We all go through phases with our food.
When you have that one (or 3) foods that you just can't get enough of at one time. Then you get sick of them. Move on.
Have you ever had a month where you look back and realize "Wow, I've been eating ______ every single day for what seems like way too long." Then soon after, you no longer want that food? You may even have an aversion to it/be totally sick of it? Perhaps months later you will come back to it, but for now - no thanks. I've had my fill.
Your food phases are unique to you and they are good, safe and OKAY! A lot of clients will tell me the main foods they've been eating recently when they describe their typical daily diet to me. Sometimes they themselves are shocked at the small amount of variety in their diet. This is okay. This is part of the growth in changing your diet!
Here's a story about that time when I was 21... and became vegetarian. I am tying this story in with 'rules' (flexible ones!) about our food phases. This story is about vegetarianism, you can apply it to any food phase you have been through. I moved to beautiful Kitsilano in Vancouver BC to study Holistic Nutrition. I spent 2010 (and beyond) seriously changing my diet. I learned about nutrition and cravings as I took a microscope to my own diet. My biggest lesson about freedom in food came in the form of attempting vegetarianism.
Just for the record I was not becoming a vegetarian for animal rights, for hopping on a trend bandwagon or shunning people for eating cows. Instead, I wanted to experiment solely to see how this would affect my health, digestion and overall mood. I wanted to try it because I had never done it before.
Phases Rule #1 - The best way to shift your diet is out of curiosity, not desperation
I just went really slow. I learned to cook things I hadn't cooked before. I kept it simple. I mainly consumed veggie quesadillas (lots of nuts and legumes to replace meat.) I would have a bagel or an egg every now and then as a little treat. The first week of being a vegetarian was honestly, a little bit of hell. I felt 'off' and weak because my body wasn't used to being deprived of meat: on the other hand it also wasn't used to so many veggies. It was a bit of what we know as a "herxheimer reaction" or a cleansing reaction for the body - but a good one, because after that first week I started to feel so good. ALL. THE. TIME. All of the foods and choices I had made up until becoming vegetarian all the way to being a child were being addressed in this detox reaction. That's why some people don't feel great for weeks after upgrading their diet. It takes time for issues to balance. But then I finally got really, really bored with quesadillas (after eating them for months straight.) Yes, months. (I love to simplify!)
Phases Rule #2 - Allow the changes that the food phase brings (ie. physical symptoms or mental discomfort)
This new development forced me to get creative with my meals. I didn't want to acquire the need to have my food tasting the same as steak through meat substitutes or tricking my body into anything. But instead of actually getting creative, I just got simpler. I ate more cut up veggies with hummus. I made my own soups and learned to cook lentils. I made my own tomato sauce for pasta. I learned to make salads that were enticing to look at and eat. I learned how to pit and cut an avocado. (I'd never had them in my diet before.)
Health wise, I felt clean. It was easier for me to sleep and wake up focused. That was wonderful for a student who needed energy for mental cramming.
One uncomfortable aspect was eating with others. I did not want to insult my friends by rejecting their lovely char-broiled burgers and I didn't want to come off as snobby or picky. I often had to explain myself to friends and family about the way I was eating right now. Everyone was comfortable with my new experiment, and it made me feel safer about it.
Phases Rule #3 - Instead of thinking what I was lacking, I thought about the spaciousness that remained when I removed that one element.
Once I learned how to see my diet void of meat, it created space in my brain to have more focus on grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. It wasn't that I thought meat was BAD - it was just an experiment.
Eventually, it did not feel good anymore. After many months of feeling good, my initial focus and better sleep wasn't the same. I was tired, I felt weak sometimes, my blood sugars were off and I was also starting to crave meat every day. What took me a while to realize was this was my bodies' way of asking for a bit more balance. We have to listen to our symptoms. Once I added meat back in in small amounts, I adjusted accordingly.
I learned about the moral beliefs around being a meat-eater and I was lucky enough to not be shamed when I did go back on meat. This was the time I learned there is no 'better than you' when it comes to nutrition. There can be 'feeling better' - but there is no BETTER. People are allowed to try things on, see how it feels, see if they can incorporate it, see if it works for their body. And if it doesn't - that's fair. You can eat 80% vegan and 20% whatever-the-hell-you-want and if you are still feeling good and improving your self ... you rock. Read more about [The Truths About Going Vegan]
While I thought being a vegetarian was an interesting experience, at the 11 month mark I began to crave a big, juicy steak. I held off on that craving because I did not realize that it was my bodies' way of telling me what I needed. I told myself I only thought about meat because I was 'missing it', or that I was being silly and fantasizing about something I couldn't have. After a meat-free year, I told my friends I had decided to partake in meat again after an entire year without it, and they threw a welcome back to meat-eating party called "Raina's Eating Steak!" party, see [Sympathy for the Devil: Overcoming Cravings] for education on cravings vs. need.
It was the best steak ever.
and the end of calling myself a vegetarian.
Now? I balance my food this way. I eat a vegetarian diet. I eat a vegan diet.
I eat a meat-eating diet.
I eat raw. I eat cooked. I eat mindfully.
I eat a "flexible" diet.
I eat what I need.... when I need it.
I do not over eat.
… all photo credits go to DaMo’s Photographs