Episode 35: Food Rules vs Food Values

by | Aug 12, 2021 | Podcasts | 0 comments

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Today I’m thinking about food rules vs food values and re-examining long-held food beliefs. What’s the difference between the two? How does each one affect your life? What can you do if you’re traveling and don’t have control of what food is available to you? How can you make peace with food rules and move into food values (and a more peaceful life)?

Food and Travel – The Marriage of Two Loves

Traveling anytime with food sensitivities or allergies or intolerances or even preferences can be a challenge, but no other time is it harder than when you are at a conference and you are captive to the food available where you are staying.

Most of us have not had to deal with this issue for over a year. Myself included. I haven’t been to a conference of any kind since October 2019 and I forgot what it was like to be flexible on food.

Recently, I went on two trips. 

The first was to Hawaii with my husband. We enjoyed the beach, the beauty, and the history (we went on a tour of Oahu), but my biggest challenge was the food. 

As you may already know if you’re familiar with my work, I’m plant-based. I don’t like to use vegan or vegetarian (although I do with restaurant waiters because I find they understand the terms easier) because they feel like they have some political connotation attached to them. 

I just like eating plants. It’s simple, uncomplicated, easy on my mind and my heart. 

In Oahu, we went to Pearl Harbor, which I believe all Americans should do. We have to understand our history. And, we also toured the island including the Dole pineapple plantation. We swam in a small, private bay trying to see some sea turtles (I didn’t see any). And we were able to find some food gems. 

My husband has it a bit easier because he eats seafood. I don’t. 

We did however find the most amazing vegan sushi restaurant! It was so good we couldn’t believe we weren’t eating fish! The restaurant is called Tane Vegan Izakaya (I’ll link to it below) and we were truly delighted and amazed. 

We also enjoyed some yummy ramen, but that was my first challenge with my food rules vs values dilemma. Ramen is made with wheat flour. Where was I willing to sacrifice in order to be able to eat? 

I was really surprised that in Hawaii I wasn’t able to find more fresh food. Hawaiian food is heavily influenced by the cultures that have established themselves there – Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese, and other Asian cultures. 

Since it was my first time in Hawaii I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it would be like other beach cities I had been to – beautiful athletic bodies surfing and eating in a way that supported that behavior. Not the case. 

It’s very touristy. The food isn’t for athletes. And it necessitated me making some hard choices.

And really looking closely at my food rules – I don’t eat gluten vs my food values – I eat plant-based, and why I eat in these particular ways. And when faced with limited options what would I sacrifice in order to eat?

Going on an extended vacation on an island is different than going on a few days trip on the mainland. We were in Hawaii for ten days and couldn’t rent a car. My next trip was to Nashville where options were easier to come by.

And speaking of Nashville…

Nashville, TN is a fun city that I would like to explore more of. 

I toured the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Now, I’m not a country music fan per se, so I wasn’t star-struck, but I appreciate the meaning the Opry holds for artists and fans alike, and the history of country music is quite humble. Its roots are based in telling real-life stories set to music. Including the hard life of slaves. 

I was surprised by some of the outfits, particularly worn by male country music artists, that were completely blinged out! What did they have against Liberace?! 

 I found some great eats in Nashville! 

I had delicious sweet potato enchiladas at Blanco, vegan pizza at Sixty Vines, and vegan ice cream at Hattie Jane’s. So I was off to a really great start, but that all turned around quickly and disappointment set in at my hotel.

The hotel had four or five restaurants on the premises but they all served the same menu and they weren’t exactly vegan and gluten-friendly!

The dilemma of what to eat made me re-evaluate my food rules (which I don’t really have) and my food values (which I have a few strong ones). 

To me, food rules are “I eat sweet potato, but not white potato” or  “I can eat a dessert if I run for three hours the next day”. Food values have a different tone to them. For example, “I don’t eat dairy because I’m allergic to it” is a good one. If a food makes you ill, as gluten does to someone with Celiac disease, it’s a good reason not to eat it. 

My food preferences are based on health.

I love animals. But that’s not why I stopped eating them.

My why is all about what’s healthy and what’s not. And my food choices reflected that sentiment.

On numerous occasions I chose to eat gluten because to me, that is the lesser of two evils. Again, these are not food rules I hold steadfast to, but food values. I value my Health. In other words, my long-term commitment to my overall health is more important than one or two or even an entire vacation of meals. I know I will come home and stop eating gluten and my GI discomfort will subside. For me, sitting down to a meal with animal protein would cause too much anxiety to the point that it would ruin the meal for me. I simply could not do it.

I talk in the episode about insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) being correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer. There is a lot of medical literature to support this. So sitting down to a meal with dairy is not possible for me. The thought produces too much stress for me.

Food should be joyful and comforting. It should bring you energy and wellbeing. If you’ve finished a meal and feel like you need a nap it means that it’s taxing your body. So I have to stop and think, what would be least problematic for me psychologically when I’m limited in choices.

When you’re traveling you don’t have control over what food is available and how it’s prepared. You just have to make choices aligned with your food values and have strategies (a game plan) you can rely on to get you to your next meal where, hopefully, you will have better options. If it’s possible to bring your own food (snacks, bars, etc) then that is one strategy you can employ. If it’s not possible then maybe there are other things you can do instead that will be helpful in your situation.

Lastly, I want you to know that you are in charge of your health. Always.

The burden (or opportunity) to live a healthy life lies with you. You should not feel pressured or shamed by others (as I was for years) to eat what others eat. You are in charge of your food choices, day-by-day, meal-by-meal. To give in to the pressure of others is also a choice. It’s up to you. Always and in all ways.

Memorable moments in this episode:

  • 1:42 Two things that light me up.
  • 2:26 The challenges of going on vacation post COVID.
  • 4:53 The new rental car arrangement.
  • 5:33 The Hawaii experience – road to Hana, snorkeling in the Hawaiian reef, swimming with dolphins and sea turtles.
  • 9:46 The Nashville experience – the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Theater, the Country Music Hall of Fame, Downtown Nashville, Honky Tonks, sweet potato enchiladas at Blanco Mexican Restaurant, vegan pizza at Sixty Vines, vegan ice cream at Hattie Jane’s.
  • 15:13 The food challenges we face when traveling.
  • 17:57 Food rules vs. food values.
  • 18:46 Finding balance between food and activity and risk of breast cancer.
  • 20:26 My personal food values.
  • 21:16 Eating animals vs eating animal products.
  • 23:10 Food and its connection to breast cancer.
  • 24:38 On being plant-based and decreasing stress and worry around food.
  • 28:53 Making food choices based on your values.
  • 29:57 You don’t have control of your food when you’re traveling.
  • 30:43 Fried pickles for dinner?
  • 34:50 Letting go of the food struggle and being your true self. 
  • 36:42 Creating strategies for eating well when you don’t have control.

Here are the places I enjoyed on my trips. (If you find yourself in Hawaii or Nashville, I hope you’ll check them out.) 🙂

A new episode is released every second and fourth Thursday of each month.

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