Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I'm So Confused

I just got back from my walk where I took the picture above and hell, it probably looks like shit because I took a panorama with my phone and I'm not good at that but it's a beautiful peaceful place just off the road which I normally don't pass. I took a slightly different route today because I met up with a horse and rider and a dog and I didn't want to shy the horse and I didn't want to piss off the dog. So I merely turned around and went another way. 

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about is my confusion these days over diet. Now when I used to "diet" back in the old, old days, I simply went into a sort of eating disorder and lived off of very little. When I joined Weight Watchers after Lily was born, I learned that starving myself was not necessary to lose weight and that, in fact, I could eat a pretty good quantity of food and still lose weight quite nicely and I did and was pleased and I stuck with Weight Watchers for years and even became a leader at one point and I enjoyed that gig for the most part but after several years I lost my enthusiasm, mainly due to the way the business was set up, and felt that the employees of Weight Watchers were really being treated as glorified volunteers and I up and quit. 
As one will, I developed unhealthy eating habits after that and gained weight again and got some bad cholesterol numbers and so I decided to try eating a diet which was inspired by Michael Pollen's words which were, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
It was rough at the beginning but I soldiered on, determined to lower my cholesterol without drugs but through diet and exercise and I ate almost entirely unprocessed foods which were mostly plant-based, a little bit of fat-free dairy, and very little sugar or white flour. 
I called it "eating from the dirt." 
And it was lovely once I became adjusted to it. I lost weight without having to weigh or measure any foods and it felt "right" on a lot of levels. 
At the same time I was doing yoga three times a week and still walking and overall, it seemed a sane and uncomplicated way to live. 

But then. Well, that's when "sanity" became a relative term and I went INsane and discovered what anxiety was all about and truly lost my mind and absolutely had to go the route of medication because increased yoga and walking and supplements did nothing whatsoever to help my mind. 
When one is suffering depression  (which I have done throughout my lifetime), one may either find oneself unable to eat or one may find oneself eating more to try and find some comfort in a dark, gray world. But with anxiety, one is in a state of constant panic and the flight-or-fight syndrome does not allow for eating much of anything and while I was in that state, I lost weight. But then, when I began to recover, when I was not in panic-mode 24 hours a day and when life finally started to become worth living again, I started eating again and because I was just so relieved not to be suffering, I ate whatever I wanted for the most part and told myself that I would worry about my eating habits when I was truly recovered. 

Well. That was what? Five years ago? 
I don't know. I could go look it up but even thinking about that time makes me anxious and brings on feelings of great despair and worry that I will slip back into those horrific thought patterns again so forget it. 

Anyway, needless to say, I gained weight and I have not been able to talk myself into the healthier way to eat for quite some time. Oh, maybe for a week or two, but then I slip and there you go, and here I am.

Unhappy with my weight and afraid to get my cholesterol checked because...well. 

And at this point in my life I truly want not only to be able to wear my clothes comfortably but to be healthier. I have so many aches and pains and I really don't have the energy I believe I should have and so of course, my thoughts turn to diet and there is just way too much confusing information out there. I have no idea what to believe. 

I have a friend who had several heart attacks and medication and a lower-fat diet and exercise were not doing the trick so he and his wife went on a diet which is incredibly restrictive. There is no added fat or oil in it. Nuts are off limits as are avocados. It is entirely plant-based. The proponents of this diet claim that it is not only heart-healthy but that it can and does reverse heart disease as well as fending off Alzheimer's and cancer. And my friend has done very, very well on it. He looks fabulous, he feels great, his numbers have improved, and he seems to have unlimited energy.
But could I actually DO that diet? 
I honestly don't think I could. 

And then I just read an article today from Psychology Today. You can read it here. 
The article is about a book written by a neurologist who is also a Fellow of The American Board of Nutrition (whatever that is) and he claims in his book, Grain Brain that we need higher levels of certain types of cholesterol for our brains and that the "bad" cholesterol has been mislabeled and that even the carbohydrates which we consider to be healthy such as brown rice and quinoa are actually very bad for us. 

Here's a quote:

""The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low-carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today," he says. Carbohydrates typically thought of as healthy, even brown rice, 100% whole grain bread, or quinoa—mainstays of many of the most health-conscious kitchens—cause disorders like dementiaADHD, chronic headaches, and Alzheimer’s, over a lifetime of consumption. By removing these carbohydrates from the diet—harbingers of inflammation, the true source of problems that plague our brains and hearts—and increasing the amount of fat and cholesterol we consume, we can not only protect our most valuable organ, but also potentially, undo years of damage. Cholesterol, for example, long vilified by the media and medical community, actually promotes neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells) and communication between neurons, to the degree that studies have shown that higher levels of serum cholesterol correlates to more robust cognitive prowess."

 So what do we believe? At this point in my life, I am not only trying to fit into my jeans, to be happier with the way I look, I want to improve my health if at all possible, and to stave off the ravages of old age AND TO JUST FUCKING FEEL BETTER. 

And let's throw in the fact that I do very much love food and love cooking and already eat a diet which most would consider more than a little healthier than the standard American diet if there is, indeed, such a thing. 

Michael Pollen's advice seemed so sensible. He recommends that we do not eat anything our grandparents would not recognize as food. They would recognize oats and nuts, of course, but not necessarily a granola bar made from those things. The granola bar's ingredients may be mostly oats and nuts and fruits but it will probably also include sugars and fats that may not be good for us. Of course one of the problems here is that it's not just avoiding food that our grandparents would not recognize as food, but our way-back forefathers whose bodies we are still actually inhabiting, speaking evolutionarily. Add to that the fact that the food available to us has been changed through not only selective breeding to be food that our cave-grandparents would not recognize, but also now genetic modification. 
I heard a scientist say on the radio the other day that back in cave days, the sweetest fruits were probably no sweeter than our carrots are today. So yes, we crave sweet but instead of eating fruit off the bush that didn't actually have a very high sugar content, we eat...granola bars and think we're being healthy. Or even, hell, apples. 
I don't know. 

AND of course, none of us uses our bodies the way our ancestors did. We don't hunt and gather day in and day out, our caloric intake barely more than the energy required to find and kill and haul the food to eat. 

And don't even talk to me about the Paleolithic Diet. Which is a whole other story and yes, it makes sense on some levels but seems to me to be another example of a sort of extremism. Which is something I'd really like to avoid. And then you have the raw foods diet and the Mediterranean Diet and the Clean Eating Diet and, and, and...

When I was eating my from-the-dirt diet, I was happier with my weight and my cholesterol did go down (but was that a good thing?) but my muscles and joints still ached. And then I went insane. Not saying my diet had anything to do with anxiety but it certainly didn't do anything to prevent it. 

So. I have no answers.

I will tell you this, however- when I am in Mexico and eating mostly seafood and a little meat, corn tortillas, fruit and yogurt (which for some reason tastes much better there than here) and drinking rum and beer, I feel terrific. The main source of vegetable matter I get there comes from the salsa which we eat generously at each meal and which contains tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, cilantro and lime juice. Of course you have to consider the fact that I'm sleeping ten hours a day, spending a great deal of time in or beside the water, and am happy as I can be. 
So, the vacation in Cozumel diet is not really a scientifically proven beneficial diet but hey- it works for me. 

What are your thoughts? I know we all struggle with what we eat and some of us eat to combat disease and aging and we have access to so much information and so much of that information is completely contradictory. What has worked for you? And let's try and leave the emotional side out of it which is impossible, of course. Any discussion on women and eating has to include that, but I'd like to put that aside for the moment.

Okay. I've gone on way too long, thinking out loud here. 
The boys are coming soon. 
I need to eat some lunch before they do. But...what to eat? It's so easy just to rationalize that "they" don't know shit and that the studies don't prove shit and so we should just fucking eat what we want. 

Which right now, for me, would be a pizza but no. That is not a good idea and I'm fairly sure about that.

Thanks, y'all, in advance, for any discussion you may want to provide. 

As always...Ms. Moon


  1. I went through a very similar diet dilemma when I moved to CA and went insane. Turned out the insanity was mostly due to Lyme which I had not been treating for years, but which reappears during times of extreme stress... I was told to stay on gluten free, dairy free, high protein diet. I have been doing well on it and it was not as hard as I thought. After a while, my body stopped craving shit. Turns out dairy is super bad for our bods. I still eat a little, but not nearly as much as before. I also still have a little gluten here and there. I just MOSTLY follow the rules which are more like guide lines to me. My weight is now steady and at a healthy number. Not sure if that will help or not.
    Good luck. Try not to do too many things with your diet. Like if you want to feel better, then choose a diet you can live with easily and loose weight. Don't stack up too many goals like (lower cholesterol, stave off dementia, etc..) Just choose the MOST important goal, find a diet that satisfies that goal. Get a stable weight, then it will be easier to explore additional options or alterations to you diet... That is my best suggestion.

  2. Well, mostly if it grows out of the ground, I'll eat it. I'm not big on meat (beef is the most exotic meat I've eaten). I don't pay too much attention to diet studies because first a certain food is good for us; then seven years later, they discovered it's gonna kill us. Nah, I just use common sense with my approach to diet and exercise. My body lets me know if I need to increase or decrease something. I find meditation helps too because it keeps me in tune with my body. I stay away from anything that is commercialized or organized. Above all, I don't eat anything that I don't like. I don't care how good it's supposed to be for me.

  3. I'm right in the middle of this with you. I'm trying to go low-carb, as per doctors orders, and it is SO counter-intuitive. Eat healthier? Let me fry up this pound of bacon!

    That being said, I am going to have to try that for awhile. There's no way I'm ever going to become a vegan, or go on a very, very restricted diet unless I absolutely HAVE TO to stay alive. And maybe not even then ;)

    But giving up whole grains/cheerios/oatmeal in the mornings is hard and I recently decided that I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to reduce my portions of grains add in a sausage patty. Breakfast is my hardest meal since we're so culturally ingrained to wanting only a certain number and kind of foods in the morning. Plus, I wake up hungry. I always have wanted a big breakfast, and as a kid, my parents always fixed me a solid breakfast and it's carried over into adulthood.

    I need to do better, too. It's all just fucking confusing and I start the "just fuck it, I'll just do what I want without going insane" diet plan.

  4. I lost weight on WW too back in the day & then my mom was diagnosed with cancer & that was that. What do you do when a dying woman says "eat what you want!" Sigh.

    But she's been gone 8 1/2 years now so I think it might be time to get my act together. Obviously, I offer no advice - I'll just sit here in the corner & listen to the discussion (& keep reading the Gradydoc's Thursday SJGR posts - ha!).

  5. I am with you on the M. Pollan diet. It just makes sense. I have eaten a plant based diet with several "cheating sessions" throughout the last year and am weighing about as much as I did in high school! holy shit I can't even believe it. I do eat fish and have enjoyed eggs a few times and even cheese but I keep it to a minimum, emergency comfort session only. Works for me.

  6. I was so confused by it that I actually found a doctor who did nothing but treat obesity. She put me on a diet that includes meat, fish, fowl,eggs, cheese, nuts, low glycemic index fruits and vegetables. It worked well, and is easy for me when I control the frying pan. But she I eat with others it gets tricky. I don't think that diet totally protects you from all illness, but being healthier when you do get sick gives you more of a reserve to deal with it.

  7. I too am completely confused about what to eat. And it confuses me that I'm confused! The year or so spent on the absolutely-no-fat-diet lowered both "good" and "bad" cholesterol, but was not healthy for me in other ways (my doctor said my thyroid thought I was starving)and I couldn't stop losing weight despite the enormous plates of food I scarfed down all day long. What I like about the way you eat is that so much of your food is homegrown, therefore truly fresh. I think that counts for a lot in terms of nutrition.

  8. Hell, I don't know. I think it's all a whole lot more complicated than diet. Just contemplating it makes me shut down, to tell you the truth. Diet and money issyes are impossible to figure out.

  9. Soooooomuch food for thought. I eat local. Fruit, veggies, fish, and a small amount of grass fed beef. I am gluten free, eat very little commercially prepared anything. A few gluten free crackers occasionally with some store-bought cheese, and some ice cream without weird shit in it. Oh--and a little dark chocolate. I'm still a bit overweight--though I have lost about 20 lbs since I went gluten free in February. My big pig-out meal is brown rice spaghetti with homemade sauce. One thing I've noticed about the gluten issue is cravings. Gone. I have superhuman powers now when it comes to not overdoing with eating. Remember that article in the New Yorker last year about the top 3 junk food producers and how they find that sweet spot that just makes us crave more and more? I believe that. And I have less anxiety and depression--but other things could be coming into play there. And thanks for asking the question--the comments are interesting!

  10. In the 13 months since I joined SparkPeople, I have lost 118 pounds. I have 25 left to lose, give or take. I try to stay balanced. I am NOT low-carbing, but I am more careful about carbs than I used to be. I don't eat rice or beans as much as I used to, but mostly because they are high in calories and I am tracking my food. My current calorie range is 1380-1730 calories a day. That range has stepped down incrementally as I have lost weight. My range was considerably higher when I started. I eat almonds and fruit and string cheese almost every day for my snacks. I drink mostly water and have one class of iced green tea a day. I eat chicken often, beef and pork less often. Lots of salad and broccoli and cauliflower. You can really get a lot of bulk from veggies and I am loving that. I eat a whole wheat tortilla with natural peanut butter and raw honey for breakfast. I have at least one small sweet treat every day (one square of dark chocolate or a fudgsicle for example). I *try* to live by the philosophy that no food is "bad" and that all things are ok in moderation, but I still have to stay away from french fries.

    So bottom line, what I'm shooting for is: moderate calorie intake, a balance of good carbs, heart-healthy fats and enough protein to keep me feeling satisfied.

    As of June, my cholesterol is better than it was a couple years ago. I have a physical scheduled for later this month and expect to have it checked again.

  11. Oh soul, this is so timely for me. Thank you.

    I'm really struggling here in Yap. I eat pasta and Ragu most days because that's all I can manage/afford. I just cannot figure out the whole taro/breadfruit/tapioca lifestyle - it's so much freaking work! For things that taste crappy! (Though, the waitress where i sometimes eat lunch has begun to assume that I want local food instead of rice on my plate for lunch, which is fine, but when I'm not eating pasta I'm eating a stirfry with rice.)

    I read that Micronesia is the 2nd highest obesity rate in the world at 92% - that's simply not true in Yap, though - people here are pretty trim due to local foods and walking and yardwork and dancing and canoebuilding.

    I don't know what to do about my diet. I eat out for lunch most days, to get fresh fish, on a salad when my stomach can handle it. I eat grilled chicken every Friday. No pork, no beef (because it's gross here - cheap cuts from the US and months in sketchy shipping storage to get here).

    I think I have to work out the exercise thing first, and then the diet thing. But I have to work them out.

    Please keep talking about it.

  12. It's like a disease this dieting business. Business with a capital B, that is.

    I could tell you that I experienced the most dramatic weight loss in my life at times when my diet was shit and I think I lost weight then because diet and proper food was the last thing on my mind because mostly I was scared of dying and hardly slept.
    But that is not something I would recommend.

    What I can recommend - really and truly - is a slim little book, barely 120 pages called On Eating by Susie Orbach (you can find excerpts on google). But it's only a book, no moral or diet compass. Just a little nudge now and then. Just a bit of common sense.

    And have a read here, esp. the last para:


    Don't be too hard in yourself.

    If dieting is the answer, what's the question?

  13. Ms. Fleur- That all sounds very sensible to me. I am so glad you got the Lyme thing back under control and it sounds as if your diet is too. Good for you!

    Nancy- Again, very sensible. Very sane. I wish with all of my heart that I didn't love meat so much. But I do! I can't rationalize eating it, either. But still- I continue to do so. And you are exactly correct about the every-seven year thing. Damn. Remember when wheat germ was a miracle food? IT HAS GLUTEN IN IT! LOTS! So now it's poison.

    SJ- I love grains. Love them. And whole grains are delicious to me. And that whole "eat bacon instead of brown rice" thing IS so counter-intuitive.
    Sigh. Keep us posted.

    The Bug- Grady Doctor's posts are wonderful. I agree. And I also know how hard it is to reclaim healthier habits. Hardest thing in the world.

    Ms. Yo- You are an inspiration for me. (And by the way, I was no thin little thing in high school. But I was beautiful.)

    Lisa- If it works for you, then it makes sense! And anything gets tricky when we step out of our comfort zone, especially with others. I applaud you.

    A- I am glad you are not doing that diet any more. I think for you it might not have been the best plan. So how are you eating now? And yes, fresh has to be at least a little bit healthier.

    Elizabeth- For me too, honey. Both. I suck at both.
    They are both scary and take a hell of a lot of energy to figure out. And can we truly figure out either? For awhile maybe. We do the best we can.

    Denise- When I was eating all-healthy-and-shit, my cravings left me as well. I do believe that sugar is a drug and probably all refined carbs are. What you eat sounds very healthy and doable to me. I wish beer did not have gluten in it. I REALLY wish beer didn't have gluten in it.

    Stephanie- You know, you have done one of the very hardest things in the world to do and I hope you are aware of how amazing this accomplishment is. I AM ABSOLUTELY IN AWE OF YOUR DETERMINATION! You deserve every bit of your success. No one did this for you. You have had to make every choice. Your diet actually sounds very Weight-Watchery. Good balances. A wide variety of foods. I like that. I wish you'd start writing some again. And I would love to see the new you. Bless, darling. Just...bless.

    NOLA- A struggle there, for sure. I can completely understand it. Plus, you have a very busy work life and your housework and your yard, too. I wish I had some answers for you. Instead, I simply have encouragement for your efforts to do the best you can.

    Sabine- Oh yes. I did not discuss the grief diet or the illness diet. Those are both very real things. They work! Who wants them? Not me.
    I will try to get ahold of that book. And what a terrific link. Yes. I am too old to go batshit crazy about it all. Those days (thank god) are past me.

  14. At risk of being overly simplistic, I really believe in sending your body messages of love and the rest will take care of itself. I'm working on a post about it, actually. Now I don't know about joints and pain, but I do mean about what to eat. I think your body will tell you what is right for you, but you have to be having a healthy relationship with it to hear it. And by that I mean giving it love.

  15. Wow, sorry I'm late to this post, what a good one. I'm confused too. I can't change my mindset to accommodate whole grains being bad for you. I read Dr. Weil and the Eat, Drink and Be Merry Doc who says ear what makes sense, in moderation.
    But I've been pondering the diet that changed Bill Clinton's life, and it sounds much like the one your friend is on. All I know is I crave crap that is bad for me, I feel awful anyway and I'm quick to gain weight and really slow to lose it, and my cholesterol is too high.
    I need to do something but what? When you figure out what makes the most sense, I know you'll tell us.
    From where I sit, you seem to eat a very healthy diet with all the right ingredients though...

  16. Oh lord you know I meant eat where I typed ear, right?

  17. The diet I feel best on - and I mean phenomenal, no depression, no anxiety, no hormonal mood swings, brain fog, no cravings, no joint pain AND about 5 pounds a week weight loss - is low carb, high protein (about 1 gram per 2 pounds of body weight) and moderate fat, together with LOTS of water. I have lost as much as 75 lbs on this and felt awesome. Trying to gear up to get back on but life is so unsettled right now.

    About the cholesterol and brain function thing, you remember my story about my mom and the coconut oil that reversed severe dementia. So. Not much to add to that.


  18. Ms. Vesuvius- Not simplistic at all. Perhaps, in fact, somewhat difficult. I would love to read your thoughts on this. Write that post!

    Mel- Yes. Same diet, I think, for Clinton and my friend. We all know that Clinton has lost a lot of weight. I hope he feels good too.
    I feel your pain, honey. Probably quite literally. I mean, it's MY pain I feel but I think it's much like yours.

    Invisigal- I've never had a problem with water intake. That is always easy for me. Interesting that your former diet did so much for you. And yes, I do very much remember what you said about the coconut oil. I incorporate that into our diet now, at least some.

  19. I'm glad Invisigal mentioned the coconut oil. A friend turned me on to that and I bought some, but olive oil is such a habit for me that I forget about the coconut. I try to eat healthfully (whatever that means), but still get cravings. I'm totally confused about what to eat, but try to go fresh organic and/or local whenever possible. I would have a hard time living without avocado!

    I love that you have started this conversation; it is so important. And GMO's freak me out!!!

  20. Good subject and so hard. What worked best for me was one piece of fruit in the morning, protein for breakfast, protein and veggies for lunch and dinner and a protein snack in the afternoon. I was also exercising 45 min to 1 hr a day. Not eating the obvious carbs - bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and sugar helped a lot as did the exercise. When I started eating those obvious carbs and some sugar and could not exercise due to injuries, the weight came back on. While Dr Manning separates the exercise from the food and may be right, the exercise did something for me. In my opinion, any good eating plan works for health and weight when you do it. It is doing it consistently that is the problem. Sweet Jo

  21. Look, the ultimate diet book or rather non-diet piece of paper to fold up and read from time to time:


  22. I think Michael Pollan is more or less correct. I don't eat anything with little or no nutritional value (like soda pop or potato chips or french fries*) and I try to eat reasonable portions of pretty much anything else, though my tastes run toward veggies, grains and dairy and away from meat.

    *Okay, that's not entirely true, because I do eat ice cream. In very small portions.

  23. It's so confusing. I always laugh when I remember a friend asking what she could do to lost weight and she said "don't give me any of that eat less move more crap!" But I think that's the answer really, as much as I hate to follow through with it. For me it's also portion control and not feeling deprived. I have to still be able to look forward to meals. I would rather live a little less time and still enjoy my life. Recently lost 25 lbs. by doing this stupid, hated things.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.