Diary of an orthorexic.
This is a story about balance. A story about pushing through all the noise, advice and good intentions and listening to what you and your body needs. But first a story about Orthorexia: Which, if you look up this word, is defined as an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.
A word I had never heard of until today when by chance, I read an article about a young woman who had decided to give up her dedicated life as a vegan and began to reintroduce meat and dairy back into her diet.
You may think that is not such an extraordinary story, nothing remarkable about changing your mind about something. Right? However, in this interconnected world of ours, this young woman had acquired a level of fame and became known as The Blonde Vegan. (I will post a link to her story at the bottom of this post).
Announcing to her loyal fan base that she was no longer vegan sent shock waves through her online community. Every gamut of emotion came flying her way including a fair swag of hate mail from people whose reason for being vegan are a moral one rather than a health choice.
The Blonde Vegan (Jordan), the motivation was her health. But, as with anything that becomes too restrictive or obsessive there is often unhealthy consequences and in Jordan’s case, it manifested in both her health and her emotional state. She has since managed to navigate her way back to a healthy life which now includes meat and dairy and it seems has successfully relaunched her online business, perhaps with fewer vegans but with a new bunch of followers who have a goal of health through balance. Cleverly, Jordan is now known as The Balanced Blonde. I like that. I like that a lot.
I want to, I really do but…
This brings me to the now hugely popular Paleo Diet. Although a somewhat restrictive diet, the true believers are no doubt just as passionate as those that declare themselves as Vegan. Now, I am not about to criticise either, I myself restrict sugar from my diet and believe there is no place for moderation. But am I right about this? Well, whether I am or not, whether you agree with me or not, I have found eliminating sugar from my diet to be not only easy but I am in no doubt a healthier way of living.
Of course, there have been times when for the sake of politeness I have partaken, which only reminds me of how sickly sweet sugar-laden treats can be. But quitting completely is not for everyone, for some, it is about balance and if cutting back on the sugar just little interests you? I have written about it here in 7 ways to give up sugar without really trying and for a bit more over here.
But I digress. Paleo. I like the premise. The idea of giving up wheat, eating mostly organic, and of thinking a little more ethically when eating meat or any food for that matter all appeals to me and ‘cooking everything from scratch’ should be everyone’s mantra. I believe the principle of Paleo is quite a sound one. But for me, rather than trace our diets back to a zillion years ago, I prefer to trace it back just by two generations. I would prefer to follow something a little similar to the diet of my grandparents.
Finding balance and the paleo diet circa 1964.
My grandparents on my father’s side come from British India and moved to Australia 1948. A family lineage dating back to 1852 gave our family the rich and wonderful tastes of a British/Indian fusion and like many migrants in the late 40s and 50s, my family brought with them a rich array of traditional recipe’s. We ate real yoghurt made from the live culture, my grandmother cooked with ghee and Indian sweets so sticky and delicious you really only needed one tiny piece. (Yeah right, that never happened). It was a rich, colourful and enchanting way of eating.
My Mother very quickly adapted to the tastes of her in-laws. This cultural mix gave us a British/Indian collaboration with her German/English ancestry. What a gastronomical wonderland it was. There was never a culinary dull moment at the family dinner table. Perhaps you have similar childhood memories? Meals made without the reliance on packaged or processed anything and eaten sitting around a dinner table interspersed with conversation and stories of the day.
What went wrong?
It seems we are living longer and yet, never has there been so many age-related diseases. Should we accept the last 15 years or so of our lives as a time burdened with ill health and chronic disease? Is this is the kind of longevity we all planned for?
Somewhere we seemed to have lost our way. Did we get lazy? Did convenience take priority over goodness? For many, this may be true. Whatever the reason if we are to live more than a long life, but enjoy healthy longevity, then harking back to a time when things were simpler makes sense.
Everything in moderation or just in balance?
When I quit sugar it was just as much about giving up packaged and processed foods as it was about giving up sugar. In a way, for me, that’s all it has ever been about. Sugar was just my catalyst for change. Less convenient, but certainly simpler.
My balanced version of paleo.
So while I embrace much of the Paleo diet, I am my own version of paleo.
It’s about mindfulness and noticing and appreciating what we’re eating and, instead of eating on the run and rushing to the next big whatever…
It’s about slow food, slow eating and whole food. But it is not restrictive, nor is it a diet.
So now, this is what I am going to do.
If I choose to eat meat or poultry it will be primarily grass-fed and organic.
Eat at least 7 serves of vegetables a day and if this is too hard to do (and it is), then blend some of it into beautiful green smoothies.
Choose real, unflavoured, unsweetened natural ‘live’ yoghurt.
Minimise the consumption of grains. If you know they upset your body’s balance then maybe cut them out altogether. Some say, wheat grain contributes to middle-aged weight gain and others theorise wheat grain has a detrimental effect on the health of our brain. Swapping wheat-based products like pasta and bread to basmati rice and rice noodles could be a great alternative.
For sweetness instead of honey, agave or maple syrup try Rice Bran Syrup (it’s fantastic and contains no gluten or fructose). I like this one by Pure Harvest.
Eat beetroot (so good for you) with powerful antioxidant enzymes.
Find ways to include Sauerkraut (not to be mistaken for pickled cabbage) in your diet, with as much, if not more lactobacillus bacteria as yoghurt, the process of lactic fermentation makes sauerkraut an essential for the health of the gut.
We lose the enzymes to digest milk properly by the time we cut our baby teeth. True Paleo enthusiasts do not drink milk at all. I can’t do this. I like milk in my tea and coffee.
So if like me you can’t or don’t want to give up milk then you could try lactose-free milk. But if you are one of the many that find it impossible to digest milk, then give it up altogether may be your only choice to maintain a healthy balance. Coconut Milk may be a perfect choice for you with medium-chain fatty acids and in particular, one known as Lauric acid it is indeed worth including in the diet for the antiviral and antimicrobial effect.
Some say eating Gelatin is brilliant for gut health and they also say our gut health rules over so much of our health. I am not an expert by any stretch, but I do believe there may be something in this theory. I plan to look into this a little more. I shall report back on it when I find out more.
I am no longer afraid of fat. We have been led to believe vegetable and seed oils are far better than saturated fat. Commercially processed seed and vegetable oils are usually heated at high temperatures which render them rancid. I do not want to eat rancid food. Period. So seed and vegetable oils are absolutely off my menu. (I know. Little rant).
Unless it is cold-pressed I’ll not touch it. You’ll need to check labels as unfortunately these rancid oils are included in almost every packaged food.
In the time of paleo man, they walked many miles seeking food. My version of this is to walk instead of drive and make time to walk uninterrupted for, at the very least 30 minutes every day.
Paleo man also waited many hours for food. I try to have at least 12 hours from my last meal at night to my next meal at breakfast and when I can I try to this stretch this fast out to 16 hours.
Like Jordan, I too look for a balance. Considering what I eat and being mindful of how my food comes to my table. Not restrictive, not a diet, but a way of thinking and living. A little bit more like my grandparent did.
See you next time,
You can read Jordan’s story as it appeared in Harper’s Bazaar here.