Late last July, 2016, following my last class at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto, I headed to my parents house in Niagara Falls for 4+ weeks of solitude. This time meant a few things to me: a breather from non-stop studying and paper writing, an escape from city stressors, a break from my then relationship and most importantly, time to heal.
At the time, my brain and body were flooding with emotions and imbalances. I was experiencing an inability to emote (a likely side effect of being a stress zombie), recurring yeast infections (a side effect of decades of a poor diet, bacterial imbalance and nutrient depletion) and inability to make decisions (accompanied by guilt and "blurred vision"). I was losing control of who I was at a time when all I wanted to do was know what I wanted - a push/pull situation.
I knew where I wanted to start - food and supplementation. I needed desperately to eliminate foods that were perpetuating the problems I was experiencing, so I did. I worked with a nutritionist to flush the yeast from my body while replenishing my nutrient stores and giving my body a chance to get back to balanced health. I was eating a paleo-type diet with loads of veggies, moderate amounts of animal protein and minimal fruit (see above photo) and I felt amazing. I was becoming mentally balanced and physically rested and as my body fell back into healthy rhythms I was able to focus more on other aspects of my health, like my high anxiety and emotional unrest.
The whole process took more than 4 weeks. Healing like this takes months. I gave it a solid go for 3 months before I moved back to Vancouver and until January, 2017, I kept fairly on par with my regimen, but started allowing things back into my diet to test my body's limits. Like most people in my profession and those who are passionate about keeping their bodies healthy, I beat myself up a little bit whenever I did venture out of my dietary restraints, even though I was enjoying what I was eating. When I realized this, I stopped myself from regretting the times I strayed from my ideal diet and instead waited for my body to tell me what it wanted and when it was time to focus harder on eating cleaner. This was how I found my balance.
When I decided to go farming for the summer my friends kept asking, "What are you going to do for food? Can you choose what you eat or do you have to eat what the host family provides you with? Do they eat organic?". I knew it wouldn't be an easy transition, but the experience of learning how to farm was more important to me than having full control over my diet. I knew my host family ate organically and a balance of garden veggies and animal products, but the rest was up to fate.
Fast forward to today - late June, 2017. This morning, after almost one month of eating more organic dairy and bread than I could have imagined, my body was craving vegetables. I made myself a lovely sauteed vegetable & egg medley with fresh garden salad and, of course, peanut butter & honey toast, because why not.
I may not have a say in which foods are brought into this house, but at least I have an option of which ones I consume. While I let my cravings get the better of me for the majority of my time here, I am able to return to what my body really wants when it needs it. I know I've been eating out of balance for what's right for me. I also know I have a hard time saying no to comfort foods. This experience has made me remember that everyone's every day diet can vary. What some people consider healthy is not what others do. Every person is also very used to eating a certain balance of foods (veggies vs. fruits vs. grains vs. animal products vs. everything else). I am used to having a fridge full of veggies, some fruit and no animal products. Others are used to having more animal products (meat, milk, yogurt and the like), canned & fermented foods (jams, olives, pickles, condiments, sauerkraut, etc.) and minimal fruits & veggies.
The truth of the matter is this: I have control over not only what I eat, but also how I feel about it, which is really important. I can allow myself to go off course temporarily without hating myself for it and return to eating what my body prefers afterward. This situation is temporary, I know that.
After forcing myself to eat with restrictions in order to rebalance my body one year ago, I now know what my body prefers to eat in order to be at its best. I also know that I enjoy indulgences (healthier versions, of course) just as much as the next person and although I'm still trying to increase my self control to keep my diet in check, I'm happier knowing this is an ongoing process that is always changing. I've become better at enjoying life and listening less to the nagging voice inside my head telling me to "eat healthier!". After one year of slowing down and listening day-to-day to what my body needs, I've given myself the experience I need to know when to indulge and when to pull on the reins.