These days I laugh sympathetically with others about the gluten-free rabbit hole we’ve now spent a decade immersed in. And reminisce about days long ago when the elimination of undigestable foods forever changed my expectations of optimal health.
Over a decade ago I may have looked and seemed generally healthy, by my acne breakouts, digestive woes, migraines and bloating told another story. So when my initial journey produced such incredible improvements almost immediately in my own health, an entirely new reality was created, and expectations were born of a level of health I had never known before. I felt great, I looked great, it was like having serotonin suddenly flooding the mind, my lifelong body-shame was now buried by a level of its appreciation that had seemed previously unfathomable.
And so, as time went on, and life, and work, and stress continued, so too did my quest for symptoms to solve, foods to eliminate, optimal health to achieve. I avoided grains, I ate paleo, I went vegan, I went pegan, I followed the advice of bloggers, and healthfood practitioners, always believing that “experts” around me knew better than I did, better than my own body. But finally, after a long and winding road down many a healthy eating rabbit hole, it was of all things my meditation-loving, soul-searching side that brought me peace. To be more exact, it was the words by scientific and esoteric author Pam Grout that I consumed in quick study while writing an article for my new spirit-savvy and meditation guiding website, a journey in line with my current life, that so eloquently captured the root cause of my many years of dietary strife.
It’s the meaning behind it all, the source. The reason why I, like so may others, found respite all those years ago, found such quick release from plaguing symptoms, but inevitably since have suffered one dietary imbalance after another despite an unending quest for optimal health. Why every nutritionist’s cleanse or herbalist’s supplements or dietitian’s eating plans only stripped optimal health further from my grasp. And why when I would inevitably return to my own version of a “normal diet” consisting of loads of coconut oil, raw cacao, well done veggies, plenty of salmon, free-range eggs, occasionally a nightly low-carb margarita or two, and at times too many unnecessary crunches of potato or plantain chips, my optimal health and weight always began to feel again tangible. Every step I took away from my “normal diet,” every tool that was meant to solve a problem, only brought me greater ones.
It was in Pam Grout’s stating “We stalk negativity. What do we study? Disease, problems, disasters of the past. What do we prepare for? Emergencies. We love to sink our teeth into problems and ask, “What’s wrong?” that finally after a decade of looking for additional food intolerances, sensitivities, parameters limiting my health, I understood that the problem was in looking for problems.
Years ago, in those early days of digestive healing and a near instantaneous loss of 10 lbs. of inflammation, I was seeing changes so quickly that I never had time to doubt them. And every improvement I saw was like some unexpected check from a long lost relative suddenly showing up in the mail. But after months of enjoying my new standard of health, I began looking for problems, rather than focusing on what was working, I was focusing on what wasn’t. And it took years of relearning to trust myself. And I have seen it happen throughout the blogging world. Paleo bloggers especially become increasingly hard on themselves, and are often scared into beliefs that parasites and candida infections are unknowingly running rampant in their bodies. They become so focused on the problems that it becomes a mental game of strict adherence, which eventually results in cheats and failures, which creates a sick cycle of problems, problems, and more problems.
I know all of this because I have been there. Long before the paleo diet rage ever existed, I was surviving off my own version of it, a diet of natural chicken sausages, gluten-free canned beans, coconut oil, sauteed veggies, meat, wine, coconut products, gluten-free nut and bean flours, and still, more meat. I adhered strictly, experiencing bloating here and there, and the consistent lash backs of a high acid diet, not yet knowing about the importance of alkaline foods. And I was thin, and looked fit from the outside. I didn’t need caffeine, and could pop on a bikini and feel great any day of the year. But as time went on, the heavy meat focus of my diet continued to take a toll. Something it would take months and months of undoing to even be truly aware of. As my shifts of consciousness changed, I tried to adjust my diet, going towards a more vegan approach. Cold turkey I tried juicing and adding grains like brown rice and quinoa back in, and in a lot of ways I fell completely apart.
No vegan diet expert’s book or Whole Foods supplement binge could save me, and for nearly a year I learned how to truly eat in ways that serve my body and mind. These days I start my mornings with cacao and coconut oil with maple sugar, because let’s face it, taste matters. I sip weak, hot black tea. And I toss seeds, or tapioca, or arrowroot into my cacao mix as needed for extra stamina depending upon the day. Then for the rest of my day I eat more of my superfood mix, snack on goji berries, fry up some grain-free Vital Farms eggs, sauté some veggies, devour my favorite cashew cheeses, inhale smoked salmon, take down a lot miso, mix up a margarita or two on many an evening, and give into chip cravings here and there. I work a very stressful corporate job in the finance world, and so I know well the term “corporate body,” represented well by the collection of cellulite-dimpled belly fat that I never before knew. But lately I have decided not to have it anymore. And to do so on my own terms–i.e. sans rabbit hole.
With the help of my spirit seeking side, I have decided to identify with a healthy, balanced, enduring physical body that is always bikini-ready. A body that has the stamina for romps with my romantic partner, the fitness for jogs with my dog, the flexibility for yoga practice, and a defined, sculpted, flattened abdomen. I decided not to have belly fat anymore and in response, I have seen my habits change. My morning dog walks picked up into jogs, meditation returned to my every days, gojis replaced chips, and eggs replaced empty carbs. I like how I eat these days, I listen to my body and feed it accordingly, and if it screams out that plantain chips are a necessary component, then I heed orders. But I am mindful of what I am feeling and what I am feeding. I am feeding the sculpted, strong, lean, beautiful body I wear. And nothing more. There is no excess padding to support. There is nothing more that what I have decided to own, which is optimal health. I don’t chase it, or stalk symptoms of its absence, I just embody it and eat accordingly.