I have something that I need to get off my chest. I've only been in nutrition school for 3 years now, but I've been a dieting fool for as long as I can remember. Not only have I dieted, lost weight, fallen off "the wagon", got back on, lost the weight *again*...repeat, repeat, repeat, but I've seen countless friends and family members do the same thing. I've also worked in the weight loss and wellness field and heard similar stories from all of them, not to mention from my current clients. There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.
There’s no secret that the obesity rate in our country has reached epic proportions, but the bigger problem, in my mind (and most likely a culprit of it), is the dieting epidemic. All too often we start a diet, only to abruptly end it when we feel like we've failed. We couldn't sustain this way of eating long enough to reach our weight goals, let alone for a lifetime. Then, where do we go? Some sort of "diet wonderland" that rests magically in the middle of perfect and horrible? Nope, we end up going right back to where we were eating before: Crapville.
Recently, I've read two blog posts by a local physician who leans heavily towards a paleo way of eating, and the wording he used bothered me. He suggested that the vast majority of people should be eating "grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, nuts, and seeds, with carbohydrate sources only from vegetables and some berries". Honestly, I don't care what any one particular person eats. If they are healthy and successful at keeping up that way of eating without feeling deprived or without having to restart week after week, then more power to them. Had these blogs been directed to a paleo community I wouldn’t have thought twice, but these blogs were directed to the general public. A public that is already overwhelmingly confused with what is “right” and “wrong”.
Our country does not have a fruit eating problem. I don't even think we have a grain eating problem, technically. And no one that I know has a protein deficiency, that's for sure. What we do have is a country that doesn't eat ENOUGH fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains. But, most people that I know, past and current clients included, DO have a vegetable and fruit eating deficiency. So, when a doctor recommends "some berries", like that's the only choice of fruits, it really bothers me. And here's why:
I don't know the exact percentage, but I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that well over half of this country is eating Standard American Diet (SAD). If you don't know what this is, it's basically all packaged, heavily processed foods with an emphasis on fast foods, soda pop, white breads, white rice, white pasta and lots of transfats and sugar. Telling someone who is currently eating SAD to only get carbs from "vegetables and some berries" makes we want to scream that this is what's already wrong with the world!! This is no different than when I tried to just eat grapefruit to lose weight, or when I tried the atkins diet, regrettably. If it's too strict for me to do long term, then it certainly isn't something to START OUT with. If my client is on a SAD, I would gradually get them to eat more and more veggies and eliminate some of the obvious bad habits, like fast food and pop on a daily basis. As they feel healthier and stronger from this change in foods, their taste buds will change and they'll start to desire even more healthy choices. As eating more veggies becomes easier for them, then, and only then, would I recommend tweaking other areas of their food plan. I want to empower my clients and make sure they feel in control along the way. I don't want them caving in after 3 days and giving up completely, only to return to their daily junk food. When you tell people in general to follow a diet, such as the paleo diet, or any restrictive diet for that matter, you are telling them (especially when a doctor or nutritionist is saying this!) that they can only be healthy if they follow this exact course. I am here to tell you that isn't the case. If you are already eating as clean and healthy as you possibly can, and you are STILL experiencing health concerns, and you've met with your physician to address underlying metabolic issues, then it is possible that you can start getting more restrictive with your food. As you clean up your diet, these choices will not seem as overwhelming, and will therefore be more attainable. Most people can reach their desired health without getting that restrictive, however, so why start with the hardest possible answer?
I have seen COUNTLESS clients get OFF medications while still eating...wait for it....GRAINS. Gasp! I know! The horror! I am not a doctor, but if my client can get off the diabetic medication that he's been taking for YEARS, while still eating a diet that he can sustain long term, even if it contains the dreaded grains, then I'm more than ok with that. Don't shame him into thinking that he's not good enough because he ate more than just berries, or god forbid, had a paleo-ized dessert, or some brown rice.
Moral of the story: Treat the person where they are, not at the finish line. Be responsible with your "health" recommendations and know that not everyone reading your blogs is as strong as you are, or in the right mind set. They will get there, but on their own time. So, eat those berries, but don't hate yourself if you end up eating a few oranges....a kiwi....or even a watermelon or two. And if you need a Paleo cupcake, made of coconut, eggs, raw honey and grass-fed butter, just to keep yourself from completely falling head first into a box of Krispy Kremes, then get with me. I can hook you up with a good whole-foods baker.
Lose the wagon. Walking is better for you anyway.