How does the above image look to you?
To me it looks healthy, abundant, colorful and inviting.
To some it will look unbalanced — there are no grains included.
Here’s the ‘official’ new government-funded/approved nutrition agenda:
(The above images from Wellness Mama, one of my favorite blogs.)
This image and the accompanying recommendations have been creating quite the buzz. There’s much whining about the cost: $2 million. There’s grumping about the government controlling what we feed our children. There’s (snarky and undignified) criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama for her part in attempting to promote health, especially to American families. There’s plenty of just plain ole’ mean-spiritedness.
I don’t want to add to any of that. I just want to talk about what I think about food choices.
Here’s a lovely quote from Wellness Mama: “If people want to make the choice to live on Pizza, hamburgers and soda, they should absolutely have that choice, in my opinion. It is the fact that many people are being misled into thinking that a “balanced” diet of grains, sugars, and vegetables with a little protein and very little fat is actually the standard they should look to for health.”
And here are some other links that I found interesting:
how-grains-are-killing-you-slowly (Wellness Mama)
my-thanks-to-the-dietary-guidelines-committee (Fat Head)
the-usda-explains-my-plate (Fat Head…yes, again)
say-goodbye-to-the-food-pyramid (Food Renegade)
“When we eat a low-fat diet per their guidelines, we’re simply not sated. We can do it, but we compensate by eating more refined grains and sugars and snacking often.”
That is 100% ‘spot-on’ for my own experience.
There’s another lovely, vibrant, inviting, and might I say, easy to understand, image.
(PS — all images, when clicked on, will take you to the site/blog where I found them…)
But this post is not just about the new dietary guidelines —- which to be absolutely clear, I care not at all about. Yes, I find it to be annoying that this misinformation will be the basis on which choices will be made. But honestly I don’t expect it to get any better. There are hugely influential people, corporations, forces and their representatives involved here. These forces are, apparently, an unavoidable part of our ‘representative government’ construct.
Thankfully I am not bound to accept or honor any of these faulty recommendations.
So what do I disagree with? the recommendations for fats and grains.
Fats, especially saturated fats, have long been demonized. They, we are told, are at the heart (pun intended) of our current health crises: heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.
We’ve been (societally speaking) on a Low-Fat binge for a good, long while now. Is there less heart disease, high blood pressure, obsesity, etc? No. More.
So, what’s the deal?
If low fat diets aren’t helping the situation, what will?
Before I get lost in my own
rant thoughts, I’ll share links to two books:
Each of these have been incredibly helpful to me. I needed a better understanding of how metabolism worked. I NEEDED to understand the biology/chemistry of how we nourish our bodies. These things are mostly poorly understood or communicated. And I need to know something before I can make good choices. Yes, each author offers ‘dietary advice’ based on their information. But do not think of either of these as ‘diet books’ nor expect a quick fix. Nope. What they offer is a mountain of information about what is going on inside your body, right this very moment, or at least every time you eat.
So instead of delving in to the science (which the above authors do fabulously well) I will talk about what I think.
Are carbs evil? Of course not. They are just one macronutrient class.
Grains? no….but pretty much unnecessary.
Yep, I said it. I think that grains do not have any necessary role in a healthy diet. That goes for all the different types of grains.
Do I think grains are ‘poison?’
No, I don’t think it promotes free discussion and thinking to make such extreme pronouncements.
I look at grains with a wary eye. I think it is prudent to see grains in the same light as sugar — maybe nice for an occasional treat.
Because I also think that flour (and other refined grains) should be seen as simply:
Sugar from another plant.
Ok, so how does this play out in my family?
My family enjoys their carbs.
They all love bread products, especially homemade bread.
They all love chips and cookies.
They all get to make their own choices.
I eat nothing from grain. Nothing.
I have no wheat, soy, corn….etc. in my diet.
When I started focusing on my health last year my husband said to me, “I don’t understand how you could be unhealthy or need to lose weight….you eat better than any of us.” And he was right. My diet was awesome! I enjoyed ‘healthy’ whole grains, lots of veggies, lots of fruit, lean meat, lower-fat dairy, pretty much exactly what the USDA tells us is healthy. I didn’t choose these things because of dietary guidelines. I chose them because I believed they were the right things. In other words, our society is so saturated with the idea that this is ‘healthy eating’ that I simply never doubted it.
So, how do I eat now?
~ no grains
~ no starches
~ nutrient-dense, low-carb veggies
~ no sweeteners (except occasional stevia)
~ no dairy (except cream & some cheeses)
~ meat (chicken, beef, pork, especially fattier cuts)
~ very little fruit (avocado & nutrient dense berries mostly)
~ no more than 20g of carbs/day
~ no calorie restriction (eat until satiated…not full)
~ no veggie oils or margarine
~ coconut oil, coconut milk, butter, animal fat as needed
(please note: this is MY list. I am not promoting or recommending it…I have no desire to become a diet guru)
Wow. That’s quite the list.
Does it seem unhealthy to you?
It would have to me a year ago.
How can a person possibly be healthy with soooooo much fat in their diet?
How can it be healthy to restrict grains and fruit and veggies?
So, am I on an Adkins diet? Low-Carb? Paleo? Primal?
No. Not at all.
I am eating for the health of my body.
I do not consult a diet list; I eat what appeals to me.
And I feel great.
Unlike my days of ‘healthy eating’ before, I have boundless energy. I have no times during the day when my blood sugar bottoms out and I NEED to rest or nap.
I have no blood sugar spikes.
I have no violent mood swings.
I have a consistent good mood, actually.
(Before I had no idea how much my mood was being controlled by my diet.)
Is this about weight loss?
No, not really.
I used other strategies over the last year to obtain that goal…all of which were very much in keeping with what I’m doing now…I just didn’t know it at the time.
This is about health maintenance.
However, I can report that according to Taubes weight loss may happen.
You really should read his book to get the full picture…but to summarize: when we eat satiating quantities of fats and proteins we stay fuller longer, thereby, over time, eating fewer net calories. Plus because our hormone system isn’t being thrown out of whack by carb-flooding, our body can access the stored fat for energy.
The point is not ‘weight loss’ it is about maintaining our bodies in such a way that the hormones are all operating just the way they should and, as a result, we can slowly auto-correct to the ‘right weight.’
So, what about my family?
How can I hold these thoughts to be true and continue making/providing carb-rich foods to them?
Well, there’s a sticky-wicket.
I respect their individual rights to choose what they wish to eat.
Some might say, “well, different diets work for different people.”
I don’t think that is quite true.
I think some people are more distinctly, obviously un-served by a carb-rich diet than others are. Some have the ability to deal with high carb loads without seeming to gain weight, or suffer from blood sugar issues/crashes.
But 20 or 30 years later, will their bodies become insulin resistant?
Will their pancreas just wear out?
There is no way of knowing for certain.
So, do I wish my family would make similar dietary choices?
And it is not because I’ve subscribed to a particular dogma or philosophy.
It IS because I feel absolutely fantastic.
But you know what?
We are getting there….slowly.
Both my sons are asking really good questions (curious children are so delightfully like that…) about what I eat, why I eat it, and what they can choose for themselves. They see that mama is healthier…and they are the main recipients of mama being happier.
They know I am making choices that make me happy.
They know that what I am doing is not about restriction or deprivation (although they wouldn’t know to apply those words.)
The dialogue is developing that will help them to understand how important it is for them to recognize how what they choose to eat makes them feel.
This is a perfect starting place.
This is the foundation for the rest of their lives.
This is looking within, making one’s own choices, knowing one’s own needs.
This is living a life as if the USDA guidelines didn’t exist at all. 😉