As some of you may know, I’m currently away from LA visiting family before I start the semester. My vacation started with 6 days in Georgia, where three of my aunts live. My mom, granny, uncle, and cousin flew into the Jackson/Hartfield airport from Chicago last Thursday evening and I met them there. The weekend was occupied with events as part of an even bigger family reunion for my grandma’s side of the family and then the last few days were spent with the relatives that I know best. It was a great week full of family, laughs, and of course, delicious food, which I’ve been chronicling on Instagram. I came to Georgia knowing that I wouldn’t be sticking to my normal way of eating and while I was SO excited to eat my granny’s cooking, I was also a little nervous about it. In general, we humans have a hard time with breaking habit but I was also concerned about my body– how would my body react to eating grains, gluten and refined sugar after not having done so in so long? Not eating granny’s cooking or baking was not an option, however, so I just had to go in with caution.
There was so shortage of sugar at this year’s festivities. My granny is Southern and stubborn and words like “gluten-free” and “paleo” do not exist in her vocabulary. Even if they did, I would never ask her to accommodate my dietary preferences. Over the two days of our trip, granny and mother made 3 sweet potato pies, 2 pound cakes, 1 large peach cobbler, 1 large pan of butter rolls (see below), and 1 German chocolate cake (with homemade frosting). I won’t even go into the list of savory foods in detail but I will say that though there were meats and vegetables, they would not have passed the snooty paleo standard to which I general hold my food (yes, I am aware that eating paleo is snootiness at its finest).
(Butter Rolls were my favorite dessert growing up. They’re basically little cinnamon buns that are baked and then covered with a vanilla cream sauce. Crispy crusted buns of sugar and cinnamon. Warm delicious creamy decadent sauce. They are as amazing as they sound.)
The first day, I may of ate a little too much pound cake and between the gluten and the sugar, I was definitely feeling it. Because of that, I was sure to take it easy over the next few days as not to shock my system to much. Throughout the rest of the trip, I was pretty happy with my ability to pace myself, and get my granny fix without overdoing it.
So now to the nitty gritty of this post. My experience this past weekend further unscored the importance of taking a holistic approach to health and happiness. As I said above, not eating my grandmother’s food was not an option for me. Yes, I could have bought and made my own perfectly paleo food but why would I? My grandmother helped raise me. Her food nourished me for so many years and though I might eat foods that a very different now, I still have the utmost respect, love, and admiration for the cuisine that made up my childhood. Greens, cornbread, fried chicken (fried everything!), cakes, homemade ice cream – all of it will forever have a place in my heart. Since going to college, I generally only see my family twice a year and the period of those visits seems to be getting shorter and shorter as I get older and life gets crazier. When I’m with my family, I don’t want to be concerned with calories, fat content, the origin of meats, or whether something contains gluten. I just want to do my best to soak up the time that I have with my loved ones and create the memories that will get me through until I see them again. My grandma’s food is not something that many would consider healthy by any nutritional standard but the memories that are made at her table – that have been made at her table since I was a child – nourish me more than any any paleo dish ever could. With this I hope to say, it is important to take a broad approach to health and wellness. Your diet is not everything. A few days, a week, even a month, won’t completely derail you if you’re committed to eating well. In fact, giving yourself some time to indulge might actually help you to stick to a healthy lifestyle more long term. Don’t allow a preoccupation with feeding your belly prevent you from having the experiences and making the memories that feed your soul.
That being said, I got into Chicago at 11 this morning and by 8pm tonight I will have worked out, gone to Trader Joe’s to pick up my usual whole foods goodies, and made myself a delicious, healthy meal. Right back in the saddle!