It’s only food. Don’t freak out.

I don’t follow a diet.  I try to live by the seven word Michael Pollan directive – ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’  I’ve added three more words: ‘don’t freak out.” I included that because it’s hard not to panic when you read headlines like, “These 5 food will kill you in your sleep and then ass-rape your children.’ 

Look, food is more than just a bunch of nutrients that you ingest to give your clearer skin, lower cholesterol or make you a ‘sexual tyrannosaur’ (thank you Jesse Ventura).  You don’t pop a meal, like you would a pill prescribed by a doctor.  

stir fry

I made this stir fry with homemade mock duck. It was delightful.

That was part of the message I gleaned from this NYTimes article about studies that show that saturated fat is not as bad for you as you were told before.

“The single macronutrient approach is outdated,” said Dr. Hu, who was not involved in the study. “I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients.”

In other words, stop focusing on the individual bits in food and concentrate on eating real food – the whole food – than obsess over the stuff that’s in it.  I’ve done the same thing too.  

Being healthy is more than just getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids from the food you eat.  Happy is healthy.  Bacon cheeseburgers  and chocolate mousse make me happy, but so does looking svelte and feeling energetic. If I eat too many burgers and chocolate I will no longer be happy.

There are no evil foods.  There are just some that you should eat more often than others.  The Times article points out that in the freak out over saturated fat, people have replaced those fatty foods with lots of carbs, sugars and processed, pre-packaged foods.

“It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines,” he said. “If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.” 

So watch out for another freak out about ‘evil carbs and sugars.’  I’ve already seen articles like this one, in which a woman writes about her family’s one year prohibition on sugar. I get it.  Because of my family’s history of hypertension, I’ve become a sodium-watcher.  And like sodium, added sugar in foods is responsible for a lot of food-related illnesses like diabetes and the like.  But from what I gather, the best way to avoid sugar is to stop eating processes, pre-packaged foods – including those Annie’s frozen vegan burritos.  Which, are tasty by the way.  

I thought we’d learned by now that diets that rely on strict prohibitions just lead to imbalances in other ways.

A lifestyle with strict prohibitions on certain foods is just not sustainable for me.  Some folks can do it.  More power to them. 

In addition to the 10 words to eat by, I follow a couple other guidelines.  I cook most of my own dinners.  I know a lot of people say they don’t have time to cook.  I, on the other hand, have at least an hour a day I can devote to cooking or doing advanced prep like washing and organizing salad greens and veggies for later consumption.  I do it, not only because it’s a way to avoid the added sugar and sodium from processed foods.  But I really like cooking.  It makes me happy.  It’s a creative outlet that really enables me to enjoy the fruits of my labor. 

Also usually two-thirds of the meals I eat are vegan.   It’s not really difficult. My breakfast usually consists of oatmeal with raisins, walnuts and almond milk – for lunch, I have a big salad with a small chunk of whole grain bread or vegetable soup or stews. But if I want to have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch one day – no problem.  I like to make my own cashew milk – which has become even more fun with my new Nutribullet. (I’m not anti-dairy, but I don’t like cow’s milk in my oatmeal.)  I’m looking forward to using that thing to make some kickass sauces and marinades.  I also like making seitan – which some people call mock duck or ‘wheat meat.’

Apparently, people like marketable labels like Mark Bittman’s VB6 (vegan before 6 p.m.) to explain their diets or lifestyles.  I like the term ‘flexitarian.’  Or militant food moderate.  

 

Chew and drink cooked and raw fruits and veggies – whatever

I've stumbled over to the dark side.  Trying a kale, spinach, lettuce, banana, blueberry, mango smoothie.

I’ve stumbled over to the dark side. Trying a kale, spinach, lettuce, banana, blueberry, mango smoothie.

I try to live by this simple suggestion from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” I also added my own three word phrase following that: “don’t freak out.”

I don’t really have a problem with the first part of Pollan’s directive.  I eat real food most of the time.  I don’t buy a lot of processed food-like substances – with the exception of an occasional bag of Cheetos.

I’ve gotten better at the ‘not too much’ part.  However, I find it hard to stay disciplined when it comes to pizza.  Leftover pizza is a rarity in my fridge.  I can’t stand to leave uneaten pizza just sitting around.  I try to avoid the situation by just buying a ‘slice’ of pizza down the street at Pizza Luce.  But even then, my willpower wilts at the site of the wide selection of different pies on display under the heat lamps.  So I usually get two.  Even though I know I’ll feel fine after just one.

The ‘mostly plants’ has also been a problem.  I think I’ve been making the same mistake a lot of people make who decide to reduce their intake of animal products and fat.  I’ve added more starches and carbs – brown rice, whole grain bread, etc. which has caused my weight to go up every now and again.

My main reason for changing the way I eat is not my weight.  However, it’s hard to watch my weight go up after losing about 15 pounds.  At the beginning of 2013, it was not uncommon for me to top the scales at 195 lbs.  By the beginning of 2014, I dropped to a low of 180 lbs.  But since then, my weight has steadily gone up to now where, this morning the scale read 186 lbs.

So, to rectify that i recently bought one of those Nutribullet machines.  I’ve resisted for a long time.  I know I should actually chew my vegetables.  And I understand that one of the ways your body benefits from ingesting raw food is through the process of breaking down those hard to break down plant cellular structures – for lack of more scientific terms.   Your body burns calories breaking down and digesting those hard to digest bits.  And I understand that by using a machine to essentially perform that function for your body, that you can actually gain weight and mess with your pancreas because you’re adding a large sugar infusion to your blood stream.

However, my goal from blending up some kale and blueberries, is not to lose weight.  I want to increase my intake of the good bits in the food.  And for me the choice to do so is not based on an ‘either/or’ metric: to blend or not to blend.  I’m a both/and guy. So I’m blending some of my greens raw, chewing some raw in salads and cooking others.

There are good arguments supported by – which seems to me to be solid scientific evidence – for and against blending your veggies.  But here’s why I think both camps are right.  From Dr. Joel Fuhrman:

When we heat, soften and moisturize the vegetables and beans we dramatically increase the potential digestibility and absorption of many beneficial and nutritious compounds.

Essentially, Fuhrman and others and say it’s good to make food easier for your system to digest. I would posit that, like adding heat to food, breaking it down in a blender is another way to make food easier to absorb.  That’s all.

Fuhrman is not anti-raw food.

Raw food is necessary for digestive efficiency, proper peristalsis and normal bowel function.

But I’ve decided to follow a couple ‘smoothie rules’ I found here.  Most importantly, I try to blend mostly leafy greens together with lower sugar fruits and not drink it all at once in order to avoid a big rush of sugar into my system.

Sometimes you have to write things down

Image

Nice selfie, eh? I don’t think I was drinking then.

Saturday March 8, 2014 — I started this blog because my brain constantly produces little thoughts or seeds of ideas that I want to be able to keep track of.  Sometimes I need to rant.  Too often these are all too personal or obscene for Facebook.  And since I’m too lazy to change my privacy settings or migrate to Google Plus or something, I just decided to do a blog.  And having a blog allows me to share all these goofy things with people I know and like.

Because of my job, I tend to keep my opinions to myself.  And that can be a drag sometimes. Basically, people don’t think reporters can do their jobs well if they have opinions.  And I think that’s bullshit.  As for me, I’m a professional. I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years.  I know how to check my biases and be as fair as possible.  I’ll rant more about this topic later.