by Molly Alessandra Cooper
Don’t resist the doughy scent of stone-baked, chilli-oil-drizzled, four-cheese pizza. Don’t substitute fresh salty focaccia for boiled kale and plain salmon when the substitution makes you feel lighter, but unsatisfied. Don’t go fat-free, gluten-free, carb-free or breakfast-free as a challenge or because the Hemsley Sisters and Joe Wicks told you that you could look like THEM if you changed your diet. Don’t fad diet, don’t limit food groups or obsess over how many grams of whatever is in your lunch. Don’t spend all your money on goji berries and coconut water or live off shakes for a week in a desperate attempt to feel ‘healthier’. You know your body best: listen to your gut, feed your soul.
Do throw in an extra glug of extra virgin olive oil and an extra grating of parmesan, because it makes your belly feel so good. Do consider what you eat in terms of joy. Remember the warmth of white bread sunk into garlic-infused baked camembert, followed by a peppery pine nut and rocket salad. Remember how that feels in your perfect stomach and embrace those endorphins. Do eat what you want, especially when with friends, on lazy Sundays and when your mind isn’t feeling so great. Remember the unique pleasure which comes from sharing food, hinting to taste someone else’s dish to feed your curiosity. Do try new food at every opportunity and experience culture through their cuisine. Everyone has something new to offer; their family’s recipes, their culture’s cuisine and the results of their university days’ trial and error. Don’t regret feeling a little full every now and then if the journey was worthwhile.
“You know your body best: listen to your gut, feed your soul.”
Don’t hesitate to eat a rich curry because you’ve just recognised the amount of ghee and cream which must help to make it so delicious, nor refuse a cream-filled cannoli which is impossible to eat with grace. Eat it, savour it. Vary your diet and don’t get bored of the same eating routines. Educate yourself on the value of food for your mind and body and don’t forget to treat yourself. Cherish your food and experiment as much as possible with cooking – don’t always stick to the recipe. Food is an experience and we are so privileged to have access to such a variety. Don’t waste your food, find new ways to use the ends of bread in Middle Eastern salads, discover what lemon zest can add to a Mediterranean feast and always use brown bananas to make banana bread (and eat it toasted with golden syrup).
Allow yourself and encourage others to enjoy a halloumi-and-hummus burger in a sweet brioche bun, but be sensible enough to know not to eat this every day. There’s a balance to be found away from strict diets with hours spent guiltily in the gym after a ‘bad weekend’ and living off a lazy beige diet every dinner. We need to focus on food in terms of the end goal: our happiness and health whilst keeping environmental responsibility in mind (hint: avocados and animal produce aren’t always okay). Indulge, and remember that fuel isn’t food’s only purpose – it can do a lot for happiness too.