Sunday, March 09, 2014

My Weird Food Beliefs

First of all, let's just get this out in the open.  YOU have weird food beliefs, too.  OK?  I'm sure I would think you are a nut with the food philosophy you have and I might not even give you the benefit of being an organic nut.  So let's just all agree that even more than parenting beliefs, our food beliefs are mostly our own, somewhat informed by research, somewhat informed by culture, and somewhat informed by your own freaky self.


So since I decided to go gluten free for Lent, I thought I ought to share with you some of the freaky things that inform what I prefer to eat and the nutrition goals I have for my family.  I also need to share that I was a vegetarian for 8 years during my first stint in grad school (at UNC Chapel Hill in Operations Research, wth?) and during my job out in the "real world."  I was a pretty strict veggie eating only soups from veggie broths and no fish, chicken or beef.  (I've always been confused by vegetarians who eat chicken.)  ANYHOO, I stopped my vegetarian ways at a Super Bowl party with Chicken Wings.  It was not too long after that I ate some bacon and I have not turned back since.

So when I became a veggie, I basically spent about two weeks eating nothing but American Cheese slices and white bread, and I thought to myself, "Myself, this is NOT healthier than eating meat."  We Southern folks like to wait until things are absolutely obvious until we make decisions.

So, I went to a health food store and bought Laurel's Kitchen.  That is when, in the mid 80s, I figured out that butter was healthier than margarine, that made from scratch is better than store bought, that it takes 8 lbs of grain to make one pound of meat, and that you could feed a lot more people off 8 lbs of grain than one pound of meat.  I still don't think I was eating all that healthily. So at my first job, I joined Weight Watchers at work and learned, mainly, that potatoes and corns are starches not vegetables.

Things were pretty stable until my boyfriend/(who I thought was my fiance) figured out he was gay and I basically stopped eating.  By "stopped eating," I mean that I could not put more than 3 bites of food in my mouth at one time.  I'd be hungry, try to eat, and just couldn't do it.  The good news is that weight slid off my body.  The bad news is that I didn't want an eating disorder and I knew I needed to make sure every bit counted. So that's when I made sure I at all the veggies and fruit I was supposed to, made sure my fiber intake was around 35 grams/day, I ate major protein for lunch, and yummy complex carbohydrates for dinner.  Little did I know at the time that complex carbs release serotonin and thus are WONDERFUL to eat at night when you're trying to wind down.  I lost weight.  I was thin.  I was strong. And I was healthy.

So there. Since then, I've seen all y'all's trendy diets come and go.  I've seen your low fat, your Atkins, your South Beach, your Paleo, your vegan, your omnivore, you're whatevers and I actually do have some thoughts.  So here is what I believe.  Your beliefs are different.  Your mileage obviously varies.

*All "diets" work because they restrict calories.  I don't want to diet. I want a healthy lifestyle.  I really don't care about my weight (so much) as long as I'm exercising and eating healthy.

*I am not going to convert to a high protein, low/no carb diet because of that whole deal of how many pounds of grains it takes to make one pound of meat.  It doesn't make sense to me to feed that grain to a cow and then eat its meat when I and my family could eat it for longer on 8 lbs of grain than we could eat a pound of meat.

*The Paleo diet.  ((((sigh))))  I think the Paleo diet does a good job of getting people off processed foods.  However, anthropologists are having a hissy fit about the claims that there was one set of food types in this world that people ate.  Also, really?  Beef is on Paleo but milk isn't?  You eat from cow a lot longer if you drink its milk than if you kill it and binge on its meat.  Same with the chicken and the egg--although I see eggs are on Paleo.  That said, a standing ovation for eating grass fed beef, pork, and free range chickens.  Abso-freakin'-lutely.  We're taking some of our tax refund and buying half a pig from a local farmer.  I think that's great for a zillion reasons.

*Grains, beans, and nuts are good for you.  Any food that can produce life on its own (like planting a whole grain, bean, or nut) is chock full of nutrients and you should eat them.  Period.  Eggs are the perfect protein for a reason.  ((That link maybe bullshit, so take it with a grain of salt.  Salt is good!))

*Dairy is probably better for you when it's cultured  than when it's in its plain (milk) form.  Yogurt is good for you.  I think it's up for debate whether cow's milk as "milk" is all that good for you.

*Fermented food is good for you.  Kimchi and sour kraut put healthy bacteria in your gut and you'll be healthier and thinner for eating it regularly.

*Processed food is bad, bad, bad.  I do think Paleo has turned a whole generation of folks against processed food.  YAY!!!! It's hard not to eat processed food, and my family does not do as good a job as I would like.  But we do make our own bread, yogurt, tortillas, and now beer, so, YAY.  I wish we could get and eat everything homemade.  Here's my nuttiest belief:  I think sugar and cookies and cake are ok as long as Dave and I and the kids make them at home completely from scratch.  I know sugar is evil on a stick.  But my policy is homemade is better than store bought.  So hang out, and I'll make you our homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups and you will be very happy.

*I think wheat is the least healthy of the grains out there.  It's nearly impossible to get in as whole a form as other grains and so I think there are problems with it.  It's one of the reasons I'm trying a gluten free life for Lent.  I'd like to see how my body reacts to getting off glutens for a long period of time.

OK.  So have I pissed you off/annoyed you with what I believe?  If I can sum it up in one sentence:

 I think humans are omnivores and we ought to eat most of our food from homemade, plant based sources.

I don't think our family lives up to that ideal.  We are Americans and eat more processed American food than we should.  But what I'd rather eat is homemade and plant based (fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains) with a sprinkling of meat and dairy here and there.  That would be my fantasy food life.

You are different.  That is ok.  I try very hard not to judge people who let their children cry it out (unless the children are less than 6 weeks old and then I do call them assholes out loud).  But I do not ever, in one second, judge people who eat differently than I do.  It's easy to point to our differences in child rearing, but holy frijole (literally) the differences across people, families, regions, nations, religions, and cultures in food eating?  Really????  How on earth could I say you're wrong and I'm right.  It's just right for us.

So now you know.  I'm finding the gluten free lifestyle really interesting thus far.  I'm hungrier more frequently than I thought I'd be.  But I can eat healthy legumes.  I was tired the first couple of days, but that is typical.  I am not tired today though, and that is nicely weird.  It's depressing how many foods have gluten in them.  But it makes me eat less processed food, so that's good, too.  We'll see.  So far, I can see the appeal of this, especially since my funky cool neighborhood fully expects the clientele to be gluten free and has menus to support us.

Also, I have friends and I have friends who have children who are very, VERY allergic to gluten.  I'm doing this for funsies.  They are not.  That's some serious stuff they have shared with me. I can only imagine the stress of going out or buying something new and worrying about the gluten that might be hidden in the food if you are seriously allergic to gluten.  I think wheat *ought* to be a normal grain as people have been making and eating bread for 30,000 years. Hello, Paleo!  But from what I'm hearing about how they have genetically modified and over-processed wheat that it's not what it used to be.  I don't know if that's true.  It's interesting.  I'd like to see if gluten-free is interesting for a person who doesn't know or doesn't believe she has allergies.  (That would be me)

Sound off in the comments and the Facebook, Twitter lives.  Be gentle.  Or not.  I can handle it.  

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