I've always found it interesting that humans don't innately know what we're supposed to be eating. Other animals seem to know if they're predators or herbivores, they go out and find food that nourishes them. And unless we're the ones providing their food, animals don't tend to have weight problems and dietary diseases.
This concept struck me when I moved into my first apartment during my junior year of college. After two years of dorm food, I was excited to be cooking for myself, and wanted to eat more healthfully. As I set about making that first grocery list, I was suddenly bewildered. I realized that had no idea what I ought to be eating.
Ever since, I have gone through periods of dietary exploration. I tried being a vegetarian for 4 years, a "flexitarian" for two of those. I've gone through times of cutting out all dairy, then all soy. I've gone on oatmeal kicks and yogurt kicks, eating the same meal for breakfast every day for months. I ate only organic food for a few months, and to this day avoid partially-hydrogenated anything. I have not owned a microwave since college, because I've been told that it's bad for you.
I just want to know what to eat to be healthy. And as with many things, the more I learn, the more confusing it gets.
Since last summer, I've been on-and-off following the guidance of Dr. Katy Wallace, a naturopath who focuses on healing through food. She emphasizes proper food combining, cleansing, and eating a whole-food diet. As regular readers of this blog know, I did a six-week "Body Tune-Up" cleanse with her this winter.
It was an intense, but positive experience. By the end of the program I was feeling good, had pretty stabilized energy, and I had lost 10 pounds and cleared up some skin problems. But I did have some misgivings about maintaining the kind of diet Katy teaches. It's a good diet, but not the easiest for someone who likes to eat out and throw dinner parties and the like.
Katy recommends a low-caloric intake diet, consisting primarily of fruits and veggies. She says most Americans eat way too much protein, and that your daily protein intake only needs to be about 5-10% of your daily calories. So, when you're on a low calorie diet, you don't need to be eating a lot of meat. Beans and even the protein found in veggies and whole grains is usually enough. Which is fine. Except as I said, I like to eat out, and I do enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with some frequency. So the whole low-calorie diet thing goes out the window.
What I haven't told you since the end of the cleans is that when I went on vacation, it all went to hell. After 6 weeks of being so strict with myself, I ate whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, the whole week. I completely binged. I had a lot of stomachaches and didn't feel so hot, but damn those cookies and pastas and drinks tasted good.
For the month since I got back, I've been at my pre-cleanse weight again and wallowing in self-disgust over it. After losing all that weight, being back at what used to be normal for me feels way worse. I've tried to get back to eating the way Katy would recommend, but I'll be good during the week and binge on the weekend. I've been working out more, but my body hasn't budged.
I put the new pants I bought during the cleanse away in a box on top of my closet. And then I and emailed Adam Gilbert of My Body Tutor. I need someone to help me stay on track, and that's what he does best.
I've talked with Adam twice, and started his program yesterday. I'm a little nervous though, because Adam's eating guidelines are sometimes in alignment with Katy's, and sometimes are very different.
They're similar in that they both encourage eating whole foods, avoiding refined carbs and sugar, and eating plenty of veggies. And they both teach their diets as lifestyle changes, rather than short-term weight loss programs. But as far as I can tell, that's where the similarities end.
Adam is big on protein. He wants me eating protein with every meal. His aim is to get my metabolism working so that it's constantly burning fat. That sounds pretty good to me.
However, I've been following and believing in the proper food combining that Katy preaches. The biggest part of this is not combining grains and protein at a meal. If I'm eating protein at every meal, that's going to be hard to avoid. (There are other food combining rules that will get broken by eating this way too, but that's the big one.)
Katy also encourages variety - not eating the same kind of grain or protein more than once every 5 days, so that your system can completely clear it out before it's introduced again. If I'm eating protein at every meal, that's a lot of different kinds of protein I need to keep on hand. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that Katy strongly recommends against tofu, (too processed,) tuna, (high mercury and they're being fished out of existence,) and the regular intake of dairy (congests the digestive system,) - all protein sources that Adam recommends.
So I'm disconcerted; I really don't know which is the better or healthier way to eat. They're different theories in their entirety.
The rationalization my brain has come up with is that maybe there's no one best way - you eat differently to achieve different goals. Katy's program is focused on cleansing and healing, while Adam's emphasizes upping the metabolism. Both say they can help with weight loss, but they come at it from different directions. I haven't been hungry much on Katy's plan, so maybe it's because the low-calorie, low-protein diet has slowed my metabolism way down. But maybe a slower metabolism is better in some ways, because then the body isn't working as hard just to absorb nutrients. Then again, maybe it is better for it to be faster and burn through more calories. I don't really know.
I'm not sure how to resolve this dissonance. How do you figure out what the best way to eat is? Is Western Medicine and science right? What about the science behind Naturopathy? Or is it just a matter of experimenting and seeing what works best for you?
For the time being, that's what I'm going to do. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
If Katy and/or Adam read this and care to comment, your feedback would be great!