I’m not the best gardener. But I enjoy working in the soil, especially since we live where lawns and flowers only flourish a few months of the year.
That’s probably why I get so excited to see the first gentle blooms of spring begin to emerge. I’m not thrilled, however, that the weeds seem to show up even sooner.
One of my in-laws has a sign on her door: “Ring bell. If no one answers, pull weeds.” It must work. Her gorgeous garden has no hint of a wayward plant.
Mine, on the other hand, is what you might call a haven for unruly flora. Pulling weeds is not my favorite activity. But I know if I slack on this chore, my garden suffers.
Last year, I waited too long to pull out a scraggly weed, using the excuse that it just might be a late-blooming flower. By the time I surmised it was foe rather than friend, it had choked out several beauties that were supposed to be there.
Sometimes my enthusiasm goes too far the other way. Yesterday, in my haste to get rid of the unwelcome guests in my garden, I accidentally pulled up some not-yet-flowering bulbs. Oops.
Pulling weeds is a bit like controlling eating habits. If I don’t nip my evening raid of the refrigerator in the bud, I’ll start to see an overflow on my scale. Conversely, if I too strenuously pull everything out of my diet that isn’t absolutely “healthy,” I might deprive my body of some key nutrients.
This latter extreme, in which clearing bad dietary habits veers into an unhealthy preoccupation with everything you consume, has been termed orthorexia nervosa.
According to a 2022 review in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, individuals with this condition exclude what they consider to be unhealthy or “impure” foods from their diet and worry excessively about healthiness to the point that they may suffer from malnutrition and excessive weight loss.
While there is an ongoing debate over whether orthorexia nervosa should be a psychiatric disorder or simply a lifestyle situation, experts like to remind us what normal, healthy eating actually is.
According to registered dietitian and family therapist Ellyn Satter, normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. It’s trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. In short, says Satter, normal eating is flexible — it varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your food and your feelings.
Now if I could just figure that out for my gardening as well …
Barbara Intermill is a registered dietitian nutritionist and syndicated columnist. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition: The Uncomplicated Science of Eating.” Email her at [email protected].