Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is there a line between conscientious eating and disordered eating?

Advance warning: I’m going to get serious for a minute here – so bear with me. Also know that I’m not trying to offend anyone or incite an argument – and these thoughts don't stem from a particular blog, person or event - I just want to get other people’s views. So dive in…

Many of us are trying to make the move to a more conscientious way of eating—whether that be lower-fat, more natural, more sustainable, etc. I’m one of those people. Over the last 5 years, I’ve gone from eating an unbalanced diet filled with lots of carbs and packaged foods to a more balanced diet—making a concerted effort to eat fruits and vegetables every day (yes, before - there were days when I didn't), eating more whole grains and making more things from scratch, etc.

While there are many people on this path to healthier eating, you’ll find that some people are more lackadaisical about their beliefs (like me—I will admit to occasionally eat candy bars and other “crap”) than others. I have found, mainly through reading blogs, that some people are much more committed to their ideals, eschewing anything that doesn’t conform to their established eating patterns.  

If you think about it, food is one of the few things we can have tight control over these days. We can’t control the weather, the traffic, the actions of our bosses, etc.—but we can control what we put into our mouths. In reality, this can translate into many types of eating—only eating certain brands of prepackaged diet foods, only eating organic foods, avoiding animal products, etc. There’s even a growing movement of people who choose to exercise this control starting at the source—by growing and/or raising their own food.

One thing you have to wonder about is how people make decisions to drastically change the way they eat. Is it based on how they feel, what someone told them or what they read online? How reliable was that information? I, for one, eat in a way that makes sense to me on a scientific and physiological level. For example, I'm very aware that it's difficult for humans to get all of the amino acids they need from a strictly vegetarian diet (not to say that it can't be done - it just takes work), so I choose to eat animal proteins. Also, if I eat something and it makes me feel crappy, I’m probably not going to eat it again.
I’m not saying my way is the right way. I heartily believe there is no one right way. But is there a wrong way? You often hear people rail on the fast-food-eating crowd, seemingly making the call that this is an inherently wrong way to eat no matter who you are. I personally don't know too many people who would argue against that. The less often talked about side of the coin that I wonder about is when someone takes a seemingly good thing like controlling what he or she eats to an extreme (for example, limiting his or her diet to the point that he or she doesn’t get the nutrients his or her body needs)...
So the questions I've been asking lately are:
Where is the line is between having ideals about healthy eating (whatever that means to you) and becoming so controlling or obsessive about it that it becomes disordered? Is there even such a line? And it is a mental health problem (as a true “eating disorder” is) or is it just an issue of control?
Would you step in and say something to a loved one if you saw him or her going down this road? Or would you step back and allow them to exercise their right to control their life and what they eat?

In my view - yes, there is such a line. I think it gets crossed when one's health, work or important relationships suffer from the choices a person is making. Whether it's a mental disorder, probably not "officially," but if it's an obsession - it could be borderline. Whether I'd bring it up to a loved one, I can't say for sure. I think I would, but I'm also big on free choice...

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? I'd love to hear them!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

This recipe fits the saying "necessity is the mother of invention" to a T. Last night I came home to an empty house after a long week of work (can you believe how hard it is to go back to a full week after 2 short weeks in a row?!). It had just started to snow and I was tired, but I was also starving. I was on my own this past week, so I'd just been picking at leftovers or random foods (crackers and cheese for dinner? why not?!). But my body was demanding real sustinence. So, I poked around the cupboards and the fridge and finally came up with an idea for a cheesy chicken and rice dish. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but it was actually very tasty, as well as creamy and comforting - exactly what I wanted.
Mr. VW is going to be sad that he missed out on this one... though he'll probably get to try it soon. It's so simple and good, it's likely to become a regular around here. And in case you're wondering why the vegetables get roasted - it's because it brings out their sweetness - especially the carrots. Even if you don't like carrots normally, I bet you'll like them roasted!

Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Serves 2

1/2 c. quick-cooking brown rice
1 1/3 c. water
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried chives
1 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. baby carrots, cut in 1/2
1 c. broccoli florets
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a casserole dish, combine rice, water, garlic powder, chives and cream cheese. Mix well.
In a mixing bowl, toss baby carrots and broccoli in 1 tsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking tray in a single layer.
Put both the casserole dish with the rice and the vegetables into the oven. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes, stirring vegetables every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning.
Meanwhile, sprinkle cut chicken thighs with tarragon and salt and pepper. Saute in the remaining olive oil until cooked through.
When the 25 minutes are up, remove the vegetables and rice from the oven. If the rice is still firm, cook a few minutes longer. Once it's tender, add the chicken and vegetables to the rice, stir in cheddar cheese and bake for 5 more minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Serve & enjoy.