So here’s what I’d like to address in this blog post: Craziness. Not your average kook-on-the-street-yelling-to-himself-mental-illness crazy—but self-induced-food-crazy (SIFC). It can really sneak up on you, take it from me: I recently had to reel myself back from the brink of SIFC, and it wasn’t a pretty thing. I even learned from my friend Julie that there’s an actual label for SIFC (other than, thank you, SIFC), and it’s a condition called Orthorexia Nervosa —here’s a definition out of Wikipedia:
Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a term used by Steven Bratman to describe people who have developed a fixation with healthy or righteous eating and has been referred to as a mental disorder.
Holy crap! Really?! But I can see how this happens!! Going through a period of intense stress related to my skin breaking out inexplicably, I manipulated my diet, under the direction of not one, not two, but THREE food coaches/nutrition people, and began to become fearful of everything I ate, thinking it might make my skin worse. The biggest blessing, though I didn’t see it at the time, was that NONE OF IT WORKED! HA! Had my skin improved dramatically while I was eating very little fat and very little fruit sugar (the only sugar I was eating was fruit sugar), I might still be stuck losing weight I didn’t want to lose, sweating anxiety and hyper-vigilance, but convinced I was helping control my skin. But, thank the stars really, it didn’t work, and once I realized how crazy I was acting (experiencing intense anxiety over eating a little olive oil on a salad, for instance), I pulled the plug. My original eating pattern of raw vegan worked extremely well for me for almost two years, and even though, yeah, I probably needed to do a little tweaking and eat a little less fat, I didn’t need to revamp the whole thing and only eat leaves and sticks. I was already eating super-duper healthy and feeling and doing beyond great!
My best guess (and that of my Dr.) is that traveling (due to changing times zones which can throw off your sleep and thus your hormone balances) and stress were impacting my skin, and I only added to it by responding with eliminating nutrients my body needed and freaking out almost constantly about food (it’s also amazing how when you have a freak out in one area of your life, that other areas start to look freak out-worthy too–just an observation). Anyway, I’m glad to be free of that, and am back to eating nearly exclusively raw vegan, sans stress, and I’m lightening up with absolutely everything, including being okay with it if I feel like having sushi or a corn tortilla every once in a while. Personality-wise, I know I tend toward extremism, and if I learn about health, I want to do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to be healthy. The problem with this is that you can easily run into SIFC, Exercise Crazy, (I’m sure there’s a tech name for that too) and lots of other types of Crazy. A little balance goes a long way, and stressing about all this stuff is worse on your body than some of the stuff you’re trying to avoid.
Something else you’ll find if you choose to eat really differently than most people due to health (and there are LOTS of solid studies showing that it is best for our health to eat a plant-based, whole foods diet–if you need a reminder, Netflix Forks Over Knives—excellent information from The China Study etc., with all the science behind this recommendation), you’ll find that different people have varying—and often contradictory—opinions on what you should eat: eat mushrooms, don’t eat mushrooms. Take iodine, don’t take iodine. Nutritional yeast is amazing, nutritional yeast is poison. And on and on forever and ever. THIS ALONE will make you CRAZY if you try to follow it all, GUARANTEED.
Know that the body uses food as a whole, not as individual nutrients (that’s out of date info), and that if you’re eating a variety of high quality, organic, local, in-season fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, you’re most likely getting what you need. Including, yes, protein (if this doesn’t sound right to you, do some research—if you really want the science, I recommend getting ahold of The China Study, it will blow the lid off of all the myths we’ve been marketed). If you’re having issues, of course have them checked out. It’s also true that soils and thus nutrient value of foods are not the same as they used to be, so sometimes supplementation is a good idea—-it’s a great idea to have a naturopath or someone who understands this stuff to help guide your journey. But seriously—keep it simple. Your body is wise and self-regulating if you give it what it needs. But beware of following all the recommendations you get and all the stuff on the Internet, and just generally use some your common sense and listen to your own body.
As a well-respected raw foodist once said to me, “you’re already at the top of your game eating raw vegan, now go out and find other hobbies.” It’s easy to get stuck in this little world of food, and after you’ve mastered eating in a healthy way that makes you feel great—sure, keep an ear out for new research and info, but really, relax and enjoy your life (or develop a website and blog about it!). But avoid the Crazies, both internal and external—we need more peace in our lives, not less. Joy!