For quite some time, it seems like bagels have gotten a bad wrap. And while I wish I could speak from experience about the ways in which bagels serve as a cornerstone in society, admittedly, it’s been a minute since I’ve included them in my repertoire. I can count on one hand the number of bagels I’ve consumed since I was 12. This, I am not proud of. So why am I talking about bagels now? And why do I feel atrociously late to the game?
When it comes to food and nutrition “it’s all shades of grey.” This is something my favorite registered nutritionist, Laura Thomas has said and explained in various forms and contexts. What works for one person, may be completely wrong for another. Similarly, the nuances of food being “good”, “bad”, “healthy” and “unhealthy” are pretty much moot when it comes to how it serves our physical selves. Food is food. Bagels are delicious. To me, the first is fact and the second is preference.
Intuitive eating in principle is simple, but implementation can be challenging (and scary). Honoring what your body wants, especially after years of neglecting it can be tough. Honestly, I’m still finding my footing through this process as well. Engaging in diet like behavior, whether it be prolonged fasting, “clean eating,” or strictly adhering to food labels only leads to mixed signals that distort the bodies innate ability to tell you what it wants. And at the end of the day, the only conclusion that can be made about any of the above is that it promotes an unhealthy relationship to food, and eventually you ditch them anyway. What’s the point?
My stomach is sensitive. I don’t always know what foods will set off a bout of cramps or discomfort, and there are definitely days when I feel more “comfortable” choosing a salad over a sandwich. Learning how to re-train your body to truly listen when it’s telling you what it wants is a process. And this process is not linear. This can be a discomforting notion. Some days feel “perfect” and other days are absolute shit…right when you feel like you’ve gotten this whole “honoring your hunger” thing down, your body rebels and wants nothing more than to submit to the usual favorites. There isn’t anything wrong with feeling discouraged, and there also isn’t anything wrong with understanding what’s going on in the body. Discomfort after a meal isn’t a bad thing. Bloat, cramps, even flatulence are all absolutely normal! Something else Laura Thomas stresses in her writing is that it’s important not to over pathologize normal bodily functions. Don’t stress about it, and your body will take care of the rest.
So where do bagels fit in? Over the weekend, I was having a rough go at things. My boyfriend and I had just had a row, and with my previous relationship to food, I would have typically opted for, “I’m not hungry anymore.” As if anger transcends itself into a feeling of “fatness” and discomfort in my body. When someone is upset with me, it has nothing to do with physical appearance. So we got in a tiff, on our way to a bagel shop. Which led me to not want to eat a bagel.
Before getting out of the car, I apologized. (So did he). Admitting fault is never easy in relationships, but it’s important you try because it does make them healthier. We sauntered into Beauty’s Bagel Shop, me eyeing the menu, and Elan already feeling confident in his decision. I got a sea salt and pepper bagel with cream cheese, arugula and veggies. We found a cozy seat by the window, piping hot coffee warming our hands, bellies beginning to rumble. The weather was overcast, as if reflecting the mood of our previous conversation. In that moment, looking at my boyfriend sitting next to me, eyeing the waitress walking over with our food, I felt totally at peace.
Being mindful not to scarf down my bagel in an effort to make it last, I felt like I was indulging in a 22 year long craving. Sipping my coffee delicately between bites, I took careful notice of how everything tasted. My bagel had the perfect salty crunch to accompany the sweetness of the onion, the peppery freshness of arugula sat perfectly on the fatty texture of plain cream cheese. At Beauty’s they also give you a few slices of homemade pickles that next to the bagels could be yet another reason I adore this place.
This luxurious mid-afternoon lunch was not “fit in” to what else I had planned to eat that day. I didn’t allot myself extra carbs from the bagel by eating yogurt for breakfast. I didn’t run a few miles more that morning to be “extra” hungry for lunch. Elan and I had wanted to get bagels for a while, so on a rainy Sunday afternoon, we did. We had a little bit of a tiff before hand and that reminded me that even the human being that I love isn’t perfect either. Food can heal in ways that extend beyond their nutritional value. Sitting side by side against the large window pane at Beauty’s we munched our toasted bagels and laughed at how sometimes hanger can be unfairly manipulative.
To be honest, I forget what Elan and I fought about. But what I’ll never forget was when that night he turned to me, as we were quietting down for the evening, and said, “we should get bagels more often.”