I think there is a growing issue with the relationship we have societally with food. In the 80’s (the decade in which I was born) the world was waging war with fat. I remember the growing amount of fat-free products that my parents would buy. In the 90s we got the fear of meat with BSE and that took us into the millennium with the UK’s foot and mouth outbreak.
We are currently fighting the impact of sugar and as research and education are becoming more accessible there is a growing desire to pay more attention to what we put in our body. I have always had a fascination with food and its impact on the body. I devour nutrition books and I love to give advice on diet (much to the annoyance of my friends and family).
like many teenage girls, I have been unhappy with my body
I have come to the conclusion that now more than ever, it’s important to take a look at our relationship with food.
For me it’s been a very odd journey. Since my teens, and like many teenage girls, I have been unhappy with my body. I wasn’t petite or graceful but my two closest friends at school were. I detested photos of us together; I was always the lumbering uncomfortable looking one. However, I did have the good sense to realise that I was a teenager and this was just a “phase”.
Moving to adulthood the issues only became more complex. Through 2006-2008 I used laxatives to control my weight. The food I had always loved had become a source of guilt for me. I was working in bars and so eating very erratically and badly (chips, cheese and garlic mayo anyone?). Laxatives seemed like a great way to deal with the poor food choices I was making.
I self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance
After my stint with laxatives I self-diagnosed with gluten intolerance. I would suffer stomach pains and queasiness after eating gluten and so I began to avoid these foods altogether (I’m still not sure if for me this was a physical issue or a mental one manifesting as physical pain).
This was a great way I could avoid high-carb foods and allowed me to openly decline food. As I began turning down these foods it became more about my willpower. I could say no to all the foods that I had decided were bad. The gluten intolerance certainly felt real. When I did eat these foods my stomach would spasm but I was never formally diagnosed.
Then I met the man who would become my husband. He is a vegetarian and our meals at home were largely plant based (although he would cater to my carnivorous needs occasionally). It was at this point that I started to get a grip on my relationship with food and it was all down to one simple step – cooking from scratch.
I became pregnant and my “intolerance” seemed to disappear. Nowadays I am able to eat gluten (although a lot in one go can cause a reaction).
I have always loved cooking but to do it every day seemed like a bit of a stretch. When Marc and I moved in together he would cook everything from scratch. We would spend time together in our small kitchen in a flat in London and he would effortlessly cook these wonderful vegetarian meals.
I AM NOT A VEGAN! – but yes I eat “vegan” food
As we have gone on our Living Unplugged journey it has become clearer to us that being intentional with food, our family mealtimes and the experience of eating is absolutely central to our wellbeing as a family.
We prepare, cook and eat together. It is the cornerstone of our weekends and our free time. We love exploring the variety of foods available to us. A few months ago we decided to cut out dairy for no other reason than we were using the same excuses for dairy as meat-eaters use for meat. Things like “Oh I could never give up cheese” or “Without cheese it’s just not a proper meal”.
We wanted to kick ourselves out of our normal repertoire and explore options we would have otherwise ignored.
I can’t remember the last time I calorie counted
What has been fantastic about plant-based eating is the fact that the guilt has gone. I can’t remember the last time I calorie counted or thought about laxatives as a way to cleanse. I can eat as much as I want, I can eat a spectacular array foods from some of the most complex cuisines, I love discovering a real gem of a recipe (our favourite at the moment being our Autumnal Mushroom Pasties – OMG, yum) and I love that our food surprises and delights guests when they come to visit.
The best thing about our diet now is that it’s more inclusive than ever before. We still occasionally eat cheese but it’s rare, what we do do is look for something new, something outside of our comfort zone.
Eating is essential and, for us and our family, food is what makes us more intentional. It impacts the decisions we make about our free time and it impacts how we spend time together. After all, what is more wonderful than sitting around a table of food that the whole family has helped to grow, prepare and cook.