So, I have been back from India for almost 3 months and have probably worked out about 15 times in that time period and I feel like crap. My body hurts everywhere, I move like I’ve aged 20 years – I hold myself in this weird, stiff manner. My eating has also just sucked – I’m not cutting out any foods or sticking to any diet plan, but this has not felt intuitive in any way, shape or form. I have felt off kilter, sort of out of control – the only reason I didn’t feel completely out of control was that I wasn’t actively trying to control anything. For some reason, intuitive exercising translated into not exercising at all and intuitive eating translated into eating all the crap in the world.

 

 This in complete contrast to the six weeks I spent in India where I ate what I wanted, exercised regularly and felt great.  Working on intuitive eating in these vastly different environments has helped me see the importance of a ‘food culture’.  I just finished reading ‘In Defence of Food’ (or listening to it on CD) by Michael Pollan and one of his main arguments is that we need to stop worrying about single macronutrients (such as carbs, fats, proteins) and go back to the way our grandmothers ate and bring back our ‘food culture’.  He argues that we know so little about about nutrition that any attempts to engineer diets based on ‘scientific’ data only results in unbalanced (and usually unhealthy) diets.  Our traditional food cultures (whatever they may be) are more likely to be good for us.

 I realized that in the absence of a diet, I fall back on the food culture of my environment.  When I am in India I fall back on the traditional Indian diet and feel fine.  When I am in the U.S. however, I have no ‘food culture’ to guide me.  In the absence of dieting, intuitive = unhealthy and eat what you want= eat crap.  Ironically, this has come in part from all the diets I’ve been on – It has been beaten into me that left to my own devices, what I want is gobs of sugar and processed food and no exercise.  That it’s only a diet plan that keeps me from eating crap and if I’m not on a diet then I must eat crap. Trying to eat intuitively actually made it worse in the short run – I was so afraid that I would fall back to dieting mentality that I almost went out of my way to eat unhealthy foods.  In my twisted head, if I’m eating healthy, then I must be following some diet plan, and therefore am no longer eating intuitively.

 In my quest for weight loss, I have become totally disengaged from my traditional diet – just look at any diet popular in the U.S. today.  Indian food does not fit into any diet’s list of healthy foods.  The low carb diets hate the rice, lentils and rotis.  Weight watchers knows only the restaurant versions of Indian foods so classifies it as having an ungodly amount of points.  None of the packaged foods diets (Nutrisystem, Jenni Craig etc) drop off baingan bhartha or tandoori chicken in convenient packaged portions.  It might be because Indian food is unhealthy, or more likely because it is not neatly categorized by the existing diets. 

I suspect an important part of eating intuitively is moving towards a food culture that works for me.  Some structure has to take the place of dieting – it just isn’t a structure that revolves around weight loss.  I suspect one of the reasons I was having so much trouble with intuitive eating in the last few months was that I was moving away from weight loss diets but was not moving towards anything.  In the absence of any supporting structure to fall back on I ended up eating a typical crappy diet.  So the next step is figuring out what structures I am going to rely on.

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