Fresh Living

Today is Eat What You Want Day, a holiday created by Thomas and Ruth Roy–folks who make e-cards, sell herbs, and designate “quirky” holidays so we have “more reasons to celebrate.”

It may sound a tad reckless in light of all the obesity around us, but just last night I was reading about the “Animal Instinct Diet” created by nutrition coach Jena la Flamme. The idea is that you actually eat better and lose weight when you allow your inner animal nature to choose your food for you. I’m not sure that’s what this holiday is about, exactly, but I do think it gets at not blindly following what’s now being called “nutritionism,” the obsessive tallying of food elements–vitamins, minerals, fat, sodium, carbs, etc. in any one piece of food. Some supermarkets are putting in a “grading system” for foods from 1-100 that to help you decide, based on those calculations, what you should be eating. (Here’s an interesting NPR show on grading groceries.)

That’s all pretty much enough to make you throw your hands up and yearn for a national holiday that just lets you eat what you want for a single day. Especially since on any given day, 100 million Americans are “on a diet.” Yikes.

“Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” author Michael Pollan’s now almost-cliche advice boiled down from writing several books and hundreds of hours of research is still my favorite: “Eat food. Mostly plants.” Basically, Keep It Simple, Stupid. My general feeling too is that every day should be “Eat What You Want Day.” Of course when people say that sort of thing, the unspoken addendum is “in moderation.” Which is true. But it’s what I live by. Because I know the minute I feel deprived I’m hitting the skids with a pint of something cold, creamy, and artery-hardening. I feed myself regular allotments of dark chocolate squares, eat when I’m hungry, have dessert when I’m out with friends, and have some reliable, yogurt/fruit/raisin recipes on hand for when I consciously decide to eat for comfort. And I’m not braggin’, but over the last year I’ve lost a whole heap of weight and am keeping it off. It’s kinda cool.

So, I (and, ok, lots of other people way more expert than I) say, eat what you want, let the wisdom of your body come through. Stop depriving yourself. And really, really, stop punishing yourself. Because that leads straight to the cookie aisle. And around we go. If you’re struggling with food, maybe today’s holiday can be the start of something new. Not going out and binging, but rather simply taking the time to ask your body: “What do I want to eat? What do I really want?” and listening quietly. And you might be shocked at how nourishing the answers are.

What DO you want to eat today?

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