Food, Fads, Diets, and Eating “Healthy”

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You have your way.  I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“Healthy diet” is such a relative phrase these days.  There is an endless parade of articles constantly contradicting one another on what constitutes a healthy diet.

Bananas are bad for you and full of sugar!  Bananas are healthy!

Stay away from carbs!  Your body needs carbs, eat some bread!

Eat raw!  Raw eating is not sustainable for most people!

Paleo is the best for your body!  Paleo is totally wrong!

On and on and ON.

I had a typical American diet until I was about 15 years old – full of meat, dairy, processed snacks, and soda.  In my mother’s defense, she did cook at home a lot and we definitely had vegetables and fruit, but my diet was not nearly as wholesome as it should have been.

My high school cafeteria was a processed food waste land – in the 90’s and 2000’s, at least where I grew up, there was practically no emphasis on eating healthy.  Students had the option of a lunch line full of fried foods, snack cakes, chips, and soda.  I felt enormous peer pressure to eat junk food like most of the other kids.  So often in high school, my typical “lunch” was a sugar bomb fruit drink and trans-fat fries.  Is it surprising that during this time I put on a lot of weight?

When I was about 16, I became a vegetarian.  My lifestyle choice was an anomaly to everyone around me and I knew nothing about what constituted a healthy vegetarian diet.  I only knew that I no longer wanted to consume meat products of any kind.  With little education and no other vegetarians to look up to for guidance, I was on my own.  I replaced meat with more dairy, bread, cereals, and whatever I could fill up on that wasn’t meat.  It didn’t help that my local grocery carried precious little in the way of “vegetarian meat replacements” – there was tofu and maybe one type of veggie burger.

After several years of eating what I now consider a shitty vegetarian diet, I incorporated more  foods such as whole grains, legumes, tempeh, edamame, and more.  It worked well for a while.  A long while.

Over the years I also learned more about what was clearly not good for my body and eliminated these ingredients from my diet almost completely.  Artificial sugars, added sugar, hydrogenated oils/trans fats, artificial colors, artificial flavor, etc.  My eating habits seemed to be working for me and my diet was getting healthier the older I got.

Then last year, I started having hormonal issues and developed multiple ovarian cysts on two separate occasions. One cyst was so severe that it culminated in surgery.  The terrible pain that I experienced made me desperate to keep it from ever happening again.  As I normally do, I looked for a holistic approach to healing my body.  I had an “A-ha!” moment when I remembered that soy is known to mimic estrogen in the body.  I had been consuming soy on a daily basis. The reality hit me hard and fast that one of the best things I could do for my body was to drastically cut back my soy consumption to almost none, which I did immediately.

I began supplementing myself with more dairy and beans, but I experienced terrible stomach pain and bloating almost daily.  This is when I started looking into a vegan diet and did some research. I made up my mind to transition to a vegan diet both for ethical and health reasons.

What I believe at this point in my life is that every person’s body is unique.  I may not be a trained medical doctor, nutritionist, or dietician, but I question how could one way of eating perfectly serve every single human on the planet?  That is why when I see articles about the healthiest way to eat or the best lifestyle diet, I read it with interest but not as the final word on health. Obviously most people accept the fact that whole fruits and vegetables are healthier than processed or fried foods, but there are so many complex food issues beyond the easy ones.  I have to use my own body and mind as a barometer for what diet feels right to me, and so do others.

If asked about my stance, I will always advocate a diet free of animal products, specifically and most importantly, meat.  But I have never and will never try to bully others into accepting my truth as their own.  Everyone has to walk their own path in life, including making decisions about the foods they choose to eat.

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