My mom was diligent about feeding us a balanced lunch and dinner. Lunch was at school because she felt that the sandwiches she would have made would not be as healthy as the hot lunches cooked and served. My classmates and I always made up names for the different foods, trying to gross each other out (cherry cobbler became known as Baby Bird Eyes, for example). The food nourished our bodies and imaginations.
An home, dinner composed of a vegetable, fruit, starch, and meat. And sometimes dessert.
When Mom discovered Adelle Davis she was pleased that her approach to feeding us balanced meals was the right path. I read the books too and felt even more jazzed about the way we ate.
My energy was strong all of my life. For example, it was nothing for me to ride my bike a couple of miles to swim practice, swim hard for an hour, and then ride back home again. Running and playing hard all day was a cinch. Was it the food we ate? Probably.
In college I enjoyed experimenting with my eating regime: food and meal timing were up to me, within reason. I found that my body was happiest with brunch and dinner, rather than three meals a day. I stuck with the vegetable, starch, and meat approach to lunch and dinner as best I could. Pizza has all three in one delicious package, right?
When I entered the work world I tweaked things since brunch was not as easy to accommodate on an 8-5 schedule. So, I ate breakfast, a snack for lunch, and a variety of light meal options for dinner. All was well, for awhile.
I do not recall exactly what changed, or when things changed, but they did. I started struggling with my weight, and it seemed the harder I tried to lose weight the worse the struggle. Weight is only one marker for health issues. Cholesterol is another marker, and mine started creeping up. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and even some cancers are other marks. My interest in nutrition took on a new focus.
Some of the diets seemed obviously wrong to me. How can cutting out a whole category of food – like carbohydrates or fruit – be healthy for you? Atkins and South Beach do just that.
Why does the Mediterranean Diet or the Paleo Diet work for some and not others? Is any form of fasting healthy, or does juicing "juice things up for you" in a good way, and what about vegan?
Here is a list of some of the more "interesting" fad diets I found online: Werewolf (or Lunar), Master Cleanse (aka Lemonade), Cotton Ball, Five-Bite, Grapefruit, Cookie, See's Candy (my husband's personal excuse, I mean weight loss program), Baby Food, Liquid, Sleeping Beauty, and Tapeworm. These approaches may lead to weight loss, at least temporarily, but what do they do to your overall health? How does your energy fair with these?
That list makes these diets seem reasonable: Caveman, Raw Food, NutriSystem, Zone, Candida, Weight Watchers, Primal, Juicing, Blood-Type, Body-Type, and Volumetrics. The question remains, though, which of these supports a healthy, energetic body?
To add to the chaos and entertainment factor, I have promoted the Color Groups diet, which I still think holds merit. Its promise is that if you eat foods from the various color groups – red, blue, green, yellow, brown, orange, and white – you balance all the nutrients and flavors you need for healthy living. You see the problem in that one, do not you.
I have read a wide variety of books and watched numerous documentaries about our food and our health. It gets increasingly difficult to know who to believe with what information.
One big question is: what is your dieting goal? Are you chasing to be rid of a specific disease or health issue, lose weight, gain longevity, or improve your energy levels?
I have been a quest to resolve my hypothyroidism. I have explored many different approaches to eating. Doctors and nutritionists alike have told me once you have that autoimmune disease you have it forever. I have "modestly" told them they are wrong and that nobody has yet found the "cure". That quest has had me follow a variety of "diets":
– Primal, where I eat meat, vegetables, and fruit, while avoiding grains, legumes, sugar, and processed foods
– Avoid specific foods that an allergy test told me my body was reacting negatively to
– Cut alcohol consumption
– And cut or reduce, depending on the day and week, sugar intake (that means the highly processed condiment, not fruit)
– Blending different eating approaches, like alkaline / acid, primal, juicing, and vegetarian
Things I've learned are that two weeks of sugary, tropical drinks spiked your triglyceride levels; increasing meat and fat while decreasing vegetables increased my LDL and reduced my HDL; and cutting sugar, alcohol, and grains dropped my weight. But, my hypothyroid disease has not changed dramatically through all of that. My energy level has fluctuated some, but I was not wearing my "scientific hat" so did not connect food to energy adequately.
My underlining, even with my experimenting, is that if you eat whole, organic foods and make the primary serving on your plate vegetables (like 60%) and the rest starch and protein, you will be healthy. Variety is important to that balance too. Be your own lab and test what really works for you. Get your blood tested to learn what's happening inside you, for confirmation of your observations.
While I'm more confused than ever as to what will get rid of my hypothyroidism, or what's really a healthy regime for the long and vibrant life I'm planning on, I'll continue to experiment yet stick to my main under belief about healthy eating entails.