Eating comfort zone

It's often said that traveling is one of the best ways to step outside your comfort zone. 

A new routine, a new lifestyle, new sights and perhaps even a new language that you do not understand.

Every time you travel, you welcome the opportunity to experience a new way of living.
And above all, when you travel somewhere new, there is a good chance that you will eat new foods or new meal creations that are not familiar.

Perhaps you are the individual who loves putting yourself into situations where you are forced to try new foods and adapt to new cuisines and eating traditions and customs.

But for many people, traveling can be an overwhelming experience because it requires eating foods that are not so familiar and that can make you feel uncomfortable (often more mentally than physically). 

While it is good to have a style of eating that works for you on a daily basis, if your eating boundaries are very limited, you may find extreme difficult to step beyond the place where your daily eating habits make you feel safe and secure and this can bring a lot of anxiety when you travel.

While it is very easy to say "yes" to foods within your comfort zone (or diet-approved zone) when you are at home, when you travel, you may find yourself saying "no" a lot due to a very restricted and limited food comfort zone.

While you should never eat something that doesn't agree with your body (allergy, intolerance) or goes against moral, ethical or medical reasons, living a life that is controlled by food limits is no way to live.

You may even find that you dread the thought of traveling to a new place (whether for work or pleasure) for fear of having to eat foods that you normally don't eat. Whether you are a picky eater or crave simplicity or struggle to make eating choices without nutrition fact labels, measuring cups, calorie counts or a clear understanding of how a meal is prepared, I encourage you to slowly begin to step outside your eating comfort zone. 
Over the past few years, I have become more uncomfortable eating....... in America.

While I am very comfortable eating in my own environment, my eating comfort zone is not always comfortable as I am eating in a diet and body obsessed society that has a very dysfunctional relationship with food.

This doesn't mean that I don't love the USA as I am proud to be an American but I am greatly disturbed by our culture when it comes to food and how people see and talk about food.

I love bread, yet in America, bread is bad for you - we are told it makes you fat and causes diseases.
I love grains, yet in America, only a few are "good" for you, depending on the current trends and who's giving you permission to eat what.
I love milk and cheese, yet in America, those are bad for you - We are told they are bad for you and can cause inflammation.
I love all fruits and veggies, yet in America, there's a list as to which ones are healthy and which ones are filled with the most sugar - thus making some fruits and veggies "unhealthy."

You see, when I am in Europe, I can eat in peace.
I eat all my favorite foods and new ones because the foods I love, grains, bread, milk, cheese and all fruits and veggies, are all accepted in Europe.

There's not a day in America where I don't see or hear people talking about the foods that I choose to eat in my diet, discussing all the "bad" things about these foods and all the "bad" things that will happen if you eat them.

And don't get me started on how "bad" these foods are for athletes, especially if you want to perform well, improve body composition and stay healthy.
(Would now be a good time to do a throw-back to our 2016 Ironman Austria finishes where our bodies performed so well, despite being fueled by so many "bad" foods and "bad" sport nutrition products?)

So why is it that I feel more comfortable eating in Europe than in America?
First off, I don't speak the language.
Therefore, when I eat, I don't hear anything that makes me not enjoy what I am eating.
There is no talk about carbs, gluten or sugar.
 I can taste and truly yum over my food without any judgement.

For me, food isn't complicated yet in America, it's complicated. Very very complicated.

I'm bothered by how companies market and advertise food and frankly, what people call "food" in America.
I'm frustrated by magazines, social media, TV and experts constantly brainwashing children, adults, the elderly and athletes that something on the body always needs "fixing" and the best approach to change the body image is through food restriction.
I'm saddened to hear how many athletes are abusing exercising the body, and believing that starving the body from calories is the "best" way to improve performance.
I'm upset that America is so obsessed with healthy food yet we have such an unhealthy society.

While I understand that I am speaking about our country as a whole and not discussing subgroups who may have a great relationship with food and the body, I know that t
here are many individuals who understand where I am coming from and you likely sympathize with me. 

By all means, you are allowed to eat bread in America!

Let's be honest - eating is a messy topic in America and unless it changes soon, our society will become more sick and ill because of unhealthy habits that can be changed by a healthier lifestyle and eating disorders (and disordered) eating will become more and more prevalent. 

Naturally, this is a very important topic for me me as a Board Certified Sport Dietitian because I want to be the change that I want to see in America when it comes to athletes improving their relationship with food and the body. 

As I enjoy my last few days in Europe (with more pictures of my Czech meals to share on Facebook), I will continue to appreciate a style of eating that I strongly embrace here in Europe.

For the last 3 weeks, I have enjoyed eating trying new foods and meal creations and welcoming any eating opportunity to try something different. 

I am not sure when it started or how it started but my diet has certainly evolved to one that makes it so easy for me to eat in Europe. 

Whether I'm eating in the USA or Europe, I never feel confused or conflicted about my food choices but in Europe, I eat among a society that appears to have a great relationship with food and the body.
And with every bite and every yum, I am happy. 

Stepping outside of America allows me to step away from a food and body obsessed culture which is heavily focused on what foods are good or bad, depending on the season, the year and the latest diet fad, research study and the loudest nutrition expert.
Here in Europe, I am not in a culture that eats in uncertainty and fear and doesn't need approval that x-food is allowed to be eaten.

Allowed by who?

I'm still wondering that same question and who you are letting boss you around as to what foods you need or should be eating to be happy and healthy.