Sunday, August 3, 2008

Celebrating imperfection

Every once in a while, you need a break.

The past couple of weeks, I had been really in need of a break. All of this cooking and carefully planning my meals and grocery shopping to keep my kitchen stocked with healthy food has gotten wearing. Normally, I am so excited to try out new recipes and new food, but lately I haven't had the energy. I'm burnned out.

So, Ben and I planned on heading out to the Hawthorne Fish House for dinner Saturday night. It’s one of the gluten-friendly restaurants I’ve discovered in Portland and hadn’t had the opportunity to try yet. (by the way, I lifted the pics here from their website, since I didn't take my camera with me!)

Oh man, was I excited. After reading multiple reviews and other food blogs about both the Hawthorne and Corbett locations, I couldn’t wait for rice flour-coated, fried fish with sweet potato fries. Most of all, I looked forward to relaxing, letting someone else do all the cooking, and not worry an ounce about cleaning up dishes. Even better, I was looking forward to being OUT, eating somewhere other than home.

Before I went gluten-free, I didn't eat out all that often, especially relative to how often the average american eats out, so it really hasn't been that much of a transition for me to eat almost all of my meals at home. And, what I am finding is that eating out gluten-free really isn't that difficult, what makes it difficult right now avoiding things like tomatoes, cheese, peanuts, corn, soy, and all of the other things that I need to avoid while I'm healing. Fortunately, the Hawthorne Fish House has a rather simple menu, and they fry their fish and fries in rice oil, not peanut oil!

Granted, I am not supposed to eat fried foods at all right now while I’m healing, but I allowed myself that transgression. Why? Because while it is important for my health to be careful about what I eat, it is just as important for my mental health to get a break every once in a while. As long as the break isn’t potentially really damaging (I wouldn’t eat gluten or dairy for example), I believe that for those of us on extremely restricted healing diets need to have a small mental health break. It’s part of acceptance, doing what you can for yourself, and recognizing when a small break will keep you from going totally insane.

In fact, perfectionism can lead to some detrimental thought patterns. Many who do not allow themselves imperfection can wind up mentally beating themselves up for small things said wrong, a small mistake or misstep at work, or any lack of self-control. Rumination over small negative life events can lead to depression and anxiety. Check out some of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work if you are interested in learning more. She has also recently released a great book called, The How of Happiness. Furthermore, Roy Baumeister has done some interesting work on self control. He maintains that exerting self-control over one or more areas of our lives makes it difficult to exert self-control over other areas; our self-control is a limited resource. So, for example, maintaining impeccable control over my diet makes it difficult for me to utilize self-control in keeping my apartment clean. (In fact, my apartment is a disaster right now!) While we can strengthen our self-control, and his work is certainly no excuse to go around exerting NO self-control (!!), it goes to show we can only be so perfect.

We decided on the Hawthorne avenue location and for some reason I was surprised at how ‘midwest’ the place was decorated, even though I knew it was started by a couple from Wisconsin! The meal was delicious! And, aside from being fried, my meal was relatively “safe.” I passed on the gluten-free beer (which Ben did enjoy, since he doesn’t even need to eat gluten-free, much less anti-inflammatory) and substituted sweet potato fries for the regular fries (white potatoes are more starchy than sweet potatoes).

This little excursion is just what I needed! And Ben and I always get giddy when we see those two little letters on any menu: GF.

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