When it comes to food, what’s good for you? What’s bad for you? What should you eat a lot of? What should be off-limits?
I’ve mentioned that I started my website as a recipe blog (ten years ago!). I had really good intentions. I wanted to create healthy recipes that also tasted delicious. So I made it my mission to figure out exactly what the most healthy foods were. I felt like there had to be a definite answer to the question, “what are the most healthy foods a person can eat?”
What I discovered over the years, though, was that there wasn’t an answer. At all!
For example, when I started my blog, low-carb and gluten-free diets were becoming a big trend. Common diets were mostly vegetables and lean proteins (like chicken and lean ground turkey), and all carbs were believed to be “bad.”
At the same time though, more and more people were becoming vegetarian and vegan. So, for them, foods like chicken and beef were completely “off limits” and carbs were great.
Kale was a food that was having a big shining moment back 2012. I was convinced that at least kale must be – with 100% certainty – “really healthy.” Until I came across articles that said soil toxins could seep into kale and too much kale could interfere with thyroid function!
The more determined I became to figure out all the “correct” answers to the healthy diet question, the more my head was completely spinning. One moment a food was touted as the greatest “superfood,” and two months later a different food had come to replace it. One bestselling diet book claimed that a person should limit their intake of sugary fruit, while another diet “expert” was advising unlimited amounts of fruit daily. Despite my best intentions, I found it impossible to get even one solid, definitive, without-a-doubt answer.
The conclusion I finally reached was that – when it came to food – there wasn’t any universal “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad.”
A low-carb diet might feel really healthy to some people. I’ve found, on the other hand, that I feel hungry and get overwhelming cravings when I try to limit carbs. My husband likes bacon on his breakfast sandwich and a burger for lunch on the weekend. I meanwhile, eat a mostly vegetarian diet because I just don’t like the taste of meat.
Over time, I’ve found that the method that works is to feel my way through my food choices. To choose what food seems best for me moment-by-moment. I prefer keeping an open mind to a wide variety of foods and staying really flexible.
Another way of summing it up is: I’m trying to release all of my old judgments about food so I can be guided by an inner sense of what feels best for me now.
Of course, I still have a lot of struggles that don’t disappear in a day or even a year. For example, I still feel a pang of guilt when I eat a chocolate chip cookie or some caramel ice cream, like I’ve done something “wrong” or “ruined” my day. And I tend to have thoughts like, “nothing but salads on Monday” after a weekend of eating out and snacking on popcorn. Despite those heavy judgments that I still carry, I’m definitely in the process of releasing rules and restrictions when it comes to food. Sometimes, fresh fruit feels best. Other times, a grilled cheese and French fries are just what I need. And when I’m really tuned into that inner guidance, I find that what’s “right” for me changes from one moment to the next.
I’m grateful for these lessons I’ve learned about food, and lately I’ve begun to apply them to other areas of my life.
The only thing I’ve found with absolute certainty – the one thing I’m sure I can trust – are my own feelings and emotions. My own sense of what feels best in the moment.
I’ve learned that what feels best can change day-by-day. Rules and obligations don’t work when I’m being guided by that inner voice. I’ve also discovered that there isn’t an “expert” or “authority” who can truly know what’s best for me. Of course, I’m still very interested in helpful suggestions and lessons from others. My practice is to try to remain open to multiple points of view. But ultimately, only I can know what feels right for my personal life situation.
Here’s something else I’ve found too. When I give myself enough open-mindedness to change day-by-day and even moment-by-moment, I allow everyone else that much freedom and space as well. It’s the most peaceful, empowering feeling!
“Out beyond ideas of wrong and right, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the Soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”