There’s only one thing that pains my heart more than overhearing a beautiful, put-together woman on bad first date at a restaurant.
It’s not that she’s on a bad date in the first place.
It’s not that the conversation is strained or off-beat or even deeply awkward at times. Or that I personally would want to die if some guy was explaining in immense detail about his awesome car/job/life. No, it’s not that at all.
What makes me want to cry usually happens after that.
The server will approach. Asks them for their order. I”ll see the words slowly coming out of her mouth, “Oh, I’ll just have a side salad. Oh…and no dressing. And no cheese. Thanks”. Completed with a shy glance at the server that quickly drops into a stare at the table.
The guy orders appetizers to share. And some kind of entree.
So it goes. The food comes. He eats. She picks at it politely. The apps come and go. She sips her wine. The salad leaves the table, after being ruffled around just slightly.
And I just die in the corner.
Wanting so badly to call a time-out.
STOP. To pull her into the bathroom. And tell her that it doesn’t have to be that way. To tell her that she’s so much better. There’s another way to live her life. That she could (and should) order an actual meal. And have no shame about it.
I want to tell her that I know what she feels like, what she’s thinking in her head.
Because I used to be exactly like her. And I want to save her from ever living life with so much calculation, negative or weird head talk and so much effort be to healthy.
Or to be thin. Because I know she probably thinks they are the same thing.
This topic means the world to me. I knew I had to write about it eventually.
Mostly because it’s so much less socially awkward than pulling strangers into bathroom stalls at restaurants.
You know, for all of us.
So today. Briefly. My lifetime ban on side salads. And why I couldn’t feel more “healthy” about it.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Side salad orderers think they are picking the “healthy” choice. Can we agree on that?
What does that even mean?
That you eat your kale and work out everyday and drink lots of water and don’t eat a lot of crap? Maybe.
I mean, it’s definately a good start. You know I think everything becomes so much clearer and easier when you eat real food.
Getting the processed food out and eating real food as your default really can change a lot in your life because of how much food impacts how you feel in your day to day life (energy, mood, productivity, sleep, etc).
But it’s not where I think you should stop. You’re selling yourself way too short if you think being healthy can be achieved by following a checklist of all the things you hear you should be doing.
Because sometimes the rules are dumb. And not actually helpful. And restrictive. And obsessive. And guilt-inducing.
And, I’m convinced. How we treat & think about our food situation often mirrors how we treat, think about and handle everything else in our life. And I don’t know about you, but restrictive, obsessive, and guilty are not my first choice of words I’d like associated with me.
For me, my ultimate goal is to…. yes, live a healthy and happy life.
But, a truly healthy life in my eyes, is one that is rich, expansive, and meaningful. Uplifting. Satisfying. And fulfilling on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, in relationships, in my work, and in my daily life.
Being healthy means doing things that make me feel free and ALIVE.
It means that I want that feeling as much as possible.
In all those life categories.
But most especially when it comes to food.
And it’s been the one category that has taken a 180 degree turn in my life after I transitioned to eating all real food. And sometimes I just get so happy to feel so free around food, I can barely contain myself.
So, when I eat, I eat with gusto.
With love. A lot of it.
With this crazy, glittery kind of joy.
I appreciate the colors, the textures, and all the tiny details of good food. How amazing it is that is just grows on it’s own. Talk about a real-life miracle.
All the beauty. All the smells and textures and tastes. All the excitement and possibility.
Eating with gusto is sometimes slow and reflective. Other times, it’s busy and succinct. But it can only happen when you’re in the present moment. Aware of what you’re doing. How you’re feeling. When you’re connected and dialed in. It’s how food is meant to be eaten.
And that is more important, more healthy than anything that you would find at Whole Foods, any day of the week.
So, when I go out to eat, I order a real meal.
Like off the entree list.
With no shame. No guilt. No feelings of being un-lady like or a fatty. Which makes it feel even better.
Sometimes I’ll do this just to see the shock on other people’s faces… or at least in their heads when they first go out to eat with me. “Isn’t she supposed to be so into healthy food? I got the side salad and she got the (grass fed) lamb burger and fries. #hypocrite”.
I love every second of it. I feel great about my order. I feel great when I’m eating it. I feel great after.
Little do most people know, my choices are healthy. Just not conventionally speaking, of what you hear you should order to lose weight and be “healthy”. Mine are different.
They are real food options, totally and completely. I count my nutrients, not my calories. And that type of food tastes better anyways. And fills me up.
They are healthy choices because I’m aware enough to know that I’m physically hungry for food in the first place. And I know that because I’m in tune with my body.
And I’m in tune with my body because I eat real food and it’s a lot easier to tell those things when you are eating clean vs being numbed out on sugar, caffeine and processed food that clog those signals. See how that goes together?
It’s a totally different game.
I feel wild, free and alive.
In the middle of the restaurant.
It feels like a juicy little secret.
It’s something that I wish every single woman could feel. Could start to do. That eating real food with gusto, love and appreciation is sexy. Centering.
And incredibly freeing. And how a lot of the other aspects of her life would start to change for the better once she did.
And with that mentality, eating “healthy” becomes so much more joy-filled. Lovely. Soulful. And positive. And something that you actually WANT to continue to do because it just makes you feel good. So much so that it turns into how you live your life.
Wild. Free. And more deeply ALIVE in every sense of the word.
And so. A request.
That the last time you ordered a side salad for your whole meal was yesterday.
Can I get an amen?
Photography courtesy of Carina Skrobecki.
Sarah Adler is a nutrition coach, healthy lifestyle expert, cookbook author real food lover and owner of Simply Real Health—a healthy lifestyle company on a mission to educate, teach, and inspire others to live their happiest and healthiest life.