Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It's Not All in a Name -- Finding a Food Plan That Works For You

Paleo. Primal. South Beach.. 17 Day Diet. 
Dukan Diet. Atkins. The Zone. 
Weight Watchers. Mediterranean. 
Specific Carbohydrate Diet. The Blood Type Diet. 
DASH diet. Ornish Plan. Engine 2 Diet. 
The Grapefruit Diet. The Hollywood Diet. 
etc... etc... etc... 

In some way or another people are generally following some type of "named" food plan. Specific names are important, especially in the world of American "DIET" marketing. It's a multi-BILLION dollar business. Guidebooks, cookbooks, shakes, protein mixes, pills, pills, pills. 

Recently on the facebook page someone asked a very interesting question. I mentioned that for breakfast I had leftover roast chicken, yukon gold potatoes, and broccoli... what I coined "a sort of paleo" breakfast. A reader asked, "So do you tweak your diet? From what I've read potatoes aren't allowed on the paleo diet." It's a good question. Do I tweak? I sure do. 

Here's why: 

Since November 2011, I've been talking about a "Paleo" diet. But in all honesty... it's just a name. I use the word because it best captures the type of foods my body tolerates well.
  • Little to no sugar
  • Little to no grain-based foods
  • Few to no legumes
  • Very, very, few refined and/or processed foods  
My body just works best that way. 

But paleo doesn't describe my entire diet. 

It doesn't include that I'm allergic to most shellfish and especially shrimp. It doesn't say that while I can handle small amounts of caffeine, a large cup of full-blown caffeine-loaded coffee would probably send me to the hospital. It doesn't include the fact that the only fish I really like is salmon and I don't even make that every often because hubs isn't a fan of fish. It doesn't say that every now and then I'm going to want a Glutino chocolate cookie or have a craving for fresh homemade gluten free bread. And that when those foods are eaten in very limited qualities they work for my body... that's what "paleo" doesn't say

No matter WHAT "named" plan you may be following... you have to adjust it for your own needs. We are all unique individuals. Your own body. If I've learned anything over the past two years, it's that you have to become very aware of your own body, what it needs, how it feels, and how foods affect it. 

One thing that's frustrating to me as a food blogger is the prevalent notion that we must be rigid and judgmental about our diets. I think it's important to specify the difference between a "diet" that has specific boundaries and ones that do not. All the "diets" listed above? They have boundaries that can most likely be crossed without harmful effects to your body. The diets listed above are generally a choice you make, and therefore if you need to adjust them to suit your needs, you absolutely should.

BUT, when you're following a "diet" because of a disease, a food intolerance, or an allergy... YES you do have boundaries. You CANNOT eat gluten, or soy, or whatever it is that your body is intolerant of. Those are not "choices" you make if you want your body to be healthy. (And trust me, for those of you who have to give up gluten for health reasons? I know how hard a challenge that can be!)

But for everything else? You have to learn to adapt, change, or edit a diet or a combination of diets that work best for you. The best nutrition advice I've ever heard is from Cheryl Harris, a registered dietitian,  nutritionist, certified wellness coach, and author of the blog Gluten Free Goodness. In a nutshell Cheryl states: eat real foods, less sugar and/or sweeteners, and simply be mindful about what you eat. These sage words apply no matter what type of food plan, diet, or habitual nourishment practices you follow. 

So that's why this blog isn't "technically" a paleo blog and never will be. 

I'll never love cauliflower no matter how much I try and I'll probably always eat peanut butter even though technically it's a legume. Eat what works best for your own health and your own body. And if you need help figuring out what that means for you -- find a knowledgeable nutritionist (I happen to know of a really good one!) or doctor who can guide you in the right direction! 

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  1. This is a GREAT post! We definitely agree that whatever "diet" you follow, tweaks are needed almost every day and it's great that you acknowledge that! Words of wisdom yet again :)

    1. Melaina -- thank you SO much! I really appreciate you reading my post and as you know I'm a HUGE fan of Rudi's! :-)

  2. Carrie, you're so sweet! and you've done such an amazing job of figuring out what your body needs.
    BTW, have you ever had roasted cauliflower? I'm guessing yes, but it tastes so different than raw or steamed...I've got DH hooked, and I'm so proud!

    1. Thank you Cheryl! You've known all along what worked best for my body and it took me 9 months to really understand your wisdom and how to change my diet for the better, for a way that would work for me! And admittedly no, I haven't tried roasting cauliflower! In general I get so gassy with cauliflower I'm always reluctant to try it... but I might be willing to give that a go! lol

  3. Thank you for addressing this issue. I brought up the question because I am in the process of figuring out what works best for my body. Unfortunately, my symptoms are not so obvious so I don't know how I am really doing without seeing the nurse practitioner. I didn't know I was gluten intolerant until I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. I didn't realize I had a Candida infection until I had my urine tested. I didn't know how I was really doing on that elimination diet until I checked back with her. I feel better, but I never really felt bad, just tired and a little foggy. My stomach bothered me some, but I thought that was stress. When there are no immediate consequences, it is hard to know how much I really need to change the way I eat.

    1. LOVE this comment Dawn! It's definitely not an easy journey and I didn't understand the foods that really worked for me until I began being coached by a nutritionist! So I think you are definitely working and figuring things out in the right direction! I'm glad you asked because some of those things had been on my mind for quite a while and I just wasn't sure how to combine all these thoughts into a post until just now!

  4. I'll echo Melaina - this is a great post! Everyone has their own unique "diet" of what works best for their body. I'm working on trying to decrease my sugar intake and determine how that will work best for me.

    1. That's great Adina! Thank you so much for commenting! :-) And I know how hard it is to decrease your sugar intake! :-) Very best to you!

  5. Yup, I'm there with you on "the diet with no name". And worst of all, simply listing your dietary restrictions makes people think that your diet is limited, boring, tasteless, or yucky. Quite the contrary - my diet gets broader with every restriction, as I dig for new foods, recipes, and cuisines. I rarely eat a meal I don't love.

    I find the challenge of cooking for special diets to be a fascinating process, like solving a puzzle. I happily give myself extra challenges, like cooking for my friend with multiple allergies that are completely different than mine; cooking traditional Passover dishes within my restrictions; Ukranian new year; Jamaican . . . I love to cook and find new favourite foods!

    1. That is so true. I have to keep myself from laughing when people say how bad they feel for me not eating their cake or doughnuts or pizza or jello with cool whip. I will suffer along with meals that I love. I'll take a steak and fancy salad over pot luck nachos anytime.

  6. Love the post, Carrie. Your cauliflower comment brought a big smile to my face. I LOVE cauliflower prepared almost any way. Only recently, though, I've reluctantly had to admit that it's not a mutual thing. Paleo darling or not, cauliflower causes so much pain and bloating for me, I've had to call it quits. I am quite sad about that, but obviously cauliflower wasn't the first food I've abandoned in the name of health and pain reduction.

    1. lolol! I completely understand Pamela! That's why I had to call it quits with cauliflower too... it just hurts my tummy too much. Too much uncomfort! I've learned I don't do well with much cabbage either, however about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of sauerkraut I do well with... I wonder if it has to do with the fermenting?

  7. What a refreshing post. I've been trying to eat Paleo for several months. While I know I shouldn't I sometimes feel guilty when I am around my "strict" paleo friends since I haven't completely cleared out my cabinets of non-paleo foods and I haven't been able to complete the "30-Day Challenge" without a little honey or an occasional meal out that I am sure contains hidden ingredients that are on the "forbidden" list. It is a journey for all of us. I think sometimes a harder journey to eat well for those of us who DON'T have obvious reactions to food. (Don't get me wrong~I'm grateful that I do not!) I read about people who after 2 weeks of paleo feel completely different or people who slip up and eat gluten or some other no-no and suffer for days. That's not me. While I feel better about myself for having lost 12 pounds it is not a "night and day" difference. But I appreciate all of you who help me to be more aware of the importance of seriously considering what I put into my mouth! And I appreciate those willing to spend their time researching nutrition honestly so that people like me have another perspective to consider other than a perspective based completely on profit. Keep up the good work!

  8. Thank you so much for the post, I have identical foods I avoid. Now if I can help everyone around me understand that the "diet" is not strict on all the foods.

  9. Carrie - this is an excellent post. I'm with you. I've tried paleo - even did a Whole30 - but honestly, I'm fine with occasional grains and I can't always handle a lot of brassica veggies - like you said, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. I love them, but like some other foods, they don't love me back. I might even eat cane sugar once in a while. But if we all eat real foods in moderation and do what's best for our bodies, that's a very healthy, reasonable way to go about it. I'll never have a paleo blog either! Thank you for all that you do.

  10. awesome, Carrie! it is hard to describe our family's diet (food we eat) as it isn't any one thing anymore, and I allow some alterations to our diet as special treats. And I won't ever do cauliflower as I am allergic. Go figure!

  11. You're absolutely right of course, there's no law that says we must adhere exclusively to the parameters of any of these diets. My son and I are GF and DF.
    I started doing a modified GAPS diet last year to help me for health reasons, and it's really worked so far. However, my son also has nut allergies so that has limited any kind of cooking with nuts and coconut which is a huge part of paleo and gaps as a replacement for the grains.
    I also had a lot of trouble digesting raw food easily,so that impacts some of the choices for me.
    For the most part I would be paelo, but I still enjoy an occasional home made GF pancake, cupcake or waffle with no guilt.

  12. Beautiful post! Thank you!


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