Food and travels

Ever since I can remember, any time I’ve gone travelling food has been a big part of it; what are the best cafes, which restaurants should I book, what local delicatessen should I be trying? I love exploring places through its dishes. You can learn a lot from people, cultures and cities from their food.

In Italy it was all about the pasta, the pizza and the gelato. In Greece, the kleftiko and feta in filo pastry drizzled with honey (if you haven’t tried this yet, then definitely put this on your list!). Japan focused around sushi and more sushi.

When I travel on my own, or stay in B&Bs it’s easy. You’re expecting to eat out most of the time, giving in to the littles whim of what to have throughout the day. Cue foodie Beth in her right element.

On the flip side, this strong link between travelling and food also makes it almost unbearably to stay at people’s houses… Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE staying with people and being part of their ways, but I get slightly angsty knowing I can’t eat what I want, when I want. This is especially the case when you’re with people that don’t have the same eating pattern as you. So how to you get around this?

I think it was Nigella who once said it that she brings food with her to people’s places if she’s staying over. Not because their food is awful; just to have something as a back up. I haven’t done this myself yet, but she’s on to something there. Then again, eating in secrecy doesn’t sound great now does it?

This weekend was one of these trips. I was staying with a friend’s family, and before we got there we had planned eating at some of the restaurants local to them – or even getting a cheeky takeaway. As things had it, we didn’t go out to eat at all, instead having salads and chicken and other bits at home. It was lovely.

I did have to have a quiet word with myself and my mind every now and then, but I’ve also realised that I don’t NEED the food.

I want it.

But don’t NEED it.

And that feels good.

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The society of disordered eating

Besides the relationship we have with ourselves, our relationship with food features high up on our list of important relations in our lives. For some it’s neutral; they don’t find it difficult to eat and don’t spend hours and hours thinking about food in one way or another. For some it’s good; they love food and food loves them. They don’t battle with themselves each day thinking about calories or fat content or carbs or anything. For them food is there to be enjoyed – or simply fuel them. But for many it’s negative; the lack of it, bad associations, a feeling that it’s bad – it is not btw.

My relationship with food can only be described as complicated. And I know I’m not the only one. Hell, I’d say most people have at one point in their lives had a complicated relationship with food. And they come in so many shapes and sizes (pun intended). It could be eating to fill emotional holes within us, avoiding calories as if they were the devil, bingeing then feeling disgusted by yourself and making a hasty retreat to the bathroom, an unhealthy obsession with what’s considered healthy food – clean eating brigade I’m looking at you, or only eating fast food.

The media and dieticians, as well as the thousands of wellness bloggers (most whom have absolutely no credentials when it comes to nutrition or fitness), are fuelling the frenzy of what’s good and what’s bad for us – making people confused about what’s actually the best way to live.

When did food become good or bad? Why do we feel naughty when we have a brownie, but like fucking superwoman when we’re chewing on celery and drinking our 3rd litre of water? For decades we’ve been exposed to messages of what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. The media and their photoshopped images, pushing a slender body as the ideal. Err what if you have curves and trying to keep to a slimmed down version of where your body wants to be naturally sends you on a soul-destroying diet mission? Photos of celebrities on holiday, with commends around their extra pounds making headlines. Dear World, there are much, much more important things to preoccupy oneself with than Kim K’s derrière.

But let me go back to the so-called wellness bloggers for a minute. I too spent most of last year and a good part of this year in fact following them on Instagram and twitter, obsessing over their goddess buddha smoothie bowls, kale superfood goji berry smoothies or avocado brownies, thinking “my what a wonderful life they seem to lead, they all seem very happy and very successful. I want to be like them.” Then, as if wakening from a wellness slumber, we can start to see the cracks of these girls. Some are probably ok, but most have absolutely no credentials to practice their ‘trade’. Given, a few of them might have struggled with intolerances and a change in their diet has healed them but that doesn’t mean they are suddenly experts! With a kitchen to die for and some ‘clean eating/healthy’ recipes on instagram and their blog, our society has been falling head over heels for these ladies as they push out motivational recipes and share their favourite yoga poses. Ruby Tandoh, of Great British Bake Off fame, penned a fantastic article for VICE where she criticised the ‘pseudoscience’ that’s behind the clean eating fad. She wrote on twitter “the problem with vague “wellness” is that it chucks a one size fits all diet at us all – which harms as many as it heals. [It] contributes to food fear, fatphobia, classism and, crucially, mis/underdiagnosis of people who actually need these diets for their health. You can’t advise people to cut out gluten, carbs, etc- major food groups & great, cheap nutrition- just because some bad science told you so.”

Now I’m sure educated nutritionists also have issues themselves – hey therapists usually have their own therapists! – but at least with a qualified nutritionist you know they aren’t taking facts out of the air. For them, perhaps becoming a nutritionist has been a way of healing themselves and now helping others on their personal food journey. As for the wellness bloggers? Wonder if it’s about helping people, or mostly about ‘look at my insta fab life and buy my new book please!’ You don’t really get to see the real them I find…

Alongside this is the rise of the body positivity movement, which has been around for years but has in the past few years, because of instagram and the internet, managed to get into the mainstream. It’s great to see women – and men – showing that they are happy in their bodies and minds, whatever size they are. Showing the world that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and not the glossy ideal we’ve become so used to seeing in magazines and on telly. We need more of this, but let me play devil’s advocate for one moment. Some of these voluptuous women are rather sizeable – and I WISH I was so happy at my heaviest – and in fact what the medical world would classify as ‘obese’. The way I see it being too far on either side of the scales can’t be good for you, regardless of how happy your shiny self are?

It’s clear that the modern western society is pretty fucked up when it comes to food and body image. So what is the way forward? Will we ever be able to have a positive relationship with food as a society, where we don’t obsess over calories and whether or not something is ‘clean’? Will we be able to find pleasure in food – and not turn it into a feast of gluttony and potential self-hatred?

I don’t know. Probably not. The struggle is real, and life’s too short. All you can do is look within yourself, find the path that is best for you and help others if they need it.

Time to embrace my femininity

As a little girl, I loved wearing pretty dresses, tassles and being ‘girly’. Then as I grew older, and chubbier, I started shying away from this image, as I began hiding away the curves that nature had decided to gift me. I developed my figure pretty early on, and anyone who’s been a girl growing into a woman knows how uncomfortable this can be, especially when you’re one of the first ones in your group of friends. I became aware that the other girls were slimmer than me, less curvy. With this I started to feel like I needed to hide. Too afraid to be different. Afraid of my femininity.

As I grew, so grew my interest in sport. It came naturally to me. I wasn’t afraid to go in for the tackle on the pitch, I had the power in my arms to throw things far. I had co-ordination. But with this, I also slowly ‘lost’ more and more of my femininity. I wore baggy clothes, didn’t dress with joy. Black trousers and ill-fitting sweaters became my uniform. I became harder, less willing to speak about emotions as well. Then again do any teenager do that?! I became more aware that to ‘make it’ in the world, women who embrace their masculine traits seem to succeed.

Navigating my way through university, my early career and love, I spent most of it being scared of appearing vulnerable, to be seen as too ‘girly’. Quite sad really as I was never in any danger of being seen as too girly.

Now, as a mid-30 something woman, looking back at her adolescence and twenties, I can say that it’s only really in since going into the 3rd decade of Me that I’ve started embracing my curves and emotional being more. It’s only now that I’m actually feeling good in my own skin and mind. I’m by no means feeling good all the time, but the good days are outweighing the bad days.

Maybe it’s because with my 30s I also started giving a lot less fucks about everything. I think less about what people think of me. I’m aiming to shine and be as good as I can be each day. Not everyone will like me. That’s OK. I don’t like everyone so it’s only fair. I’m no longer desperately trying to fit in where my soul tells me I don’t want to be just because it’s the cool thing to do or place to work. There was a point where my body was actively rebelling agains me and my life choices by making me ill. I can see that now.

Both men and women have feminine traits, women usually more so, but it’s there in everyone. It is a strong power within us that’s been around since the birth of humankind. It shouldn’t be seen as a negative, as something to not aspire to. So, I’ve decided that I want to embrace my femininity.

I want to wear more skirts; I own pretty dresses and feel great while walking around. I want to be ‘girly’ if I want to without it having a negative connotation. I want to be able to go kick ass at a boxing lesson or build a wardrobe from IKEA, then put on makeup, feel wonderful about it and ready to take on the world!

You might be thinking “What utter bollocks. No-one’s stopping you from doing this. You’re free to wear what you want. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with wearing jeans and t-shirts.” All of this is true. And I wish for everyone is to wear what they feel great in and live the life that brings them the most joy! But truth is that being overtly feminine is often seen as being weaker and something that shouldn’t be aspired to. That’s why we have terms like ‘run like a girl’  or ‘the weaker sex’. Exactly when did being a girl and a woman actually become a negative?!

We are pretty amazing really when you think about it. We can grow life in us. We seem to have an intuition, a sixth sense, call it what you like to know when we’re being fucked with or lied to (just ask the boyfriends & girlfriends, husbands, wives and partners out there!). Yes we might coo over cute puppies and cry for no apparent reason when watching films, but we are tough as hell when needed.

Why should we have to power dress and be less emotional to get ahead at work and in life? I want to be an emotional and caring human being. I want to switch my inner light on, and shine like a bright star.

I want to be feminine and empowered. Who’s with me?

A gift to my future self

 

Looking for new podcasts to get into I came across Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. In one of the episodes she interviews Liz Gilbert of Eat Love Pray and Big Magic fame. And in this Liz notes that we should give gifts to our future selves. And she’s so right!

With mindfulness and being in the present being all the rage, we shouldn’t forget that what we do today will impact our future selves in some way. I’m all for living more in the now, because quite frankly the past is somewhat depressing and the future…well the future is unknown. You just have to live it when it comes around!

That said, you should give your future self a thought every now and then. Because the positive steps you do today, will probably be amazing for you at some point – a day, a week, a year from now.

This got me thinking.

What can I gift to my future self?

I want to gift her a healthy and happy life.

To do so, I can, today, feed myself with nutritious and delicious food.

I can do stretches, sign up to a couple of classes, and move that body!

I can embrace my female curves and accept what makes me unique.

I gift myself nutrition. I gift myself movement.

I gift myself self-compassion.

I invite you to share what gift you’d give your future self in the comments. It would be wonderful to hear.

Listen to your body. Feel its needs. Hear its desires.

I’m on a journey to listen more to my body – the vessel of my self on this planet – and not punish it though diets, silly exercises and plain simple beating it to a bloody pulp with my mind.

For as long as I can remember my body and mind have been locked in a furious battle. My mind wants to improve my body and sends it on a gruelling diet, restricting it from the very source of energy, the fuel it needs – that I need – to survive. In return, my body rebels, throwing off the mind at a time of weakness (when it’s been tired of holding up the force field of being the best), going on an epic binge fest, saying FUCK YOU MIND while devouring ALL of the food its been denied and more, the mind silently allowing this as it tries to soothe emotions it’s struggling with and fill the hollow spaces of the soul.

Having been ok for a month or so now, being more positive, working on reducing the negative self talk and appreciating me for me, the past two days have seen me spiral down towards old habits. I’ve been snacking, eating more than is necessary. Choosing cake (carrot if you want to know) over less sugar-coma-inducing snacks around. I’ve been treating myself as I’ve allowed the self-hatred to bubble up again. And as I’ve hidden away and disliking my body more and more, I’ve heard the gremlins knock on the door.

I know one of the reasons, if not the reason, for this has been that I ran out of my happy pills – something I don’t recommend at all! Not taking these, if only for a couple of days, have seen the gremlins grow stronger, telling my body it wants and needs sugar, fatty foods and other things to feel better. And my mind has not picked up the battle. So I chose carrot cake. And crips.

This affected my energy levels immediately. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep. To get away from the thoughts and feelings bubbling underneath. Today has been much of the same. My body has craved sugar and food. It has wanted chocolate. Sweet fruit. And now I feel huge, like beach ball that’s been filled with too much air. I’m at bursting point.

My mind has been equally frazzled. It’s been thinking about stuff that doesn’t matter.  It’s been easily distracted. Unfocused. It’s engaged in conversation with the gremlins. And it’s become needy. It has wanted attention, from men especially. I’ve felt I needed to know that I am capable of being interesting to men, I’ve needed reassurance they find me attractive. Because my body and mind are both telling me that I am not these things…

I now have my happy pills again, and I know that in a few days time I will be back to ‘normal’ service. What scares me the most is how quickly the gremlins appeared and managed to make my mind and body turn things negative. And it makes me wonder what I need to do in order to be able to maintain a positive and happy me without the happy pills.

For now, I’m going to listen to what my body is telling me right now while I wait for my mind to get back on point. I’m going to rest.