Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I've received a lot of questions relating to my eating habits. Depending on my current goals or how curious I am to experiment I will switch around my diet to obtain a desired outcome. I may be eating an all vegan diet, or mostly raw, or paleo for athletes, a bodybuilding diet or a weight loss diet.

One thing that hasn’t changed in the past few years is the type of diet I consume. I haven’t been eating anything in the past few years that contains highly processed ingredients, high sugars or high fat. No matter the type of foods that I am eating, they are ALWAYS WHOLE FOODS. It has been proven over and over again that ingesting a diet of highly processed, sugared foods leads to disease. Information that doesn’t waver is that a diet of WHOLE foods is best for health. This fact doesn’t change with the latest government food pyramid or the latest fad.

If a food is sitting on a grocery shelf, wrapped in a box with a health claim stamped upon it, it probably isn’t healthy. The potato, the broccoli, the bananas, they don’t need a wrapper with a health claim stamped upon it! They don’t even have a wrapper on which to stamp.

Over the years we have heard conflicting information: remember the low fat craze? We were told to lower our fat and that this would decrease our chances of heart disease. What happened? The industrialized food corporations brought on Snackwells, low fat poptarts and Olestra chips, etc. were developed. Is Olestra still out there? I recall everyone complaining of stomach problems after ingesting. Americans began to gorge on these highly processed foods and did heart disease go down? No. Americans became fatter. Remember the low carb craze? Don’t eat that pasta or that potato! Eat the man made low carb variety with 41 ingredients instead. Did this make Americans healthier? Um, no but everything in the grocery store was then wearing a label stating LOW CARB.

One writer who I continually read is Michael Pollan. His latest book, Food Rules, is a book that shouldn’t have had to have been written, yet is a very valuable piece. It answers the question “what should I eat?” Some of these rules are so obvious you'd think someone would have thought to write this sooner as we have all probably thought of these rules before but have not put them to paper. We live in a country full of beautiful packaging and low-fat, low-carb options and yet we are getting bigger and bigger. This isn't a diet book, it's a lifestyle book. I think it is a great beginning step for those who have not yet begun to eat a healthier diet. I also think this book will lead it’s readers to Michael Pollan’s other works if they haven’t yet read them.

IN DEFENSE OF FOOD is my favorite of Pollan’s. On the cover he writes : Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. This is the premise of the book.

I wouldn’t have thought it necessary to be told to eat food. Duh. What else would I eat? Wrong. Food = Real Food. Not the heavily processed refined grains, the fake foods that have taken over the shelves of the supermarket. Even yogurt now has go-gurt, a squeezable yogurt that has 18 ingredients and none of them am I able to identify or pronounce. This product is a man made highly processed non-food. That’s only one example. It isn’t a real food.

In Defense of Food is very easy to read, uncomplicated and full of information. I have reread it at least 4 times over the past few years.

I think the following hints that Pollan lists are brilliant!

• Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Yeah, such as the go gurt. She would have thought it was toothpaste!
• Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number or include high fructose corn syrup.
• Avoid food products that make health claims.
• Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
• Get out of the supermarket whenever possible Purchase a CSA plan or shop your farmers market
• Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
• You are what you eat eats too The animals we eat have a bearing on the nutritional quality of the food itself whether it is meat or milk or eggs. You’ll notice when you buy eggs from a grass fed chicken they will have a bright orange yolk. This is the beta carotene from fresh green grass.
• If you have space buy a freezer When you find a good source of pastured meat, you’ll want to buy it in quantity. The more you purchase the less expensive it is.
• Eat more like the French or the Italian or the Japanese or the Indians or the Greeks. Almost every diet is much healthier than people eating the Standard American Diet.
• Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism It pays to approach novelties with caution. A novel food resembles a mutation: soy products is one example-the soy isolates and soy isoflavones are highly processed foods. You can be eating a vegan diet and still be eating a very unhealthy diet. The vegan ‘sausage, burger, bacon’ stay away.
• Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does American gas stations now make more money selling food than selling gasoline. The food is highly processed nonperishable snack foods and extravagantly sweetened soft drinks. Gas stations have become processed-corn stations: ethanol outside for your car and high-fructose corn syrup inside for you.
• Cook and, if you can, plant a garden. I have a garden. It is probably 20 feet x 40 feet and it provides a great variety and a good amount of vegetables for us. I also buy a share in the local CSA each year to provide us with a good variety of veggies.

I also like Paleo Eating for Athletes. It isn’t much different from the Pollan way of thinking. PEFA is eating whole foods consisting of lean meats, fruits, veggies, nuts and healthy oils. As an ultrarunner I appreciate the V stages of nutritional timing outlined in PEFA. Of course the main difference is that Pollan includes whole grains where Cordain does not.

Following are the stages outlined in PEFA:
Stage I: Eating Before Exercise
In brief, we recommend that athletes eat low to moderate glycemic index
carbohydrates at least two hours prior to a hard or long workout or race. There may be some fat and protein in this meal. All foods should be low in fiber. Take in 200 to 300 calories for every hour remaining until exercise begins. If eating two hours prior is not possible, then take in 200 or so calories 10 minutes before the workout or race begins.
Stage II: Eating During Exercise
During long or hard workouts and races you will need to take in high glycemic index carbohydrates mostly in the form of fluids. Sports drinks are fine for this. Find one that you like the taste of and will drink willingly. Realize that events lasting less than about an hour (including warm-up) don’t require any carbohydrate. Water will suffice
for these. A starting point for deciding how much to take in is 200 to 400 calories per hour modified according to body size, experience and the nature of the exercise (longer events require more calories than short).
Stage III: Eating Immediately After In the first 30 minutes post workout (but only after long and/or highly intense exercise) and post race use a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and
protein in a 4_5:1 ratio. You can buy a commercial product for this. Or you can make your own by blending 16 ounces of fruit juice with a banana, 3 to 5 tablespoons of glucose depending on body size, about 3 tablespoons of protein powder, especially from
egg or whey sources and two pinches of salt. This 30_minute window is critical for recovery. It should be your highest priority after a hard workout or race
Stage IV: Eating for Extended Recovery
For the next few hours (as long as the preceding challenging exercise lasted) continue to focus your diet on carbohydrates, especially moderate to high glycemic load carbohydrates along with protein at a 4_5:1 carb/protein ratio. Now is the time to eat non-optimal foods such as pasta, bread, bagel s, rice, corn and other foods rich in glucose as they contribute to the necessary carbohydrate recovery process. Perhaps
the perfect Stage IV foods are raisins, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
Stage V: Eating for Long_Term Recovery For the remainder of your day, or until your next Stage I, return to eating a Paleo Diet by focusing on optimal foods.

I’ve noticed lately that Troy, who is 14, is developing breakouts of acne on his forehead. Of course I don’t want to make him concerned over the breakouts or to bring attention to the acne. I did switch out his face washing lotion with a benzoyl peroxide based cleanser to see if it would help. It really hasn’t changed.

Many dermatologists state there is not a link between breakouts and diet. I can’t believe this to be true. I do break out when if I eat a product containing chocolate, something high in salt or dairy. I know that these foods cause me breakouts.

In reading about Loren Cordain I came across some research he has done pertaining to acne and diet. He has shown a direct link between diet and acne, notably between acne and dairy.

I just finished reading a book by Cordain related to the acne-diet connection. Last night I told Troy about the research. He reminded me of a time last year when he broke out in little bumps all over his face. At the time he was eating yogurt and berries for breakfast and a yogurt smoothie in the evening after baseball practice. We attributed the breakouts to yogurt and when he then stopped eating yogurt and the breakouts went away and I forgot all about it.

Troy told me that he has been drinking two cartons of milk at school each day with his lunch ( his unhealthy hot lunch that the school offers). This is a change that has taken place in the past three weeks. He also drinks milk with his bagel in the morning and a glass of milk with dinner.

Troy told me that he would like to try a two week trial to see if there is any change in his acne. I hadn’t yet suggested he try this, I was quiet after I presented him the research and was watching the wheels turn in his head.

I told Troy that I was proud of him for willing to make a change in his diet and he told me he didn’t think it would be too difficult, that he would think of it as an experiment. It will be interesting to see if his skin clears up due to the dairy!

So many times we want the magic pill for a fit body or a clear face, to give up smoking. Troy has learned that there isn’t a magic pill. To obtain the desired outcome you need to be responsible and be willing to lay the groundwork. One can’t eat crap and hope to be healthy. Hope doesn’t have a chance.

This morning Troy drank orange juice with his bagel and is going to pass on milk during his lunch. I’m anxious to watch Troy and to see the outcome of this experiment!


Alan said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


Anonymous said...

You're a fantastic role model for your readers and a great mother. Thank you so much for your site!

SteveQ said...

The acne and chocolate/salt/dairy thing is probably stress related. People tend to crave comfort foods when stressed and that's also when acne tends to crop up.

Helen said...

Great post Julie and fair play to Troy - very impressive for a kid his age to think about making those changes (though of course he has a wonderful role model)!

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