Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food and Finding the Best Path

Last night I watched Forks Over Knives.  It was extremely thought-provoking and just added to a flood of food thoughts I've been having recently.

Over the last 4 years I have been on a food journey of sorts.  It began when I wanted to lose my baby weight from Noah.  When he was about 7 months old I began counting calories with a good friend of mine.  I was also training hard and looking forward to getting back in shape for tri season since I had taken the summer before off (Noah was born in July 2006).  I had always been a pretty healthy eater, but I really buckled down and got the job done this time.  One of the things that happened was that my friend really turned me on to making as much of my food as I could, and I mean everything, from bread to granola.  I tried pretty hard to stay true to a more natural way of eating and cooking and I lost all of the baby weight in about 5 months.

Since then, I have pretty much been at the same weight for the last 3 and half years, give or take a few pounds.  It has always been my desire to get a bit leaner and more healthy, and during that time I have done a lot of reading and exploring of different thoughts on food.  Some of the books I've read which have definitely made an impression on me are:

I have also watched many documentaries that have certainly shaped my thoughts towards food, most notably Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives a close second.  

And, of course, as a blogger I read almost every day about different ways of life in terms of eating including raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo and many more.  I have probably experimented in one way or another with all of these styles of eating, and I usually do so by trying recipes here and there.  There have been a few times over the last few years that I have tried to stay true to a particular style for several weeks.  A couple years ago I went 12 weeks with no sugar - twice! I gave myself my own nutrition challenge with points and everything! I spend several months talking with Holistic Guru, Christine Lynch, about my food attitudes and hang-up. I attempted a month of paleo/primal earlier this year.

So, the real question is where has this brought me?

Well, the answer is interesting and surprising.  Here are the things I know for sure:
  • It is important to me to eat locally grown foods as much as possible.
  • Most of the meat I purchase is organic and/or local from farms where I can see how they treat their animals.
  • Most of the produce I buy is organic and/or local when I can get it locally.  Here in the north, our local produce becomes quite limited during the winter months.
  • I try to avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods as much as I can. I know, by experience, they do my body no good at all.  Does that mean I never eat these things?  Absolutely not.  I have treats probably too often, but my overarching philosophy is to avoid these things as much as possible.
  • I try to eat with my training in mind.  I am not always successful, but this is my goal.
However, I still have questions and most of those stem from the fact that many of these eating "paths", if you will, are so wildly contradicting.  I love the basic premise of Paleo/Primal eating, but then I watch Forks Over Knives and feel like eating vegan is the best for my body.  The Paleo crowd can prove The China Study wrong and vice versa. 

My main concern with most of these paths is that they rarely allow for any sort of meeting in the middle.  I have a hard time believing that grains like quinoa and oatmeal are bad for me a la paleo living, but then I also think that, for me, not eating any meat would be very difficult.  I really dislike the idea of having forbidden foods, especially when those foods are whole foods that are processed very little. I hate thinking of good foods like oatmeal as being "bad" but I have to admit I do that.

My point in all of this, is that despite my intense efforts to find the "best" way, I have ended feeling more conflicted about food and eating than when I began.  Part of me just wants to go back and start again.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on food and eating, especially many of these "paths" that I have mentioned like vegan, paleo, etc.  


  1. I think you truly have to eat what works for you. Try out different things and see how you feel. I went vegetarian for 3 months this past year, which was great for me because I learned to enjoy many new veggies in the process, although I learned it wasn't quite the right thing for me - at least at the time. I do think it's hard to believe that healthy unprocessed foods like oatmeal are bad, especially for runners - we need those good sources of carbs.

  2. All I know is I lost 70 lbs since you suggested that I avoid grains...most of the time, and I've stopped losing the lbs and started feeling a tiny bit depressed when I included them back in my diet (ant other crap too to be fair!). I do have a hard time believing that grains are bad though...especially since dieticians highly recommended to have some. But there's no way you're making me give up on meat. I love my "dead cow" :)

  3. I agree w/ Michael.. you have to figure out what works best for you. I was vegetarian, then vegan, then raw vegan for a number of years.... it worked short term, but long term it burned me out. While others are highly successful on those types of diets. Take what works for you and leave the rest.

    Quinoa and oats work for you... great. If removing those things from your diet showed no change and returning them to your diet showed no change I would say you are aokay to eat them.. if that hadn't been true I would say avoid them...

    same w/ Dairy...

    same w/ meat products...

    stay w your whole foods. continue to avoid sugar... and the rest ... do what makes you feel your best! :)

    For me I've found that it's less about WHAT and more about HOW MUCH! in the whole foods category of course.

  4. First off, if you liked Forks over Knives, here's another documentary to look up that supports the vegan diet - "Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days." Also, if you like to see the contradiction in dietary advice, check out another documentary called "Fat Head."

    And thank you for the list of books. I've been wanting to find a good resource for the paleo diet.

    As far as my thoughts... I think we can all agree on what is good, bad, and okay to eat in a broad, general sense. I think we all know how our bodies react to portion sizes, meal timing, and cravings. And that's all we can do - know how it works FOR OURSELVES!

    In the end, I have to admit I don't believe there is one absolute "best" diet.

    I grew up on a lot of red meat, chicken, pasta, and processed foods. Due to the lack of healthy options in my college dining hall, I tried going vegetarian for one semester. My first meal after that stint was a burger, fries, and cookies. I took one bite of each and went back for a salad and veggie sandwich. I had lost my sweet tooth and greasy foods (while they smelled amazing!) did not taste the same.

    Since starting my training this past Spring, I've unintentionally weaned myself off of red meat. Having never been a seafood person, I now eat fish almost every other day.

    Experiment with food as much as you possibly can! You'll find what works best for you. My plan is to test Paleo and Vegan in the next 6 months.

  5. I think everyone is different! I went vegetarian not because I don't think that meat is bad for you, but because of my personal beliefs about the treatment of animals. I have found that I feel no worse having not eaten meat in almost 5 years, so apparently it works for me. I would NEVER go vegan either. I think everyone can agree that sugary, processed foods are bad for you, but it's hard to argue against food found in nature.

  6. Wow, it really seams that although we are all on different pages of the 'diet' book, we all seem to agree that every person is different and different things work for each person.

    I happen to find that if I eat Oatmeal in the morning of a hard/long workout, or teaching more than one class (be it cardio based, or yoga, or water) that if I just ate a bowl of Oatmeal I would tank by the time my first class/workout was over leaving me too fuel more/sooner than if I happened to have eggs with veggies and a bit of whole grain toast. And I know people who Swear by oatmeal before a hard workout.

    All in all yes I eat junk sometimes, but I try to eat clean, whole foods fruits and veggies, lean meats as much as I can, while leaving the over processed stuff to the side and only getting it for special occasions or a treat on occasion.

    It's all about balance in this crazy thing we call life:) Just my comments, no need to listen.

  7. My coach and my nutritionist are striving to get me to a sense of balance in my nutrition. Notice that I don't say diet. Diet has a negative connotation. They don't want me to throw anything out or make it a negative. They want me to do everything in balance. That is what I am trying to do because it will be the best way for me to succeed. However, remember it is all about what works best for you! You know how you feel when you eat certain things. Like when we train just go by what your body is telling you, IMHO.

  8. Like others, I feel that each individual has to do what they feel is best for them. For me, that path led me to be a vegetarian. I never really ate much meat anyway. During one of my training seasons I did a 6 week vegan challenge and felt a lot better. I went back to eating meat occasionally after that, but over time phased meat out all together. For me, it works. There are times when I have to watch my protein intake, but overall I feel great as a vegetarian.

  9. I hate the word "diet." I think instead of thinking in terms of a "diet," people should think in terms of what's considered "healthy nutrition." Almost 5 years ago I decided to go vegetarian after reading The China Study. The idea of eating whole foods just made sense to me. With 2 young boys, I really became mindful of what we were putting in our/and their bodies. When we started making the switch, it was amazing how much better we felt and how much more energy we had.
    I can honestly say that I don't miss meat at all. However, we still eat sushi every once in awhile (maybe once every 4-5months or so). We could never give up sushi!
    The thing with food is that, I think as long as you focus on whole foods/grains and not processed junk you'll be fine. Some vegetarians are overweight because all they eat are those prepackaged/processed soy dogs/veggie burgers/etc. That's totally not healthy!
    So, I think you have to find what works for you and stop listening to what other people say you need to eat! For instance, there is no way I could give up grains, nor do I think I should.
    Find what works for you and stick to it and you'll be fine! :)

  10. Gotta agree-the word DIET is a four letter work as far as I am concerned.
    Nutrition is such a personal thing and there are emotions attached to some.
    I know that for me, eating clean food in its simple form is what worked for me (I used to be fat-as in 100+lbs heavier.)
    I tried Paleo for a bit but found with HIM training, I was dragging. I went back to eating clean 90% of the time and felt fantastic.l

    Whatever "it" is has to be something you can stick with long term.

  11. Kelly, I have read every book on your list, I have watched the movies and a few of Troy and I's favs on Netflix is "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." It actually made Troy cry and he would kill me if he ever knew I said that in public!
    It's funny my first thought after hearing everyones "you have to do what's best for you" comments was...what about what's best for the cows... or our environment. It just made me think that often times people make food decisions based on their beliefs, not just health, and that is a valid decision making process as well.
    The harder thing to do is to base it on how you feel. Ice cream makes me feel really quite good, and if I feel bad later from it, I can always blame the salad I had for dinner. Hahaha!
    But more than likely, you are looking at all these decisions and wondering how on earth you go through the process of deciding what is best for you...that my really the question, and is no easy task!


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