Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Ideal Human Diet: It Shouldn't Be So Complicated

The more I read, the more frustrated I become.

Wheat is poison! Avoid whole grains!
Cow milk is for baby cows! Humans are not meant to digest lactose beyond infancy! Stay away from all dairy!
Fruit is too high in sugar and causes cravings!
Corn is bad for you! Avoid all corn!
Sugar causes heart disease and inflammation!
Agave nectar and honey are bad!
Artificial sweeteners are evil!
Soda is bad! Coffee is bad! Anything with caffeine is bad! Therefore, even green tea is bad!
Avocados are high in calories! Avoid them!
Beans are no good! Humans are not meant to eat legumes! This means peanuts, too!
Smoked meats cause cancer! No ham, pepperoni, bacon, or smoked sausage!
Farmed salmon is bad for you! Canned tuna is full of mercury! Red meat is bad for your heart and hard to digest! Commerially processed poultry is just wrong on so many levels!
Egg Beaters are too processed!
All processed food is evil!

I mean really, what's left? Just vegetables? Okay, I know to eat vegetables.

It really SHOULDN'T be so complicated.

I am just logging my food, counting my calories, trying to get all the stuff in that I should for Week 3 of Transition, trusting the program, figuring there is no perfect diet and eventually I will figure out what agrees with my body and what doesn't.

And biking? I hurt my knee. So discouraging. Back to PT for the time being. The therapist told me if I stick with PT until my knee and hip joints are stabilized by the muscles around them, I will have fewer injuries. Right now they are so weak that even moderate exertion ends up pulling something. I can still walk the dog, though, if I am careful.

I just really wish scientists could agree on what the *ideal* human diet is.


Anonymous said...

I so agree with your post! It would be nice if the experts agreed with each other!

Jennifer McNeely said...

Scientists may be who messed it up in the first place! Probably we are meant to eat veggies, whole NON GMO grains and small bits of protein here and there, who were not fed poison, that is!! Yes, it is really complicated. Part of what is tricky in this whole process for me is learning to LISTEN to my body, not some scientist. Using food the way that i have has desensitized my system, i had to get back to a balance before i could tell! Now i know that i feel better when i stick with a few whole grains, nuts and veggies, lots of fruit and for me, its no dairy and very little meat. But i still have chocolate! And coffee.... It s good to learn to listen to OURSELVES, that was the problem all along for me! :)

Vb said...

If you wait for scientists to agree on an ideal human diet, you'll be waiting forever. Don't let that be an excuse. Find what works for you. You are responsible for your health and well being, not "scientists" that can't agree. You can do this!

Neesha said...

Lynn, you've hit the nail on the head. I study this stuff as a graduate student. I look at all the nutrition studies coming out on a daily basis, and I can promise you, I can find you a pile of research to support any nutritional claim you or anyone else wants to make. And I can find a pile that contradicts that pile, too. The problem is that we are systems. There's no way to isolate variables in a human system to see what is actually making a difference. You want to see if carbs are the culprit? So you reduce carbs, fine. But you can't do a randomized, controlled study and hold every single other variable steady. At least not one that's big enough to be generalizable (meaning, with a big enough sample size). Honestly, the best and most useful nutrition advice, IMHO and with seriously having read hundreds of research studies, is Micheal Pollan's Food Rules. He just makes sense.

Bobbie said...

But even with vegetables it's always about the pesticides and the freshness (or lack of it) and nutrients loss.....really is discouraging.

Anonymous said...

"I will figure out what agrees with my body and what doesn't." This is VERY true, but, I know I keep harping on it, the best way to do this scientifically is with a focused elimination diet so you can truly pinpoint what agrees with your body and what doesn't. It is very, VERY freeing to know for sure "this works for ME, and I know because I stopped eating X, felt great, started eating X, and felt like a sh!t sandwich."

"I just really wish scientists could agree on what the *ideal* human diet is." Again, I think this varies from person to person and the only way to find out is to make yourself a lil' science experiment :)

It's hard but you really only have to do it for 30-60 days, and then thoughtfully reintroduce one food at a time.

In my opinion natural, whole foods in their most unprocessed state are always going to be the best for you, and outside of natural sugars in fruit/root veggies added sugar is pretty pointless, nutritionally. As to dairy, yeah, we *don't* need it- why would we have evolved to need the breastmilk of an animal that was, in evolutionary time, only domesticated very very very recently? However, dairy is freaking DELICIOUS and, if after an elimination diet you find it works for you- get grassfed, organic, and go to town :) As to grains, I don't think they're the devil, BUT gluten certainly ruins a lot of people's lives AND there is literally NOTHING in grains that you can't get (and then some, in spades) nutritionally from fruits, veggies, nuts, and eggs/fish/meat. As to farmed salmon- I just think factory farming anything is gross, and inhumane, and the animals (including fish) are fed crap they should not be eating, so yeah, I try to steer clear of it in general. I'm a former vegan who switched to grass fed/humane/sustainable meat though, so I pretty much can't handle the guilt any other way, haha.

Avocados are delicious, and I could not live without them. Fat is satiating, it's good for your brain, and it helps control cravings. Did I mention it's delicious? It's delicious.

As I said before- you gave Medifast two whole years, give Whole 30 a try. Many people add back in dairy and legumes and rice afterward, all dependent on their reactions. It's only 30 days, no calorie counting, tons of recipes out there, and you can farmers' market and local meat your heart out.

It sucks you are hurt, I was there for several months and it is so frustrating! You can do this, whatever you end up choosing. You've made it this far, you're clearly doing lots of things right. Don't forget that.

Anonymous said...

I feel this way more and more also. Sometimes it is a disadvantage to be a reader and always searching for the latest information on nutrition and diet. As you just posted, almost everything is "wrong" now according to someone. I guess if I didn't have health and weight issues it wouldn't matter so much and I wouldn't care. I sometimes feel envious of people who don't pay attention to any of this and just eat what they like (especially those without weight problems). I just had lunch with a friend last week who was talking about trying to find the best price on 1/2 gallons of Bluebell ice cream and how she will go to different stores to find the best price. I have no idea what the best price is, because I haven't bought that much ice cream at once in a long time. This friend is effortlessly thin (it seems). I'm getting off track, but anyway I totally agree with you. I guess we just have to find what works best for us as individuals - although doing that is extremely frustrating and time-consuming! If you find the magic answer, let me know!


Anonymous said...

I sooo like this post.

PS, there is no ideal human diet.

Anonymous said...

There's so much varying facts/scare tactics pertaining to diet. I say just do what works for you, for the most part. Think back to a time when you were at or close to goal, what were you eating then? What foods are absolute non-negotiables for you, as in you are not at all willing to give them up? What foods specifically seem to be causing the most agitation now? Be honest with yourself.

Lyn said...

Thanks all so much.

I am going back and looking at what exactly I was eating when I was losing best, back in 2007-2008. Thankfully most of it is recorded almost daily that entire time, either on my blog or on sparkpeople. I would like to figure out what my *success foods* are. I know my *failure foods* are bakery stuff, packaged cookies, candy, chips, hot dogs, etc. But so many things that aren't "junk" and thus not so black and white may not be good for me either.

I have to go for allergen testing soon, for environmental stuff, and I wonder if the skin test or a blood test might show what *foods* my body does not like. Anyone know which tests are actually reliable?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you have the right idea but Go beyond obvious "bad" choices for failure foods. If you consistently overeat cheese, I'd call that a failure food. For me personally, any food I gave a repeated history of abusing(overeating or binging on) does not come in the house. You start to learn what you might eventually learn to eat normally again and what really drives you nuts and go from there. I adore avocado but I always end up eating the whole thing and feeling bingey afterwards, so I really don't but it. However, I've had great success with wholly guacamole 100 cal packs. Weird? Maybe...but for some reason it helps me to not eat 350 cals at once.

Vb said...

Yes! Wish you didn't post anonymously.

Miz said...

this is completely what finally pushed me over to intuitive eating, too.
my brain hurt.

Diandra said...

First, there is no "one size fits all", neither in clothing nor in food. I know people who are lactose- or gluten- or fructose-intolerant, who cannot eat meat, who cannt eat legumes without their skin breaking out, who cannot ingest corn or nuts or...

Most food choices do have good and bad properties, and it is up to us to figure out what our bodies need and want, possibly guided by scientific research.

Try experimenting a bit - take something away or add something else for a few weeks and wait what happens. Do you feel more energetic when avoiding wheat? (You do already know that excess sugar is really bad for you, and the remaining choices should be checked just like that, although the hints may be more subtle.)

I tried low-carb three times over the last six or seven months, because so many people swear by it, and the only thing I get from it is constipation - so I figure it is not for me. Still works wonders for others.

Anonymous said...

As a scientist, I just have to speak up and defend them! :)

It's mostly not scientists who create all this diet confusion, it's people trying to make money by coming up with the 'new best way to lose weight' and all the fads like 'no this, no that, or must eat these in combination or at this time of day', etc.

Michelle said...

Hi Lyn! Since you asked about food intolerance testing, my brother just had a test done called "Hemocode". It was recommended by his doctor, and looks at 250 different foods. His results came back with several intolerances he hadn't considered and the things he thought he might be intolerant to came back ok! He just got the results, so I can't tell you whether eliminating the foods they identified made a difference yet. I'm considering getting it done (I have a lot autoimmune issues), but it is quite expensive, so I'm going to see if following their recommendations helps him before I shell out the $$!

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of this fantastic post: http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/we-love-to-debate-minutiae/?awt_l=Fq41V&awt_m=1nvSJ6GTVGBibn

FYI, this guy studied behavioral psychology and his approach to money impresses me.

So here's to ignoring all the time-wasting chatter and just quietly getting it done!

-Rachel (yes, the same Rachel from yesterday!)

Anonymous said...

I don't think the problem is with scientists, frankly... I think it's with big-name authors of diet books trying to make money by duping fat people (and thin people who think they need to lose more weight). Most of them ignore or cherry pick the actual science; that's why the advice varies so wildly from book to book.

Also, news writers who cover science stories... most of the time they get it wrong. I often go back and read the actual journal articles (I'm a scientist myself and have full access to them) and find the message to be different than that advertised on news sites.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and re: your question about allergen testing and skin test/blood test, blood tests are reliable at detecting pure food allergies (I'm officially allergic to pineapple and MSG and eggs, for example) but will not to a single thing toward showing what foods your body "does not like" (e.g., food sensitivities or intolerance. I'm "sensitive" to shellfish, apples when eaten with the peel, high amounts of pumpkin, and cheese, for example). That is a totally individual thing and can only be determined through a whole lot of trial and error with elimination diets. The most efficient way to deal is to start with a simple and restrictive eating plan (lean proteins, leafy greens and some starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, etc.), follow the same restrictive eating plan for a couple of weeks, and replace only one food at a time (replace your green beans with an apple, for example) to see how your body reacts. I'm told isolating the food and giving your body a coupla weeks to "react" is the key. Otherwise, you'll just end up speculating again and listen to other people or "experts" instead of learn from your own body.

It's a sucky process, truly (one I've just recently gone through myself) but it works.... IF you keep it simple.


Kathleen said...

Dear Lyn, There is no ideal human diet. Humans are very adaptable, and they can survive on anything. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about classifying different foods as ‘bad’ or ‘good’, but (like was previously mentioned) focus on what foods have effects on you, personally. For example, peanut butter is a whole, natural food. I buy natural peanut butter, which only has two ingredients: peanuts and salt. Perfectly wonderful food. However, I love peanut butter! And there is no way I can eat it at the recommended serving size. Therefore, I avoid peanut butter except for on special occasions. You know your own ‘triggers’ and can then move on to determine how great a role each food will play in your diet. There is no need to eliminate and food or food group unless you have a genuine intolerance or allergy to that food. The only thing you need to concern yourself about is “Will this food make me healthier and thinner, or will it make me sicker and fatter?” Of course, like a previous comment suggested, whole natural foods are often best. But that is in no way saying you should deprive yourself of processed foods. Instead, find out what YOUR needs are…you are a unique individual, and you need to tweak your diet to reflect that. What is right for one person is often very wrong for another. Good luck!

Claire said...

Totally agree with what Kathleen said. No one diet will work for all people. I feel awful on low carb where a friend feels great.

I have found eating what I actually want (not what my head wants) works well for me. My body tells me, if I listen, what it wants. If it doesnt 'say' anything then I don't eat.

Like right now its saying 'beef stew please' which is good as that's what's in the slow cooker. In more detail its saying 'Iron, lots of vegetables, some fat and some carbs please.'

I remember back when you were eating food from the farmers market - you were so happy and fired up to discover new tastes and recipes. Seems to me that's a good route for you - or was anyway.

Just follow your own path Lyn. Eat what your body wants, not your mind, most of the time and you'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

You could drive yourself crazy if you took all this into consideration before eating!

Princess Dieter said...

I try to read up on it daily and stay on top of things (hence my adding rice and tubers back in, heh). BUT...you need to stop worrying about THEM. Worry about YOU. What makes your body healthy and feel good. What makes it gain weight and feel bad.

I think that as long as you keep to a general "Is this real, actual FOOD and not empty calories or overprocessed crap"...you just stick to sane levels of calories that will produce health and some fat loss. I say SOME, because expecting big losses weakly is self-defeating. It just sets up crazy cycles of loss, gain, loss gain. A small (even if it's 1/4th of a pound, 1/2 a pound) weekly losses add up as the months and years go on. The point is to lose it healthfully, not lose it fast, right?

Sit down with a list of foods that are REAL that you LOVE and that are not bad for joints (let's face it, it's good to TRY gluten-free, inflammatory free foods for at least a month to gain some idea of how it will work with your joint issues and binge prone issues).

But, ultimately, you know it's about finding those foods/meals that promote health and make you feel satisfied and work with your life. Then screw the rest of it. You'll go nuts trying to listen to EVERYONE....you can't.

Simplify it. Refine it over months and years depending on how your body does and how your midn does.

The main thing is NOT TO BINGE and to control calories (to a point, as I think very low calorie can be very damaging.) Not binge. Keep a rein on portions. And learn food calm.

I think that will ultimately be the freedom we all seek....not obsessing about the perfect diet...and finding the "right fit for our health sisues and desires" diet.

What makes you binge has to go, though. At least for a time. It has to go...triggers.

I'm binge-free for 21 months. I had to just give up some triggers. I can reintroduce some "iffy" foods now in moderation. I test it. If it makes me WANNA binge, it has to go...

But just focus on what is real, healthful, and satisfying in controlled portions. ENjoy your food again...and believe in freedom.

Leslie said...

I totally agree with this - it's pretty ridiculous how things that used to be viewed as healthy are now to be avoided - like beans, whole grains...it's crazy! You had some great comments that I'm still pouring through. Hopefully we'll all find the right fit for each one of us.

CatherineMarie said...


Just go "Whole Foods" as much as possible. You could have had the pot pie without the crust, maybe..

I wouldn't go gluten-free/sugar-free/dairy-free without a suspicion as to it possibly helping you. I went gluten-free because I was at my wit's end with dealing with my endometriosis. And I found out that I do have a problem with gluten. But Whole wheat and wheat germ and fiber and rye and such are good for you, unless you have celiac. It is VERY hard to get enough fiber in a gluten-free lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Catherine Marie, I'm confused by this- "It is VERY hard to get enough fiber in a gluten-free lifestyle." Most fruits and vegetables are higher in fiber than grains, and they have far more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For example, a cup of raspberries has more fiber than a cup of whole wheat spaghetti.

When people give up gluten/grains and then have a hard time getting enough fiber, it is because they are not eating enough vegetables, plain and simple. They gave up the bread with their meal, but didn't replace it with a big salad. They gave up the toast with breakfast, but must not have replaced it with a ton of veggies in their omelet, etc.

The nutritional structure of vegetables and fruits is such that it is not hard to get all the fiber you need simply by eating your 5 daily servings. For the calories, most grains are not packing anywhere near the nutritional punch of veggies and fruits. My old "high fiber" bread has a measly 6 grams per slice (which was one serving size). I get double that in my veggie omelet each morning, with an apple on the side for even more fiber.