I wasn’t always a nutritarian (whatever does that mean anyway?)
For most of my life, I’ve thought of myself as a foodie. A lover of great tasting – no – exceptional tasting food. I’d seek out the highest rated and award winning restaurants and pretty much ate everything without restriction. My only food restrictions at that time were based off of my faith, I didn’t do anything from a pig and no alcohol. Also, if I was eating out, unless the meat was halal I passed on it. So really, when eating out, I was what they called a pescatarian (only seafood and veggies). Well actually I was more of eats just the seafood…I did enjoy salads for lunch, but now I know those were more what are known as tossed meals including seafood, eggs, beans – you name it – as opposed to a true raw salad! Above all my food had to taste good. If it didn’t, it wasn’t worth the time! Is there a label for that? Tastegood-atarian?
It wasn’t until I finally did the pH Miracle diet to heal some of my chronic inflammation issues that I even realised what the terms vegan and raw really meant in the food world. So I thought, OK I’m eating no meat, no dairy and no sugar – what’s the word for that? Dr. Young likes to call his followers alkalarians….that almost made me fall off my chair. No WAY I was going to tell anyone I was an alkalarian. In fact some friends I told I was doing the pH Miracle diet said to me that I had something in common with a well known baseball player – Al K. Line. Get it? It took me a few minutes.
That is the time I really started to think about labels. It was also the time when I started nutrition school – now with 1200 people on the program it was a NIGHTmare figuring out who ate what. And there were labels everywhere. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian, Pescatarian (yes, that is where I learnt the word), vegan, raw food vegan, Raw Foodist, traditional foodist etc. In case you are wondering, Vegans are those who eat NO animal foods, and their food can be cooked. Raw Foodists eat ONLY uncooked foods or those that have been cooked at less than 110 F to preserve the enzymes.. but then what is a raw food vegan (yes, one that eats all uncooked foods but NO animal foods). Some interpret that even more strictly to exclude bee products (like honey, royal jelly etc.) as well as nutritional yeast (included by some for vitamin B12). Traditional foodists eat like the older traditional tribal cultures, including a diet of meat, milk, eggs and plants but mostly foods they foraged, hunted or raised themselves.
But is your health just a label away?
I had been an ‘alkalarian’ for about 10 months when I became pregnant. About 8 weeks in, having a bout of terrible nausea, we were eating at my favourite local, organic food restaurant. I scanned the menu about 7 times with no luck finding something that appealed or that felt would help the nausea subside. Then it happened. A moment that completely changed my life. I smelled the most incredible smell. It took away the nausea, my body suddenly craved that smell and from where it emanated, intensely. I looked over and at the table next to me was being served, a thick, fat, juicy burger. I had not eaten or craved a burger in about 7 years and had not eaten any meat in the last 10 months. Here I was thinking jeez… a burger.. no I gotta have it, gotta have it.. the response inside me, almost animalistic, like a predator hunting its prey. I looked at my husband and said I want that. Incredulously he said ‘What?’. It’s not even halal (I had up to this point in my life had always eaten meat that was prepared according to the prescribed Islamic rituals). ‘I don’t care. I have to have it. I’m going to have it. That is what I am ordering.’ Shaking his head he kept staring at me. ‘It’s not alkalising…’..
‘babe, you don’t understand I NEED to have that burger’. (it helped a little, that the burger was from locally raised animals, organic and grassfed).
Now I’ve had my fair share of sugar cravings, but I had NEVER experienced an intensity SO profound as I did for this burger. And I never have since. So anyway, I ordered the burger. I ate the burger, although hubby would better describe it as devoured, wolfed, gorged. It was gone in 5 minutes flat. And you know the best part? I was sooooo happy! I was happy for days after eating that burger. The thought of it put a smile on my face (it still does, by the way). I felt great. i didn’t feel sick or bloated or any of that – I felt incredible.
I know after months of thinking about it, that that burger and what was in it was good for me. At some level. I was pregnant, needing lots of iron and B-vitamins (believe me I did not have intense cravings for my supplements!), but there was something more in that burger that my body needed. It told me I needed it and I am so glad I honoured that need. I don’t think my cravings would have been so intense had I not been pregnant, nor would they have been so intense had not been on alkalising diet for 10 months. But what I learned was that recognising and honouring cravings are an important part of staying healthy. So here I was alkalarian with meat on the side…so what do I call myself now (at least in my head?). You want to know what label my repeat visits to the restaurant earned me? The Burger Lady…
I had just started nutrition school and meat was a BAD thing (to most of my peers, who wouldn’t touch it). I didn’t even feel safe sharing with anyone how intense (and satisfying) an experience I had having a burger. I told a couple of my friends later on and was reassured that it was OK because I was pregnant. But is that the only reason why? Can a non-pregnant woman not be made to feel OK that her inner cravings were satisfied by a burger? Still having tons of questions and guilt in my head, almost as if the Universe heard me, Sally Fallon came on to lecture us. She started talking about traditional diets and how tribal people needed to eat nutritious foods to help the survival of their species. Her talk focused on pregnancy and babies. Pregnant women should eat meat, eggs and in fact should feel cravings for these foods. I felt so relieved. An expert said it was OK for me to eat like that when pregnant. Phew! In fact it was good for me and the baby. Alkalarian gone traditionalist overnight. I even started eating eggs everyday. I craved them too (I must admit, though I stopped checking my pH levels, because I couldn’t handle reading the acidity measures every time I had meat or eggs)…All was not lost, though. I didn’t give my alkaline diet completely. I did the green drinks daily, I had the salts, the clay, the big vegan salads and my favourite part was all the plant fats. My 6 avocado guacamole was polished off in one meal about 3-4 times a week.
So it wasn’t all that bad.
I ate that way pretty much the rest of my pregnancy and post. Listening to my body’s cravings became the label I followed – a cravist.
After about 6 months having our second baby (they are 15 months apart), I decided I was ready for a mild detox, so I started with the raw diet and juicing and superfoods. I had been reading and researching a great deal about the raw food diet and decided it was time to give it a proper try. I was going to do this nice and gently and within 2 months i was eating a mostly raw plant based diet and loving it. It was spring, everything was blooming and growing and I was craving water based foods. I didn’t want cooked food. Cooked meat? Yuck! The burger.. the farthest from my thoughts.
In the last 9 months I have been what is known as ‘high raw’… but with the backdrop that my previous experiences have taught me to honor my cravings.. which I have watched carefully. I like having a high raw diet but I do also enjoy the occasional cooked whole grains, beans, lentils and wild fish once a week. I introduced my kids to raw milk and although they love it, I have no cravings or even mild desire for dairy. I might enjoy a seldom raw cheese, but thats about it. I think I have a sensitivity to dairy never knew existed. About 6 weeks ago a friend was trying out a new flavour of Ben & jerry’s icecream. I was cajoled to try one bite. I did and suffered the whole night long with runny nose, sneezing and since then terrible congestion. I know dairy is not something that is working for me at this point. So yet another piece of the jigsaw fell into place – you are NOT what you eat…. you are what you absorb.. I don’t think my body is absorbing dairy well and creating inflammation which is impairing its ability to absorb other foods too…
What I came to realise after reading close to a hundred different books on health as well as from my own trial and errors, that the body really needs nutrients. Based on your ethnicity, heritage, blood type, digestion you need nutrients that you can absorb and make you feel good. Dairy sure has nutrients in it, but if I’m not really absorbing them or feeling good from eating it, that is not a food that is serving me. Including superfoods in my diet (highly nutrient dense foods) has been amazing for me. I know I get a lot out of those foods as they send me into a higher vibrancy and I feel great after taking them. So after all is said and done, does it matter what you call yourself? Not really, I think. But I did find a label that worked. Nutritarian. If you think about ALL your foods as being the most nutritious for YOUR body (i.e. that you can absorb them and have no adverse reaction to them) and that they are of the highest quality available (local, organic, wild-crafted), then probably those are good healthful foods for you. As long as your body can glean a good amount of nutrients from the food, I think you should be great. Although I must admit, the high vibe feeling from being on a raw diet is completely unmatched. If we all aimed for high-vibrancy and high, uplifting energy as a goal of their eating, this world would be a changed place.
My burger-craving did bring something to light, though – that being pregnant made me realise that nutritional needs can change dramatically in different phases of life. I think babies have different needs to teenagers, who are yet different to a woman in her 30’s and even more different to a woman in her menopausal years. So should we be stuck to a label even if its not working for us? Is that healthy? Or potentially risky? Even though it may sound very chic to call yourself a particular ‘food-arian’, if you really need a label, try sticking to nutritarian – one who eats foods that are highly nutritious and of the best quality ever and ensures those are foods the body doesn’t react to and one who is willing to give their body what it needs particularly if the body signalling you to do so. The difference between this label and the rest? As a nutritarian, you have to figure it out for yourself. You cannot adopt a label that directs you to what you can and cannot eat. You have to take responsibility and follow the signals your body is giving you. It can be a long journey for some. I am five years into my journey and I have changed numerous labels – alkalarian, pescatarian, vegetarian and now am a high-raw foodist at the moment… but if something changes, I’d be more than willing to take on the pregnant Burger Lady tomorrow!