August 9, 2012

More Talk-Talk-Talk About Food

I love to talk and read about food. It almost doesn't even matter WHAT about food - health, nutrition, cooking, gardening, restaurants, recipes, cooking techniques, food cultures around the world, etc. If it involves food to any degree, I am fascinated.

Which might mean I think YOU are interested in hearing all about the minutia of my food life. If you are not, quickly avert your eyes. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Over the last couple of months, our eating has really taken a nose-dive. Our CSA subscription ran out and between travel, minor surgery for the friend we split with, and a couple of other things, we hadn't renewed. I felt like death pretty much constantly, and our sugar intake was through the roof. We weren't so much doing two desserts a week as two desserts a DAY.

It was not pretty.

As the end of June approached, Bart and I started tossing around the idea of having July be a month for us to get our eating back on track. We didn't want to do anything too extreme (especially since I'm pregnant), but we wanted to focus on the things we were a little concerned about in our current eating habits and give them a solid month to watch how it affected our energy levels, cravings, etc.
We went around and around about what we wanted to focus on but finally decided on these:
  • No sugar (and this isn't just dessert sugar. This is the sugar in cereal, in baked goods, etc, since in the past we've replaced desserts with. . .coffee cake or muffins or 10 thousand bowls of cereal). We're having very small amounts of things like honey, but we're talking very very small amounts, like a teaspoon in a main dish. (We did decide we could have one dessert per week).
  • Huge amounts of fruits and vegetables. We both felt like this is where we'd really started to fall apart. We had basically lost the produce (especially vegetables) in our diets, and replaced them with sugar, refined carbs, and dairy. No good.
  • Very limited animal products. As we'd switched over to a more vegetarian diet since last year, I'd noticed that we were eating many more dairy products, especially cheese. While I'm not opposed to dairy, I don't want it to be simply a meat replacement in our diet. And it was just becoming too easy for us to rely heavily on string cheese or triscuits with cream cheese for quick snacks.
  • More diversified grains. We eat a lot of wheat and I want to branch out a little more this month into other whole grains.
. . . . so all well and good, right?

You guys, I couldn't hack it. I don't want to think of myself as someone who attaches that much of my happiness to food, but after six days, even six days of quite excellent meals, I was just so despondent. A month has never seemed so long.

I love food. I love virtually every aspect of food and so this whole thing made me want to die because it felt so restrictive.

And so, on day seven, we gave it up. We still trying to up our vegetable and fruit intake while being a little more reasonable about dairy and sugar, but I'm not going to kill myself trying to find a breakfast that doesn't include dairy or sugar. All I really want for breakfast is a bowl of wheat chex with blueberries, strawberries, bananas and some freaking milk.

Also, you know how everyone who gives up dairy or wheat or sugar or meat or whatever is like "and after three days, I felt amazing and my hair looked like a movie star's and my skin was commercial-worthy and I could suddenly run marathons"?

Bart and I didn't feel that way at all. I felt more tired than normal, and I was obsessed with food. I felt like it was ALL I thought about. I'd go to sleep dreaming about muffins or french toast or a grilled cheese sandwich.

I feel like we eat a pretty healthy diet and we're constantly trying to improve slightly, but this sort of restriction was just bone-crushingly sad for me. Let me eat in moderation, friends!

So if you are looking for an excuse to not give up things you love, come sit by me and I will enable you. Sugar makes you happy. Dairy is delicious.

(Also, I learned how to make homemade Lara bars which were fantastic and also that dates don't come pre-pitted. An important life lesson that, happily, no one in our family broke a tooth learning).

23 comments:

  1. When I started this post I was so afraid it was going to be another one just like you described - (and then we felt AMAZING!) - because I have never felt like that when restricting my diet before. So this was really uplifting for me!

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  2. Well, I have never done a major change in my diet like that, but I know people who have. When they say, "After three days I felt amazing, etc.," I think that it's a product of their minds saying "I feel amazing right now and it's due to this change, so I MUST have felt that amazing that early in the process."

    I don't know if your specific changes would have made that much of a difference to you, but if they were going to make a difference, I really think that it would have taken longer than a week to show up.

    On the other hand, I would never even attempt the changes you made, let alone make it 7 days, so good for you! There is no need to have guilt for deciding after 7 days that it's not for you, since that was 7 days of extreme healthy eating that showed you that moderate healthy eating is all you want!

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  3. I really liked this post.

    I have a sense that extreme diets (not for weight loss necessarily, but for improved health) have become much more common recently.

    I think they are a bad idea. Moderation in all things!

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  4. If I don't eat meat and dairy on a semi-regular basis I get really lethargic, and if I try and sub the protein for extra beans or whatever I am even less happy. I can tell my body thanks me for more veggies and less marshmallows, but I can't do the raw, vegan, always healthy all the time diet. I get cranky. And then I binge on marshmallows/chocolate/almond joys.

    xox

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  5. I love this post! I tried many years ago a rather restrictive diet in an attempt to lessen a medical condition and I honestly thought my body would explode. I had so many crazy digestive issues (and it was only supposed to be for a month - I think I did about 3 weeks) that I felt much worse than the original condition made me feel. I think in some of these instances people do feel better, but I also think many of us just need, as Julie noted, moderation in our eating habits. More fruits and veggies, less sugar.

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  6. For me, whenever I do a diet "re-set," I think it helps to focus on what I'm adding (delicious fruits and veggies! interesting new grains! tasty beans and legumes!) rather than what I am trying to eliminate (sugar, wheat, cheese). Especially if you load up on fruits and veggies, it just leaves you less room on your plate for the "bad" stuff.

    But, I am also someone who does better in an all-or-nothing situation than in moderation when I am truly trying to change my habits. If I tell myself I can have one dessert a week, dessert is all I'll think about those other six nights; if I tell myself no dessert for a month, I can do it more easily because it's just off the table. It's just the way I need to operate to break out of bad habits/addictions, and then I can go back to eating things in moderation like a normal person. (I usually need to do this to "re-set" my diet after the holidays or a vacation.) But I think lots of people are like you who can handle things in moderation where one cookie a day is not a gateway to a diet of muffins for breakfast, bagels for lunch and pasta for dinner. If you can successfully get things back in control just by practicing moderation, then that's what you should do!

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  7. o.k. As someone who has done the major diet change thing (and received some benefits), I have some pointers and/or insights.

    1) It took me a while to detox from sugar. And detoxing is a real thing. You feel like crap. I think I stopped feeling crappy after a month or so. And I felt like we had really reduced our sugar intake prior to this. It also helped that I didn't cut out all sugar. We could have honey and fruit (fresh and dried), so dates became our candy. I think the more drastic of a change you are making, the worse you are going to feel initially in regards to cutting out sugar. It is powerful stuff.

    2) You can find pitted dates. That is the only kind we buy. (Although some say they aren't as fresh). Our normal grocery store sells them. However, I find that the best nuts and dried fruits are to be found online (nuts.com). Especially if you want dried fruit without added sugar, sulfates, etc.

    3) I am all about gradual/step implementation. Next time, I would suggest first cutting out sugar. Then move on to dairy, etc. This is for your sanity. (And also to manage any sort of detox you might have). It is incredibly frustrating to manage meals when you are all of a sudden limited to a seemingly miniscule amount of ingredients. So yeah, get used to baking/cooking with limited sugar. Then try to find ways/recipes that limit your dairy.

    4) All of this is hard to do while pregnant. Since becoming pregnant, I have since come off our very limited diet as my food aversions, cravings, etc. were making it difficult for me to want to eat anything. We are still doing limited sugar (trying to keep it to honey and dried fruit, but that has been smudged at time), but have added grains of all types back in (except gluten), all dairy, all beans, etc.

    Sorry for the long comment, and hopefully, I don't come off sounding preachy. Just that I have been down this type of road too many times to count.

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  8. I still say an old fashioned balanced diet is the best. :)

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  9. I've started doing veggies/fruits for breakfast and lunch and then just smaller portions at dinner than I used to eat. I think it's really helping me feel better and it's not totally restrictive. I obsess when I try to cut things out too.

    P.S. I run a Bountiful Baskets site here in Houston and I know they have them in Austin. You should look into it. Way cheaper than a regular subscription co-op and lots of fruits/vegetables. www.bountifulbaskets.org

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  10. Janssen,

    My mom tried for years to get me to eat the diet you described. I can't quite do it (I'm miserable without chocolate and peanut butter!) But I will echo Lady Susan that I was finally able to really change my diet when I took baby steps. Mine, though, started with hmm, no Doritos or Oreos and how about eating a vegetable now and then. Over the course of a few years, I am pretty much on a real-food diet...with Skippy Natural Peanut Butter and 71% dark Dove chocolate thrown in.

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  11. Oh my gosh- this same thing happened to my husband and I earlier this year when we tried to do the "Eat to Live" diet. I finally had to say- I can't eat vegetables all day and then have more vegetables for dinner! I NEED to look forward to dinner- to look forward to something about food. It was very important to me and my happiness, so we started allowing cheese and some other fudged elements to enter our dinners, while still eating huge salads for lunch and dinner before anything else and it did wonders for our sanity. But yeah, I too discovered that looking forward to food in some way is big for me.

    PS I'm a friend of Kayla's- that's how I found your blog :) http://richandceleste.blogspot.com

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  12. I love this. I reached a wonderful conclusion with myself a couple years ago. A moderate amount of ice cream mostly every day makes me happy. Not an enormous cereal bowl full, but one of those teeny dessert dishes maybe 3/4 full. That's all I need. So instead of torturing myself and getting rid of all ice cream from my diet, I allow myself just that much and it makes me insanely happy. Also, an occasional root beer float. And sometimes chocolate milk for dinner. And despite all these indulgences, I'm not obese.

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  13. I am so glad SOMEONE confessed to the whole I didn't feel like a marathoner after cutting out stuff! I am all for healthy living, and I have gone off the tracks once and a while, but I am a firm believer in balance. And sometimes balance involves cheese and cupcakes.

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  14. Yep, I'm a total fan of moderation. I have, however, started to be diliberate in using cheese as a garnish rather than a major ingredient ever since reading The Jungle Effect. Also, you've got to try cold orange slices with honey and cinnamon; it has become one of my favorite desserts.

    After my last couple of posts about how wonderful my CSA was and how great I felt eating so many fruits and vegetables, my subscription ended. I moved and had to join a new CSA because the old one didn't do pickups anywhere near my house or work. The new CSA is just SO. DISAPPOINTING. It makes me so sad that I'm no longer getting the same quantity or quality of vegetables.

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  15. Yeah, if I'm too restrictive, I get OBSESSED with food and it's all I think about. But I also find that I feel pretty blah if I don't eat enough fruits and veggies. Since I usually don't eat enough, I find myself craving produce fairly often. But I also crave chips, chocolate and bread so yeah. Moderation.

    You are buying the wrong dates, my friend. Mine most definitely came pre-pitted.

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  16. Amen and amen. I love this. I just don't believe in cutting things out. I'm all about "more" with food - trying to fit in more fruits, more veggies, more whole foods. I figure if I try to stuff all those things in as much as possible, then the rest will take care of itself. And if I still want chocolate chip cookies and ice cream, then great. Food is meant to be enjoyed.

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  17. As I started the post I kept thinking, "Wow they are so much better than me." (Although I am impressed that you guys discuss your food so much. Jacob and I are always on different pages about what we want, what we feel is healthy, etc.) I felt more relieved when you said it didn't make you happy to be that strict. I think moderation is super important, and trying hard to incorporate that GOOD things, hopefully that will naturally push out the not-so-good things. But I agree that the more I tell myself I CAN'T have something, the more it becomes the only thing I can think about.

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  18. I love this post so much. Let's hear it for the average, doing-the-best-we-can-to-be-healthy way of feeding ourselves. Such a relief! :)

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  19. I will come sit RIGHT by you. I cannot WILL NOT do without cheese or carbs. Ever.

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  20. I would love to sit and talk to you about food...I too feel like I talk everyone's ear off about and nobody really wants to hear it!

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  21. Oh, girl. Bless you for even attempting that. You are a better person than I in that regard. I know for a fact I would be miserable. But! I wholeheartedly agree (and take note of times) that my sugar intake is way too much or I'm not getting enough fruits and veggies. Food is fuel--I get it now! I would discuss food with you any day. :)

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  22. We all eat too much sugar around here. Attempts to limit it (not eliminate!) have failed. We are eating a lot healthier since the fake heart attack tho, and Mike has lost a ton of weight. It's mainly been portion control and lack of availability of really crappy (but easy) snacks.

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  23. I'd much rather have a little tummy on my tummy than go without cheese.

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