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The end of my ‘health rebellion’

November 2, 2009

I feel like I’m just now coming out of a phase in terms of my eating that I like to think of as my ‘health rebellion.’ You see, ever since I became interested in nutrition 3 or so years ago, I’ve been big into healthy eating. Lots of fruit and veggies, whole grains, lean protein and fats from plant oils and nuts. I ate kale multiple times per week and saw anything with lots of white flour, fat and sugar as an out-of-the-house, ‘sometimes’ food.

I felt good eating this way. Good because eating like this gave me a lot of energy and, let’s be honest, good in that somewhat smug Pollan-esque “natural” eating way.

Now when I say my interest in nutrition led me to eat this way, I should fess up and say that I had started on this path before my bullshit nutrition detector had come in the mail. Meaning, I once believed, on some level, that eating a certain way could totally protect someone from certain diseases and conditions. I also had a bit of a fetish for “natural” as a concept.

And then I discovered vanilla coke zero.

I hadn’t been a big soda drinker for years. I liked having a coke at the movies and as an occasional accompaniment to a meal of vegan ribz and coleslaw, but I didn’t miss the way it used to be a daily part of my diet. Oh, but vanilla coke zero? It was delicious and you know, sugar and calorie-free. Yeah, yeah, yeah it was also full of splenda which depending on who you deem trustworthy has been found to be perfectly safe or is a toxin capable of rotting you from the inside, but I was fairly confident that I wasn’t in any danger from an occasional can of chemical loveliness.

Occasional became every day and sometimes twice a day. I had forgotten how easy it was to become accustomed to the sharp sweetness of soda. How water became a little more bland by comparison.

This is the time I was also making a lot of adjustments like moving and starting school full-time again. As I mentioned before my diet was kind of going to hell, but what I didn’t mention is that the 16 year old rebel in me was revelling in it. Gone were the low-sugar whole grain cereals, and in were the frosted flakes. I ate cookies for lunch and had dessert every night. I kept my portions and calories in check so my weight continued it’s slow descent, but my eating habits were almost 180 degrees from where they’ve been the last few years. And every oreo, every chip and every coke zero was a big middle finger to my inner nutritional nag.

Like many rebellions however, it ended with me feeling a bit chagrinned, but also wiser. I do feel better when I’m eating lots of veggies and whole grains. My energy levels are more steady and my digestive system is definitely happier, but you know, there is room in my diet for sugar and white flour and even delicious chemicals that taste like food. I do want to eat lots of fruits and veggies for the health benefits they provide, but they shouldn’t be part of my diet because of fear. And right now, the research on nutrition and disease is interesting, but in many ways in its infancy. The variables are numerous and we’re not in any position for the kind of self-righteous certainty you see in some people – even that I once saw in myself.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 2, 2009 8:34 pm

    This kind of stuff is so interesting to me. From my own experience, and from what you’ve written here, and from what lots of other people have told me, it’s almost like we have these two extremes we tend to go to in our diets (and by that I don’t mean “weight loss diets” though they could be included in this too.) And those two extremes are what you describe — the “virtuous” eating phase, and then the “rebellion” eating phase.

    I think both of those phases have their places, but it can be incredibly unnerving to go through one and then the other, and then back to the one. It can feel very scary and out of control (or at least, it did for me when I was going through it.)

    I guess I’ve come to see (and it sounds like maybe this is what you’re driving at) that both of these things are part of the whole that makes up “normal eating.” They need to be integrated at some level, and I think that level will be slightly different for different people, but it probably hovers somewhere around “within the course of a day or week.” Meaning if, within the course of a day, you eat *both* cookies *and* kale (provided you feel good about that physically and emotionally), then you’re probably integrating it very well.

    Sorry for blabbing. But this got me thinking, so thanks.

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