Friday, August 22, 2008
Does That Come with Fries for My Kids?
(Disclaimer: this post is about a diet for a healthy brain. I include it only because I know some of you, gentle readers, are burdened with the affliction of depression and anxiety and parenthood, often all at the same time, and so this post just might hold some interest for you. Others of you may find this topic incredibly dull and for that, I apologize and ask you to check back soon.)
In the past, I have waited until reaching crisis points before I'd deal with the signs of depression. Then my treatments involved talk therapy and pharmaceuticals. Now that I have discovered the great joy of living in my body (that pesky thing I never paid much attention to as a younger person), I am going to try a new tactic: treatment of the body to balance the chemicals of the brain.
Yoga has gotten me to this point. To complement it, I’m officially on The Antidepressant Diet, designed by my naturopath, Amy Fasig, ND. The diet-for-mental-health involves a change in my daily garbage-disposal eating habits. As you can probably guess, this means moving away from all the foods and drinks I go toward when I'm down, have PMS, am ovulating, mad at my husband, or ready to murder the children.
• Excessive dairy
• Cod liver oil
• 14 capsules worth of herbal supplements per day
• Leafy greens
• “Ancient grains” such as quinoa, spelt, and amaranth
• Food every three hours, like an infant
• Protein with every meal
• Animal protein at least once a day
I am supposed to increase yoga, walking and meditation. I am supposed to cultivate earth and fire elements. It turns out that, in ayurvedic language, I have a vata imbalance. (Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical practice.) This means, in not too uncertain terms, that I’m an AIRHEAD. See, I knew that, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a professional.
The animal protein thing will be interesting. I learned to cook at fourteen, when I believed that Meat is Murder and announced to my family that I would no longer be eating any of that chicken-fried steak. The animals had rights, too. Anyway, I had never liked the mouth-feel of animal fat. I had always secretly slipped my bacon into a paper towel in my lap to blot it before eating when I was a kid. (This may sound like the beginnings of an eating disorder, but I don’t have that kind of capacity for self-denial, so I was okay.)
My mom rolled her eyes and told me I’d better learn how to cook, because she didn’t intend to run a short-order café out of her kitchen. So Molly Katzen of the Moosewood cookbooks became my Julia Child. I enjoyed discovering things like pesto and exotic pilafs, and torturing my asshole stepdad by stinking up the house with fried falafel. He, in turn, enjoyed gagging at the sight of my hippie/other culture food and torturing me with Karen Carpenter references at the dinner table. Those were good times.
Anyway, I haven’t been a real vegetarian for years. Chicken was the gateway food back into the life of an omnivore sometime after college, and then when I got pregnant with Jonah I acted on my body’s deep need for swine. I ate salami, bacon, and ham. But the vegetarian cooking background means that I’ve never properly learned to buy or prepare meat. I don’t know a T-bone from a pork butt. And I still can’t stand the taste or smell of beef and lamb. Given my druthers, I’d eat mostly vegetarian food forever. It’s what I am used to.
But I’ve got my eyes on the prize, which is drug-free mental health. So, when my husband brought home some organic, grass-fed beef jerky, I ate a piece. Reader, it was delicious. I’m sorry, but it just tasted good. Apparently I have a taste for cured meats. If I want to get well, I’m going to have to go with that.
The biggest impediments in my quest for balanced blood sugar are my kids. I know there are people who swear they’ve raised their children on seaweed and barley water from day one, and that their six-year-old would rather eat steamed tofu than mac-and-cheese any old time, but I can’t make those claims. My kids enjoy a limited selection of sushi, but they do turn their noses up at a steaming plate of quinoa-and-chard. So what’s a girl to do? It already takes more time in the kitchen to prepare “whole foods” (i.e. things that don’t come in packets). And not only do I refuse to make separate meals for my kids, I don’t want them eating so much of the bread, sugar, dairy and chicken nuggets that have become the staple of the American childhood. Look what it does to me, their mother! And God knows my girl doesn’t need anything that will increase her mood swings. She's only three, but she usually acts like a fifteen-year-old girl on the rag, bless her heart.
So. I will continue to serve the quinoa and the fresh veggies. Sometimes I grate cheese over it for my kids and bribe them with ice cream. It’s a balance, you know. They get a few bites of ancient grains into their system and a shred or two of fresh vegetables, and then they get rewarded with a flood of heart-clogging cream and blood-sugar-spiking "evaporated cane juice." At least they didn’t eat a plate of fish sticks and the ice cream. And maybe they’ll develop new habits? Or just start eating out of fear of starvation?