Eating psychology has taught me that having toxic nutritional beliefs effects my metabolism and digestion. One of my toxic nutritional beliefs was that eating pasta, bread, and pizza would make me put on weight and feel bloated. There is some logic and truth to my belief. Wheat, especially modern day wheat which is highly sprayed and high in gluten, can certainly create gas in our digestive system because our enzymes and other digestive processes can struggle to deal with this grain. However, ancient wheat such as spelt or kumut that hasn’t been bleached and has less gluten is often much easier to digest (celiacs and those with severe reactions to gluten must still avoid these wheats as well). If a persons digestive system is damaged from years of ingesting modern day wheat it is important to support healing with good probiotics, fermented foods and plenty of vegetable fibres to feed our helpful bacteria.
My fear-based thoughts about wheat were creating a stress response in my body. This stress response meant blood-flow was directed to the outer muscles (legs and arms) so they are provided with fuel to respond accordingly to what my mind percieved. We are programmed to respond to high cortisol levels in our blood created by stressors, real or imaginary, so if our minds believe we are in danger the automatic response is to prepare to fight or flee. Sitting at our table with food in front of us, worrying about what we are about to eat has the same chemical reaction as being faced with an enemy to battle. Stress = digestion turned off, as no blood flow to the digestive system means it’s processes aren’t activated.
I am now in Italy, mixing business with pleasure. I am going against my “normal” patterns by embracing the traditional pastas, breads, and pizzas. I have learned interesting facts about the wheat that is grown and used here. It is graded from 00-04 depending on how finely milled it is, with the lower numbers having less gluten. I am also finding that by eating the locally made pasta and pizza in a relxed and pleasurble way that my digestion is void of the common bloated feelings and other side effects that can come with eating foods from lesser quality wheat.
I am truly enjoying my newborn love affair with pasta and pizza. I love watching the locals eating and chatting. Against what would traditionally be recommended, they eat late and often do not eat breakfast. An espresso gets them started on their day. From what I can see, this seems to be suiting them just fine.
There are many contradictions here to commonly given nutritional advice and strategies. Using a mix of understanding our physiology and our own body-wisdom is a great way to find your own nutritional strategy, and by all means you change this strategy daily. Explore and have fun with different foods and cultures. As I heard before arriving in Italy, it is considered rude not to finish your meals and learning what pastas go with which meat and fish is essential. This is counter to how I’ve been eating for years. Not wanting to be disrespectful, I did research on combinations to have, I’ve eaten all the food put in front of me, and learned the essential phrases on words to use in restaurants.
This experience is momentus because a few years ago, and with certain beliefs, I wouldn’t have been able to truly embrace my Italian-food love affair. What I’m taking away from this experience is to say f*ck it to the feeling of being stuck by concrete nutritional rules and rituals. The feeling of satisfaction after enjoying a meal that may be rare to you (in my case, eating pizza and pasta in Italy) is certainly nothing to fear, nothing to hide from, and DEFINITELY nothing to deny yourself while on the journey of life.