD, guys, for real). Looking back at my reaction, I think it was defensiveness.

Are you familiar with the term? If not, check here and here. Or talk to your friendly neighborhood search engine.

But, yeah. Part of being healthy for me was becoming a vegetarian. It was half health consciousness, half animal welfare consciousness. I was vegetarian for about seven years.

And then I started becoming ill. In March 2013, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. Hyperthyroidism. In January 2014, I tried an elimination diet to aid in conception and to support my thyroid. Part of the diet was eating meat. The restrictions were tough. No: sugar of any kind, peanuts, dairy, soy, caffeine, alcohol, non-organic chicken, beef, pork, white rice, pasta, I feel like I’m forgetting some. Maybe it’s easier to say what I could eat: bison, organic chicken, above ground veggies…

I got pregnant. Not sure if it was the diet, the acupuncture I was getting at the same time, my thyroid calming down, or what. Needless to say perhaps, I didn’t care why or how it worked, just that it did.

From that point on, I ate meat. Still do. I try to only buy humane meat, but I recognize the cognitive dissonance in that statement. Also, what to do when out to eat? One can try to only frequent “good” places, but they’re few and far between (and pricey). It’s been a real struggle for me to figure out my best diet, especially after having gestational diabetes and learning how to eat like a diabetic. 

Because that’s the thing- our bodies have different needs. It does me no good to get jealous over Westley’s ability to eat cake without spiking his blood sugar. I have to eat to my own body. This body that has given me baby man, that’s kept me alive, that is so much stronger than I realize. 

There are times I feel guilty about eating animals. Like I’ve given up on something important to me. And I guess I have, but for me the concept of “do no harm” (or at least as little harm as possible) must also apply to myself. If I’m hurting myself through my diet, I’m causing harm.

I know about factory farming. I’ve seen the PETA videos, watched the documentaries; it’s a devastating industry that must be changed. It helps me to know that at least by supporting more humane vendors, I’m having a negative impact on factory farming (however slight).

Some days I want to become vegan, but then I wonder how to keep my blood sugar stable when truly innocuous shit like beans and sweet potatoes spike me. Some days I’m happy with my choices. What’s most important is that I try to live well in order to care for baby man. After restricting carbs for a few months, my A1C is down from 5.6 to 5.4. This shit is working.

But my thyroid is acting up again. Unlike 2013, I’m not afraid. This could be due in part to my change in diet. In 2013, I had a b12 deficiency and was always anxious (about pretty much everything). Since I’ve changed my diet, I still get anxious, but it’s nowhere near as powerful.

Plus now I have the ability to look down at baby man’s sweet face- instant relief.

Anyway. I was raised eating healthy foods- whole grains, vegetables with almost every meal- but this way of eating, at least the “whole grains” part, doesn’t work for me. 

I can become so fixated on “healthy” food that I hurt myself. Indeed, I believe this is what happened when I was vegetarian. So, I’m ambivalent, sometimes tortured, and always very much aware of what I’m eating. 

A very dear friend of mine is a new vegetarian. With the purpose and gusto of the freshly committed she posts PETA videoes and the like. I have been her, you know? Reading passages from “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer aloud at parties.

Well, that might be just a smidge of hyperbole, but not by much. Difficult to reconcile that way of thinking with this bowl of chicken soup I’m trying to eat (soup was maybe not the best choice for a writing snack).

How do you feel about your food choices? Do you think about food too much, too little? How do we make good choices when our options are less than ideal? How to afford to eat “right?” What does that even mean?

I’m not sure, but I’m doing my best. And if, in the future, I start posting PETA videos to my Facebook page, try to understand.

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4 thoughts on “How To Eat What

  1. This is such a great post and hits really close to home. I spent my 20s bouncing back and forth between anorexia and bulimia and being totally unhealthy. It took me a long time to recover, but here I am: healthy and happy. I still have the bad thoughts – you can’t *really* escape them – but I am realistic and being truly healthy is my priority.
    However, I did attempt to have a “vegan year” this year and I made myself sick. It was a way for me to get back to being healthy, but, really, I think it was mostly to shed these last few pregnancy pounds. I had to stop and re-evaulate my life and made the decision to stop the madness. I feel guilty about eating animals, too, but my body needs meat (at least at this point in my life) to stay healthy.

    Thanks again for opening up and sharing. These posts have been really eye and heart opening 🙂

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    1. Thanks for sharing! God, I know how that feels! And veganism really *looks* like the healthiest option, but it isn’t for everyone. I’ve been losing weight due to carb restriction, breastfeeding, and my thyroid shit, and I’ve had to tell myself to calm the fuck down about it. It’s all too easy to become obsessive about the scale and those dropping numbers… I’m glad you were able to recognize that that diet isn’t right for you for now. It’s such a confounding thing! Healthy and skinny are NOT equivalent, but as a society we certainly act like they are.

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  2. Never in my life have I eaten as much as I have after having a baby. Breastfeeding drains me (literally!) and I can’t keep up. I feel like I need way more than the recommended 300-500 additional calories. And I think if I eat too healthy, my already low supply will diminish. So I am eating what I please for the time being.

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