I have always been a perfectionist. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. If I do something, I have to do it 100%, or not do it at all. I always have set high standards for myself and, when I inevitably don't meet some of those standards, guilt, frustration, and an all together "I let myself down" mentality tends to take over. Growing up, my perfectionism revealed itself in my schoolwork. If I came home with a 96%, I would focus on the 4% I got wrong verses the 96% I got right. No one taught me this, I just wanted to always do well all of the time. As I've grown into an adult, I have realized that my need to be spotless comes out in many other aspects. Studying to be a registered dietitian set me up to have a plethora of knowledge on many confusing things. Caffeine, good or bad? Red meat, cancer bomb or good source of iron? Oatmeal, empty carbohydrate or heart disease fighting fiber? These findings always swished around in my brain and caused many confusing moments when ordering food, cooking food, or just plain deciding what to buy at the store for a particular day.
About 18 months ago, as my stomach problems became more evident and severe (see previous posts for more info!), I experienced much relief from cutting out gluten from my diet. I was so excited about the benefits of my gluten-free diet that I decided to take it one step further and go Paleo for a while. I recently just wrote a post on the Paleo diet, and firmly believe in what it stands for and its food recommendations. I love that it is not carb or fat phobic, lets you have your sweet potatoes, and advocates including those healthy fats that so many people fear! I did a Whole30 about a year ago and, by doing so, feel as if I "healed" myself with whole, nutritious, nutrient dense foods.
When I did the reintroduction part of the Whole30, where you slowly reintroduce grains, dairy, legumes, etc to your diet to see how you react, I found that gluten, and at times grains still gave me problems. However, cheese suddenly had zero adverse effects on me. I have always been allergic to full fat milk, but cheese did not bother me. I also love hummus and have never experienced a bad reaction to legumes either (even though I'm not particularly a fan of beans, I just love hummus and peanuts). I also began taking probiotics per my doctor's recommendation, which also seemed to immensely calm down my symptoms.
However, this put me in a dilemma. Was I still Paleo? Primal? Could I still support the Paleo diet, as well as the Whole30 and what it stands for, while still enjoying cheese and legume products? Did I have to pick a team? What would I call myself?
The more I thought about it, the more confused I got. And then I realized that this was crazy!! As all these thoughts were bouncing around in my already perfection-seeking brain, I started to see why the messages the public is getting can be so confusing. Which unfortunately leads to people just getting sick of thinking, throwing in the towel, and going to the nearest drive-thru for relief.
After much reflection, and some great talks with amazing friends (Michelle at www.littlekarim.com being one of them, check her out!), I am here to tell you that life doesn't have to be labeled. A healthy lifestyle is just that, a LIFEstyle. Day in, day out, the choices you make effect your health, both physically and psychologically. I don't have to pick a team, choose a group, or be 100% of something, 100% of the time. I just have to just be me, Tveen, a healthy eater who enjoys good, wholesome, nutritious food.
What works for me is this: eating good, nutritious, satisfying foods. I try to stay away from gluten because too much of it makes me feel icky. I eat cheese because it tastes amazing and fills me up. I eat hummus because it is one of the best dips out there. I eat vegetables because they are beautiful and colorful and are so good for us that we should probably be shoving the other refined carbohydrate and processed foods out of our plates to make room for these beauties.
I eat fruit because it is nature's candy and I love sweets. I eat carrots with my guacamole because I love guacamole, but could easily consume (in 30 minutes flat) my body weight in corn chips, and still be hungry by the end of my meal. I eat fat because my body needs fat, my brain thrives on fat, and it fills me up and tastes amazing. I eat food. And that's that.
I can love Paleo, but I can also love non-Paleo foods. I can firmly believe in the philosophy behind the Whole 30, but not be "on a Whole 30" for the next 30 years of my life. I can put meals together that sometimes turn out to be paleo, sometimes have some cheese sprinkled on top, or sometimes have some hummus, rice, or one of my Grandma's once a year, famous, gluten-filled, Easter cookies. The point is, it's life, it will go on, food is food, and it is here to fuel us and get us through our REAL LIFE.
There is freedom in the fact that we don't have to label our lives. We don't have to fit perfectly in a group. Or be perfect at all. A healthy life is one that is a process to achieve, but an amazing place to be. It's a place of freedom, of enjoying optimal health, and of finding foods that work for you.
The best feeling for me is to sit down to a meal and know that what I am putting in my body will fuel me, give me good nutrition, and make me feel on to of the world afterwards! I don't have to know, or care, if a food is 100% of this or that lifestyle. So I guess that labels me as "Tveen." And that is the healthiest and happiest place to be.