Thursday, November 17, 2016


I had a love-hate relationship with food while growing up. On a good day, I would only eat food that was prepared by myself or my mother. And even then, I always had a lingering suspicion that my mother was putting sugar and other stuff I did not want into my food. Even up till today, I'm notorious for bombarding her with my inquiries over the dinner table. (What's in this? Did you put soya sauce? Is there cornflour in the gravy? Is this a free-range chicken?) On a bad day, I would eat nothing but sweet potato or yam because I was terrified of refined carbs and sugar.

A few weeks back, I had to fill up a questionnaire for our corporate newsletter about healthy eating where I was prompted for some tips or 'rules' to help others sustain a healthy lifestyle. I giggled thinking back on the rules I'd previously subjected myself to: no carbs, no pork for blood type O, the caveman diet, vegetables only, vegetables and eggs only (I love eggs!), vegetables and eggs and tofu only, green tea and 300 kcal per day.

The rules turned eating - a joyful social activity - into a lonely struggle. Eating out became increasingly difficult, so I started eating at home more. And when tension escalated over the dinner table whenever I'd refuse to eat the food my mother had cooked, I ate alone. I wasn't able to abide by these rules for too long because they were extreme. I became lethargic and moody. And whenever I broke a rule, I would berate myself. So weak! No self-control! Disgusting! Not good enough!

It took me a long time to understand that the control I thought I had, I didn't really have. And even after that epiphany, it took an even longer time to get over the fears and re-establish a balanced relationship with food. But when I finally stopped withholding food from myself, I also stopped withholding love from myself and everything became infinitely better.

I'm glad that there are no more rules today, that I don't have to worry about being judged for eating "weird food," that mealtimes are no longer a great exercise in calculating calories, that I can reminisce on my tuberous roots days and laugh.

But if I had one rule - just one - it would be to eat everything in its natural form, nothing from cans or boxes where possible. (Unless you're making spaghetti bolognese. Then always get bottled tomato paste. And frozen peas in a bag - they're good too.) Processed/ready-to-eat food is one fear I haven't been able to rid myself of. And for good reason. 

Even apples that are too big and too red are scary too, because chemical preservatives and genetically-modified food seem unnatural and against the way of the universe. Scott says golden rice is good, though, because it is enriched with beta-carotene and has saved many lives especially the malnourished in the third world. I haven't read enough about it or thought of a good counter-argument, so my battle is currently against luncheon meat, gummy bears (although I loved them as a kid to the point where all my front teeth were rotten because I ate so much of them), crab sticks, canned sodas, and anything else that I can't really make out consists of what.

Just a word of caution about eating eggs out, always order them sunny-side up. Even though I know I'm eating an egg, some food establishments poach their eggs in advance, stick them in the fridge and then reheat them as and when they are required. And don't get me started on scrambled eggs and the possibility of making them from powdered eggs. Basically, trust nobody! Cook your own eggs! Cook your own meals!

Scotty made flatbread for breakfast one weekend
Adding some salt and herbs to our bread
Despite my many words denouncing processed food, we had our flatbread with chorizo and baked beans. Cheeky cheeky. Everything in moderation! Also on the plate is a fried egg and ribbons made from carrot and cucumber.
Even though dairy is not intended in nature to be human food - it is food for baby cow - and the stark fact that Scott is not a baby cow, he loves his milk and drinks it by the carton. We were only a couple of months into our relationship and it wasn't the right time for my inner control freak to shine, so I passively placed a glass of warm water with honey and lemon to his right. He drank both.

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