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 dementia, ADHD, 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