Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the winds of dietary change…

well, hopefully not THOSE kind of winds! LOL!

so, I thought I should come out in the open with this. not that it’s a really big deal, but it’s one of those things that I’ve kind of kept to myself, for the most part, just because it seemed like the right thing to do while I was figuring some things out for myself. in the last several months I’ve become, more or less, a closet paleo dieter. if you don’t know what that is, google it. there’s a bazillion sites and blogs and books and what have you that will explain it to you. I have several friends who also follow this diet, openly. LOL! you can read about their adventures here or here!

BUT, I feel the need to give you MY personal take on it.

first of all, I hate the word ‘diet’. if ‘diet’ meant what ‘diet’ really means, I would have no problem with it at all. a diet is simply what a person or animal eats. that is their diet. but, in 21st century america, a ‘diet’ is something you do in order to lose weight. there are 4 million and a half patented ‘diets’ out there, guaranteed to do whatever it is the media is telling you you should want. most are fads, most won’t work, some are quite expensive, some require counting this, that or the other thing, etc. etc. etc. but, for the most part, when people think of a ‘diet’, they think of something temporary which is designed to help someone lose weight. you are “on a diet”.

2 things about this bother me.

first of all, the whole idea seems highly illogical. if a person weighs more than they want to, and the reason is because they eat too much of the wrong stuff, then how is dieting for a few weeks or months going to fix that? if, after losing the amount of weight they deem acceptable, they return to eating how they did before the diet, then how are the results going to be any different?

secondly, when someone my size throws around the word ‘diet’, people get a little weird. I either get accused of being anorexic or I get eye rolls and snide comments. not exactly fun situations for me.

so, let me lay it out here, right at the get go. I am not trying to lose weight. the end. let’s move on.

I have wanted to change my diet for a number of reasons.

first and foremost, I just didn’t feel as healthy as I knew I could be. I wanted to have more energy, I wanted to lose that heavy, slow, weighed down feeling, the bloated feeling I would sometimes get after eating, and just a general inkling that something wasn’t quite right.

my other point of motivation was long-term health. I watch so many people around me dealing with stuff like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, various other unexplained, unpleasant symptoms, and all sorts of other not-so-fun stuff. I’m not sure I know anyone over the age of 50 who does not take a handful of prescriptions every day. I don’t want that. now, I’m not, in any way, saying that every single thing out there can be ‘fixed’ or even ‘prevented’ by a change in eating habits, but we all know that a LOT of that stuff is brought on by a person’s diet and/or activity level. ideally, I want to live a very long life. I don’t know if that’s what God has planned for me, but if I am blessed with a long life, I want to be happy, healthy, and able to enjoy all of it. I want to be as absolutely free of hospitals, surgeries, doctors, pills, pain, and everything else as I can possibly be, and if I can do something about that, you had better believe I’m going to do it. I also know that I am 35 years old and I’m about 35 years late in deciding to care about this.

but, better late than never.

and so, with all of this in mind, I did what I always do… I went to the library. LOL! okay, I used the internet some too, as well as friends, and my doctor.

this is what I have come up with is this:

I have to eat. the food I eat keeps me alive, and the quality of that food is what determines the quality of my health, and therefore, my life. God (and, in some cases, scientists) has given us a wealth of food to choose from. some of it is highly nutritious. some of it is kind of neutral. and some of it is downright BAD for you. my goal is to take every opportunity that I have to put food in my body, and use it to put in that which is the best possible fuel for me.

the basis of the paleo diet (in my words and generalizations) is this: meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds. the end. no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no sugar, no starches, no processed anything.

yes, that sounds pretty restrictive. I do not follow that strictly AT ALL.

I am avoiding the grains because 1) they are bulk which fill you up but do not offer a lot of nutrition. 2) I am highly suspicious (and currently awaiting test results) that I have an allergy or sensitivity to wheat/gluten/or some other related grain. there are a lot of recipes out there for paleo baked goods which are made using almond or coconut flour. I haven’t tried any of these because I really haven’t missed the breads or baked goodies. but maybe I will in the future because they’re loaded with good stuff and not with the bad.

I do eat dairy. I love cheese, I put a big ‘ole scoop of plain greek yogurt in my smoothie every morning, and when I get a latte at starbucks, I want actual milk in it. the whole concept of soy milk creeps me out a little bit. assuming my tests do not come back showing a dairy allergy, I intend to continue eating limited dairy products. oh, and I can’t forget the small splash of half and half I put in my morning cup of coffee.

I do eat legumes. not a ton, but I eat peanuts and peanut butter (the kind that is just made out of peanuts – you know, the kind you have to stir!), green beans, snap peas, lentils, and various other beans. apparently legumes contain some anti-nutrients. I am not overly concerned with this because legumes are NOT a large part of my diet, by any means.

I do not eat sugar. believe it or not! at first I thought this would be impossible. BUT, with not eating grains, I eat virtually no baked goods, which eliminates the main source of sugar in most people’s diets. I also don’t eat cereal (not that I ever really did), which is another common source of sugar. I use a tiny bit of honey in my coffee. I do get a little sugar when I go to starbucks (which is once a week, at most). I tried doing just a plain latte, but it was a little boring, and if I’m going to spend actual money on coffee, I’m going to enjoy it. so now I’ve taken to getting a 1/4 pump of vanilla in my latte. that’s the great thing about starbucks, you can customize EVERY aspect of your drink. I use plain yogurt in my smoothies, and if I want to eat it straight, I add some fruit or sometimes a little bit of pure maple syrup. there are a few acceptable sweeteners, but mainly, the idea is that we (collectively) use WAY more sugar than necessary and we’d all be a lot healthier without it. one of my main inspirations in this department was a you tube lecture on the subject of sugar. it’s called sugar: the bitter truth, and if you’ve got an hour and a half to spare sometime, I highly recommend watching it. it gets a little scientific in the middle and some of that part of it was a little over my head, but the information is somewhat critical. at any rate, I’m training myself to enjoy things without them being saturated in sweetness. it’s really not that hard, once you are not regularly eating it, which just makes you want more.

as far as the starches go… this is mainly stuff like potatoes. I’m not super-overly concerned about this either. I eat white potatoes, maybe once a week. and it’s not like they’re devoid of nutrition. sweet potatoes are better for you, and, while I’ve never really liked them, I’ve discovered that I LOVE sweet potato oven fries. I also eat popcorn. this is one of my family’s favorite snacks and I am no exception – especially if we are all sitting around watching a movie or a favorite show. we make our popcorn in an air popper and use real butter and sea salt on it, so no fake chemicals or stuff like that. still, it’s kind of nutritionally barren.

I really don’t eat processed foods all that much. I don’t buy frozen meals, or packaged meals really, I don’t eat cereal or crackers, and given that I don’t eat bread or baked goods, I avoid a lot of that stuff. I also don’t drink soda. I’m still looking for a good source of sandwich meats and bacon that tastes good and isn’t full of preservatives like nitrates and nitrites. not costing a fortune would also be great. I’m also looking for a good salad dressing, and I’ll probably wind up making my own. my biggest deterrent right now is that I don’t have an appropriate bottle or decanter to put it in. lame excuse, I know. I also like to have larabars on hand for snacks. BUT, they are real food, minimal ingredient bars, made entirely of various fruits and nuts. I love them. they are filling, yummy, and I recognize and can pronounce the names of all 3 or 4 ingredients listed on the wrapper. my biggest issue right now is pizza. friday night is pizza night in our family. that’s just the way it is. I had originally figured I would just chalk it up to letting go that one night and enjoying pizza with my family. however, I’ve been having stomach discomfort after eating it, so I might have to rethink that…

so yeah, that’s my synopsis.

I’m not doing this because it’s a fad. I’m researching. if I’m going to cut something out of my diet, I want to know why. and I have to be convinced that there is more harm from it than good. (and no, “because it tastes good” is not considered ‘good’.) I am revamping my whole approach to food and eating, and so far I love it. I do feel better. I do have more energy. I don’t have that groggy, foggy, hard to get out of bed in the morning feeling. I am becoming more in tune with the way my body reacts to the food I put into it. and there’s a very BIG mental connection between feeling good ABOUT the food I’m eating, as well as feeling good because of it. and most importantly, I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself. I’m not hungry. I’m not concerned with counting calories. and really, I don’t miss much. it sounds crazy, and like I’m probably lying to make it sound like it’s not that bad. but I’m being totally honest. I really can’t think of much that I miss. maybe sourdough bread. (and if I’m not allergic to wheat or gluten, I will probably eat a little of that here and there because I love it so much!)

so why am I ‘coming out’ about this now? well, I think it’s good information and I’d love to share it with people who might be interested. I also am starting to feel kind of conspicuous when I avoid the cookie table after church, or when I don’t eat the cake at the birthday party, or eat my hamburger without the bun… it is a little bit weird, and I don’t want people to think I’m being snobbish or worse, that I “don’t eat”. yes, I’m probably overly concerned about this, but I’ve been accused of being anorexic a number of times in my life and I really don’t want to give people that impression. I just try to eat healthy food, that’s all. but trust me, I eat. but this is my own, personal decision. I do not judge anyone else because of what they choose to eat. that’s not my business. I am doing this on my own. I’m not imposing it on my family. my kids take sandwiches in their lunches and I’m not forbidding them to eat sweets or anything like that. I’ve always tried to keep that stuff at a minimum anyway, and also to explain why it’s not a good idea to eat too much of that kind of food. but I’m also touting the specific nutritional value of whatever good food they are eating. I don’t want to force something like this on my family, but I do want my kids to be aware of what is good and what isn’t. ultimately, THEY will have to make their own decisions about what kind of ‘diet’ they will hold to when they are on their own. I consider it my job to educate them so that they will be able to make those decisions without ignorance.

so, will I ever eat junk again? sweets, ever? probably. once I get the whole allergy thing cleared up and have a better idea of what stuff really is toxic to me, I’ll assess it again. but I’m sure that every now and then I’ll indulge in some good chocolate, maybe some ice cream, and I can’t turn down really good cheesecake. BUT, definitely in moderation.

I’ve taken to writing down what I eat throughout the day, so I can see if I’m short on vegetables or fruits or something. it’s usually pretty obvious if I’m short on protein, because I will feel tired. I’m thinking of posting it here, just because people ask me, “well then, what DO you eat?” a lot. so maybe that’s an idea.

one last thing is that my perspective on the whole paleo thing is probably a little different than that of most people who follow the diet. a lot of what has driven the ideas behind this way of eating stems from a macroevolutionary standpoint. as a christian/creationist/young earth/God created… kinda gal, I spent a LOT of time pondering how the basis of the diet could mesh with my beliefs without compromising them. I could write a whole reflection on that whole process and how I came to terms with the diet and related literature, while still within the framework of my beliefs. maybe someday I will, but not today. mainly because this post is already heinously long and it’s past midnight. but rest assured, I have not entered this lightly, be it from a dietary, lifestyle, OR religious standpoint!

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