It’s funny how we get so used to our own lives, that we forget how the rest of the world lives. I know that is a pretty general statement. However, when it comes down to it, it’s all about perspective. Opening your eyes to things outside of yourself. We get so wrapped up in our own daily routines, comforts and necessities that sometimes a change this can cause quite a level of discomfort. After all, we are such creatures of habit. Traveling is one of the best ways to gain a new awareness and slightly pull that ‘grounding carpet’ from underneath you.
I’m writing this from the beautiful garden of my Nana’s in Sway, New Forest, England. It’s a beautiful summer afternoon in July and i’m spending a few days here with Nana before I head off to Italy. It’s always an interesting experience for me to come visit my Nana and as we walked around HorseShoe Bottom this morning, I was hit with quite a few realizations. In fact, this whole day (so far) has been quite humbling.
One of the things about being on holiday in general is that you tend to slow down. You’re less on-the-go, in a new environment and doing different things. This point is even more emphasized when you are visiting family, especially grandparents. Since I was little, it’s always been an interesting experience for me to come and visit my grandparents. I can remember, as a child, Sam and I either continuously asking what we would do next or claiming that we were hungry. Of course, when you get bored- your mind turns to eating. Now, this is not to say that we didn’t enjoy being around our grandparents, because we absolutely loved it (there’s nothing like spending time with your grandparents- especially when it comes to all the cakes and treats that you’re given). However, just like now, kids are used to the distractions and entertainment of their daily lives.
Last night I noticed my nana mention how my dad always sleeps when he comes to visit. The thing is, although he is sometimes sleep-deprived from all of his work and travels- the main reason why he sleeps is that he witnesses such a change in lifestyle when he visits. Literally, distractions (phone, internet, meetings, travel) disappear and life slows down.
I think it is so important to do these things: travel, visit family and friends and be out of your comfort zone. One of the main reasons why, is because it brings certain controls and coping mechanisms/behaviours to the surface. You become more aware of certain behaviours when you are placed in a new environment that creates potential discomfort.
Now, of course, most of my discomforts and controls revolve around food and eating. This has always been the case. Even as a child, I would eat so much when I came to visit my nana and granddad. I imagine that it was because there were times when I was bored, or facing new environments. Since I was young, food has been a coping mechanism for me. To this day, it still is. Whether it has been about eating for comfort, over-eating, restricting and starving or being incredibly picky- i’ve had quite the experience with my mind and food.
This visit has been no different in a lot of ways. However, there has been one main difference. I feel like for the first time here, I have a new sense of awareness. I am aware of my tendencies, my coping mechanisms and for the most part- I feel at ease. Key phrase being ‘for the most part’. I most definitely have a running list of the food that I have eaten since I left Dubai airport, three days ago. I suppose the difference with that is that although I have the list in my head and I check on it from time to time, it doesn’t control me. It doesn’t debilitate me. I’m still able to wake up and get on with my day. Everything is a process. Nothing changes overnight.
The thing that I find so alarming at times is the power that I give to my fear of certain foods. I have become so used to my healthy ways and my life as a Nutritionist that the moment that my ways are compromised, I am consumed with fear. It’s a visceral reaction. I feel my entire body tense up, sometimes I will break in a sweat and my mind literally puts my body into a state of ‘fight or flight’. It’s crazy how much power we can give to our minds, based on conditioning and experience. Over the years I have developed such a fear of foods (and certain foods in particular) that my body responds to certain situations where I’m presented with them as a potential threat.
I’ve been reminded of this quite a lot lately. A friend and fellow health and food blogger, the Blond Veggie (just recently changed her name from the Balanced Blonde) has spoken out about her experiences with Orthorexia and the way that it has negatively impacted her life and health. Orthorexia, in essence, is an obsession with healthy food and living that results in a very unhealthy and at times malnourished lifestyle.
It is absolutely an eating disorder. It just looks less dangerous on the outside to anorexia or bulimia nervosa (at times). I believe that now a days a lot of people who previously suffered from certain eating disorders have now developed orthorexia and disguised it (unknowingly a lot of time) as ‘healthy’ (myself included, at times). The reason why it is still destructive is because although they are eating ‘healthy’ and following the guidelines of nutrition, they are incredibly restrictive and still have a fear of foods that controls them.
I was really reminded of this situation today. My eating lifestyle is incredibly different to my nana’s. First off- she loves dairy, bread and sweets. After all, she’s English! She’s been eating this way since before I existed in this world. Things like chia pudding, green juice and zucchini pasta are a complete out of this world anomaly to her. Fair enough. When you flip the situation around, the foods that she eats are pretty foreign to me. Toast, milk, scones, meat, and white sugar.
Today was pretty funny. I started my day off in the right way: I had an apple and a handful of mixed nuts and dried fruit that I brought along with me from Dubai (I don’t travel without my homemade trail mix that usually consists of raw organic almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, inca berries and goji berries). Even then, I noticed the thoughts in my head complaining that the apple wasn’t organic. That’s the thing, the more out of my comfort zone I get or the further that my “necessities” are compromised, the louder those control voices in my head get. This morning, was of course a result of the fish and chips I had at the pub for dinner last night. Something that will ONLY happen for me when I visit England.
Despite that, I was content with my breakfast. So, off we went on our morning walk around Horseshoe Bottom (also what we referred to as ‘horsemuck bottom’ as kids because of all of the horse manure from the wild New Forest ponies). After a nice long walk we decided to go for a cup of coffee in New Milton (a town just a couple miles outside of Sway). This is where it got interesting for me. First off- nana mentioned that this place had ‘good coffee’. In my mind, I was expecting coffee that was freshly brewed and potentially similar to my favourite americano style. When we arrived at our destination, I quickly learnt that just simply was not the case. Humbling moment? I think so.
We walked into BradBeers (a department store) and as I looked around I realized I was quite sorely mistaken if I thought a) I would find wifi on my phone here and b) that I would get what I considered a ‘good’ cup of coffee. Not only does BradBeers not offer these certain new-age luxuries, it was also filled with a certain demographic (lets just say the only people near to my age were the people working there) and a very traditional British menu. So, I noticed my mind go into a certain state of fear as we grabbed a table and I noticed several eyes direct towards me. Fair enough, I was definitely the odd one out. The next stage of fear occurred when nana ordered a ‘toasted tea cake’ and he assumed we were splitting it. I decided to just go with it, trying to picture in my head what a toasted tea cake was.
Things continued to get interesting. First, when ordering my coffee the server asked “how strong do you like your coffee” to which I replied “very strong”. I didn’t realize that what he really was asking was “how much milk do you want”. He was about to pour a spot of milk into my cup when I immediately blurted out, “oh, please, no milk…VERY strong”, smiling. You’d think at this point I would know that the British standard for any hot beverage (coffee, tea) is to have it with milk. Silly me.
Next up, the toasted tea cake. I had pictured a scone like treat. Not in the least. When it arrived at our table my body immediately tensed up as he placed my plate in front of me. A toasted tea cake is essentially a raisin bagel with mounds of butter. Oh goodness. I think at this point, Nana knew that I was slightly out of my element and out of sorts. I pretended to cut the tea cake for myself, however, I passed it over to Nana’s plate as she quickly ate hers.
Go figure. I was out of my element, clearly.