you are what you eat

People close to me know I have not been physically well these past few months. I’ve been tentatively diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, which requires (among other diet restrictions) a low-acid diet. Other problem foods for people with IC include caffeinated beverages, alcohol, spicy foods, and soy. In addition to IC, I have also experienced a sudden onset of gluten intolerance, which I didn’t even know was possible! I previously thought people were born gluten-intolerant, but apparently it can happen suddenly at any time, though it is often triggered by stress and/or trauma. Needless to say, these recent developments have forced me to make drastic changes in my diet. Luckily, I have the huge gluten-free aisle at the Westgate Central Market, many gluten-free Austin blogs to read, and quite a few gluten-free restaurants in the Austin area to help me in my transition.

In the past, Hippie Eats has mostly consisted of restaurant reviews, which I enjoy writing and will continue to write. However, my experiences over the past few months have caused me to realize I’ve neglected to write about one of the major principles that rules my personal eating practices. This blog, and much of the writing about food, concerns the many joys of eating and cooking. A dish is captured in a snapshot -the texture, the taste, the aromas, the presentation- so the reader experiences the dish in a single moment just as the person eating it did. While the beauty in this kind of writing is why I took to writing about food in the first place, I’m starting to think that our conversations about food should go past this single momentary experience.

I have always taken to heart the oft-repeated saying, “You are what you eat.” While weight-obsessed American culture has trained many of us to think of that phrase while we’re guiltily eating a muffin (and therefore increasing your ever-expanding “muffin top”) lately it’s been in my mind before I eat almost anything. While certain foods like wheat flour now have the power to make me feel terrible, I’m finding that food also has the power to heal the body when it’s in distress, and function as a sort of preventative medicine. We can make an incredible difference in our well-being if we eat for health, not eat healthy only when we’re sick.

This holistic approach to eating definitely enters the realm of hippy-dippy, I’ll be the first to admit. But you read the name of the website you’re at, so hear me out. Holistic medicine takes into account a person as a whole, which means it lumps nutrition in with spirituality, social affairs, and emotions. I believe there’s something right about that. After all, food is already deeply intertwined with all those things. Food can be incredibly personal and meaningful, and when shared it becomes the spark to our social connections. It stirs our emotions when we make a handed-down recipe and it tastes just like the one that used to be made for us.

We take such care to maintain our social relationships, to make sure our emotions are in check, and occasionally struggle with difficult spiritual questions. If we neglect to maintain these areas of our lives, we eventually feel the consequences, which can be large or minute. Being conscious about what we eat requires similar attention. For some, a lack of attention may not have serious consequences. For others (myself included!) a little maintenance is simply needed to feel good.