Eating Healthy While Still Having a Social Life
After analyzing the ingredients my husband was assembling, an acquaintance declared, “You have healthy taste buds”. While he meant it as a joke, the underlying message was clear: any “normal” person wouldn’t enjoy the meal. This statement has some truth, but not the whole truth. I know this from experience.
Our taste buds learn and adapt based on their environment and for the average American, it means lots of processed food containing sugar. There are the obvious culprits, like desserts, frozen packaged meals, or sugary cereal, but sugar is also hidden where you wouldn’t expect it: bread, sauces, meat, “health bars”, and some seasoning. Sugar is an addicting substance. I didn’t even realize I was addicted, until I cut it completely out of my diet. I’m not saying it is always out of my diet, because I still enjoy dessert, but I try to keep it at a minimum.
The constant barrage of sugar leaves us craving processed food and unable to appreciate the intense flavors of vegetables and sweetness of fruit. After detoxing from sugar for the first time, I remember thinking I found the sweetest strawberry because, until that point, I couldn’t taste it. Not really.
Any previous smoker will testify that smoking mutes your taste buds and when you stop smoking, flavors suddenly come alive! I think sugar and smoking are similar in this regard. They ruin your taste buds and keep you from appreciating whole foods. I promise, cutting out these taste bud killers will change your life and open up a whole new world in the kitchen!
While I’m happy to have “healthy taste buds”, this comment brings to light another problem. It is socially acceptable to shame people for enjoying or bringing healthy food to a party, especially around the holidays. I’ve experienced jokes, eye rolls, or comments like “who brought the green stuff”. While it might be presented as a joke, the negative connotation is still present and subconsciously affects us. This behavior is counterintuitive to the media beauty standard of flat stomachs and toned arms because, believe me, those abs and arms start in the kitchen. While I can’t change the comments you may get, I can help change those opinions. When the ‘healthy’ food at the party disappears, attitudes start to change.
I have gone through my own food journey, from diet pills, to processed food connoisseur, freezer meals, dieting fads, and wading through the chaos to find my own happy place. I am by no means perfect and I am still learning but that’s the beauty of life, right? One thing I’ve learned is consistency is key. I can’t live a happy life if I eliminate a million things from my diet, so I don’t. I focus on eating real vegetables, fruits, and avoiding refined sugar as much as possible. I still enjoy some holiday cookies, but not every day. My non-elimination diet is what I can maintain for years, not just 30 days. More on this in another post, probably around the end of December when everyone is freaking out about getting on the health food kick.
It is hard to keep your healthy streak going when invites are rolling in for holiday parties, cookie swaps, and the holiday meal itself. Please, don’t skip these events! Keep your social life alive but bring a dish that is good for you and tastes amazing, even to those who may not have ‘healthy taste buds’.
Here are some recipes that you won’t be embarrassed to bring to your next social gathering.