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The Perfect Diet (For Your Body)

Posted Feb 02 2010 4:46pm
"Sugar can be the willpower you need to undereat"?!? The fact that this ever made sense to people just shows you how reliable diet experts are.

Food and I, we go way back. And it hasn't always been smooth sailing. Sure the boob juice and I were muy simpatico but then my brother was conceived and I was bumped to formula. After that, food and I have had a tumultuous relationship. I've been a vegan, a low-carb meatatarian, and everything in between. Basically I have food schizophrenia. You remember Runaway Bride that reaaallly old movie with Julia Roberts? There is a scene where she has to decide what kinds of eggs she likes best: Deviled? Dilled? Poached? Scrambled with cheese? She doesn't know because all of her life she has let whatever man she is dating decide for her. So finally she sits down with 2 dozen plates of eggs and tries them all. (Side note: anyone remember which eggs she picked? I so totally don't but I hope it wasn't deviled because EWW.)

This is what I need to do with dietary advice.

All my life I've been following different experts as they tell me what to eat, what not to eat and what to look down on others for eating. Not only is my brain filled with a veritable avalanche of conflicting research and bold ALL CAPS quotes but there is a whole furor of emotion attached. This food is good. That one is bad. Those over there will KILL YOU. This causes me much anxiety over a subject that, frankly, ought to be a non issue. Food is fuel. Just eat what you need to survive and thrive, right?

If only it were that simple. The first thing diet - or, excuse me, nutrition - plans do is to separate food into good and bad camps. (Except for intuitive eating, duly noted.) The divisions are specific to each particular plan and are usually backed up by some kind of research. Almost always these plans are touted by a very persuasive expert who is 100% convinced that he/she is correct and that if only everyone would do exactly as they say the whole world would look like super models.

What I am convinced of, however, is that these experts have discovered a way of eating that makes their own bodies feel and look good but may not necessarily produce the same results in other bodies. In conversing with one expert, whom I won't name because I am now going to slam him, I said that I thought his diet failed to take into account hormonal differences between the genders. He replied, "A human body is a human body. If it works for me, it will work for you." I don't buy that. Granted, every diet will work to some extent for everyone - that's basic math - but I don't think that every diet will work the same for everyone. I truly believe that some people's bodies respond better to the Paleo way of eating while others respond to vegetarianism. (But no, Hannibal, I don't think anyone's thrives on cannibalism. Donner - party of 10! Oops, 9! I mean 8...) The trick then is to finding out which one works for your body at this time in your life.

And what a trick it is!

So last month when I started Lindsey's program, I decided to go all out in my weight loss efforts to lose those *(#$%& last ten pounds and make my diet squeaky clean. In my mind, this meant going with the most popular diet du jour - the lower-carb, high lean protein plan. After spending several years as a vegetarian I know that I don't like to eat meat but I bit the bullet and set up a nice little program that approximated the Zone proportions (40/30/30). Long story short: it failed. I spent half the month pulling my hair out and haranguing Lindsey as to why I had a calorie deficit of over 1,000 and yet I wasn't losing weight.

And then I gave up. It wasn't working. I was depressed about the whole subject. I just wanted to eat what I wanted to eat. But what did I want to eat? Fortunately at that time, the Okinawa Plan came into my life and in scanning the nutritional recommendations I discovered a plan that finally mirrored the way my body would eat if left to it's own devices. The book jogged my memory and I went back to my food and exercise logs to the time in my life when I was most happy with my body. Back when I was a "vegaquarian" eating no meat and very little dairy but lots of fish, whole grains, piles of produce and plenty of fat. (For those of you curious, left on my own I eat about 60/25/15% carbs, fat, protein.) Coincidentally this is also how the famously long-lived Okinawans eat.

Bidding adieu to my hated bag of boneless skinless chicken carcasses, I switched over to the Okinawan plan. This time though I resolved not to be "perfect." If I wanted a piece of meat - like I did on Sunday when we had ham to celebrate my sister's birthday - then I ate it. But 90% of the time I just want to eat my normal way. The results were immediate and gratifying. I lost 2 pounds that week but the best part was how good I felt! My mood was more positive, eating less fraught with anxiety and, like Heather (who eats almond butter) and also eschewed the high-protein diet in favor of carbier fattier fare, I saw improvement in my skin. I also noticed that when I eat this way, I don't need to food journal as the weight comes off on its own. Crazy!

You wouldn't think I would need to keep relearning this lesson but now I know: I am the expert of me.

So what have you discovered about how to eat so your body feels best? Anyone else super susceptible to experts? What is your favorite way to eat eggs?
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