The diets we choose and those that choose us

Hold the lemon. That’s an odd name, isn’t it? Who can’t have lemons? Well, I can’t actually. They’re a food trigger for my migraines. (And for the record, I love lemons). Add to that, I am currently exploring if the paleo lifestyle fits into my life. So this blog right now could actually be easily called “Hold the Lemons, Dairy, Gluten/Grains/Legumes, Added Sugars, Processed Foods, Etc. Etc. Etc.”

It seems that these days, people are more attuned to what they’re putting into their bodies and how it affects them.

Examples of dietary restrictions/preferences

I’ve accommodated dietary requirements including:

  • gluten-sensitive or celiac
  • lactose-intolerant
  • egg-free
  • peanut allergies
  • no artificial flavors or colors
  • migraine triggers of chocolate, wine, onions, etc.
  • and even someone who can’t physically process non-starchy vegetables

Then you add into dietary preferences such as:

  • vegetarian/vegan/raw vegan/pescetarian/etc.
  • people who choose a certain diet structure like paleo, South Beach, gluten-free, low-fat, low-cal, ‘eating clean’ etc. including any of the above dietary requirements.
  • people who taste soap when they eat cilantro
  • people can’t have certain types of meat due to religion/culture
  • people who just simply dislike things like broccoli, coconut, bacon (yes, I know someone who can have, but just doesn’t like, bacon!)

It gets complicated. With so many restrictions, you have to be creative!

Why alter your diet?

  • Monitoring how many calories you are getting

Calories in, calories out. It can be as simple as that for weight loss (or weight gain)!  The average American self-reports consuming on average 2000-2500 calories a day.  Some of us consume more because of physical activity, or because we really like cheap fatty foods, or because it’s a special occasion.  Do you know how much you consume? An extra 500 calories a day (or 3,500 calories a week) generally equals putting on one additional pound of weight.  Another way to look at this is, if you decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories a day, you can lose a pound that week! Be careful to not go too low (for a woman like me, that’s 1200 calories) because your body will not like it. Many sources also warn against losing more than two pounds a week, because it is an unsustainable loss. It’s more complicated than that, and I’m not a doctor. So go see your doctor, read up more for yourself.

  • Monitoring the types of calories or nutrients you’re getting

Not all calories are created equal. Let’s say you’re on weight-loss diet limiting yourself to a reasonable 1500 calories a day.  A single serving of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream (mmm!) is 340 calories, and that’s just for 1/4 of a pint. If you eat the whole pint, that’s 1360 calories, leaving you with just 240 calories for the rest of the day.  Even if you only eat that in a day, logically, you’re under your 1500 calorie goal. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the type of calories (80 g fat, 220mg cholesterol, etc.) should be a red flag that you are not getting healthy. You may not be concerned about losing weight or maintaining a certain calorie goal, but it’s still important to understand what kind of nutrients you are putting into your body. 340 calories of ice cream is not going to fuel your body the same as 340 calories of meats and vegetables. This is also closely tied into what also may come along with your food, like pesticides or complications from franken-foods.

  • Moral reasons against the meat industry, processed or industrialized foods, GMO foods, non-organic foods, businesses with exploitative business practices, etc.

As society has developed, so have the ways we acquire food.  To many people, these methods evoke a moral reaction based on animal rights, socio-economical issues, health issues, or even just a reaction against our changing society moving away from a simpler, cleaner way of living. Morals and political beliefs affect many of our diets, even if it’s as simple as a guide against eating fast food or buying local produce.

  • Your doctor (or your body) told you to

The most obvious reason to alter your diet is because your body compels you to do it. Things we consume can hurt us, such as if your body has a condition where it can’t process milk or gluten or has too much of something like cholesterol. But things we consume can also help us, such as chemo patients who are encouraged to eat kale and other dark leafy vegetables to help out their immune system.

There are different types of medically/body-based food choices, such as  having an allergies, or certain foods causing stomach issues, or an overabundance of cholesterol, or an under-abundance of iron.  If you are celiac, you cannot process any gluten at all, but some people have found that they have a gluten sensitivity which affects their lower GI or mental health.  Lactose intolerance is another area which can have a medically-backed condition, or a person could just be sensitive to lactose due to GI issues.  I also once had a friend who grew up in Alaska eating game, but she never ate beef. She had a very bad experience when she finally ate beef for the first time in her late teens.

  • Culture or religion

Growing up in a Catholic family, we didn’t have meat on Fridays during Lent.  And perhaps I’m embarrassing myself by admitting it, but a dear Jewish friend of mine once enlightened me to the fact that not only does she not eat pork products at all, but she also doesn’t mix her meat with her cheese. Other Jewish friends of mine have different levels that they choose to follow being kosher.  I don’t know very much about Halal, but to many Muslims, how their food is prepared is very important.   Even if someone of Asian descent isn’t actually lactose intolerant, they may choose to not have cheese products because they never grew up eating dairy.  Many Americans may shudder at the thought of eating insects or horse meat, but for other cultures, it is not unfeasible. The list goes on.

  • You just don’t like it

A good friend of mine who isn’t Jewish and  enjoys eating meat just doesn’t like the taste of pork products. This is a shocker among one of my particular friend groups who would put bacon on everything if it was an option! My husband has expanded his palette greatly over the years, but he still won’t touch broccoli and is very picky about seafood, despite not having any known food allergens or issues.  One of my close family members is not a vegetarian, but is super picky about her meat. She just in general will not eat beef, and she gets skeeved out by the fatty bits of chicken, but she really doesn’t fall into the category of vegetarian. It’s okay to just not like something and cut it entirely from your diet. I caution that if you just don’t like a whole category of foods (e.g., seafood, dairy, or green leafy vegetables) that you find another way to get the nutrients that category provides (e.g., calcium, omega-3s, or iron).

  • Trying out something new just to see if it works

Earlier this year, I decided to try out the paleo diet. I’d been thinking about cutting dairy from my diet due to possible GI issues, and I wanted to cut out gluten because of the way I thought it made me feel. In addition, I’d been slowly removing processed foods and added sugars from my diet. So I thought I’d take the plunge and see how it goes, adding on the other aspects of paleo diet (legumes, all grains, etc.) to the items I wanted to explore. It’s too early to tell yet.

Another example of this is going gluten free. I do have a friend who is celiac, but I have numerous friends who have gone gluten-free, either from a diagnosed/perceived gluten intolerance/sensitivity or to see if it would help with weight loss. I could write a whole post just on gluten and our relationship with gluten. Or carbs. Don’t get me started.

My parents have tried out the South Beach diet and the Atkins diet. I know people who have done the Mediterranean diet or a juice cleanses, or the blood-type diet, or – or – or! There are so many types of diets (many of which some refer to as “fad” diets). It’s hard to keep up with them all.

Every body is different. And what we all want for our bodies is different.  Something will work for your body that won’t work for my body. Many of us are just trying things out to see what works.

How to alter your diet

I’m a big proponent for knowing your body. Track what you’re eating and see the trends. Looking for tools to help?  MyFitnessPalLoseIt.  Also check to see if your local gym or fitness studio subscribes to Vitabot.   Even a good pad of paper and writing utensil will also work!

Find a community on the same path.  Online or in-person.  Can’t find one, make one!  Food can be central to the way we socialize and interact with the world. Finding other people who are doing the same thing as you can be incredibly beneficial. Trade recipes, share shopping tips, split a CSA, rant.

Go see your preferred healthcare professional. I am not a doctor. Do not treat my blog as giving out medical advice.  I do not know you, your body, or your situation. That’s what your healthcare professional is for. Bonus points if you have a nutritionist.

For many people, the idea of “You are what you eat” hits very close to home.  Feel out what’s best for you.

A request

As this blog aims to cater the food section to those with dietary restrictions, tell me what tags would be helpful for you when looking for recipes?  What food allergies/restrictions do you have or follow that I may not mention here? What has been your experience?

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  1. I see you are and have been trying to slowly eliminate processed foods and added sugars. I think “The Science of Skinny” might be a good read for you. It may also help add to your diet posts, especially in regards to how your body works. I find it fascinating… not to mention shocking.

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