As I've been pondering how I want to eat for the rest of my life... both short term for weight loss and long term for maintenance... I have, over the years, repeatedly become frustrated when trying to map out the "perfect" plan of healthy eating. Even the basics of nutrition that I learned as a child and young adult are now in question. The USDA can't decide how the "food pyramid" ought to look, and there are conflicting studies left and right about everything from meats to grains to fats to soy. Being of the scientific type, I like straight answers. I want to know "the truth." I read endless sources trying to find the "right" answer. But it seems a futile pursuit.
Yet, I must find my path, whether that means eating according to some structured plan, going "paleo," staying low carb, or eating a moderate "traditional" diet like what I have eaten all my life with some changes (like cutting out fast food and binges). But "people say" *this food* is bad for you and *that food* is bad for you while others say they are healthy. It gets so confusing that some days I am tempted to give up and eat a Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit for breakfast.
There are what I think would be the easy answers... the ones no one could argue with: cut out fast food, cut out sugary baked goods and candy, cut out sodas and chips and French fries. Yet whenever I make that kind of statement I get comments and emails from people who tell me it is too drastic. That people "should" eat those things in moderation. That there is a place in a healthy diet for a cupcake or a candy bar once in awhile. And I am always surprised by those comments, because in my own mind that is the one thing we "should" all be able to agree on... that those types of foods are not healthy. Yet not everyone agrees. And if I post about eating fruit, which I would have thought everyone agrees is a healthy thing to eat, I always get comments about how fruit is high in sugar and bad for you. Well... like I said... even the things I think would be universally agreed upon, aren't.
Try to get into other foods and it gets even trickier: whole grains are good... no wait, they are bad. Soy is healthy for women... no wait, it is bad for women. Honey is a natural healthy sweetener... no wait, honey is "the same" as table sugar and should be avoided. Dairy is good for you because it is rich in protein and calcium... no wait, dairy is bad for you because it causes mucous formation and inflammation and allergies. No one can agree on anything! Even the "studies" conflict. So each of us is left to decide on our own what to eat or not eat. What is good or not good. What is healthy of unhealthy.
How do you figure it out? I know some folks are militant about certain foods, while others are relaxed about it and eat anything in moderation. I have come to believe there is no "truth" in regards to a perfect, healthy diet. It does vary for everyone, according to health issues, age, sex, and the effects certain foods have on each individual body. Having 3 cups of coffee in the morning might affect you differently than it does me. Having a slice of cake might not cause any health issues for one person while it sends another person into a full-blown binge, or sends a diabetic into a blood sugar crisis.
Well, I can't decide for everyone, but I do have to decide for *me.* And honestly, I am struggling with that, trying to map out how I want to eat for the next year or so for weight loss and beyond for maintenance. I like lists; for me, it would be heavenly to just have a list of foods I will eat, foods I won't eat, and foods I will have only on rare occasion. So far, I've got this:
Eat: Fruits & vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, green tea, olive oil, herbs & spices
Don't Eat: Fast food, junky candy bars, corn syrup, deep fried foods, hydrogenated fats, bagged chippy type stuff
On Rare Occasion: Birthday cake, good chocolate
The rest is up in the air. I've considered becoming a vegetarian of some type, as the whole "eating dead animals" thing has always turned me off and I always have to pretend I am eating something else when I have steak or chicken or whatever. But then I am not sure I'd get enough protein without meat. I hear good and bad about just about every other food. So let me ask you this: How did YOU decide what to eat? If you have cut any specific food out, what was your reason? What do YOU think about the following items (all of which have staunch advocates and militant avoiders):
Butter vs. "low fat spreads"
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy
Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products
Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils
Chicken, turkey, other poultry
Pork... lean or otherwise
Smoked products like bacon or ham
Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other)
Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey
Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?)
Soy and soy products
Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice
Amaranth, quinoa, other grains
Anything else I missed?
I would very much like your input on any of the foods listed above, and how you decided whether or not they are "healthy" for you. This week is a week of planning and possibly transition for me, depending on the results of my doctor's appointment and ultrasound tomorrow. I hope to be able to sort out what are the things I will eat to create good physical AND mental health for myself.
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