I have to admit– I feel almost a little bit embarrassed even pretending like this is a recipe that I should share on the internet. Like, I’m pretty sure everyone knows how to make frittatas and even if you don’t, there are at least a million other recipes out there that are more or less the same.
See, what I am really doing right now is simultaneously self-deprecating while also driving forward the philosophy that work begets work. The longer I go without posting, the less likely I will be to actually post, and I want to keep this going, even if it is for a silly little egg dish.
But let’s not sell this too short now. It’s important that you know, no matter how un-original this recipe is, it’s still worth making. Frittatas are always worth making. They’ve become our weekend go to recently (like since we got our new cast iron skillet) and I just can’t get over how easy and versatile they are. At least twice a week as I peer into my fridge, I have to deal with the realization that the only things in there are leftover veggies verging on their last day of life and a carton of eggs. You know what we call those now? Frittata days! (And also make your fiance run to Whole Foods because if you go yourself, you will come home with 50 dollars worth of artisanal raw goat milk cheeses and he will be mad but he will still eat the cheese…)
Speaking of which… our Whole Foods FINALLY opened here last week and oh my gosh–guys… I can’t even tell you how happy I am about it. I think my next post might just be dedicated to reviewing some of my new favorite things that are finally (did I I say finally yet?!) available to me. My love affair with that place knows no bounds. I am a food dork. We exist. There are no support groups. I’ve checked.
I named this dish Sunday Frittata, because that seems to be the day we will ALWAYS, always make it. And if that is your grocery shopping day like it is ours, it is very likely that your fridge contents will be sparse. Never fear. This dish particularly pleases Rob, whose perpetual craving for pizza is sometimes satiated by other food that also comes in slices. And here I thought I was the one with the imagination…
2 tbs avocado oil (I like Primal Kitchen brand)
6 stocks of asparagus
2 roasted red peppers (we buy ours in a jar, but you could roast your own if you really felt like doing all that work)
1/2 lb Italian sausage
8 large eggs
In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat
Chop your veggies and throw them in the skillet. Saute them until they’re soft.
Add the meat and brown it (though we are generally working with leftovers, so sometimes it’s already cooked… if you’re in the same boat just throw it in and move to the next step.)
Whisk all the eggs together and slowly pour them into the skillet. Give it a tiny stir just to make sure everything settles into the eggs evenly, then wait about three minutes for the eggs to set a little.
Turn your broiler on high and place the skillet in the oven for no more than 5 minutes (I’ve had some rough luck with broilers in my day, so be especially careful here cause things can burn real fast in there)
So clearly– there has been a lot going on around here lately. Not on this blog (obviously) but like, you know, real life.
We got engaged (and maybe I planned the whole wedding in a month because I was so excited), we went to Toronto (which made me even saltier about living here another year), and I started my online classes (okay class, singular… I dropped a 100 level tech literacy class because I just DON’T do well with easy yet pointless classes. It’s a serious problem. Meanwhile, I’m in a 400 level Sociology of Religion class that somehow had no prerequisites but probably should and to be honest I’m pretty content with the level of stress it’s been causing me. I’m having to crank out at least a 5 page paper per week, so it’s right up my alley, as going into an exhaustively boring amount of detail about obscure concepts is one of my greatest gifts– HELLO Philosophy and Art History major!!)
Right, so let’s get down to the real point now (can you see how it’s easy for me to fill 5 pages??) Something has been weighting heavily on my mind for– well, 24 years… but more specifically since I’ve been engaged, and it is grating hard against my fiery, feminist core. I’ve noticed it in annoying abundance since the topic of being a bride has entered my life, and it could not have been more glaringly obvious as it was when I was dress shopping. I DO think I need to preface this by saying that my intention is not complainabout my– well, frankly, my privilege. This isn’t a case of discrediting the struggles of one group by pointing out that other, more privileged groups also have struggles. This is a collective struggle for all of us, especially women, and I am here to call us out on it because it’s destructive and it’s unhealthy.
So here we go…
Praising women for being skinny isn’t helping anyone. So stop it. Just. Stop.
I’ve heard it my whole life, and believe it or not, I am annoyed.
“But Mariah, you’re so lucky to have such a good figure without even trying!”
Let’s get one thing straight here. I am not lucky. It was not by some divine sense of grace that I entered into this state of being, nor was it by any form of accomplishments on my part. This is just the way my body looks. If that upsets you, makes you feel jealous, envious, or feel the need to say something like, “I’d kill to have a body like yours.”, that’s what this whole thing is about. I might be a shameless narcissist when it comes to most things, but making other people envious of my looks is literally the last thing I would ever want to do. The fact that other women drive themselves into a state of mental and physical unhealthiness trying to achieve what I have does not make me lucky, it makes the culture that perpetuates this desire insane.
This is what annoys me most about the whole thing. These statements are not just one off comments or harmless observations, and they are sure as hell not compliments. This is important. Despite your best intentions to make it so… praising a woman for being skinny IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. To anyone. Not to her. Not to you. Not to your daughters who, by the way, are listening to this perpetual conversation and are very impressionable. Not to anyone. Not to mention… they make me uncomfortable AF. (I had a customer come into my store one time after going to the gym and she told me that by the time she was “done” she was going to be as skinny as me and I literally wanted to drown myself in the non-fat milk I was steaming for her skinny mocha– which is another thing that bothers me. But. I digress…)
Here is what is so destructive about comments like these…
There is literally no way of knowing how someone else feels about their body. Someone who is skinny can hate themselves. This may come as a surprise to people, but it is a very true fact and it happens more often than we care to admit. When someone doesn’t feel like they are thin enough, praising them for being thin probably doesn’t send a message of, “You’re good enough.” it says, “You’re good enough right now because you’re thin. We think you look good because you’re thin. We are obviously paying enough attention to your weight to notice that you’re thin, which also means that we will notice if you gain weight and you better not gain weight or those compliments will stop.”
Of course… we don’t talk about it when someone gains weight. Because it’s rude. Because the conversation of our culture is that thin is good and fat is bad and the person gaining weight must feel bad about themselves so we shouldn’t do anything to upset them further.* Another reason we don’t talk about it is because it is very likely that the person who has gained weight knows that they’ve gained weight, and anyone mentioning it would be pretty pointless.
Wouldn’t it logically follow that there isn’t much of a point of pointing out to skinny people that they are skinny?
Well, here are two problems with that. The first is that humans rarely err towards a logical way of thinking, and the second is that– this is not just a conversation of simply stating the fact that someone is skinny. Whether it is by tone, context, or words, what everyone is saying is that it’s good to be skinny. Which is another logical black hole.
It isn’t any better to be skinny than it is to be anything else. In fact, it’s almost just as likely that someone who is skinny is unhealthy as it is that an overweight person is unhealthy. My early teens were by far some of my least healthy years, weight wise. I wasn’t especially UN-healthy, I just developed really late and I stayed tiny until I was probably 17, and even then I stayed a couple pounds below the “normal” weight until I was 22. I still fail to see what part of being under the scientifically recommended weight is good, but I still heard the praise all the time.
And here is the REAL gripe of the ENTIRE conversation.
Why is the focus more on looks than it is on health?
I could pull my hair out thinking about it enough. There are very few things that bother me more. I’m sure we could sit and talk all day about why this is the case, but despite the fact that I just asked that question, it’s not something I actually intend to answer. My point is to dispel the perpetual belief that skinny is superior, and point out the sneaky ways you are probably perpetuating it without realizing what you are really doing.
Any time you encourage someone to wear something they’re not comfortable in because “they have the figure for it” (enter wedding dress shopping and a huge eye roll at the fit and flare dress that was surely invented by Satan or someone who doesn’t think brides should be allowed to dance at their own receptions or be comfortable in general)
Any time you compare your body to someone else in a way that makes clear their body is superior to yours
Any time you have no reservations calling someone skinny and then struggle to find the most tactful word to describe someone who is not
Any time you tell yourself and others that it’s time to “go on a diet” or start “working on your summer body” **
–what you are really saying is that being skinny is the best thing that you can be. Skinny women are lucky. Skinny women are healthy and happy. Women who aren’t skinny have “work” to do. You are telling yourself that you aren’t good enough… and a slightly more subtle nuance… you’re also telling skinny women they aren’t good enough. Or at least that the only reason they are good enough is because of their weight. You are letting everyone know that you are looking at them. That you notice every change their body goes through. That they have something to be self-conscious about, whether it be the case or not. That they look good because they are skinny so they would look bad if they weren’t. That you think you look bad because you’re not skinny so you probably think they’d look bad if they weren’t skinny as well.
This is what we are saying to our friends, our sisters, our daughters, ourselves.
Just think about that one a little bit more…
We are telling our friends, sisters, and DAUGHTERS, that they aren’t enough. Without ever having to utter anything close to those words. We’ve somehow found a way to contort this statement into something that sounds like a compliment which makes it seem like an okay thing to say to someone.
If you take away anything from this– let it be that.
Skinny praising is an impervious form of fat shaming and it’s not an okay thing to say to anyone. Including yourself.
*in my best Dwight Schrute voice… FALSE! Remember my little bit about being underweight as a teenager? I currently weigh MORE than I EVER have weighed in my life and I have never felt better. I only ever find out my weight at doctors appointments, which are few and far between, but at a recent appointment I found out that I have gained 8 pounds and– here’s the real kicker– I was happy about it. Granted, I was somewhat confused as to where exactly this eight pounds of what I assume to be muscle is hiding out. That however, brings up an additional point: people carry weight differently. Also, weight is an indicator of almost nothing. You’d never know that I gained weight. I don’t look any different than I’ve always looked. I feel different though. I’m stronger, I have more energy, I am a generally happier person and THAT is the real prize we should be shooting for!
**I find it important to draw a distinction between complimenting someone who is just naturally thin, and encouraging someone who has made a huge lifestyle change and is conquering obesity through diet and lifestyle. That is an accomplishment. It is much different than loosing 5 pounds on a juice diet to look more like a swimsuit model for Spring Break. One is healthy. One is not. Because again– it is health that is truly most important right???
This soup is so easy to make, crazy flavorful, and to boot, I think it’s the prettiest thing to ever come out of my kitchen. The way the rich colors of the curry and turmeric come together is a treat for the eyes, and it’s made even better when the oils separate, creating a sort of Indian looking lava lamp in your bowl. Its equal parts comforting and psychedelic, which is what I always look for in my food. True story.
Anyone else ever have horrifying scathingly brilliant moments of realization that they are, in fact, their parents child? I think it happens more as we get older too, which is especially scary fun because I’m only 24 and I had two moments of it today.
The first was when I found myself laughing at my own (awful) joke more than was probably acceptable, as my dad often does. He usually adds in a, “At least I crack myself up.” when he sees that no one else in the room is laughing. Good save Dad, good save.
The second actually has something to do with the rest of this post, so I’m glad you’ve stuck with me until here. My mom is an avid lover of garlic. Almost every meal she cooks contains an average of 8 cloves. I once made mention of it the first time she met Rob and was cooking us a stir fry and she said, “I ONLY used four cloves!” which, to be fair, is a very modest amount. Especially for her. I love garlic just as much, if not more than the next person, but I usually don’t use what one might consider an “obscene” amount. Except when I make this soup. It needs an obscene amount, it thrives on an obscene amount. Most important, garlic is good for you. I had a cold last week and swallowed probably a whole bulb (not at once) trying to kick it. And then I made this. Needless to say… I am healed. Coincidence? You decide.
On that note…let’s make some soup shall we?
This soup is so easy to make, crazy flavorful, and to boot, I think it’s the prettiest thing to ever come out of my kitchen. The way the rich colors of the curry and turmeric come together is a treat for the eyes, and it’s made even better when the oils separate, creating a sort of Indian looking lava lamp in your bowl. Its equal parts comforting and psychedelic, which is what I always look for in my food. True story.
I had a lava lamp as a kid, and I was always so mesmerized by it. It sat on top of my box TV that was coincidentally usually playing the movie My Favorite Martian, a heartwarming tale where an alien played by Christopher Lloyd crashes to Earth and disrupts a man played by Jeff Daniels’ life. It’s cheesy. It’s horrible actually. I don’t know how so many successful actors agreed to do this film. Anyway, there is a scene in the movie where Christopher Lloyd screws the cap off a lava lamp and drinks all it’s contents, which was somehow shockingly convincing to my 6 year old self, even though it’s very apparent that he is just pouring it behind his shoulder. Needless to say, I always wondered what it would be like to eat a lava lamp– aaaand if you’ve ever wondered the same thing, have I got a recipe for you!*
*does not taste like actual lava lamp**
**I don’t know this for a confirmed fact, so please don’t eat a real lava lamp to find out
Chicken Curry Soup with Zoodles Ingredients
2-3 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. red curry paste
2 tbsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. black pepper
dash of salt
2 lbs. chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
4 cups chicken broth*
4 medium zucchini
1/2 can of full fat coconut milk
red pepper flakes, to taste
*Check your ingredient list here, folks! Most broths contain a plethora of questionable ingredients like sugar, carageenan, msg, or things like, “chicken flavor”. Like WUT? Literally, what is that? I don’t like to find out, so I make my own, but if I happen to run out, I settle for a semi-trusty store bought brand.
WAIT! Before you actually get started, do two things. 1, Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. 2, Cut up the chicken. Both things are going to get dumped into the pot all at once, so you’ll want to have them prepped. Got it? Onward.
Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add 1tbsp. of coconut oil, onion, and garlic. Saute the onions and garlic until the onions become translucent, then stir in the curry paste so it completely coats the onion-garlic mixture.
Add another tablespoon of coconut oil and dump in all the spices (you’ll need that oil so the spices don’t just clump to the bottom of the pot) Stir for several minutes. Enjoy the fragrances mingling together. Gawk at the beautiful rich color.
Add the chicken (you MAY need some more oil here for good measure, depending on how generous you were with the first two… when it comes to coconut oil, my tablespoons tend to be VERY rounded)
Once the chicken is cooked, add the broth and bring to a boil. Now is a good time to take a rubber spatula and scrape the bottom of the pot to get all those caramelized bits of spicy onion that might be hanging out down there.
Reduce to a simmer and cover for approximately 30 minutes. If you’re the planning type, or if you are using a julliane peeler rather than a veggie spiraler, now would be the time to prep the zucchini. Personally, this is an occasion where I just spriral the zucchs directly over the pot when I’m ready to add them. In instances other than soup, I have a less barbaric and far more time consuming method for my zoodles to make sure they don’t get watery. But today we get to rejoice in our grain free choices because watery zoodles aren’t a concern when you’re making soup! Soup for the win!!
Once you’ve done whatever you’ve done with your 30 minutes outside of the kitchen, add the zoodles by whichever method you’ve decided on (pro tip: my way is best and I don’t just say that because I’m a narcissist, though I am, it’s because doing it that way saves dishes)
Cover again and simmer for 10 more minutes, allowing the zoodles to cook.
In the last 5 minutes of the simmer, add the coconut milk.
You’re done!! Wasn’t that easy? Serve in bowls, garnish with red pepper flakes, eat with a spoon, slurp loudly (It’s an especially slurp-y soup so table manners need not apply when you make this. Soup for the win again!)
I did it!! My first post as an official food blogger! Thank you so much to those who have made it to the bottom of this post, and an even bigger one to those brave enough to roll up their sleeves, break up with pasta, and let this zoodle-y soup take you far away to a land where you can’t imagine why you ever made noodles with anything other than various kinds of squash. If you end up making this psychedelic bowl of spicy sunshine, please do drop a comment and let me know what you think! I’m a slightly self conscious narcissist who went to art school and mostly thrives on feedback (and citrus fruits)
I have mentioned before what a monumentally life changing experience the Whole 30 was for me. It was really the most important step in defining what “healthy” meant for me, and helped me close that gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.
Do I still eat Whole 30 all the time? Nooooope! (Hi yogurt and oatmeal and avocado toast… yes toast with gluten… but the sprouted grain kind so…) However, I’ve been able to take my experience with the Whole 30 and turn it into a lifestyle that works for me. Many good habits were formed in that 30 days that have continued to this day, and most of them have surprisingly little to do with food. Here we go…
I don’t actually like peanut butter. I know, it’s weird. There was a time in my life where I would eat it out of the jar by the spoonful. Not even the freshly ground stuff does it for me anymore. It’s ALL[mond butter] or nothing for me these days.
I have no idea what 90% of the ingredients in those packaged organic junk foods I used to love are. And I probably never will. Which leads me to…
Just because something says “Natural” or “Organic” doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. I used to think this way long ago. But also keep in mind that…
Just because you don’t know what it is,or can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean that it’s unhealthy. Acai, Tumeric, Macca, Goji Berries… just because it sounds/looks/tastes weird doesn’t indicate anything about how good/bad for you it is. Which leads me to the real point…
It is important that you learn for yourself WHY something might be good/bad for you. It seems like you’re always hearing diet advice from every direction telling you conflicting things, and it can get so confusing knowing what to believe. My advice? Do your own research. Look at where the information is coming from. And most importantly…
Don’t hesitate to self-experiment. Literally every single persons body is their own independent variable. What is good for someone else might not be what’s good for you.
Our bodies are pretty good at telling us things, and we are pretty bad at knowing how to listen. When feeling lethargic and run down all the time, it’s hard to blame it on any one factor. It’s worth it to fine tune your internal radio enough to know what your body is really telling you when it starts screaming for pizza and ice cream, and what it actually needs is a good dose of magnesium, some stress management techniques, a glass of water, and 8 hours of sleep.
Bodies are confusing. Why you gotta try and convince me I want a doughnut when I actually just need a hug? I thought we had a deal worked out here, brain.
Food has a strong (like vice grip strong) psychological hold on our emotions. Which is still weird to me and I still haven’t quite learned how to actually conquer it.
There is actually a small toddler living inside each and every one of us, and when you don’t feed it cookies on the reg, it throws actual tantrums that have the power to control you. The Whole 30 calls it your “sugar dragon”, but I think of mine more like a two year old because I feel the same way about two year olds as I feel about junk food, keep em far away from me!
I had no idea what “good” really felt like. Again, when lethargy was the norm, I thought that was just as good as it gets. Boy am I glad I was wrong!
Nothing is ever “just” one thing. I used to shrug off any potential concerns about foods that may be less healthy by saying something like, “It’s JUST bread”, suggesting, how harmful can it be? I’m not saying that bread is super nefarious or anything, but it is definitely not JUST bread. It goes through quite a long process to become bread, and it is a sum of often many ingredients. Even something like spinach isn’t JUST spinach. It’s also fiber, and vitamin A, and calcium… it goes both ways.
The term “clean eating” makes me cringe. Because what the bloody hell does that mean?!?! It’s another blanket term that remains largely undefined and allows people to continue the illusion that they are living a healthy life without ever defining what that means. Speaking of that…
“Healthy” is going to mean something different for each and every one of us. I can’t emphasize this enough. Healthy doesn’t look any one way. Someone who is skinnier than you might not be healthier than you so please don’t envy them.
There are few things more important than being comfortable in your own skin. and also…
There are very few people who actually are. Which makes me really sad. Which is part of the reason I am sitting here typing this list. I want to share this with people because I think it’s important to know that comparison is the thief of joy, and that cultivating a positive, healthy relationship with food and with yourself starts AND ends with YOU.
You do, at any point, have the power to change anything you’re not thrilled with in your life. Anything. Absolutely anything. If I can give up grains for 30 days, I could probably start running again, and commit to my yoga practice, and start getting 8 hours of sleep and, and and…
Not everything has to happen all at once. I’m an impatient person, it’s true. I know what I want, and once I’ve decided on it, I want it to happen immediately. But sometimes I have to slow down and realize that I am doing TOO MUCH at once.
Doing just one good thing for yourself at a time is enough. Sure you can get over zealous and want to do ALL the things, but it’s quite the adjustment, and you should celebrate everything you do to adjust your lifestyle into being more healthy.
YOU are enough. Everyone who might read this is enough. Smart enough, strong enough, brave enough, kind enough, social enough…
Grace is key. With the rules of the Whole 30 being as strict as they are, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of being hard on yourself about what you choose to eat after it’s over. That’s not the goal. No one is a perfect eater. No one is a perfect anything. Grace, young grasshopper.
It is a process. It doesn’t end on Day 31. If anything, that’s only the beginning. You’ve been thrown out into the big world of freedom and decision making and, oh crap, there is a box of donuts and I’m allowed to eat those now cause I’m not actually on the Whole 30 anymore and… No. Because I’m learning that it’s not worth it. But no one is ever there at the end of the finish line saying, “Look at me, I learned everything there is to know!” Nope. We’re all walking that path together.
Support is also key. I’ll be honest, I was kind of afraid of telling people I was doing a Whole 30. I didn’t want anyone to think I was going on some crazy diet or developing an eating disorder or just being pretentious. I’m glad I did though, because once I got over the, “How do I give people the elevator pitch of what this is and why I’m doing it without boring them to tears?” phase, I found that people were quite supportive and that it was really helpful through the process.
It is possible to be self-conscious about being thin. I am not generally self-conscious of this fact, except when people point it out in an ambiguous way leaving me to wonder, “Do they think I’m too thin? Do they think I’m anorexic? Cause I definitely have love handles, should I show them my love handles so they believe that I’m healthy? Oh but then what if they think that I’m shaming myself or calling myself fat? What if they were just being complimentary? Well there’s no reason for that because I didn’t work hard to get this body, maybe I should make it clear that I don’t work out, oh but then it seems like I’m bragging because I don’t have to work out to be thin and then everyone will envy me and I don’t want them to envy me because being thin is not the end all be all of human existence!!!” (That is my ACTUAL thought process) However… Doing a Whole 30 made me very aware of the fact that, though I wasn’t doing it to lose weight, that was an effect that many people experienced on the program, and I didn’t want anyone to think that was why I was doing it. Cue self-consciousness.
Whatever self-consciousness arose from the process was negated ten fold by the confidence I gained. Not a thing changed about how I look (I think I might have two or three less blemishes on my skin) I didn’t lose or gain a pound (that I am aware of) but I felt so good both physically and mentally from accomplishing something that I had been wanting to do for months. I felt like I had finally put my actions in line with my values, and that was way better than a number on a machine.
“Results” aren’t always physical. As mentioned above, no real physical changes took place as a result of the Whole 30. That’s not why I did it. But for someone who was maybe hoping to lose weight, or look better, or have clearer skin, you should know that there are hundreds of other ways you’ve achieved “results”. See also, #19. You did a thing! Good for you!
Mind the gap. Okay, I stole that from Brenee Brown because she is my hero. What this is referring to is the gap between the person you are, and the person you want to be. It’s always there. It will never be fully closed. But we still make steps towards narrowing that gap and there is almost nothing better than feeling like it’s no longer 18 miles wide. However self-conscious I had gotten about what people might think of this process, I was at least a thousand times more self-conscious at the thought that people knew I was secretly full of shit.
Properly nourished bodies crave exercise. Who knew? Going to the gym isn’t a chore. Had I ever viewed it that way, I never would have gone in the first place. I go because my body tells me what it needs now, and very often what it needs is some squats. Go figure.
Mindfulness has a snowball effect. I broke one of the hardest habits there is: the habit of mindlessly putting food into my body. I became mindful of everything I was eating, and then that became a habit so I started becoming mindful of exercise. That became a habit and then I realized I wasn’t sleeping enough. I became more mindful of that. The more I became a label reader the more I started being mindful of what I put ON my body, not just in it. So you see… snowball.
It STARTS with food. A very appropriate title for the book. Yes, it will in fact change your life. It does in fact start with food. But it is far from ending there. It is far from ending on Day 31, too. Because health is not just a one lane road with a straightforward map of how to get there. Health includes what you eat, sure, but it also includes your mental health, your sleep habits, your relationships, your self-talk… the list goes on. It takes your whole self and your whole commitment to change your life, and again, it is a process that no one is ever really done with. See also, #22.
I could literally keep going if I wanted to get very detailed and nit picky, but for the sake of consistency and the fact that I am already long winded enough, this sums up my experience pretty well.
Now you go!!
I am building a community here people! *crickets* Okay, I am trying to build a community, and as it turns out, it requires more than just one other person. Whoever you are, whatever experience you have with the Whole 30, feel free to reach out! Share your story, your no scale victories, and preferably your favorite way to eat avocados (plain, with a spoon, is an acceptable answer) I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve had a hard time starting this blog. This first blank post has been staring me down for quite some time, that blinking cursor just glaring at me, begging me to put myself out there. I’ve had blogs before. I’ve been on a long journey with writing, with vulnerability, with appropriately articulating my story in a way that I feel comfortable expressing to the world. It mostly comes down to the question of who I am, and how to wrap that up in something cohesive and concise enough to fit into a blog. It’s been something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and the journey to get here is the exact reason why now is the time to do that. So where do I start, and what am I trying to get across?
Beagles Love Blueberries…
Let’s start with one of the most important things there is to know about me. I cussing love Wes Anderson films. My favorite one really depends on which day you ask me, but if my Instagram alias and title of this blog point to anything, it’s that Fantastic Mr. Fox is on the top of the list. I love everything about it. The raw existentialism disguised in a whimsical mustard toned stop motion is just too delightful to not revisit time and time again. Foxy’s quandaries in the film pretty perfectly mirror the exact reason I’ve been hesitant to start this blog:
Who am I? Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?
Well that just about says it all. What is this thing that I am, and how do I fulfill this role that I’m in? Do we hold on to our primal instincts, find our place in the kingdom of life, and accept that this is our role in the world? Or do we adapt to the modern atmosphere we have found ourselves in? (Spoiler alert: It’s a little bit of both)
So how do we grow along with this ever changing world while still holding on to what we are?
The answers are all in the move. Pretty deep for something adapted from a children’s book (thank you again, Ronald Dahl.) But this isn’t all about foxes and blueberries. It really serves for the perfect metaphor for how I came to be in the place I’m at, which, by the way, is the absolute best place I have ever found myself in.
This is about nutrition and fitness and lifestyle. It’s also just as much about mental health, habits, and intentions. It’s about fulfilling your role in life while also finding a way to adapt to the modern world, to changes that occur, to every wrench that gets thrown in your path.
So here is my story…
I first started to care about nutrition in middle school. I was in Girl Scouts, and my troop decided to work on our nutrition badge as a group. Part of this was taking a field trip to Whole Foods where some pimple faced teenage employee was elected to take us on a tour of the store, explain the difference between “Natural” and “Organic”, allow us to sample chocolate soy milk and whole wheat pizza, tell us about her own personal benefits of eating organic, and then set us free in the bulk aisle like a pack of wild dogs assembling our own trail mixes out of sun drops and vegan gummy worms. There is a huge part of me that still cringes at this, because part of me is still highly pretentious and the more I’ve learned about nutrition the more I realize that none of that experience was actually healthier. It was the starting point though.
From then on, I insisted that we shop at Whole Foods and that I be fed a steady diet of Panda Puffs and Annie’s White Cheddar Bunnies, a very typical example of the organic junk food I had a hearty love affair with. In High School, I became a vegetarian and my pretentiousness expanded ten fold. Again, I cringe at my past decisions knowing what I know now, but it was again another important step in the process. This is when I started to cook for myself. I actually found that I loved the creativity I was able to find through vegetarianism. Cutting out an entire food group kind of forces creativity onto a chef, because a big plate of steamed vegetables can and will get boring real fast.
After a few years of living this way, I slowly began to realize that what I was cleverly disguising as a healthy lifestyle was actually a serious phobia. All of my childhood anxiety had manifested itself into this neurotic way of eating, not because it was truly healthier, but because I was actually afraid to eat any other way. Unlike most, I’ve been incredibly blessed (and this is not a word I ever use) to have almost no issues with body image. I was never afraid of gaining weight, never counted calories, only ever knew my weight when I went to the doctor. It was never about my body image. It was actually very cleverly repressed anxiety manifesting itself in my diet choices. Looking at raw meat made my skin crawl. I was somehow convinced that, even though most of the world safely consumes meat on a daily basis, if I were ever to eat it I would surely get sick and die.
I wasn’t physically unhealthy because of my dietary choices, but my mental health demons were raging in the background just waiting for an opportunity to snap me in half. That opportunity presented itself my senior year of High School when I came down with a case of Mono that sent both my mental and physical health well out of my control. For months, it seemed like I just couldn’t recover. Blood tests were showing that the Mono was gone but I still felt worse than ever. I was drained, listless, stripped of any kind of motivation. My doctor tried everything she could to get more protein into my body, suggesting lean meats, assuming of course that because I was thin that I was anorexic and was trying to avoid any kind of fat.
After months, maybe even years of lingering recovery from this time, I started to really learn about nutrition. I decided that it was time to take things into my own hands, because I was so tired of doctor after doctor telling me that nothing was wrong with me when I still felt like I was going to fall over and die at any given moment. This was my first step in realizing that health is a multi faceted, and extremely complicated journey.
I started eating meat again, assuming that this was the natural order of things. Humans eat meat. This is the way it has always been. The design of the universe. Circle of life. Lion King shit, you know. The phobias didn’t go away though. Any time I put something it my body it was like I was just waiting for it to kill me or make me sick, and every morning I woke up pleasantly surprised that I was still kicking. I was probably a little healthier physically, but the same mental demons were there.
I can’t really say exactly what it was that made me get over this phobia. There was no moment of epiphany where everything fell into place. It was, like everything else, a process.
I’ve always been a person who considers my lifestyle “healthier than most” although, there has rarely been consistency with what that meant. How can one possibly pin down what “healthy” means? You can’t, because it is something that is different for everyone. The only way we come to understand it for ourselves is to take that journey, self-experiment, soul search, and listen to what your body is telling you. This became abundantly clear to me after so many months of my body telling me, “I am trying to kill you.”, or at least that’s what it felt like. I had no choice but to learn to listen to it.
Fast forward to last year, when I came across the book that really drove it all home for me. “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. They came up with a 30 day “eliminate all the things that could potentially be affecting your health and then slowly add them back in and pay attention to how you feel” program, better known as the Whole 30. Their philosophy is this: everything you put into your body either makes you more healthy, or less healthy. YES! This is what I have thought all along. (Except that my mentally unhealthy relationship with food had me convinced that everything could somehow make me less healthy, or just flat out kill me.)
But this book goes in depth, breaking down the science behind their program and why it makes sense from an evolutionary biological standpoint, but also the real purpose behind it: to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
I dipped my toes in the Paleo world for a few months, but still yo-yo’d back and forth between, “Eat ALL the scones.” and, “Never eating a grain again in my life.” I knew all along what I needed to do to fix this unhealthy relationship, and in November of last year, I finally did it. I did the Whole 30. I eliminated grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, and all processed foods, and I committed to it fervently. When I first came across the program, I thought it was absolutely crazy, but what I learned through the process is that the only truly crazy thing was how I was living before, delusional about my own choices, high and mighty on the nutrition throne, better than everyone else, but still somehow not healthy at all.
And here is where I am at now…
Still learning. Still growing. Still occasionally eating scones, but still cultivating healthier relationship with food, and an even healthier relationship with myself. In the last few months, I have been learning to listen to my body. I have been learning to show myself grace. I have been learning to care less and less about labels like, “Whole 30 compliant” or “Paleo” or “Gluten-Free-Vegan-Non-GMO-Soy-Free-Sugar-Free-Low-Carb-Keto-Made-With-Unicorn-Tears” and just focus on how the food I eat effects my body. I started running again for the first time since High School, I actually love going to the gym, and am still on the journey to deepen my Yoga practice daily.
Learning about nutrition from a Paleo perspective was perhaps the most important turning point for me in this whole process, but it was still just a starting point. Anyone who has been following a Paleo template for years will tell you that there is no “one size fits all” kind of diet, and that no one can live their entire lives on a strict “yes” and “no” list. Worrying about whether or not the food I am eating is Paleo or not is counter productive to my mentally healthy relationship with food. It’s a great starting point, but it’s not the place I want to live my entire life in. The Whole 30 really taught me to distinguish which foods were “worth it” and which ones were not after I added them back into my diet. My “worth it” list is probably a lot longer than most people who follow a “Paleo-ish” lifestyle, and this is exactly why labels like that don’t do it for me. I can’t simultaneously grow a healthy relationship with food and myself while trying to identify my lifestyle as any one thing.
It’s still a process. There will be no end point. I will never wake up in the morning and think, “I’m here, I made it, I reached my goal.” That’s not how it works. My goal is to never stop growing, never stop learning, and never lay down and accept that my life is destined to be any one way. The true “Fantastic Mr. Fox” style. We adapt. It gets messy, it gets scary, and you keep digging deeper and deeper until you’ve built something entirely new out of those holes. It’s what we do, and it’s pretty fantastic.
Welcome to my world, full of sweating and crying and dancing in the kitchen… of learning and growing and making solid metaphors out of Wes Anderson movies. It’s what I do. I’m Mariah, and I’m so glad you’re here on this journey with me, cause it’s pretty cussing rad!