Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Finding Sensibility About Food

As I've stepped back from blogging, dieting, and Medifast, I've found that there is very little I actually am *sure* about regarding food. I have read and researched a lot. I think I understand nutrition, but there is a lot of conflicting information out there about specific foods. I have beliefs about what is healthy and unhealthy for *everyone* but I also have really found it impossible to implement my own idea of nutrition perfection into my life. For example, I *believe* it is unhealthy to eat Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and cakes made from refined flours and sugars. I *believe* it would be ideal for everyone to avoid eating them. Period. Ever. But when I try to implement this in my actual life, I have only been partially successful. Yes, I have gone months without eating those things but at the same time I was eating high-protein brownies which, while they have their place in some weight loss plans, do not exactly meet my ideal criteria for lifelong healthy eating, either. And then after a period of weeks or months I have inevitably ended up eating those refined, unhealthy foods again and feeling awfully guilty about it.

I think ideally the whole world would change and stop eating that crap, stop calling it food, stop having deep fried, salty, fatty, detrimental-to-our-health stuff available on a dollar menu on a moment's notice at a drive-thru where you don't even have to get out of your car to be served. Ideally I think if there are going to be convenience foods we ought to be able to walk into a place for a quick, to-go bowl of braised kale or some chicken and sweet potato stew for a couple of bucks. That's what should be on every street corner... not stuff that is killing us. I think because we are inundated from childhood with commercials and ads and golden arches, a lot of us are programmed to believe that Cocoa Puffs ARE a healthy breakfast and Pizza Hut *is* a reasonable choice for dinner when in reality, if this was *my* world, those things would not even exist and kids would be raised on real, actual foods from a garden or a tree or a local field instead of donuts and Doritos. But that's not the world we live in, and even if we try to shield our kids from that kind of thing, they end up getting exposed anyway at school when other kids bring in cupcakes for their birthday or share their Cheetos at lunch, at sports when the coach brings Rice Krispie treats and Hawaiian Punch for the team, or at Halloween when the neighbors fill their plastic pumpkins with candy. It is the world we are in, and I cannot change that, as much as I wish I could.

I can change what foods are in my home. I can decide for myself what goes in my kitchen, on my plate, and into my mouth. But the exposure is still there and the knowledge and memories are still there, reminding me what a Snickers bar tastes and feels like in my mouth and that at any time, I can get in the car and go to the store and within 5 minutes I can have that Snickers bar experience in my mouth. It is there and I cannot pretend it is not. Would it be better to never think of, or want, a Snickers bar? For me, yes. But it happens, I am 44 years old and my whole life has been intertwined with mass-produced candy bars. Crazy, but it is what it is. It's hard to untangle from that kind of thing.

But I'm coming to a peace with it all, because I think instead of exhausting myself with all the lists of can'ts and won'ts and nevers, I am putting those unhealthy foods aside and teaching myself to view them, not as poison, but as something I will let myself have once in awhile..*even though* they are not healthy. I need to believe that if I feed my body well 90% of the time, it will be able to handle the occasional input of junk. And by allowing myself that choice, that freedom, perhaps I will not be so driven to eat those things to excess "between diets" and perhaps knowing I can have them tomorrow or next week and they are not going away forever, there will be no reason to get emotionally distressed over not having them every day. 

What I do know is that eating vegetables and fruit is good for me. I went to the farmer's market and got an acorn squash, a butternut squash, a spaghetti squash, a pear, some apples, and some cantaloupes... all local and pesticide-free. I got some free range chicken eggs and pastured pork. I like dairy, but believe there is some concern about inflammation. I have read that pastured dairy contains anti-inflammatory properties, so when I do eat dairy I will try to make it pastured. I will not crumple to the floor in despair if I eat some cheese or commercially processed Greek yogurt. By relaxing my death grip on my eating... by letting myself breathe a bit and look around and decide daily from among *all* the choices... I hope to gain more of a peace and sensibility about food that will, over time, lead to better overall health and a stable, healthier weight.


Eileen said...

Lyn: I know only too well the ambivalence and struggles you are feeling. I am late to the party here, having just found your blog today, but I would like to suggest a book that I think sums all this up succinctly and hopefully gives you a new starting point. It is Dr. Mark Hyman's The Blood Sugar Solution. I wish you so much luck in your search for what is right for you. I have been there, and I know that never giving up on yourself is the first step. Clearly, your blog is a testament to your strength. Best of luck as you find your way.

16 blessings'mom said...

Aah, Snickers! My favorite from childhood, yet when I was a kid I only had them very occasionally, like on Halloween or my birthday. I do volunteer work for my church at a huge college football stadium, and each of us gets one free food item per game. I brought my own almonds, an apple, and a healthy chicken wrap. But...I got a Snicker bar for my item. I managed not to tear the wrapper off on the way home, then shared it with three of my kids, each of us only getting a few bites. I figure once in a while it's okay. Every where we look there are temptations. I have to say NO like 95% of the time, or my weight will all come back on, and then some. One thing I appreciate is your honesty about trying to find your way through all of this, it helps more than anything!


Anonymous said...

I don't like to think in extremes of good/bad food. I think there are foods that are high in calories and low in digestive demands, and these foods are great for the people who need them. Young kids often need a lot more calories in small tummies; sick people, athletes, farmers, the Amish. Try running a marathon without highly-processed foods! But, if you're not a teenage football player or Dean Karnazes, you need to make other choices. It's like alcohol, where some people can handle some amounts, but other people need to cut it out entirely. The food isn't bad, but we need to choose it based on our needs, our histories.

Jane Cartelli said...

Lyn: An honest self appraisal and a reasonable plan. Kudos. What I really love about this post is the simple truth of it - we can KNOW what is healthy and we can remove it from our home and office but when that thought gets into our heads, something else takes over and I know I can became obsessed and irrational. My behavior is the proof I needed to know I am powerless against the food memories and thoughts. This is why I use a 12 step program to help me. I've had a tough time in the past year - loss, fear and denial helped me gain 30 pounds and now I am losing them again only because I kept close to the principles of the program even when I could not find the willingness to follow it. I could have easily gained 100 pounds this year. I am so grateful that has not happened.

LHA said...

Yes, yes, and yes! I totally agree with most of what you have said here. I HAD to come to the same conclusion...that viewing foods as bad or off limits even in small quantities led me to binge eating almost every time. If I decide to eat a piece of birthday cake once or twice a year, that's fine. I dropped the guilt and accepted it as just another food. I do limit those foods, of course, and know they are not optimal. For me there is no other way to managing my weight in the long term. Good luck with "food sanity", as I like to call it! I think you are on the right track.

One thing that has worked for me is that when I am attending a party or have a holiday coming up where I know I will be eating some of the less nutritious foods, I do try to make sure I eat adequate protein with a meal before I eat the lesser quality food. I also drink a lot of water with what I am eating. These things, along with dropping the life-long guilt!, keep me from overdoing it most of the time.

CatherineMarie said...

Lyn, that sounds great! One thing that is frustrating for me is that you can't seem to buy one of something. it is always king size or mega packs or some such thing.

Maybe you can find some healthier places to eat out, Ethiopian, Indian, etc. But it does sound like you are on the right track. I have started eating clean/unprocessed 90% of the time, and it makes a difference.

Leah: Not Otherwise Specified said...

What a great post! It's always so encouraging to me when other bloggers find that moderation is key. It's fantastic that you realize that no matter what your idea of "perfect" eating is, there is always a middle ground and that the "should"s and "should not"s won't do anything positive in the long run. I'm glad that you have found a middle ground, where you can enjoy your candy bars right alongside your chicken and kale.

Christine said...

Instead of saying "no" to any particular food, try this:

1. Tell yourself you can have it.
2. Tell yourself how much you can have.
3. Tell yourself when you can have it.

This puts you in control in a positive way instead of constantly denying yourself. You may decide to have only a little, or to wait and have it another time. But you haven't told yourself "no".

Colleen said...

Hi Lynn,

In the past 4 months I have been following a plan that is sort of a mashup of Medifast and paleo. I remain in ketosis/consume under 100g carbs a day, but I do not restrict fats. I am able to eat limited amounts of bread, carby vegetables, fruit, chocolate, have alcohol, etc. It has resulted in about a 1 lb./week loss. I do not feel deprived or like I am eating space food. I eat lots of lean protein and fresh veggies. It's possible to find a balanced way of eating that meets your physical needs (low sugar to avoid joint inflammation) but also doesn't require total deprivation.

Anonymous said...

Brillant I just saved this in my notes.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I really strongly suggest that you check out some of the metabolic health thinking that's around the internet: Amber at Go Kaleo, Matt Stone's diet recovery stuff, Nia Shanks, etc. They might help you think about where to go from here, and your health really -is- more important than your size.

Anonymous said...

I am 51 years old, and I went on my first "diet" when I was three and the pediatrician told my mom to switch me from whole milk to skim because I was too fat. I love that you used the word "untangle" when you talk about junk food---what is with this sick relationship we have with food that we know is so bad for us? I know you are really busy, but have you read "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler? Is it not a diet book---it talks about the way the food industry has tinkered with the food we eat to make it more addictive. (There are people out there who make their living by figuring out how to make us crave that fast food even though we know it is killing us.) I have been lurking here for quite a while, and I will be returning to this post to reread it---you have put some of my thoughts into words.

Chanelle said...

Hey Lyn it's Chanelle again,

I see a lot of the other commenters thought that this post was really great, but to be honest, the first 3/4 of it really concerned me. First, as someone who has completed many courses on nutrition and devotes a lot of her time to studying the subject, I have to say that many parts of this struck me as sounding VERY disordered.
Although your body seems to defy physics with how low-calorie you have to eat and is super-sensitive to WHAT you have to eat, I can see that your views about what is healthy for everyone is quite warped. The fact of the matter is, like one commenter upthread talked about, there is just no way to say that, just because a particular food is hard for you to moderate, that it is absolutely unhealthy for everyone. I personally struggle with gastroparesis and have been told that high-calorie processed foods are my best friend. Of course, I supplement those foods with what I would consider "healthy" for myself.
For every action there is a reaction, and the fast food industry has bread an even bigger "fitness" industry that makes a lot of money off of telling people what is a "miracle food" and what is "poison". Any health professional, bodybuilder, extreme sports player, or athlete will tell you that eating 100% clean isn't necessarily the best way to eat. There is a reason why they almost all have "cheat days".
Also, to think that anyone should only be eating clean, ideally, really smacks of an addiction to clean eating (forgive me for forgetting the actual name!).
But my point is, it's not unreasonable to think that eating well 80% of the time and letting loose 20% of the time (or whatever variation works for an individual) wouldn't lead to weight loss or good health when the right mindset and exercise is also incorporated.
Think about it Lyn, you even proved that a 100% "healthy" diet of Medifast wasn't possibly because you recently told of how you were "gaming the system". When you have to cheat on a diet or eating plan, that basically means that your body is crying out for something that it's not getting, hence the need to have that candy bar or that scoop of ice cream and finally stop obsessing about it.
As an aside, I must add that it's pretty hard to stay away from "processed" foods, too. People think processed means: full of fat, sugar, cholesterol, etc. etc., but it REALLY just mean that the food was HANDLED in a factory setting or by human hands, so when a bell pepper is washed and put in a crate to take to the grocery store, that means it has been processed.

Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest since I sometimes feel that it would be disingenuous to only tell you "Great job Lyn!", when some of the ways you think and speak about food concern me. I totally understand wanting to change the way the world approaches food because, in truth, our country's issue is primarily with portion control. Adults should be able to indulge in whatever they want, and people generally know what works for them, but it's education about portion control that is lacking and deceptive labeling on food packages that makes navigating BALANCED nutrition that much more challenging.

Either way, it's imperative that you sort it out for YOU, but you already know that.


Chanelle said...

I forgot to attach this, but this is an amazing article that better explains my comment:



Lyn said...

Thanks Chanelle, that's a lot to think about. I think it deserves a response but I need to ruminate on what you said for a bit. Also will read the article, thanks!