the diet: parte deux

A little over a year ago I learned how much I weighed, and while I’ve never been one to worry about the number of pounds I hold as opposed to how I feel and look, the number that came up then scared me and was totally unacceptable, so I decided to revamp my lifestyle, keep a food and exercise diary, and strive for a physically, emotionally, and mentally healthier life.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job with that, but as I’ve grown from the picky eater I was as a child to an absolute foodie, I also learned more recently that I can’t be a foodie, because actually I have a ton of digestive and health problems that keep me from eating lots of good food. So begin the beta version of my diet, in which I visit doctors all the time and read books and articles about the science of nutrition (which is fascinating mostly because it’s a totally made up but essential science) and experiment with food and exercise to see what makes me feel good and what makes me feel bad.

In the spirit of not describing some very gross and embarrassing symptoms, I’m just going to say that due to my health problems, I am no longer allowed to eat gluten at all, and I have to eat very low amounts of simple carbs, starches, and sugars. I also have to avoid dairy for another couple of weeks, and then I can try some and see what it does to me after I’ve gotten my body healthier, because I don’t actually know whether or not I’m lactose intolerant, since all of my other problems were clouding that. I’ve also been told to avoid soy, as people with digestive problems generally shouldn’t eat soy because it can cause more, and I’m supposed to avoid bananas (no problem, because they’re disgusting), chocolate, mint, and coffee (which is bad, because I think a mint mocha latte is the greatest thing ever). So essentially I am allowed fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs, and I eat small amounts of gluten-free grains, nuts, and beans. It was rather convenient, then, that Amanda told me about Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is very well researched and argues that simple carbs are the root of all evil, so when I have a health problem and the prospect of eliminating my future chance of getting cancer/cholesterol/heart attacks, it is much easier to avoid eating the things that used to be my favorite foods (namely all things made from potatoes, plus breakfast cereal).

Then I decided to read The Paleo Diet (Loren Cordain), which takes those a step further than Taubes and says that actually, you should watch your fat intake as well. So I’m striving to get close to that diet, though there is no way I will ever be able to follow it to a T, because the second I’m allowed to try dairy again, I’m going straight for ranch dressing. Or a caesar salad. Or grilled cheese. But it’s definitely a good idea, the paleo diet, so I’m going to try to mostly live by it.

But my problem comes in when I read these books because I had previously been pretty decent at being a flexitarian, only eating meat once or twice a week. And while I have no problem eating animals if they were raised and killed humanely, and preferably if they’re organic, I could never do what the paleo diet recommends and eat animals three meals a day. I can’t stomach it. Even though these diet books are very convincing (because they’re not “diet books” but lifestyle, life diet books that tell you about food science), they aren’t very socially conscious, nor are they concerned with ethical eating, and I’d like to at least try to balance my physically healthful ways with spiritually healthy ways, and that means that I have to kind of go with the Peter Singer way of living your life. Because yes, I can see how evolution tells us that we’re not equipped to eat as many carbs as we think we are. But I also think that progress occurs for a reason, and we should be privileged enough to be able to find ways to eat without hurting the earth too much.

So my quest for the next year, I think, is to establish a new baseline for my health. I want to be able to not depend on vitamins, now that gluten isn’t impeding my absorption of them, and I want to have a more strict exercise and stretching regimen. I want to move to Boston and be an efficient cook and eater. I want to stop snacking. I want to reduce my dependence on cereal for breakfast. And I want to find a way to do all of these things and still remain fairly ethical, since I am in a position where I should be able to afford to do so.

We’ll see how this goes.

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