Monday, April 18, 2011

The Endless Maze of What's Good for Me

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):

Cow's milk
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
Red meat
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
Agave nectar
Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?)
Soy and soy products
Refined grains
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.


hopefulandfree said...

I'm sure that making lists and following plans, and so forth, are helpful practices for many. I read your post today and recall arriving at similar conclusions regarding what is "healthy" and "good" for me...and I wouldn't dare presume about figuring that out for anyone else.

I finally had to trust some silent but powerful inner helper, so to speak, to trust that everything I know is stored away in some brain cells somewhere, everything intuitive, everything evidence-based, everything I need to guide my actions, including eating.

So, mostly, it has been a loooong process of learning to *listen* intently to gentle nudges that assist me on a daily basis. I pay attention to, and stay aware of, what will be helpful to me today, this day, not some imaginary day in the future, and not some imaginary year to come.

Today. I like not having to choose the details, but instead remain quietly aware of my inner guide...she lightens my ride through this life.

But, I cannot deny, this life process is trippy. Yep. Trippy. In a fun/weird/awesome/surprising/etc way. :)

journeytobehealthy said...

I completely agree with you! For every study that says a specific food is not healthy, there is another study that either says it is healthy or is healthy in moderation.

I feel as if there isn't a "right" or "wrong" answer, per se. What an individual chooses to eat as part of a healthy eating plan is based on so many variables.

I've spent many years yo-yo dieting. When I've been on a "diet", until recently it always involved counting calories and eating certain foods in moderation. I've decided that for me, there are certain foods that I simply can not eat in moderation. It's like telling an alcoholic to drink in moderation or a smoker to smoke in moderation.

Currently, I'm eating a vegan diet. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be doing so, I would have told them that they were crazy! I decided on a vegan diet after reading "Breaking the Food Seduction" by Dr. Neal Barnard. So much of what he says makes sense to me. He emphasizes a low fat, high fiber, low to no sugar diet.

Will I stay with this forever? I'm not sure at this point. I have a huge amount of weight to lose, so I'm not very concerned about the maintenance phase yet.

I've never been a meat lover, I hate eggs, and cheese is high in fat and can be a trigger food, I have a family history of heart disease, and I'm allergic to beef. A vegan eating plan makes sense for me. I do eat chicken occasionally, but for the most part I've stayed with a vegan diet since January. The main aspect of this eating plan that I love is that I haven't had the overwhelming cravings that I've struggled with for as long as I can remember.

Good luck finding the right plan for you!

Cortney said...

This is so hard, because I know what you mean about wanting to research and do it "right", but the research conflicts and contradicts...

I just had to experiment and find out what was right for my body. First, I went vegetarian- meat has always creeped me out, I never really liked red meat, and I felt markedly better, lighter, and more energetic when I wasn't eating meat. I tried going vegan, but I missed eggs. However, giving up dairy really was eye opening to me- my terrible acne cleared significantly, my allergies/runny nose did as well, and my monthly cramps went from Death Storm to merely God Awful (still a significant improvement). As I researched and thought about dairy, the more I realized that it is, truly, absurd that I was ingesting the breast milk of another animal, every single day. It was made to grow a baby calf very quickly. Plus, even when it's "hormone free"... it still has hormones, because it's breastmilk. All of that extra estrogen in my system wasn't doing my periods or my acne any favors. In line with that, I don't eat processed soy, and I try to only eat soy the way it has been eaten traditionally- soy sauce, or I'll have tofu once a month or so. I use almond or coconut milk, and coconut oil in place of butter in recipes.

I experimented with cutting out sugar (and not eating any fake sweeteners, ever) and I found that I felt so much better. Like, woke up from a brain fog better. Same thing with caffeine.

At this point, I eat a ton of vegetables and beans and lentils, moderate amounts of fruit, nuts, and eggs, and I drink a lot of water. I don't have much use for oatmeal/cereal/bread, but I do like couscous and the occasional brown rice or quinoa.

At this point, a typical day looks like this:

An apple with one tbsp each of fresh ground, no salt/sugar added almond butter and peanut butter with a big glass of water before I workout in the mornings.

After I workout, an egg with about two cups of veggies.

Lunch is usually a smoothie (one banana, two tbsp each of chia seeds and ground flax seeds, about half a cup of coconut or almond milk, about 3 cups of raw greens such as spinach, chard, kale, and about half a cup of frozen berries) or a big salad with lots of different veggies, nuts, and beans, with a soup filled with a variety of veggies as well.

Dinner varies, but is anything from veggie tacos with beans to a pasta dish made with spaghetti squash to an Indian coconut curry with cauliflower rice.

If I want something sweet, I make banana soft serve- frozen bananas blended with whatever you like. It has a consistency like ice cream. PB, cocoa powder, and frozen bananas taste amazing. Or super dark chocolate with chilies and cinnamon.

And sometimes I still drink a big ol' iced decaf coffee with cow's milk. Or eat eggplant piccata, in a rich lemon caper sauce. But I find that the less I eat those things, the less I crave them. I think everyone's body deals differently with food, and you just have to experiment with what's right for you, and your body. It took me about 3 years of trial and error, and research, and reading, and wondering before I stumbled on what worked for me. I hope you find out what works for you.

Oh, and regarding honey/agave/sugar/etc.- I'm of the opinion that it's all pretty much the same. A sweetener is a sweetener is a sweetener, good in very small amounts, every so often (although I do agree with the research that HFCS reacts to your body differently, and I think artificial sweeteners should be avoided, always).If I'm going to eat something sweet, I'd rather eat a slice of amazing cheesecake than something packed with dates (a lot of people trumpet using dates in raw food, but they have a higher GI than table sugar...). I also think most junk food/candy bars/candy/soda is just absolute trash for your body, and it's hard for me to think of a rate of "moderation" that would be healthy when it comes to those things.

Andra said...

I like real food. That for me is the best gauge of whether it is good for me or not. I also know there is no such thing as a "PERFECT diet." Aiming for perfection leads to backsliding. I go for 80% and leave a bit of wiggle room. I like real butter in moderation (a butter bell is wonderful keeping real butter spreadable.) I drink raw, full fat milk straight from the cows of a local farm. I like whole grains and enjoy smaller portions of good quality meat. I avoid soy, HFCS and anything served from a window or a greasy bag.

katie said...

Ok. Here's a real exampleon how I decide what foods to eat..or not. I love my breakfast: every day I have coffee and a Kashi Cereal Bar. When the market was sold out I tried Nutrigrain bars. Big difference! The Kashi bar is very mildy sweet (apple)but enough AND it doesn't set off any sugar cravings. The Nutrigrain bar did! And tasted way too sweet and kind of chemically...yuck. Out they went. I could 'hear' my body .

Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

My general rule of thumb is this (taken from Michael Pollan "In Defense of Food"):

If my great-grandmother couldn't figure out what it is or it has more than 5-8 ingredients in it, it's probably something I should avoid.

Refined sugar (and its various other forms) are generally off the radar as well, due to cravings.

I have to work hard sometimes to figure out what my body (NOT my brain) wants to eat, but with practice, I can usually figure out if I need a protein-based food or something more carb-y.

Make sure you feel as though you have choices in your soon as you feel restricted, the diet mentality creeps in, which has always set me up for relapse.

Hope this helped!

debby said...

I hardly ever comment, Lynn, but I do love food and talking about it, so I'll give you my input on this. I agree with you that it is frustrating, especially when people are militant about certain aspects. One that comes to mind is the term 'insulin resistance.' This is a real thing, but people use it without the data to back it up. There are specific tests to see if you are 'insulin resistant,' and most people have not had it done. They just presume they are. Anyway, here is my opinion/what I've learned about myself, from your list of foods.

Cow's milk--can't live without it! Rarely drink it, but make my own yogurt from it every week.

Butter vs. "low fat spreads"--butter tastes way better, and will use it on occasion now, but prefer to stay with the low fat version I've become used to. I even like the spray quite a bit.

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products--love the taste of almond milk and it is a bargain at 40cal/cup. It does not work in all recipes as a substitute.

Red meat--still love the taste, but only have a really good piece probably once a month or less.

Chicken, turkey, other poultry--eat a lot of chicken. Love turkey bacon in the occasional recipe, but still use regular bacon sprinkles too.

Pork... lean or otherwise--same as beef, only even more rarely, maybe twice a year?

Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other)--I still use it. I try to eat stuff without adding it. Kind of a game I play.

Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey--I kind of think all these things, inc. agave nectar, have the ability to set off the cravings. And, they all have a lot of calories. I use a lot of agave nectar though. Just a spoonful here or there.

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia--yep, I am a confirmed splenda user. Doesn't look like it will end any time soon. I am working on it though, just because it is an artificial food, so it would be good to get rid of it if I can.

Coffee--every day, sometimes twice a day. WITH half and half.

Soy and soy products--I got confused about these too. There's an occasional soy product I enjoy. But I don't buy or cook with it myself.

Refined grains--NO. Doesn't mean I don't have the occasional cookie or piece of cake. Just that I know it is NO GOOD for me. As in sets off cravings. And doesn't last, so I am hungry too soon.

Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice--pretty much don't eat wheat (except above exceptions), do eat lots of oats, oat bran, flaxseed meal (this stuff is so tasty and keeps me full for a long time) Occasional brown rice. Rarely any pasta.

Amaranth, quinoa, other grains--love quinoa, but haven't really included it much in my diet except as the occasional breakfast food.

Hope this is helpful. We all have to find what really works for us, and be honest about what we think is happening in our bodies. The cues are subtle. I agree with that.

One thing I do agree with the 'experts' (guy who wrote The End of Overeating) is the sugar/fat/salt combo--that is VERY difficult to deal with. I am successful at avoiding it most days. But there will be the occasional purposeful ingestion of the stuff. That's just the way it is.

NAN said...

I eat a lot of chicken and turkey, feel badly when I eat pork (pigs are SMART) but I like the taste of it, and have never cared a lot for fruit but I love all vegetables. I am a food snob in the fact I only eat homemade desserts from scratch and candy doesn't appeal to me a lot either. I have a great immune system and am only sick with a cold every 3 or 4 years. I drink a lot of water, skim milk and diet soda too and make sure I take a multivitamin and fish oil capsule daily. I really think processed foods taste AWFUL! I think you have to find a plan that you can LIVE with. I also have never tasted raw dough/batter- NEVER; guess the thought of the tiny percentage of people who might get sick scares me. I am pretty conservative when it comes to eating 'old' food too but that might be why I am never sick.

Janis said...

This sort of overwhelming complexity is I think why simple calorie counting works for so many people. Otherwise, you get completely bowled over by the latest advice, which invariably contradicts the latest advice from a week before.

Agree on the advice about "if your great-grandmother wouldn't call it food, don't eat it." However, the only way to sidestep this nonsense is to go with calorie counting and portion size. When you do that, you naturally settle on the best bang for the "calorie buck," eating mostly healthy high-fiber, natural stuff with occasional indulgences. In other words, normally. Anything else is too complicated.

Neesha said...

I'm with you, Lyn. It's a struggle. I went Vegetarian because I don't like eating meat, but I actually became protein deficient (I don't eat any soy products like tofu, etc. because I am hypothyroid and soy absorbs free thyroid hormone). I did eat eggs and dairy in the form of greek yogurt. Now I eat turkey, cod, and tuna (considered 'excellent' sources of protein 3x per week in addition to my eggs, greek yogurt, and a couple whey protein shakes after my weight training sessions per week). I feel much more energetic, my hair is not falling out, and I have much more pep for my intense workouts.

Good luck to you as you work through trying to figure this stuff out. It's challenging and evolving all the time.

Amy @ Findingfitme said...

I totally understand the confusion. Been there! I equate it to parenting. There is a 1000 ways (an opinions) on how to raise a child but you go with your gut and a bit of research into what “fits” for you.

I would stick with what you know. You know that your body preforms better with lower carbs and no sugars. Maybe stick to a low Glycemic index diet. for example, whole grains, protein, veggies, fruits. For the fruits a berry is better than a banana (higher GI). It's just one example. Maybe the best place to start is list what you know about your body. If you eat potato chips, what happens, can you portion control, how do you feel? I know you have mentioned your reactions to foods all over your blog. A big blog review might be order. This review might lead you in a certain diet (lifestyle) direction.

You will have to allow for some adjustment (in weight) time when you make a change and you may find you will have to make tweets and adjustments as you go along.

I love what “hopeful and free” wrote. But I am an info girl to so if you want my opinion on the list, I will give it. It’s purely only my 2 cents. Die to my insulin resistance (not diabetes) I have to eat a sufficient amount of protein with every carb I eat. A meal is about 30g carbs to 15g protein and snack 15 carb/ 7 proteins.

Cow's milk - only in my tea
Butter vs. "low fat spreads" - butter (go real, whole)
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy – I am a dairy girl
Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products - still a dairy girl
Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils – Mostly olive here
Red meat – moderation
Chicken, turkey, other poultry - excellent, I have to have protein
Pork... lean or otherwise - not my fav
Smoked products like bacon or ham - I think I am allergic
Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other) - sea salt in moderation
Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey –moderation
Agave nectar - raw and agave. whole. Still use sugar but limited basis.
Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?) – Stevia is not artificial and is much lower glycemic. The other stuff no way, has been out of my life for years. Got to watch for the hidden ones in foods.
Coffee - I am a tea person
Soy and soy products - Nope, avoid it, too many hormone issues. I am not opposed to Soy sauce or edmamane but I avoid the processed soy, which is in so many foods
Refined grains - better whole
Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice – awesome
Amaranth, quinoa, other grains - quinoa excellent, amaranth - never tried

Anonymous said...

All the "naturally" thin people in my life share one quality: they eat in moderation. Nothing is off the table. They stop eating the second they are full. Very little to no snacking, I believe the eating every two hours thing is the biggest crock ever, what are we all, newborn babies? I think eating that way makes you never full enough and ALWAYS thinking about food. Work up a sweat every day, work out whether you feel like it or not cause you will feel better afterwards if not during. If you know a certain food like sugar makes you crave more, don't eat any.

This is the way I lived my life until my 40s when I quit doing the exercise due to a 3 hour a day commute, and I promptly got fat. As we all know once you have gotten fat it's oh so easy to refill those extra fat cells. Just get up each day and take one meal at a time if that is all you can concentrate on.

The one food I truly try and avoid now is soy, I know people will argue it's good for you but I think the fact that it mimics estrogen is bad. I've lost two friends to breast cancer and still have others who have it, I myself had a lumpectomy, and I've read enough to think we don't need any more estrogen. Maybe it's ok in small amounts of food but in supplements and shakes, etc.? No thanks.


Amy @ Findingfitme said...

What "debby" said about insulin resistance is true. Yes, there is a test - the 3 hour glucose tolerance test. I have done it. But on the other hand research has shown that 3 of 4 obese people are insulin resistant if not already diabetic.

Great infor here on web md

Excellent post and thought provoking.

Princess Dieter said...

While I do believe sugar/HFCS is toxic, and starches increaes my appetite and do add to inflammation--and as someone with an autoimmune condition and a host of allergies, I do well to avoid inflammation--I don't utterly ban anything. I've ddrastically reduced intake of grains/legumes and will have maybe some real dark choco with sugar various days of the week, in general, my rule is to eat what:

1. promotes anti-inflammatory
2. promotes lean muscle mass (as I wanna get strong)
3. decreases appetite (cause I still have 50 pounds to lose)
4. gives me some to a lot of pleasure without violating rules 1-3

Basically, I've been eating Primarian/closer to Paleo. I've added butter and some cream back in, removed 99% of grains/legumes, increased veggies (though I always ate a lot), kept fruit to 2 servings a day roughly (due to sugars, yes), but will have 3 if I really want a nice sweet treat.

I've stopped almost altogether with packaged stuff because I believe "clean" food is more nutritious and less bound to have salt/preservatives/additives that would flare my medical issues.

I feel pretty amazing and I haven't binged in 10+ months. Weight loss has been steady. So why change if it works, right?

I think people need to find what works to keep them energized and their minds OFF food. I don't have obsessive food thoughts anymore. So, for me, that is a clue that this is a good plan for me. If my appetite goes wonky, I have to re-evaluate. I have I.R., so starches are NOT my pals. At all.

High energy. Low cravings. Better mood. Those are my markers. :)

Now, to get even more lotsa protein.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! It is so hard to figure out what is "good" for you and I think the answer is different for different people. After years of dieting I have pretty much given up on fat free and lowfat products (with some limited exceptions discussed below).

I drink cows milk (skim or 1%) and non-dairy milk like almond and soy.

I use real butter and am not afraid of oils like canola or olive.

I looooove whole wheat grains from pasta to couscous to quinoa to barley etc etc.

I don't want to give up Equal and cream in my iced coffee but have started drinking tea by itself (no artificial sugar or milk/cream).

I eat greek yogurt (fage and chobani are faves) but can't stand how sweet lowfat flavored yogurts are any more.

I eat cheese - regular and lowfat but not fat free.

I eat meat in moderation. I love a good (rare) steak, but usually save that for good restaurants. I cook chicken or pork on a weekly basis.

I eat tofu.

As I said, I'm at the point now where I'd much rather have a little of the real thing than fake or fat free things!

Debbie said...

I'm not a big list maker, I have a more relaxed attitude. I know that for me I have to find what will work for the rest of my life, and if it is too strict I will rebel. So I try to eat whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, I do eat fish, chicken and lean meat. I very rarely eat bacon, ham, hot dogs or other meats with nitrates because they can cause me to have migraines. I have a strong family history of diabetes, so I stay away from sugar as much as possible, I do use splenda and honey. I don't drink pop, I drink 2 - 3 liters of water a day. I do eat dairy products, skim milk, non fat yogurt, usually full fat cheeses. I use olive, canola & sesame oil. I occasionally have a sweet treat, but not very often, usually just at a birthday or something. I don't keep sweet stuff in the house. I do have pretzels or a 100 cal. bag of popcorn sometimes when I want something crunchy and salty.

I am not militant about what I eat because I know that I can't stick with that lifestyle forever. I guess I have gotten to the place where I don't care what anyone else thinks about what I eat. I just need to do what works for me. Just as you need to do what works for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm constantly figuring this out for myself, too.

I feel SO much better when I don't eat wheat that I know it's something for me to avoid. When I eat wheat, I'm tired, achy, depressed, hungry -- and have constant cravings for more. Last week, I spelt bread fairly regularly and then by the end of the week had some whole wheat toast. By the Friday, I had to hold the railing to walk upstairs and I was in a terrible frame of mind.

Now, three full days of no wheat and lowish carbs and I'm energetic, running up the stairs, feel like I can do everything I need to do instead of feeling like I've got to push myself to do anything. When I'm eating wheat regularly I don't WANT to do anything -- everything is a struggle.

Sugar is bad, too. I eat it fairly infrequently now and when I have any I have a sugar hangover the next day.

I think we can usually find acceptable alternatives to the foods we know in our hearts (and bodies) that we shouldn't have.

What I'm doing now is mostly Weight Watchers CORE program.

Artificial sweeteners -- yes, I think they're neurotoxins. I studied them in a neuropsychology course. So - worse than sugar, which I think is pretty much toxic on its own.

I like xylitol -- a sugar alcohol that tastes like sugar except without the raunchy aftertaste. Because it's a sugar alcohol, though, you don't want to eat too much of it or it'll cause digestive distress.

As for foods leading to binges? I'd lost 25 pounds a couple of years ago eating pretty much the way I am now. On my birthday, my sister pressured me until I ate one of her freshly made white rolls. Aaaannnnnd... somehow, that started me on the slippery slope that saw me regaining everything I'd lost. But that was in combination with stopping weighing myself periodically -- which is another thing I shouldn't do. I'd binge, decide not to weigh the next day and then days would turn into weeks. I'd eventually force myself to weigh in and would be up 4 or five pounds. Doesn't take long to sneak on that way.

Things we shouldn't eat, IMO: white flour, sugar, hydrogenated oil. We're probably better off without dairy. But I think butter is healthier than low-cal spreads.

I think, realistically, we're going to eat things that we probably shouldn't sometimes. But I know I definitely need to have a plan for how I'll stay on track when that happens.

Good luck figuring out your plan and congratulations on your WONDERFUL progress!


Anonymous said...

Oh -- just one other thing: My mom, a nurse, always swore that we NEED sugar in our diet.

As far as saying that we SHOULD eat junk sometimes? Uh, that's ridiculous.

As you've noted, you start to lose your taste for junk after you stay away from it for a while. Thank goodness!


Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, I've thought much of what you wrote in tis post. Except for the vegetarian part.

I have my eating plan listed on the sidebar of my blog (http// To find it clicko n the picture of the dog holding the HEALTH banner. :) It's very close to a whole food diet that is gluten-free & low in concentrated sweets. (I have celiac's and diabetes or I'd be adding grains.)

The bottom line is what you already have said, some things work for you, some don't. Go with what works.

Otherwise, just wait for all of the anonymouses to rend their verdict.


Colleen said...

Lynn, the Medifast transition plan really allows you to answer these questions for yourself. You can add in each thing on your list (of course depending on the phase you're in) and see how it affects you in terms of satisfaction, mood, energy, and the scale. Transition allowed me to discover all sorts of nuances about how food affected me - like that sweet potatoes caused carb cravings when red russet potatoes didn't. Or that fattier cuts of meat like pork chops made me more prone to overeat than leaner meat like chicken. Or that 2.5 servings of carbs was my limit before it would affect my energy level ("carb coma").

Based on my experiences I've come up with rules that work for me. I don't think anyone else's rules would work for me.

And yes, I do rebel against the rules sometimes. I did a lot of stress eating last week that I'm now trying to recover from. But one thing I keep coming back to is that I need to set my "food boundaries" and stick to them. As soon as I cross one the cravings and inconsistent energy levels almost guarantee I end up crossing several others.

Anonymous said...

Ack. typo. Blog is NOT debwillbeTHING. sigh.

Graze With Me said...

I hate that there is so much conflicting advice out there. It's hard to wrap our heads around it.

My main issue is with fat-free and sugar-free crap. Diet foods are just a marketer's wet dream and I tell everyone I know to stay far away! I'd say the closer a food is to it's natural state, the better your body will be able to process it. Whole fruits/veggies, grains, nuts, REAL butter, whole fat cheese (more satisfying), homemade desserts (without artificial sweeteners), salad dressing made from scratch and everything else you have already talked about.

Processed foods have a place but it's up to each person as to how much they want to include in their diet. I'd much prefer to bake my own treats rather than buy them.

You seem like an amazing baker/cook as well so I figure the homemade route is more your style. :)

Brandi said...

I don't know if someone ha said this or not, but I am de-lurking to say that I have seen mention several times of various health problems within your home, and more specifically within your own body. You (and your family) might benefit from a little study on the Gerson Diet. Based on the choices that you make when you're sticking to your goals and strong in your resolve, I'm sure you could do it, and think you might like it. If you prefer movies over books, you might look for movies such as "The Beautiful Truth" and "The Gerson Miracle".

bbubblyb said...

I think food plans are totally a personal thing. I am far from perfect when it comes to what I decide to eat. I think most of the time I'm either on a plan of the same old foods again and again, the occasional treat, or off the edge a bit at times. I do know I don't want to count calories the rest of my life and since I generally know the calories of most foods I just keep a running total in my head most days. But when it comes to the foods I think it's mostly an emotional thing, what am I in the mood for at this moment. I do plan ahead and cook a lot of things in advance so most of the time I always have things on hand to pick from. As for the items you ask about I cut and pasted them here so I could comment.

Cow's milk - I drink it everyday but usually just in tea or coffee or the occasional bowl of cereal. I almost always use 1%.

Butter vs. "low fat spreads"- I use the fake spray butter stuff and that's about it.

Cheese- eat fat free (processed) cheese the most, a lot of my choices are because of trying to stick with lower calories

yogurt-greek yogurt plain probably 3-4 times a week depending on my mood for it.

other dairy- I like cottage cheese ok and eat the fat free on occasion.

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products-never drink the "other" milk products other than the occasional soy if offered by someone else

Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils-use pam for cooking and that is about it, don't keep oil in the house, use applesauce in all my baking.

Red meat- eat the extra lean stuff 1 to 2 times a week usually

Chicken, turkey, other poultry- eat chicken the most, many times a week

Pork- eat 2-3 times a month usually

Smoked products like bacon or ham-I'm careful with this stuff because of the sodium but when don't have lunch stuff fixed will turn to low fat deli meats on occasion.

Salt - use season salt in my cooking for flavor sometimes but try to limit my salt intake

Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey
Agave nectar- don't use these very often, the occasional honey if offered by someone else

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?)- i use splenda daily because it tastes the best to me, is it good for me, I doubt it but I like my tea and coffee and other things sweetened and it's 0 calories compared to some other more natural choices

Coffee- have tea and/or coffee most days with milk and splenda it helps curb my hunger.

Soy and soy products- I don't have too many soy items, don't really care for the taste.

Refined grains Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice
Amaranth, quinoa, other grains-I eat oats almost daily, will eat any whole grains in moderation, I limit bread

What I've realized is I got fat on carbs so I try to limit them. When my weight starts to creep up 9 times out of 10 it is because of to many carbs in my diet. I try to eat higher protein yet not to much. Usually keep my range at 50-55% carbs, 25-30% protein and 15-20% fat. I tend to eat the same foods week after week and find that works best for me.

I've also come to realize that I am comfort at 175. To some that is still fat but to me coming from 378 lbs that is a miracle and I have to maintain at a weight I know I can. I think if I tried to go much lower it would mess with my mind and to drop more food from my calorie budget I think I would risk gaining weight back. So I will continue to maintain at 175-178 and maybe in another year or so when my mind is ready I will drop another 10 lbs. But if I don't I'm very ok where I am now.

Not sure anything I have said will help but hopefully you realize that all this is just about being comfortable with yourself and being the healthiest person you can be. The big thing is being happy within too and loving the person you are TODAY. You are a good person.

Dinahsoar said...

Cow's milk--yes

Butter --yes

"low fat spreads"--no
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy--yes

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products--depends...only to save carbs or calories or for taste

Canola oil--limited use

coconut oil--yes

other oils--any that are not trans fats or not poly heavy

Red meat--yes, preferably grass fed and organic

Chicken, turkey, other poultry--yes

Pork--yes, I only consider the fat content relative to my daily calorie need

Smoked products like bacon or ham--yes, lots of flavor for a few calories

Salt --preferably sea salt or other natural salts

Honey on my goat cheese, regular cane sugar for baking, stevia to save calories in my tea..agave is a waste of money in my opinion, is too high in fructose...I avoid HFCS

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?)--limited use of all these...all but stevia elevate blood sugar and cause me sugar cravings, make me hungry

Coffee--drink it every day

Soy and soy products--avoid because I've had estrogen dependent cancer and soy is a phyto-estrogen

Refined grains--when I want to limit my calories I will eat them in small amounts in the form of diet bread usually

Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice--intact grains are preferable but they are still all carbs, I tend to limit carbs to 200 grams or less a day..I prefer my carbs to come from fruits and veg, not grain

Amaranth, quinoa, other grains--same as above

Taryl said...

I am a moderation person, as I believe God made food for our benefit and, in general, if it is mostly unrefined or unprocessed it is fine on my list. Off of your list, I watch it on milk, coffee, and almonds... I have allergec sensitivities to the milk and almonds, and coffee I like but caffeine and I aren't friends, so I edge toward tea. Otherwise, I'd eat anything and everything on that list as part of a heathy diet.

I try to eat nutritional, tasty, inexpensive food. Those are the needs I must balance for my family. With food things, I am not militant on any particular substance unlessi have found it personally disagrees with my body :)

katie said...

Dr Oz says "Mechanize your Eating" when trying to lose weight. I found this extremely helpful when my mind was overwhelmed with food choices. Just plan to eat the same few menus and stick with it. It really serves to calm the mind. Lessens the obsessive thinking around food and food prep. I have been very successful with the technique.

Jane Cartelli said...

I love cow's milk, I just cannot have the dairy fat so I have fat free only - but that is me. I do not claim to know what is healthy for anyone else.

I like real butter over chemically produced spreads but again, I do not eat milk fat. I have also taken low fat spreads' out of my diet and do not miss them.

Cheese: I still have ff ricotta, ff feta, ff cheddar and a few of the grated cheeses but only rarely.

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products - Noope
Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils- I use some of these oils and some others but rarely.

Red meat - I have 1-2 x a week

Chicken, turkey, other poultry 3-4x a week

Pork... lean or otherwise 1x a week, sometimes 2x

Smoked products like bacon or ham - I still have them

Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other) to me, salt is salt. I have less but I still have salt

Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey - nope

Agave nectar - nope

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?) These are probably worse than sugar chemically but medically they are better for ME because I will not binge on artificial sugar.

Coffee - decafe - love it

Soy and soy products Cannot have soy

Refined grains - I have anything that is not wheat. I do not like everything so some things I tried once and then did not have them again. Amaranth is one of the ones I did not like.

Missing: Organic vs conventional veg & fruit - I get what I can afford.


katie said...

I eat in moderation. I wasn't raised on soda or snack foods or fast foods so never developed an interest in them (I'm 57 yo) and they make me feel like crap if I eat them..they aren't real food and therefore never satisfy. Michael pollan's book and mark Bittman's book "Why Food Matters" both helped to simplify my ideas of food and eating.

Anonymous said...

I keep it very simple -- I don't eat anything processed or that my great-grandparents didn't have access to. If they wouldn't have recognized it as food, I don't eat it. I also avoid some things that they would have eaten -- sugar and wheat, and I have issues with both. And I limit fruit because the fruit we have today barely resembles the fruit our ancestors had.

When I was 90 pounds overweight I ate a HUGE variety of foods and had about 150 recipes that we would cycle through. Now I have about six stock meals and we're fine with that. I find that less variety leads to less over-eating.

Cow's milk - No, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it and I feed it to my kids. I personally don't like the taste and it isn't worth the calories. I usually just drink water.

Butter vs. "low fat spreads" - Only butter. I don't eat any sort of chemical fake-foods and suspect that fake fats are the worst.

Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy – I eat a little cheese (full fat, never the fake stuff) and heavy whipped cream in my coffee.

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products - It require an awful lot of processing to get "milk" out of almonds. Coconut milk that's 100 percent coconut milk is fine. I don't drink it but cook with it occasionally.

Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils – Only olive and coconut. I'm strongly against fake fats.

Red meat – I eat a lot of it.

Chicken, turkey, other poultry - I eat plenty of this, too.

Pork... lean or otherwise - And lots of this.

Smoked products like bacon or ham - I'm not crazy about it and use bacon mostly as an occasional garnish.

Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other) - I think salt has been unfairly demonized. I use as much as I please and have no blood pressure problems.

Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey - I don't eat any of it but am fine with my kids occasionally eating sugar or honey. Absolutely no HFCS though.

Agave nectar - Don't know what that is and don't need it.

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?) – Occasionally, and in small amounts. Here is where I break my "no food my great-grandparents didn't eat rule". :) And even though I occasionally eat/drink things with AS in them, I don't think it's good for you.

Coffee - Yes.

Soy and soy products - Absolutely none. The processing is scary and the studies linking soy and mental problems / decreased fertility are scarier.

Grains (refined and otherwise, doesn't matter - None. They give me joint pain and headaches.

So in sum, my eating plan is closer to Paleo than anything else.


Ellen said...

I was asking many of the same questions just 6 or 8 weeks ago. I had been struggling, trying to eat all raw vegan again, as it had had such a healing effect on my body 6 years ago. The failures and increasing bad feelings in my body finally convinced me that I could not thrive on raw vegan and I surrendered. In researching a natural method to address a concern I crossed paths with an online former raw vegan who had reached my frustration point over a year ago. She had read up on the Paleo Solution, gave it a try for 30 days and had such a resurgence of health that she has not looked back. I was impressed and did a lot of reading on line about how the body works and began the experiment myself. I have had to determine for myself that I don't thrive with dairy - not even cream, but otherwise, this way of eating has all but eliminated my cravings for junk food. I eat meat, poultry, pork, fish, lots of veggies and fruit- with coconut oil, olive oil as well. I hate counting, so I like this way of eating and I feel better mentally and physically than I have in years of trying and failing to eat healthy/vegan/raw, or count calories.
It is not 'big fun' with food, but simple, satisfying and my body is thriving with it. I walk a few times a week and plan to increase that as I feel better and lose weight. I have been eating to my heart's content and have even been playing around with having dark chocolate and cream during this time (I do much better with neither) and even so I have shed 12 pounds without feeling deprived and with many benefits - skin and vision is much improved. I had done Atkins in my 20s and shed a bunch of weight and only stopped because I became seriously constipated and did not know how to deal with that. I am taking magnesium, vitamin D3 and B complex daily, as well.
I spent many years chasing the dream of the perfect healthy diet - now I do what works for me.

Bonnie said...

Did you ever hit the nail on the head with this one! Maybe eating what I am truly hungry for (not emotionally). And I would add "water" to the list.

Cynthia said...

Well, it has to be an individual thing. Different folks are triggered by different foods, some folks just don't digest certain foods well, so Lyn, tailor it to what YOU have learned about YOUR body!

You won't go too wrong with good quality lean protein and veggies and fruits. Keep that as the bulk of the diet and then add in from there based on how foods affect YOU.

For me, nothing is totally off limits, I'm a calorie counter. My body is reasonably tolerant of sugar and starch in small quantity, both give me good energy for workouts. If I go too low on carbs, I don't feel that great and am low energy all the time.

But there are things that I don't want to eat often, and that includes some of what's on your list, like the hydrogenated fats, corn syrup, chips (trigger food), etc...

There are also things I simply don't bring into the house, because they are triggers. Jars of peanut butter count in this category! I'll actually spend more to buy single packets of almond butter, because that limits the damage I can do. I love nut butters!

I won't say a complete no to fast food, because some fast food salads I like and there are some less offending options to be had, like Subway sandwiches or an occasional cup of Wendy's chili for instance. An occasional junky candy bar is OK too, as I don't really crave those very often and they don't trigger me.

I have to watch dried fruits though... I love those and can overindulge easily! Likewise for raw nuts, especially cashews!

Grains I like, but don't necessarily eat daily. I adore quinoa, oats, brown and white rice! I will make things like whole wheat bread and pancakes on occasion.

Stevia is not an artificial sweetener, this comes from a plant. It is, of course, a refined sweetener, but is generally deemed safe and I use it in liquid form here and there. I also use honey and maple syrup on occasion. Small amounts of sugar give me energy and make me MOVE so I get better workouts! Large amounts do the opposite.

I tend to prefer fish and poultry to red meats, but that is just based on how my body reacts. I noticed that I have less trouble with grass fed ground beef than I do with regular ground beef from the store.

Salt, I use iodized sea salt mostly. My doctor suggested I get more of that, because I have an enlarged thyroid. I'm not a huge salt person. Don't do coffee much, love green and other teas.

I'm good with dairy (mostly in the form of greek yogurt and cheeses), almond milk, coconut milk, all of that. Butter, I buy the Land O' Lakes butter/olive oil blend and like that.

I like and will on occasion, buy Kashi GoLean cereal.

I don't put a lot of faith in the various "studies"... because too many of them aren't well done. And I feel that moderation and common sense work well.

Jennifer said...

Hi ! I just came across your website and Im so impressed with you and your weight loss.

Im going to read some of your older post to see your journey.

Congratulations on the weight loss I know it had to be a long and hard journey.

Anonymous said...

Gosh. I remember going through this a million times in my head after I lost all my excess.

Decided that I needed to eat mainly unprocessed food/foods that had a Mommy, which tended to be foods that kept me satiated and reduced cravings.

But, living maintenance isn't always about eating healthy, nutritious food. I do think it's important that this is the biggest part of our diet, but I believe that we have to consider more than just physical health.

So, I have 3 catagories. Physical health, mental health and social health. All very important for my happiness. The difficulty is getting the balance.

Meanwhile, as I say, for physical health, I'm not too keen on demonizing any foods in particular, just keeping portion sizes sensible and having foods I enjoy. Preferably keeping protein at a reasonable level (less swings), but also unprocessed carbs.

If it works, then it's fine LOL. If I enjoy it. If its not full of ingredients I can't read. If it doesn't leave me hungry and craving. If it's similar to what my grandmother ate. Then it ticks the boxes.

Mental and social health tends to be different foods. Still very important, but more occasional these days.

I fear the swing towards mental and social health is way out of balance in our culture (I'm from the UK)..and resetting that to something more sensible has helped me maintain my loss for the last few years. Something I never thought possible.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to add that my diet includes birthday cake, special occasion foods, holiday foods, the occasional meal out, etc. I suspect that if I cut all of that I could lose more weight but ultimately I decided that it was better for me to maintain at a slightly higher weight than deprive myself of things that I enjoy and contribute to mental/emotional health. I figure that if this has to be for the rest of my life, it has to be a plan I can honestly live with.


Anonymous said...

I went to a dietition and she came up with a food plan for me. I tried it out and we tweeked it. I am a compulsive over eater so I have weighed and measured meals with nothing in between. I am a coffee and sugar addict so those are off the table for me. Before the first bite of sugar the hamster wheel in my head is set in motion as though a starting gun went off and I cannot wait for the food. I obsess. Then I take the bite and the food creates an allergy of the body and I am craveing another.. and it doesn't matter what another it is cookie candy ect.. So I have to not pick up the first bite and I am safe.

Cow's milk 1Cup every morning sometime in my tea sometimes alone

Butter vs. "low fat spreads" I prefer Butter

Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy
I eat 8 oz greek 0% yogurt with 6 oz of fruit twice a day.

Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products
nope no need

Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils
I like olive oil but rarely cook with it
Red meat fine with it

Chicken, turkey, other poultry fine with it

Pork... lean or otherwise fine with it

Smoked products like bacon or ham
I hate the taste of these so not for me

Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other) fine with it

Sugar Honey.. none ever

Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?)
I used to like them now I want more honesty in my eating and I want to taste the food for what they are so no fake for me. It feels like lying.

Coffee nope a major trigger

Soy and soy products fine for me
Refined grains fine for me

Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice fine
Amaranth, quinoa, other grains

Anonymous said...

praying for a good report tomorrow! Also, asking the Lord to comfort you and steady you as you wait out these next few hours. Sleep well in His arms. He cares for you. Susan b.

beerab said...

I have to eat low carb- eating too many carbs unfortunately just does not work for my body :( Also eating too little calories doesn't work either.

Veggies and protein are my main staple :)

Ice Queen said...

I don't have time to read all of the comments so please forgive if I repeat anyone.

Honestly, I would just stick with what I know. For me, that is calorie counting. I eat a pretty wide variety of foods, avoiding triggers and sugar, for the most part. It works for me.

For you, I would think that a modified lower carb version of Medifast which works so very well for you sounds like a solid idea, to me. You know that your bod doesn't perform well with a lot of carby foods. You know that sugar actually causes you physical pain and triggers binge behaviours. So, that is where I would head, were I in your shoes. :)

It will take a little trial and error to find the plan that works for you for a lifetime. Forget about what anyone else says. Forget about the "experts" and all the naysayers. Listen to your bod, It won't steer you wrong.

Nathalie said...

I personally feel a bit odd about the idea of "deciding" your diet. While I acknowledge that in some ways the diet must remain constant (allergies and intolerances, for example), I also assume that my diet will change over time, according to my preferences and availability of ingredients.

I'm in Japan right now, so I'm eating and cooking with way more soy, mostly in the form of tofu products. When I was in the states, I drank a lot of almond milk, but I can't get that readily here. I don't do "either/or", for the most part. I will eat tofu and red meat and eggs and fish and poultry. I will drink both almond, soy and cow's milk. I eat both whole and refined grains. I cook with both sugar and artificial sweeteners (I use one called "lakanto" that they make here. It is sort of AWESOME).

My only restriction is amount. Since I've been here, I've adopted a fair amount of the Japanese food sensibilities, including what volume of food is appropriate for a portion. For the record, it's way smaller than in the states. Especially sandwiches. Burgers are super tiny. I've become accustomed to this kind of portioning though.

But yeah, my take-home point would be that I try to incorporate fruits and veggies (easy on a Japanese diet), I don't restrict on amount/type of carbs (I eat white rice, barley, oatmeal, whole and refined alike), and I keep my portions reasonable. It's kept me in pretty good shape so far.

I totally understand that I am not in the same boat you are. I've never been an emotional eater (actually I tend to be an emotional non-eater), nor have I had binging problems or irresistible cravings. If you need to cut things out to live happily, I have no objection. You have to do what is right for YOU.

Oh, there is one thing I don't ever consume, and that is sugared soda. I drink diet ones occasionally, but never the brown ones like pepsi or coke. They make me feel sick somehow.

Anonymous said...

Here is my take on these foods...thanks again for your
thought provoking blogging! :)

Cow's milk- I use this sparingly.
Butter vs. "low fat spreads"- i try to use neither
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy- I could not live without Chobani or Noosa yogurt.
Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products- I do not do fake dairy
Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils- only olive oil and rarely
Red meat- very rarely
Chicken, turkey, other poultry- a staple of my diet
Pork... lean or otherwise- not at all
Smoked products like bacon or ham- not at all
Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other)- no added salt at all
Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey
Agave nectar- I subscribe to sugar is sugar, and eat all forms.
Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia- I use these sparingly
Coffee- not at all
Soy and soy products-not at all
Refined grains
Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice
Amaranth, quinoa, other grains- all sparingly.

Karin said...

Lyn...I think you know what's good for you, what works. But, here's my take on it all.
Stay away from processed foods. Period. That will take care of a lot of things. It's my goal to be 80-90% unprocessed.
Simplify Lyn...that will help a lot.
Wishing you the best :)

timothy said...

fried processed foods are just crap no nutritional value at all. sugar, corn syrup, and fructose should be avoided. caffeine is also bad for you. you know your body better than anyone and as long as it doesn't trigger a binge most natural foods are fine. basically if it occurs in nature it's safe in moderation is my opinion. white flour is NOT natural and anything that says added vitamins means they killed it and i avoid it.

Vb said...

You have no way of knowing this because I rarely comment, but you were a huge influence on my decision to go Paleo 10 months ago. I saw so much of myself in your posts, and when I saw your success on Medifast, I started doing research. A LOT of research. I decided to try Paleo for 30 days, and true to everything I had read about it, I never went back. I really believe that every person has to figure out what works for them, however there has to be some people that suffer from similar symptoms and therefore similar diets work for them. Through my Paleo experience I realized I have a sensitivity to gluten, and that sugar is a huge addiction (I knew that before, but not the extent). If I have the slightest amount of sugar it can send me into a week long spiral of making progressively worse choices. I know you know what I'm talking about.

So, I eat real food. I eat meat, (all types, full fat because eating fat DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT), eggs, vegetables, nuts, and very little fruit. When I'm following this plan 100% I feel amazing, have zero cravings, and lose weight regardless of my activity level. Also, my allergies to cats and dust vanished once I removed gluten from my diet.

Dillypoo said...

I eat all of the fresh fruits and veggies that I can (thank you Club WW) and stick to lean meats (chicken, fish and beef), whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal and milled flax seed) and olive oil for most of my daily intake.

I avoid fast food restaurants and the candy aisle.

If I want a hamburger, I go to a restaurant that specializes in burgers and order a good one instead of one that's served through a window.

If I want a piece of candy, I buy a single piece of a quality brand or from a handmade candy shop instead of a ginormous bar of goo at the grocery store.

It took me 2.5 years to get to this mindset. You're getting there, too! And you CAN do it.

Anonymous said...

You have to decide what works for you, based on what you know about your responses to foods, and what you can live with for the rest of your life. Many people have "trigger" foods, meaning when we eat them they trigger a craving for more and more. For me, that's refined carbs of any kind, sugar, and wheat, whole or otherwise. I try to avoid them where possible, or eating in very small amounts. I limit sweets to special occasions (once or twice a year maybe) with the main meal still in my stomach to minimize the blood sugar spike. Pretty much everything else is on the table. I follow the Nourishing Traditions way of eating when it comes to meats, fats, and dairy - so I eat butter but not margarine, tropical oils, etc. All in moderation, and because fats are not a trigger for me I'm able to do that. Read Gary Taubes, Good Calories/Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat, really good insights. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way that you do about what is good and what isn't good for us. I took a health and nutrition class last year and it made me even more confused lol. I've just decided that I would eat more natural foods. I still have a brownie now and again but it took me a year to get to this point of not eating chocolate daily. I will be reading through the comments to see what others have to say too.
Sarah L.

Diandra said...

I'd say, try what works for you, and stick with it. For example, around the beginning of this year, I tried several variations of low-carb diets, and they all made me sick. Other people may do fine with this pattern, but my body - not so much. I think that's the same with about everybody. Basically, I eat (and drink) whatever I like, with an eye on health benefits (careful on unhealthy fats, sugar, "carb bombs") and ethic backgrounds. Yes, food can be even more complicated!!! Woohoo!!!

My take on your "questionable food" list:
* Cow's milk - yummy, in moderation (in coffee and maybe 2 additional cups per week).
* Butter vs. "low fat spreads" - usually low-fat margarine, and butter if I feel like it and for baking special things (sometimes you need that butter taste).
* Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy - yogurt every day, cheese and other stuff on occasion. Not because I am trying to cut back, it's just that I eat other food instead, and I *can't* eat everything at once. (I tried.)
* Almond milk, coconut milk, and other "fake" dairy products - I use coconut milk for cooking, haven't tried the others.
* Canola oil, coconut oil, other oils - I mostly use olive oil and sesame oil (for taste).
* Red meat - less than once a week.
* Chicken, turkey, other poultry - maybe twice per week.
* Pork... lean or otherwise - see "red meat".
* Smoked products like bacon or ham - I use diced ham in some meals, for taste and in moderation.
* Salt (table, sea, Himalayan, or other) - table salt, with iodine and fluoride added, in moderation.
* Refined sugar, raw sugar, honey - refined and raw sugar on occasion (mainly for baking, sometimes for seasoning), honey in tea and coffee.
* Agave nectar - heard about it, haven't tried it.
*Artificial sweeteners including Splenda and Stevia (are these better or worse than sugar itself?) - artificial sweeteners are EVIL!!! Except for stevia, maybe (my brother-in-law is diabetic and swears by it, and his doctors are happy), but that is said to have fertility-reducing characteristics, at least for males...
* Coffee - at least one and up to four cups per day, with milk and sugar or honey.
* Soy and soy products - don't use them (except for soy sauce, maybe once per month), but mainly for political/ethic reasons.
* Refined grains - sometimes.
* Whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice - oats every day, brown rice and the other stuff on occasion.
* Amaranth, quinoa, other grains - I love quinoa and millet as a side dish, and will sometimes buy amaranth-based cereals.

Basically, I am omnivorous, and I can't see anything bad about this. So far, I have lost 22lbs this way (need to lose another 20). It might not work for others, though, and I think you will be doing fine listening to your own body.

Claire said...

I haven't read the other responses. I am also moving towards being vegetarian, or even vegan, for health purposes only.

Please read Dr. Joel Fuhrman's "Eat for Health." It's a two-book set. He calls himself a nutritarian, and I LOVE that. He is vegan, and explains how you can get plenty of protein with that kind of diet, and what supplements you should take.

I agree that it's hard to muddle through all the food rhetoric. I've been researching nutrition for over a year, and will just say that the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) is largely unhealthy, even when it seems healthy. We all have to make choices in our eating. I would not depend on the government to provide the information you use (like the food pyramid).

Lynna said...

I stopped Medifast over a month ago, and I've dropped another size. I'm not paying a great deal of attention to my eating beyond, "Is this healthy? Is it in moderation?" "Am I hungry?" and "Does this honor my body and show love to it?"

I eat oatmeal, berries, fruit, veggies, lean meat, olive oil, nuts, flax seed, beans, fish... and I am very content and haven't had the first twinge to eat the old way.

The key, for me was leaving "diet mentality/deprivation" behind and to embrace a new paradigm based on eating motivated by self-love.

I've lost approx 80 pounds and counting...

Oh, one more thing: I really ramped up the exercise when I went off Medifast. Feels wonderful and I'm seeing tons of toning occuring. Plus, with the increased endorphins, I stopped taking an antidepressant.

Val N. said...

I've been eating primal, and my blood sugar and cholesterol levels have been wonderful!
My only problem is when I"m stressed, I still reach for carbs, and that backtracks my weightloss.

Karen said...

I absolutely believe that what is healthy for one person, can be unhealthy for another.

We all know that most of us can eat bread, but a small percentage of people are wheat-intolerant. Same thing goes for cow's milk. Same thing goes for nuts.

It makes sense that people react differently to different foods, because we are all unique individuals.

The trouble is, figuring out which foods suit us and which don't, is a lot of time, energy and trouble!

That's why people love to jump on bandwagons like "animal fats are evil!" or "potatoes will kill you!" - because wouldn't life be simpler if we could just all follow the same rules of nutrition?

It's taken me a long time to realise this simple fact, and that I can't expect to lose/maintain the same weight as some other random person who eats the exact same things I do.

At the moment, I'm experimenting with cutting out soy (of which I consumed rather a lot previously) to see if I feel any better without it.

I make an effort to buy "pure" foods - i.e. unadulterated with added salt, sugar and flavourings. I buy organic produce where possible.

The one thing I absolutely forbid in my diet is refined sugar. I know from experience that it has an absolutely atrocious effect on me both physically and mentally. For me there is no such thing as "moderation" when it comes to sugar.

PamL said...

One thought keeps coming to me- what is your goal? I am very goal oriented and I have to know a number. That gives me a reason to make good choices and to get up to exercise even when I don't want to. Having to lose 10-15 pounds is a lot different than having to lose 100.

I have done WW for a long time (after 5 pregnancies and 6 kids) and I am currently 12 pounds from my goal. Just knowing what I am aiming for inspires me to make good choices.

I do eat junk and have it in the house (ice cream, potato chips, bread, sugar, etc.) becuase I think kids need to eat a regular diet and be exposed to all sorts of foods in order to grow into adults who have a healthy relationship with food. I don't eat much of it because it is detrimental to my weight loss but they don't eat tons of it either. We do everything in moderation.

On a funny note, my husband eats more peanuts than anyone I have ever seen- but then he runs 4-5 miles three times a week. Peanuts fuel his body and he needs it!

Good luck!

Xani said...

Have you read "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. Wonderful book, really opened up my eyes to a perspective on eating that is so simple, but makes so much sense. I highly recommend. The basic message of the book is "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants." But the lessons in the book go far beyond that and are very insightful. I hope you will read it eventually-- good luck with your planning.

lisa~sunshine said...

I sent you a message on facebook too.. but here is a link to Leigh Peele's article on food phobias.. her forum and blog offer a lot of good information.

From my own experience of wondering what is healthy and what is unhealthy.. and going to FAR overboard.. causes orthorexia which is something you DON"T want to get caught up in.. and if you start thinking.. xyz about dairy.. or eliminating a whole food group.. you will be entereing that thinking.. I do believe that moderation and allowing yourself to eat what works for your body.. and what makes you feel good.. is what needs to be done..

Of coarse this is all just my opinions and we are all entitled to our own and that is what makes us all unique and fun..

amy_joy81 said...

My only advice would be to be as specific as possible. Don't just say no 'junk', specifically list those foods you know put you over the edge (for me it's cookies and french fries). Or no carbs - list specifics like pasta bad, potatoes ok, etc. That's the best way to make sure you leave no room for second guessing.

Also, focus more on what you CAN have than what you CAN'T - helps control that wanting what we can't have cravings.

Christina said...

Gosh - I wish I could help you out but I am in the EXACT SAME BOAT as you! I wish someone could just tell me "eat this and this and this in these exact amounts" and that would lead to success. But - it never does. Our own success seems to depend on our own trial an error - our own successes and failures. And unfortunately many of us, including me become so frustrated with failures of this trial and error process in the midst of trying to find the RIGHT things in the RIGHT proportions that we give up. If there is anything I hate it is when I am actually trying - really trying to do all of the right things and I still have no results. Nothing makes me want to run to the vending machine quicker I've found.

CatherineMarie said...

In the summers I drink raw milk straight from the farm (in CT, its legal, and they do checks to make sure it is safe). I probably wouldn't feed it to my hypothetical kids, though, because of their lower immune systems.

The only things I have cut out of my diet are wheat, rye, and barley because I have celiac disease.

Basically, I try to eat local and organic as much as possible. I've joined a CSA this summer, which always helps me eat more veggies.

I try to stay away from too much crap, but do splurge on chocolate, sometimes a g-f cookie....

I'm a big believer in moderation. I still use sugar, just organic. I try not to use HFCS, or agave, or sugar free crud. I look for things with the fewest ingredients possible.

But I also try not to deprive myself. I still allow cheese, meat, dairy... I try to follow the four food groups. Because that is what America stayed skinny on.

I also find myself healthier things to curb the sweet cravings, so apple, grapes, pears, melon, pineapple, blueberries...

Anonymous said...

All I can say is I am in the same place. The conflicting information about food can be paralyzing. There is no "answer," unfortunately. Ultimately, I (and you) have to review the information we have now and make a decision of what we should be eating.

After reviewing MF and low carb (and exchanging emails with you awhile back), I recently joined WW. I like the emphasis on fresh foods in the new plan, but I combine it with "grab and go" to suit my hectic life.

Breakfast is a veggie omelette or a green smoothie on a good day; Chobani and fruit on a grab-and-go day (or a pre-made protein shake; HB egg and banana; flax bread with a schmear of lowfat cream cheese and some lox).

Lunch is a salad with protein on a good day; canned lentil soup, PB&J, 2 sushi rolls with salad or the dreaded Lean Cuisine on an Insane Day.

Dinner - no casseroles and heavy meats. I don't care what the kids want - that is not good for anyone. Eat the healthy, simple meal I provide or starve! Good day: roasted fish or meat; or fish tacos or turkey burgers or turkey meatloaf; homemade soup or chili. Insane day: whole wheat pasta; ravioli; french toast; canned soup with fruit salad; boca burgers and baked french fries.

I would love to eliminate all processed foods from my diet. But I would also like to avoid being a stressed out, binge-ing nut-case. And if I feel I "can't do" the plan, I will binge. Has to be easy. HAS to be easy.

So I cook when I can, and use the healthiest processed foods available when I can't. I always include tons of fruits and veggies for me and the kids and that's that.

Have you checked out "ronisweigh?" She has some great, simple meal ideas herself and follows a semi-WW plan. GL - keep posting. Good thoughts for your follow up with the Dr.


Anonymous said...

You read my mind with this post! I'm very analytical in my thinking, with a background in scientific research. I cannot make heads or tails out of which diet is best, either. Even experts, with degrees in nutrition or medicine, do not agree. It is incredibly frustrating.

Thirteenlbs said...

Lynn, I wouldn't dare assume I knew what was best for another person. What feels good for you? What causes you to eat off plan? I think I would start there.

The studies are confusing for me too, so I have been ignoring them in favor of the study I'm doing on myself, haha.

Hoping everything goes well tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I feel your pain. There's too much information out there and we have to try to sort through it all and figure out what's best for us.

Here's what I'm eating now:

Egg beaters or egg whites are my favorite protein. Something about an egg really fills me up and makes me feel SO good! You can quickly mix up a frittata with eggbeaters and veggies, divide into portions and freeze. It's a great easy breakfast. Egg salad made with whites only, low fat mayo & curry powder is really good. Chicken and turkey breast are next. I rarely eat beef or pork, sometimes get a craving for beef, so that's when I eat it. I usually make a bunch of ground turkey breast burgers and freeze them. I like veggie burgers, but the sodium is pretty high on the commercial brands.

I've been using Smart Balance Light spread for a few years. It was highly recommended by a doctor, and has been proven to be heart healthy. I do use half and half in my coffee, but it's just one cup in the morning. Greek yogurt is yummy, get the plain & add stevia and cinammon to flavor it up. Occasional cheese for me - maybe half a slice of American every other day.

I have olive, canola and virgin coconut oil, but rarely use them. Celtic sea salt, but rarely use that - one tiny container is still almost full after a year, lol!

No white bread or fried food. I've been using a high fiber(11 grams), low carb bread(1 gram), but limit my intake of that to two pieces a day. GG Bran crispbread is amazing, will have that with a shmear of organic, sugar free peanut butter & some sugar free preserves.

Veggies-I stay away from starchy veggies, tend to eat everything else. Not really eating fruit right now, but if I did it would be berries(so good for you), and apples. A few apple slices and walnut pieces are a great combo.

I drink a lot of water, herbal teas, the only soda I indulge in is Sprite Zero.

Ok, on the days I'm attacked by the 'feast beast', the following day I drink lots of water, herbal tea, and protein shakes. It helps me to balance out the bad, then back to normal eating the next day.

I've used Medifast, but the soy got to me, so no soy products for me.