Some people can reach a near religious fervor when it comes to whatever diet they think is the best. Whether it’s gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free or bacon and candy every day, conversations (or rants) among people of differing diet theories can sound like the current Republican presidential primary debates.
For example, I recently posted an article on my Facebook feed touting the sanctity of eating grains because I found it an interesting addition to the discussion on diet. The article was written by someone who had published two cookbooks all about grains, so perhaps decidedly biased (as an FB friend pointed out). It was filled with claims of scientific and nutritional studies to back up her argument, which is fairly common to all diet theories. The author contends that “your grain-free diet isn’t natural, good for you or good for the planet” and she takes aim in particular at Paleo or Paleo-inspired diets that eliminate all grains (and sugar and dairy and legumes and and and and – look it up).
I can’t imagine anyone taking umbrage with the environmental part of
her argument, because it is basic math that it takes less of Earth’s resources to grow grains than to produce meat, but one FB friend commented that her waistline does not agree with the author’s stance that grains are good for her to eat. Another commenter called out the author’s claim that cooked starches helped humans develop large brains, countering that it was more likely cooked meat that triggered this evolutionary progress. While this is one, narrow example, I am positive if you live anywhere besides under a rock, you have heard multitudinous discussions of the same ilk from the moment you could understand words.
I’d estimate that diet choices have been extra confusing for us United Statesians since around the Second Industrial Revolution. In the name of convenience, progress, and thrift, the Industrial Revolution brought mass-produced, shelf-stable food to the American home (e.g. packaged, soft white bread and canned fruits, vegetables, sauces, and meats). There was an immediate backlash. People like Sylvester Graham railed against “processed foods” and for him in particular, that evil white bread. In what was the beginning of the U.S. health food movement and possibly the start of diet-related mania, Graham crisscrossed the country yelling at people to only eat whole grains and his whole wheat “Graham” bread (this is the origin of Graham crackers, which were initially made with only coarse whole wheat flour and water).
And guess what? Graham was a Christian minister and his diet theory was infused with Christian morality. Remember that religious-like fervor I mentioned? Anyway, that’s a much longer discussion with books already written about it.
My point? Well, firstly, I find it interesting to observe how emotional and adamant people get about diet choices and how there is an equally emotional and adamant person in every corner of the diet-theory kingdom. Secondly, here is what I take away from all of it – dietary needs are as unique as every individual.
My diet theory? Eat what feels right for you. I call it the Snowflake Diet. This is arguably quite difficult in practice and all the differing, loudly debated, and constantly changing dietary advice can throw anyone into doubt and confusion. But if wheat makes your tummy swell and rumble, maybe cut back or lay off it, either completely or for a while. If dairy makes you feel yucky, don’t eat it or save eating it for when it’s really worth the consequences (like, say, visiting France or enjoying a much-needed ice cream). Sugar make you feel cuckoo? Don’t eat all that damn candy and dessert. If you feel fine all the time no matter what you eat, thank your lucky stars. You get my point, yes?
Maybe I’ve made this clear, but I am a proponent of balance and moderation. My diet credo is “everything in moderation, including moderation.” I personally ride a wave (or pendulum) of righteous (aka balanced, healthy, home-cooked, local, organic, fair) to lazy (aka pre-made, packaged, quick-cooking, take-out friendly) eating and I try to be OK with that. I say “I try” because, if I’m being completely honest, I too am concerned with my waistline. I honestly wish I weren’t, but, hey, I was born and raised in the good ol’ body- and youth-obsessed U.S. of A. and I did not escape its grip. That body and youth obsession is, if you didn’t know, also the source of a majority of the mania surrounding eating choices.
Coming back to balance, one piece of advice that does not seem to change in most diet theories is that we should all eat more fresh vegetables. Of course, there are arguments on whether we should be eating cooked or raw vegetables or only vegetables, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself. Personally, I like a mix.
So my advice is not to stop eating this or that or only eat such and such, but just to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits (yes, I know some will argue the fruit point). And, if you can, go for the locally-sourced and organic fruits and veggies, but let’s not get into that right now either. Unless, of course, fruits and veggies make you feel bad, then, well, don’t eat them.
You are a special and unique snowflake. Get to know your snowflake constitution and let your body tell you what to eat.