Have we gone too far left of center in the politics of healthy eating?
“But you are a nutritionist! How can you even ask such a question?” Is that not what you are thinking?
The fact is, yes, I am a nutritionist and I use nutrition as a tool to heal disease and dysfunction, especially when prescribing a therapeutic diet to heal imbalances, dysfunction and disease.
What I also am is aware that, after having chosen a “guru” to follow, or a modality that sounds appealing. somehow, somewhere, we have chosen up sides and drawn lines in the sand against one another in our bid to prove that how we eat is the best/only way to eat. We have weighed, measured, and found wanting, anyone who doesn’t ascribe to our way of nourishing our bodies.
The fact is, every day I work with people who want, no, expect me to tell them exactly what they should eat to follow the perfect diet. Even when I devise something I know will work for their specific goals it is not long before “Google fingers” get the better of them and they are not emailing me hundreds of links asking why I don’t tell them to eat a pint of goji berries, or if they should be eating, I don’t know, ostrich feathers, for their antioxidant properties. (Yes, there is dripping sarcasm present in that last sentence!) I notice the more balanced approach I give them the faster they visit Dr. Google and return with his verdict on why my eating plan is lacking.
You really cannot please everyone! I don’t try any longer.
Is Healthy Eating the New Religion?
I’ve talked about the dogma of nutrition in the past. It’s not a new topic. I am bringing it up again only to highlight some of the ‘gurus’ such as the dangerous lunatic Bob what’s his name from The Biggest Loser (and by Loser they MUST be talking about him) with his “Skinny Rules” and maniacal 1300 calorie a day starvation diet to the arguably charismatic but highly cultish David Wolfe to Weston A. Pricers and Paleo people, I mean the list goes on and on.
Put any of these two people together it is bound to be tantamount to putting a Republican and an ISIS member together at a keg party and asking them to agree on a peace agreement. Somebody is drawing a sword.
I have clients that come to me all the time and say “I eat very healthy” but have thyroid and/or hormonal issues. When I suggest maybe they ought to come off their three green juices a day I am met with something maybe just short of a two year old’s trantrum.
And before you go saying “But we hear these things are healthy” let me assure you, I have been there, done that. I loved green juicing for about three months until I saw my hair falling out and my nails getting brittle. I broke my thyroid. Now, while I do like a juice from time to time, it is not a way of life. It is certainly not a religion.
Before any of you jump out of the computer to choke me trying to tell you that it wouldn’t happen to everyone, the hair falling out thing, let me tell you, that may be true if you are a yoga lover in your early 20’s but it probably will, if that’s all you drink save for some raw zucchini pasta with some tofu and some raw vegan cheesecake. (And sorry, I am going to upset a lot of people but THAT in and of itself is an oxymoron! Cashews and walnuts do NOT make a cheesecake!).
And before you all think I am picking on the raw vegan people, I have just recently had a Paleo person come out and applaud me for my choices in diets and when I told her I was not Paleo at all, didn’t like all the conflicts surrounding naming of the same damned dogmatic lifestyle (Primal, Paleo, Ancestral, etc..) and the conflicts in whether a white potato was Paleo and whether you could eat beans, she promptly asked me if I got my license to practice from a Cracker Jack Box and told me if I knew anything about Rob Wolfe or Mark Sisson I would proudly proclaim myself a Paleo person.
Of course, my final blow was to explain to her that we do not, in fact, know what a caveman actually ate but we DO know it was probably squirrel carcass and the odd lizard, long periods of starvation as they tried to survive the winters and disease, and trial and error of anything sweet they intuited could give them a glucose load to nourish their bodies. I say intuited because I am pretty sure there were no health coaches and trainers to tell them not to eat carbs back then.
Ladies and gents, let me assure you. Choosing up such stringent sides and defending them as rigidly as we do our political beliefs and religions is ridiculous and, dare I say it, boring!
Healthy Eating as an acceptable eating disorder?
I have already discussed orthorexia (focusing solely on eating what is “right and acceptable” according to their belief structure) but I feel the need to broach it again.
The other day I am watching one of those trash celeb TV shows (like “E” entertainment or something like that). Well, it was running in the background but I digress. All of a sudden I hear the newscaster talking about the new celebrity diet craze of “NO SUGAR”. Well, that got my attention. I waited for the news person to come back to tell me what this is all about.
It was nauseating how all of these celebs were advocating ZERO sugar (including that “Virgin” chick with Madonna arms), including NO fruit as a healthy diet. It was nauseating. I wanted to throw something very hard through the TV. They were advocating eating protein, very little fat, and vegetables out the yin yang….. And the newscasters (including one who was doing Vegan January) were all raving about how AMAZING they felt after trying it themselves.
Of course, “no sugar” has become a trend.
Funny how cortisol will make you feel really great……for awhile…. as it is trying to tell you there is an upcoming famine because there is little glucose. Ok, I will say, a lot of fruit is not a great idea but neither is an inordinant amount of kale or a half of a cow at any one sitting. But NO fruit, no sugar of any kind???? That’s nuts…. Not to mention rubbish. It isn’t sustainable and it is, in all reality boring. Boring for your tastebuds, boring for your body (because there are only so many ways you can prepare nuts, veggies and spaghetti squash) and frankly, boring for the people around you who have to listen, ad nauseum, to the benefits of your particular brand of eating. It’s one main reason you will find a lot of “clumping” going on. Paleo communities, W. A. Price communities, raw and vegan communities. Nobody else can stand listening to why our genes were meant to eat pounds of bacon and cauliflower in everything from pizza crusts (though that CAN be actually not bad) to bread, to mashed cauliflower or cauliflower rice.
I have known people who take their own food to Italy. Unless you are Celiac or have a major peanut or other allergy that would preclude you from eating delicious, high quality food without landing in the emergency room then, trust me, you are going to want to eat some pasta al pesto or some pizza al Napoletana. In France, you are going to want to eat a croissant. Carbs be damned. French women have some of the most beautiful skin I have ever seen and they eat bread; amazing sourdough type bread!
Don’t get me wrong. There ARE times when a therapeutic diet is necessary after years of eating the wrong combination of foods (oddly enough either a lot of junk or the opposite, an extreme “healthy” diet) among other factors come together to create dis-ease. Those are extreme situations though and for limited times. There should be a clear plan about why you are undertaking such an eating plan and clear goals set regarding this eating plan. Even then, your nutritionist should find an eating plan that is healing AND delicious.
To follow a “therapeutic” diet when there is no need is, quite plainly, disordered eating.
The takeaway here is this. Eating healthy is not just about the quality of the food you eat. Of course, nutrient dense foods with colorful vegetables and fruits, high quality proteins, healthy saturated fats, digestible carbs like potatoes (sweet and white) and rice, ice creams, creme brulee, marshmallows and, dare I say it, a slice of bread or two every now and again, is optimal.
Eating an enjoyable combination of these foods, hopefully with people you love or make you laugh, slowly, and in a relaxed way is more important than eating the perfect “combination” as per some arbitrary “rules” some “guru” has made up.
If you can’t eat a bagel in New York or a slice of Chicago Deep Dish or even a slice of really amazing chocolate cake on your best friend’s birthday without calculating calories, grams of fat or how many carbs you are ingesting what’s the point in eating?
“No butter, no cream, no wheat, no dairy, no fat! Eh, merde! Why do they bother to eat? ~Chef Didier in Last Holiday
Healthy eating should never be argued with the passion of religion and it should not be another excuse to be obnoxious! Food is not only nourishment for the body but for the soul! There is nothing sexier than a woman who doesn’t take herself OR her diet too seriously. There is nothing more elegant than a woman who knows her limits and can stick to them without letting anyone know them.
Wishing you health, beauty, and elegance,