I have been very aware of my health and my body for as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember weighing myself as early as 11 years old, after giving up sweets for two months in hopes that it would help me lose weight. At 11 years old.
Ignore how totally wrong that is, first off.
That led to more and more crash dieting, until I found books that started to teach me more about health and nutrition while in high school. This lead me to MyFitnessPal.com, which was my first real experience with something that could been considered “healthy” dieting (if there is such a thing). Then from there, I started to take nutrition classes in college, and read more information on my own.
This took me to my first serious weight loss journey that began three years ago, the summer before my junior year of college. Using My Fitness Pal, and my new found knowledge of “clean eating”, I managed to lose 30 pounds in four months.
Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit more about eating “healthy”. And my basic conclusion is that it is so entirely confusing, that it is no wonder that people have a hard time with it.
First off, we have been programmed that all fat is horrible, and all carbohydrates are bad, and sugar should be taken in with moderation. This makes people afraid of things like fake butter/margarine (hydrogenated oils), milk, breads, pastas, rice, and candy, but also things like avocados, eggs, plant oils, whole grain bread, and fresh fruit. So, does this put something like an avocado on the same level as a tablespoon of margarine? A slice of white bread = a whole grain tortilla? Or an orange on the same level as a donut?
Now, add in different points of view, such as:
*Paleo: No dairy, no grains, no legumes (peanuts), no processed foods, no white potatoes. Eat how our ancestors ate. Grass-fed meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. The benefits of this diet have been long debated, but overall it promotes a whole foods diet.
*“Clean” eating: Not eating “chemicals” (or non-real food ingredients). The premise is aiming for whole foods, no mystery ingredients or things you can’t pronounce. Mostly plant based, include lean meats, whole grains, shoot for organics. A lot of clean eaters dislike dairy as well, but it depends on your view. Many clean eaters also stick to lower-calorie diets.
Eating for your macros/Flexible dieting: Eating to fill specific grams of our macronutritents (“macros”), which are protein, sugar, and carbohydrates. Specific amounts are calculated based on your specific needs, such as body mass, amount of body fat, etc, and give you a calorie count for the day. Many subscribe to the “I can eat whatever I want” on this diet, because food is all just chemicals (scientifically speaking), so you should eat it in the ratios that your body requires, regardless of what actually makes up that food. I.E., it doesn’t matter if you eat a donut or an apple, as long as whatever it is fits into your macronutritents for the day.
*Note, I say SOME feel this way, and do this, but not all.
Not to mention that you have vegans, vegetarians, the gluten debate, raw diets, alkaline acid diet, and much, much more.
It’s no surprise that we have an obesity epidemic with this many conflicting ideologies. Based on all of these styles, how is someone who has very little nutritional knowledge supposed to be confident when creating a meal?
Someone wants to make chicken for dinner. But they don’t have organic, free range chicken, so is it okay? Then they want to add sides. Fresh vegetables are good, but can they add real butter to it? Or should they use the less calorie butter substitutes, but they have “chemicals”? Then they want to add something else to the meal. They have a frozen vegetable and rice mix that is marketed as “low fat” and “all natural” on the label, but the ingredient list has “chemicals”. But it fits in their macro requirements for the day. But it has dairy. But it is brown rice and mixed vegetables. Is it okay? Is it not okay?
These are the things I think about whenever I think about eating. Where is the line? Which lifestyle is right? Is there a right diet? What is “healthy”? And how does including your mental status and happiness into that equation and diet style factor into what you consider to be “healthy”?
Even since losing weight three years ago, this is an idea I have fought with, and will probably continue to fight until I figure out what my definition of “healthy” is.
*Please note that these dietary lifestyles are described as I understand them, or how I’ve been taught to understand them. I have included the links to sites that I think do a decent job explaining it. I am obviously not a doctor, nor an expert of nutrition or of these lifestyles. If you have a differing view on how these lifestyles or styles of eating are, please do not hesitate to let me know! The entire point of this blog is to illustrate how confusing this is, so I am happy to evoke a conversation about it! 🙂
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