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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