I’m a big foodie, I have been eating generally “healthily” and I have been exploring various food trends in the past few years. I have never been a vegetarian, but something or somebody you apparently call pescetarian. Easily speaking a fish-eating person. And no, I haven’t been eating only fish, however each time I did, I did it with pleasure. The reason for quitting eating meet was simply either having no appetite for eating it or feeling disgusted by the appearance of certain meaty meals. This was mainly in my teenage years though. Due to certain events as well as ideologies that had appeared in my life, I stopped eating meat for a few years. So far so good. I then started experiencing some health and precisely digestion issues, what resulted in a so called fructose intolerance. More or less 1.5 years ago, I started craving meat badly. Even though poultry used to be my common choice in the old days, this time I was literally dreaming of having a medium-rare steak and chilli con carne. A pretty weird story you might say. I was then told by a doctor that I don’t have enough iron. It is of course, not directly related to not eating meat, however, it explained my sudden meaty moods I was experiencing. The health issues go even further and they ended in getting out of balance, lack of energy and vision disruption. Most probably the reason for what happened was suffering from minor anemia, over-straining my body due to conducting heavy exercises after a long break and having gone through some emotionally stressful time in the past years to top it up. Apart from doing a proper body examination at various doctors that didn’t find anything suspicious apart from the iron issue, I asked uncle Google and found my symptoms feet perfectly in to the health disorders defined by the Traditional Chinese Medicine. I discovered a TCM practitioner in Berlin and with her knowledge, acupuncture sessions, Chinese herbs and a dietary advice, she has just helped me so much in putting me back on the track. Although, I am still working on it. It is definitely about being willing to learn and a mutual effort.
So, what’s the moral? Some very general rules I have learned to respect:
1. Listen to your own body’s signals and respect them. For some people it comes naturally, others will need to invest more time and self-observation training. Meditation, qi gong, tai chi or yoga might be of great support on your way to self-discovery as well as self-healing.
One size fits all is nonsense!
2. Don’t follow neither healthy lifestyle trends nor philosophies blindly. Every person is different. Starting from our genes, blood group, upbringing, health history, lifestyle and even the climate we live in. All this counts if it’s about our food preferences and what serves us well. I know of a family living in Costa Rica who have been eating only raw food in the past couple of years and they are apparently doing great. I have a friend who has been vegetarian for over 15 years. Although she’s pregnant now, her body doesn’t lack iron. Another friend who’s got a baby recently needed iron supplementation although she’s a real meat lover. And yet another female I know, currently suffers from anemia although she enjoys eating meat frequently. That said, it is not about eating meat, rather about whether your body can absorb nutrients from the food you choose to eat. Sometimes being a vegan is simply not a healthy option for everyone. And certainly, it is not a good idea if your gut floras has got out of balance. I also know of a few vegans who claim to feel better and healthier after having switched to a vegan diet. I try not to stick to any labels at all.
3. Eat what you like and like the way you’ feel afterwards. Educate yourself about healthy food and then choose possibly fresh, regional, nutritious foods that you enjoy eating. As much as enjoying the taste of what you eat counts, it is equally important that you feel well after you’ve eaten. If you feel tired, heavy, have diarrhea or a bloated stomach, you can be sure that this type of food is not good for you. It might be good for me, but not good for you at this time of your life. I recommend you this fantastic book about eating according to the TCM wisdom by Barbara Temelie “Ernährung nach den Fünf Elementen”. Here, the English version “The Five Elements Wellness Plan: A Chinese System for Perfect Health“. Or simply find another well-rated book on TCM in your preferred language. This book, recommended by my TCM practitioner has helped me greatly to understand my health issues and start making the right choices. I believe that the Traditional Chinese Medicine really doesn’t differ so much from what our grandmothers used to do here in the Western world! The most important is that what you eat will be digested properly and will fuel your body and mind.
4. Try to stay away from sweets, fast food, highly processed, deeply fried or scorched foods as well as one-sided way of eating. My porridge addiction has thought me a lot about myself and I now eat more variety of things for breakfast. Sometimes it is enough to learn a few small tricks in order to make food absorb easier.
5. Eat in peace. Learn to deal with stress. Respect your food intolerance or allergy, if you have one, however know that more and more research as well as my own experience show that food intolerance start with being exposed to too much stress/emotional overload as well as disruption in the gut flora. Our gut flora gets messed up as a result of not being able to deal with stressful situations over a longer period of time.
Enjoy your meal and stay healthy!
photo: Jean Scheijen / sxc.hu