There’s an old adage that food is the language of love. Whilst this may be true, there’s an even greater truth to be had: food in itself is a language; and one that needs to be understood and appreciated in order to partake in the conversation.
Let’s skip back to as recent as a few years ago when I really didn’t think twice before chowing down a combo from the country’s most popular fast food chains. You know, jumbo fries, soda, mayonnaise and all. Oh yea, and extra bacon. Gotta. Have. Bacon. Why did I do it? Well, apart from the convenience and (then) affordability, it’s really what I felt for. Yup, some call it cravings, but now in retrospect I call it ignorance. Ignorance of an undiversified, uneducated, and undisputedly limited palette. You see, by limiting – however involuntarily it may seem – your palette’s exposure to foods, we are really doing our body – and health – an injustice: we limit our body’s ability to develop the language to communicate with our mind properly. I find (as Jamaicans?) we are very (too) conservative in our meal choices. We get way too squeamish, way too easy, way too often. I have one bit of advice for people like this: don’t bash it till you’ve tried it at least once. You might just discover your newest favourite dish or ingredient. Trust me on this.
Even though everyone will have a different take on the language of food, there are some key things that remain across board. Along my journey to explore the depths and heights of my palette while eating healthily, I’ve learnt a few things:
- Eat with an open mouth and open mind. Remember, bash not till you’ve had it at least once. Your immune system is mostly likely stronger than you think. 🙂 I am not saying to go about shoving every ill into your mouth, but if the only thing stopping you from trying it is a fear of going against the conventionality of your current diet, then by all means stuff your face with that curried turtle (Tobago) or those crunchy, nutty fried ants (Colombia). #yum
- Try to discover, and possibly incorporate into your own food preparations, at least one new ingredient every month. This could range from as simple as a newly discovered spice (for example annatto seeds) or as bold as a new meat (like the abovementioned turtle.)
- Cook for loved ones. And aspire to inspire them with your new-found healthy takes on common dishes. NB. You might want to take it slow as not all will be as receptive as you’d hope. Don’t take it too serious though. They’ll warm up. Cooking for loved ones is more than proving your culinary prowess; it’s an opportunity to get a first hand experience at the remarkable power of food to bring people together, inspire collaboration, and form the beginning of many indelible moments.
- Discern the difference between eating to stay alive, and eating to, well, enjoy life. And to be healthy of course. If we slow down a bit and be mindful of what we put in our mouths we would probably be a little more cautious of the harms that are masked behind convenient, tasty, and cheap. There are many times when I’ve had to spend a few extra dollars because I chose water instead of liquid sugar (aka soda) – something I am yet to fully understand the economics behind. Or when I’ve had to pay the same price even when I didn’t take those fries or soda. Or the fact that salads almost always are the most expensive items on a menu, quantity to cost ratio respected.
- Become fascinated with everything food; it’s journey from farm to plate; everything in between and thereafter. Stay hungry for more knowledge. Lose yourself in the warm embrace of your kitchen (or in a good restaurant, depending on the day). Thirst for more. And more. And when you’ve think you’ve had enough, travel. You can’t possibly try every thing in your lifetime so there’s always a stone left unturned.
- Do you. Understand how the body, your body, responds to what it is fed. Now I am much less tolerant to carb-loaded meals and sugary drinks. I respect vegans, and as much as I’ve upped the vegetable ratio in my meals, there is no way I am prepared to give up meat. Not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. Quite frankly there isn’t any reason to. But let’s not get too deep into this matter; that’s for another post.
- Get into a fitness/workout routine. I know, I know…this may sound easier said than done, and I know most of you will immediately think you don’t have the time, or resources. But trust me, you don’t have to break the bank and join a top-notch gym, or wake up 2 hours earlier than normal to get a “proper” workout done. All you need to do is do something, and do it at your own pace. Oh yea, and try to stay committed. This may mean waking up half hour earlier to go jogging, walking to work instead, taking (an extra trip up and down) the stairs, bruk out, eh hem, eh dance to your favourite songs; whatever it takes to get your heart rate going. Now the fun part is that after you’ve started this, and if you’re any good to yourself, you will automatically begin to eat more consciously. Why? Well, for the simple fact for not undoing the hours (minutes?) of gyrating or jogging that you gave so much willpower and time to. It’s like a chain reaction on your way to healthier, better, you.
Setting the honesty gauge to 100%, there are times when I crave the unhealthiest of things – things that have brought me pleasure in my past soda-drinking, white rice-eating life. But now I understand what those foods are, and what they do, and that maybe, just maybe, there something in that pile of loaded potato skins that my body needs.
Understanding your body and eating healthy isn’t just for those who want to lose weight or want to be part of a fitness fad. It’s much more. Think of it as another level evolutionary sophistication: knowing that you are now able to crave something else other than “comfort food”. Or better yet, that you are able to make an actual meal other than dunking something in the deep fryer.
What are some of the benefits I’ve seen personally? Well, for starters, 30+ pounds lighter; three official 5K runs averaging 30 minutes (pretty good for a one who had no prior engagement with physical activity yet alone running) with another 3 in mind before summer comes around; a renewed sense of health and fitness including my new addiction to running (we’ll get back to this later); a wealth of knowledge on food and it’s powerful ability to shape your life’s path; free products courtesy of my food blog; new and exciting friendships; and countless unforgettable moments, just to name a few.
Remember, you are what you eat.