What’s your [food] story?

Stories are one of my favourite things, ever. Stories are powerful. We have our own stories, we have cultural stories, we have stories of history, stories of the future and stories just for fun. Everything is defined by stories we hear and tell. They can wipe out entire races, peoples and places as though they never existed. They can validate our experiences, or make us live in doubt and shame. We tell stories about our lived experiences to create meaning in our lives; otherwise we are just going through a series of random events that make no sense. Humans like things to make sense, and to have a deeper meaning.

When I see people for nutrition counselling, I’m not often sitting there making sure they have eaten all the nutrients they need, I’m actually listening for their food story.

Our food story is the way we talk about what we eat, and the way we describe our history with food. It is how we give meaning to the food we eat.

Often I find my clients reducing their food story to one of weight; their interaction with food is simply the journey that has lead to fatness or thinness. Sadly this is not just my clients, it really is a societal way we talk about food: “good” “bad” or “fattening” are used in everyday common language to describe food. But reducing food to something that has “made you fat” or is “fattening” does you and the food a disservice.

Can you remember the first meal you truly savoured? What did you like about it? What was so pleasurable about it?

Here is my honest answer: I can remember sitting in my basement as a child enjoying the overly full feeling of a McDonald’s Happy Meal of chicken nuggets, french fries and a chocolate milkshake. Oh how divine. This story for much of my early years carried no shame, just the knowledge that this was a meal I enjoyed, but that I then moved on to whatever else I was into at the time, My Little Ponies or Barbie.

But later, as time pressed on and began to amass the cultural (North American culture) story of shame associated with fullness and “bad” foods, this story carried a different meaning. I became ashamed of my younger self’s food choices, and proud I no longer ate “that stuff”.

Here is the thing: it’s important to tune into what stories you are telling yourself, and what stories you keep hearing. Do they actually ring true to your experience? Or are they something you are simply retelling because it’s the story you’ve heard most often? Sometimes our true stories are quiet inside us, or have been appropriated by the stories told more loudly and frequently. Food does more than change our weight, often it carries with it memories of loved ones, or happy events in our lives, yet we taint it because those happy memories have led to our “weight problem” (pssst actually it was the diet, not the enjoyment).

Food is powerful, but so are the stories we tell about it, so be mindful about the stories you’re telling and listening to about food.

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Making Use (of left overs)

So maybe this New Year in your resolution craze, you went out and bought a juicer.
Maybe you’ve become a juice making fiend, in particular carrot juice. Maybe you have a lot of pulp and you’d like to be one of those thrifty sort-of juicers that use up the pulp….but you’re at a loss.

My brother and his fiancée bought a juicer just before Christmas and had a similar conundrum, and decided to leave the pulp for the expert (being me of course). I went home to visit and found a pile of carrot pulp awaiting recipe development and a few willing victims er I mean family members to be guinea pigs.

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This recipe was inspired from this post on the Kitchn. I’d been wanting to try a cracker recipe for a long time and this just seemed too opportune a time.

Carrot Pulp Crackers

2 cups flour (I used a mix of white and whole wheat)
1 cup carrot pulp
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons olive-oil (or any liquid vegetable oil)
1 cup water
Optional Topping: chia seeds and sea salt.

1. Preheat oven to 450* and lightly grease a cookie sheet or two.
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
3. Add the oil and the water to the dry mixture. If the dough doesn’t come together, add more water a tablespoon or so at a time.
4. Flour a clean counter surface, and place the dough on it. I had to gather it together a bit and shaped it into a rough square or rectangle. Then roll the dough out using a rolling pin (or in my case a tall not-too-slanted glass). You wanted it to be about a 1/4 inch thick.
5. Sprinkle with the toppings.
6. Cut the dough into rectangles. The ones on the edge will probably not be complete rectangles, but that’s the fun of homemade crackers.
7. Transfer the crackers to the cookie sheet (I used a flipper/spatula as a few of my crackers had stuck to the counter…) and bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown around the edges.
8. Allow the crackers to cool, then serve with your favourite dip or some hummus.

I’m sure if kept in an airtight container they will last sometime (about a week in a dry place), but unfortunately these were gobbled down the night I made them so I can’t say exactly how long before they go bad.

The great thing about carrot pulp is it can be used just like grated carrots! I also made a few other recipes, including carrot-pulp muffins, and carrot-pulp pancakes. I did my best to use up that massive pile of carrot pulp, and managed quite a dent.

Waste not, want not I say.

Book Review I

I like to read. I read every day. I read blogs. I read books. I read magazine articles. And lots of books. In fact I don’t think I’ve gone to bed  without reading at least a few pages of a book I enjoy for as long as I can remember (and before I read to myself my parents read to me, so I have literally been falling asleep with a story in my head for as long as I can remember).

After finishing university I stepped away from reading about food and nutrition in my spare time. But since rediscovering the library I’ve found myself drawn to books about food more. Especially books about eating, and our relationship with food (something I believe to be fundamentally messed up in our society). And since our relationship with food can be a large barrier to sustainable changes, as a dietitian I’ve really worked to seek out methods, and ideas for change that seem to work for others.

Enter this book.

I actually first heard about it years ago when Oprah still had a talk show. I can remember the author being on the show, but wasn’t all that drawn to the discussion of anything spiritual (believing most of it to be mumbo-jumbo).

And this book is really about spirituality and how a person’s eating can be a gateway to finding what’s missing in their life; or what stories they tell themselves about their inadequacies. It’s geared towards female compulsive eaters specifically, but really anyone who feels they might use food for purposes other then physical nourishment might benefit from reading it.

What about the science? Us dietitians (being health professionals and all) are all about Evidence Based Advice. “What does the evidence say? “ we might often ask ourselves before relaying some diet advice to a client. Or my favourite response to some of the nutrition beliefs people have (but are not ready to hear are false) well the evidence doesn’t support that idea but…  This book doesn’t claim any sort of scientific background, there’s no research or evidence mentioned. Instead Geneen Roth draws on her own experience as a compulsive eater, and that of her many clients and retreat attendees.

While she threads the idea that eating is a connection to our spiritual selves (and thus compulsive overeating, the constant cycle of dieting and binging is a sign that we are missing something spiritual in our lives) what she really gets at is that we need to listen to our bodies.

Seeing as this is the idea behind things such as Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating and HAES based philosophies (all of which are based on research) in a roundabout way Women, Food and God is right in line with the evidenced based books that are out there.

Overall? It’s a nice quick read and if you’ve ever struggled with binge eating or compulsive eating, it’s worth a read. For health professionals? It’s always good to see what’s out there being sold to the masses.