I love to talk about food. I love to tell people what to eat. I love to grocery shop. I love looking at food. I love cooking food. I love #foodie. I love “Chopped” on the Food Network. I’m obsessed with food in my own special ways just as the rest of the world is. Dirty Good Company’s perspective on nutrition and our modern diet culture doesn’t admonish the obsessions, but hopes to curb restrictive, unsustainable protocols while encouraging wise, yet joyful and relaxed, consumption.
Lately, in addition to the multitude of narrow diets out there for our choosing (vegan, paleo, grain-free, etc), we are seeing an anti-diet diet revolution in the form of “intuitive eating” or “flexible dieting.” I get what these are going for, and for sure, the intention behind it all is healthy. But uh, is purchasing my favorite Late July tortilla chips and hummus really my intuition telling me I need salt or just a cop out for dinner because I’m too lazy to cook anything? Paul can try explaining to me that a voice from deep inside his soul is telling him that he needs that donut to fuel our afternoon mountain bike ride, but again, if we aren’t in tune with what is really going on in our heads intuitive eating is, well, just us being as lame as usual.
Enter our motto: “Eat Well – Enough.” Yeah, kind of a twist on Michael Pollan’s oft quoted, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” advice. Luckily, Dirty Good Company’s co-conspirators come at nutrition from two perspectives. Not to name names, but one is that of unconscious, over-consumption of stuff we know better than to shove in our mouth and the other is that of compulsive avoidance of appropriate nourishment.
Okay, I’m going to name names. I tend to eat well; I like vegetables, I choose salad and fruit and can almost always moderate treats by stopping after one cookie or a reasonable sized bowl (or two, come on, no one eats one when there’s still milk left) of cereal. Paul “intuitively” doesn’t think twice about putting away a whole bag of chips in one sitting or grabbing some greasy tacos (not so bad, really) from the corner food truck instead of fresh meat and veggies to cook. To his credit, he usually eats when he’s hungry, consumes actual meals a couple times a day at least, and recognizes that calorie-deficient-Paul is no good to anyone. Too often I put off meals, opting for a handful of nuts, a scoop of almond butter, maybe a banana or a sample of the heavenly cinnamon bread the local bakery always sets out to stymie my hunger. I sit and watch Paul eat tacos, not feeling like I need anything (my disordered eating patterns are a whole other article) and marveling at his ability to enjoy a meal while he bites his tongue from persuading me to just f*ing eat before I get grumpy.
So, each of us has our own take on “Eat Well – Enough.” My food choices are generally healthy, but I have to eat ENOUGH of them to be fully functional in body and mind for the adventures I want to have! Paul has got the quantity down, but can make better decisions about the WELLness of his meals. We do try to help each other and strive to find the balance between the two extremes, but no one can make anyone change until they want to.
Knowing we can’t rely on our faulty “intuitions,” both of us accept that we have to legislate some rules on ourselves when it comes to food. Also, it is super important to start to become aware of how different foods make your body feel. But again, we want to enjoy all our human experiences, and eating is a giant part of living! We also believe that eating in a state of stress has physical implications, like inhibiting digestion and absorption of nutrients. We make an effort to not put too much weight on occasional, or even frequent, indulgences in our favorite eats – as long as they are truly our favorites and don’t make us feel like total and complete crap. For instance, Paul definitely has a true, though not life threatening, reaction to gluten, so it is not worth it for him to give in to temptations of cinnamon rolls and bowls of semolina pasta. But he does love all the tasty flavors of Kettle chips and as they don’t leave him feeling any worse for the wear, they are an agreeable indulgence. Anything greasy or super oily, like potato chips, makes me feel like poop (and makes me poop) so I make wise decisions to turn down most of that stuff. But I love beer, and as long as I stick with one or two I feel just dandy, so I don’t kick myself after a night at the brewery.
Nutrition, food, mental wellness, performance and body image – and the overlapping relationship between all those – are touchy subjects and I hesitate to issue blanket statements as to what is or is not healthy. Rather, set a goal to start making conscious, deliberate choices to nourish your own personal constitution. Have you put enough fuel into your system to allow it to function properly? Vitally? Is the fuel you are putting in going to burn efficiently and cleanly? What is so delicious that even though it’s not nutritionally optimal you just can’t imagine life without? Does it sit well and not cause you to wake up looking like a bloated Michelin Man or have you running to the bathroom at two in the morning? Go for it sometimes. Enjoy without feeling guilty. What is something that does make you feel horribly gross the next day, or immediately upon eating? That one’s not worth it; it’s where you run away and execute some self control. Make a list if you have to and refer to it when you’re tempted or when you’re in the grocery store. If you need more accountability, ask for help. Get dirty with yourself and set some guidelines, but keep in mind that this whole living thing is supposed to be about Feel Good’ness, so allow yourself to taste, digest and enjoy all of it.