I Yam What I Yam

Food would not be food if it were not lightly sautéed in disdain and sprinkled with thin shavings of judgment.

–Alexandra Petri

yamsIt doesn’t seem to matter what I eat — it is wrong. But it probably doesn’t matter what you eat, either — it is also wrong.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, my joints really hurt. Midway through the afternoon, without doing anything, my elbows felt like they were on fire. By the time I got to tap class in the evening, everything we did went straight to my knees.

Karen, my teacher, had several recommendations for loosening hip flexors and IT bands from the hip to the knee. She promised most of them would hurt. Once, many years ago, she sent me to a woman in Denver to address my plantar fasciitis. Karen assured me that would really hurt, but that it would fix the problem, and she was right. So she’s probably right now, too.

Then she turned attention to my diet, and everything she recommended I avoid for its inflammatory-producing properties is everything I eat: gluten, starches, sugars — although my sugar consumption is way, way below where it was in the days when my track coach referred to me (fondly, I’m sure) as “Garbage Gut.” I believe he bestowed that the morning he found me eating a Twinkie on the bus as we left town for a meet. Apparently eating Hostess snack cakes at 6 a.m. can brand you for life.

The naturopath, too, had recommended cutting many of these same foods out, including the alcohol I don’t drink, for the same reason. Here’s the thing: I thought my breakfast was something to be proud of, and that turns out to be wrong, wrong, wrong.

Six days a week I generally eat the same things: a bowl of berries (blue, black, straw and razz), a bowl of heart-healthy Cheerios (now determined to be laced with evil glyphosates), and a sesame bagel handmade by Mountain Oven, late of Crested Butte and now of Paonia, topped with sunflower kernels, some of them raw and organic, most of them roasted and salted.

But that’s not good enough. It’s never good enough. It will never be good enough, no matter what I consume.

Let’s just take vegetables, generally agreed upon by anyone who ever called him or herself an expert to be one of two foods, along with fruits, to be Good For You. But not, apparently, any of the vegetables I like. Corn and especially potatoes, I’m told by everyone around me who likes to think of themselves as experts, are not really vegetables. Beets, peas and carrots don’t carry the same life-affirming aspects as say, kale and perhaps arugula, although the last president was mocked for eating that.

But, even if we dismiss the part where leafy greens are just like eating grass, there’s the part where I could eat them all day and never feel remotely full. And I can’t eat them all day, because after a very short while it feels like I’m chewing on grass.

But, even if you eat the right vegetables, which apparently I don’t but some others might, you’re still doing it wrong. If they aren’t in season and are coming from far away, California or Chile or Mars, you are taking too big a carbon footstep and destroying the planet. So you have to eat locally, which brings us back to the vegetable-less potatoes — and since we overbought last year, we underbought this year from Susan Wyman and we are nearly out, months away from her next crop.

[Here is an interesting historical aside that I read once in a book about life in England in 1,000 A.D.: the month most people starved in was June, when all the winter supplies had been consumed and the new crops were not yet coming in. That is not the month I would have thought, but it makes sense. It’s also a very weak month financially for business owners in Gunnison a thousand years later, for much the same reason.]

And (going back to vegetables), even if you eat locally, your vegetables probably aren’t nutrient-dense enough.

There is absolutely no winning when it comes to food.

Last year’s superfood is always this year’s pariah, and what was good for you yesterday is now bad today. Don’t believe me? Just read this from the BBC: “A High-Carb Diet May Explain Why Okinawans Live So Long.”

Hear that? Not low carbs or no carbs, but high carbs. Potatoes. Okay, they’re sweet, but still potatoes. With sugar.

Over the years, an inordinate number of people have concerned themselves with what I eat and don’t. I freely admit to being a picky eater, but these same people who chastise me, openly and in public, are often the same ones who then ask for this ingredient to be left out and that ingredient to be put on the side, and could they substitute this for that. I think far more people are picky — or at least, very particular — about their food than they’d like to admit.

It’s just the foods I don’t like are the ones everyone else enjoys so much they can’t envision a person who doesn’t like cheese, or chocolate, or coffee, which was once a superfood, now appears to be on its way out. Try to keep up. I don’t like onions, but they don’t like me, either. Most anything with a hint of a bite, even black pepper, squabbles with my tumbly. A series of elimination diets (there’s an exercise in misery) showed sugar to be a culprit, so I cut way back. No more Garbage Gut — except that everything else I eat seems to be cause for disdain, along with public comment that the commenters feel the need to make loudly enough for everyone else at the table to hear.

In college my senior year, one of my housemates had a friend visiting. She ordered a pizza, but she only wanted the cheese and what was in it. She wanted nothing to do with the crust, which is the part of a pizza I’m all about. She was very excited to eat with me, but she may have been about the last person to feel that way.

Here’s another thing: I don’t care what you eat. Some diets — now I can’t come up with the name, but it was quite the rage — where you eat all the bacon you want but no carbs, don’t sound too healthy to me. And I doubt that there’s really anything “Paleo” about a Paleo Diet: my theory (backed up by recent research on human teeth) is that early people ate whatever they could find. (The teeth research shows Paleos in northern Europe were primarily meat-eaters, while in what is now Spain, they were almost exclusively vegetarian.)

But if you feel that’s working for you, whether it’s losing weight or feeling better or treating an illness or just enjoying your food, then I say, be like Nike and Just Do It. It makes no never mind to me.

And maybe I do need to contemplate changes in my diet if it will make my joints less achy. A friend said in December that she had cut out gluten and that her joints felt soooo much better. I keep thinking about that, often as I’m consuming my locally-sourced morning bagel. But then there’s the BBC and all those 90-year-old Okinawans. Maybe potatoes are the answer after all. That would make me happy.

And isn’t what this should all be about? Making me happy? It seems like it from here.


2 thoughts on “I Yam What I Yam

  1. I love this post. I feel your pain! I’m trying to be more conscious about anti- inflammatory eating. Don’t think Karen would approve of the fried catfish I can’t resist here 😂


  2. Every diet is an overstatement. We should all eat a balanced diet with lots of leafy greens and not worry too much about the food pundits. I love the ads that claim you can lose 40 pounds while eating chocolate cake non-stop. As you pointed out, yesterday’s “bad” is today’s “good.” My advice to all is to take your best shot, eat healthy but also eat happy. 😉


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