Thursday, March 29

"Diet" Labels, What's Up with Me, and the Bottom Line Goal: Health!

Truth be told, the longer I follow this "Paleo" way of eating, the more I think about my blog, recipes, and life being stuck with a label. And that bugs me. I don't want to be labelled or stuck in a box - by myself or by anyone else. As my profile says, I am on a journey to reclaim my health by eating the foods I'm truly meant to eat. Whatever label popular culture may choose for how I eat, my simple aim remains: to cook and eat real, nourishing, healing food. I think the tendency to need to label everything is a sign of our society's food insecurities and the confusion surrounding what is truly good for us. For instance, as children, most of my generation was taught, "MILK- It does a body good," and these days whole wheat breads and pastas are touted as full of nutritious wonders and the key to a flat belly.
But I bet you know at least one person in your world who has discovered that they are gluten intolerant, or feeling better not eating dairy, or encountered some other food lightbulb experience, and this puts the FDA guidelines - that tendency to push a "one size fits all" diet on every American - to suspicion.

Personally, I tend to go to extremes with things, specifically when I hear about diets that have 'cured' people of their autoimmune disease. I get so excited! About the possibility of being well without medications, and empowered by the information and personal stories of recovery. But (after living and learning a bit) I recognize that extremism is not a healthy way of living. For one thing, it puts the entire burden of failure or success solely on your own shoulders when you are your own coach and critic. Especially with dietary changes, I am learning that everything is not black and white. I am learning that we have to listen to our bodies and consider that we each have our own unique sets of genetic material wired just so, to make us who we are. So what works for your BFF/trainer/blogging idol may not work for you. And... that is okay.

Wouldn't it be easier if I could just follow a black and white plan straight from the pages of a book? Heck yes, and I daily wish that would work for me! (For the record, I'd choose this book or this book.) I believe that food changes alone work for many people, to bring about needed weight loss, relief of joint pain, slow aging, recover energy, and so on. There are testimonies like that all over the net. But throw the factors of a leaky gut, autoimmune disease, food intolerances and chronically damaged and inflamed tissue into the mix (yeah, that's me), and it becomes quite a large Clydesdale horse of a different color...

I am very passionate about making dietary changes before turning to drug treatments that have potential adverse consequences. So when I see someone struggling with disease, I usually think, "I wonder if they've tried changing their diet... if they've tried 'going Paleo'... if they've tried..." This is because changing my own diet has helped me - specifically eliminating gluten, dairy, eggs and soy because my body is intolerant to them, and recently grains and legumes as well, because I have learned by trial and error that my guts do immensely better without them. Once I read about the damage that grains, legumes and dairy do to your guts, it was easy for me to let them go. This is the main reason our family has "gone Paleo." The two special people I live with have great health, and we want it to stay that way!  :)

On the other end of that, however, I have still not reclaimed my health. I am still waiting to find my own personal "perfect diet." I would like to say that kicking the SAD (Standard American Diet) to the curb has cured my Ulcerative Colitis and other junk. But it has not [yet...?]. In fact, this week has been so tough that I'm considering calling my GI doc and giving Prednisone another try if he thinks it will help. Because feeling like garbage is no way to live, and there are times when modern medicine needs to embraced as a gift of modern life, just like cell phones and the internet. [About the internet: Where would all of us blogging about special diets and diseases be without it?! Much more isolated and hopeless, I propose.] I really like my new GI doctor and it wouldn't be a negative experience to go see him. I'm trying to teach myself that even if I don't want to go on new meds, if something changes in my condition I should keep my doctors filled in on how I'm doing and at least see what my options are.

I'm also re-reading Breaking the Vicious Cycle and trying to muster the drive to re-try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). I tried it  two years ago, and it helped to some degree. I stopped it before I knew that I was intolerant to dairy and eggs, so odds are it will go much better this time around, knowing that! I don't ever choose drugs first off; I always try to find another route.

Speaking of helping ourselves by making lifestyle and dietary changes, I came across this piece today, by Kurt Harris MD. I highly suggest you read it! I love his gentle but encouraging suggestion for his twelve steps: "Go as far down the list as you can in whatever time frame you can manage. The further along the list you stop, the healthier you are likely to be. Earlier steps, in my clinical experience, will give more bang for the buck."
Personally I am working on the very first step - SLEEP. Easier said than done for anyone, whether you've got a new baby at home or just love a busy life or get stuck on your to-do list so much that sleep takes a back seat!

If you've read this far without moving on to something else, thank you! I'll wrap it up. So all the aforementioned rambling to say, I don't want to hang onto a Paleo label at the expense of reaching someone with the potential of real, nutritious food. I don't want to come across as 'another diet extremist' and scare people off. I want to keep blogging because I hope - like so many blogs I've come across in my journey - that my sharing is encouraging and helping someone out there.
But just know, whoever you are my readers, that when I say "I love eating Paleo"  it's not to belong to some superior food-obsessed clique.  I think that the heart of the Paleo/Primal/Ancestral/Nourishing Traditions food movement is to embrace life at its fullest by embracing the foods that God put on the earth and meant for us to eat. Real, whole, unprocessed, unrefined, colorful, rich, nourishing, hope-filled foods.
On that note, I am going to keep my "Paleo" label for recipes because it simplifies things for my own organization. I know that when I've labelled a recipe "Paleo," it does not have gluten, grains, dairy, casein, soy... the big ones. But it is not an exclusive or inclusive label, because there are several interpretations of what constitutes "Paleo."