Sisterhood of the Traveling Diet : Education Versus Snobbery

In my long (and by long I mean endlessly tiring) quest to finding the best eating and workout plan for me, to improve my health and hopefully ultimately my body, I’ve been down a long path the past two years. It all started with a high triglyceride number on an annual cholesterol test. My doctor starts talking about medicine since heart disease runs in the family, and I’m all, “Is there anything different I should be doing with my diet?” And she says, “No. You’re eating fruits and vegetables. Lean meats. And lots of healthy whole grains. That’s the best we can expect out of anyone. Some people, despite their best efforts, end up with high cholesterol numbers because of genetics.”

I didn’t buy it. And after a little bit of research online, I realized triglycerides are tied to carbs. And one doctor approached this by restricting carbs per day and per meal, much like a diabetic restricts sugar per day and per meal. It sounded easy enough. Only I was eating SO MANY carbs. And they were all “healthy” carbs. Whole grains – whole wheat flour, whole wheat bread, homemade whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice. You name it, if it was “whole” or “brown” or whatever the “less processed” version of a food was, I ate it! I had to develop a taste for whole wheat over time, but I found I actually preferred it. And so easy to replace unhealthy flours with the healthy ones. And I could have all kinds of foods!

Only that’s not really healthy.

I’m speaking for myself only, as I think some people CAN eat all of these carbs and be perfectly healthy in weight and in blood work. I honestly believe there’s no perfect diet for everyone.

But, I decided with potential free test on the horizon, I was going to stick to this plan as best I could for two months. It was hard. Really hard. I was surprised how hard it was. But my blood work comes back. Everything’s normal! I had hopes of bringing my triglycerides close to the upper tier of “well, not really healthy, but OK” of 150. But I was actually below the 100 threshold. My triglycerides were in the 60s. I almost fell over when I read it.

And that’s it. That’s all it took! I was hooked on food as a medicine. Food as a cure. And more negatively, food as the cause of health problems. All of them. No, seriously.

I mean, I don’t shun chemotherapy. Or bypass surgery. Or anything like that. If you need it, you need it. But for me, the doctor was ready to prescribe a medicine. A medicine, likely with lots of side effects. I was flabbergasted. I’d even asked about diet, and she flippantly said nothing would fix it. She didn’t even give me a chance to try!

At the time, my diet was to simply stay under 50g (yes, FIFTY, and it was HARD!) of carbs per meal. These days my goal is to keep my daily limit under 100. 80 is preferable. With no more than 30g per meal. But that’s how progress works. Now it’s hard to imagine not keeping a meal under 50g of carbs. I’m not even sure how I got that many carbs in each meal (and snacks, too!). There are days I’ll come out less than 50g of carbs for the entire day! But it’s funny how your mind, body and people around you (often times more reluctantly!) will adapt as you adapt.

That said, if I’m talking to someone who was in my position about 1 ½ years ago, should I be like, “Well, I stay under 80g of carbs per day, easily.” That’s not really fair. And to act like they’re a failure for not doing it cold turkey is downright mean. But I see it everyday on the Internet. People who say you need to be eating more animal/fish protein, but it all needs to be organic/pastured/grass-fed/wild-caught, etc. Why not just start with getting someone to work more protein in their diet in lieu of some of the less-nutritious things. In fact, why not start from that perspective? Point out that grains have very little nutrients in them. And in many cases, those nutrients are fortified (meaning added, so not naturally part of the food). Why not start there. And then talk about the nutrients in, for example, red meat? From there, a person will realize there are more/better nutrients in grass-fed meat. And beyond that, they’ll start to see how different parts of the cow (bones and organs) are this untapped, cost-effective resource for not only getting protein, but tons of other nutrients. It doesn’t have to be all at once. And it especially doesn’t have to be elitist.

That’s the problem I see with most message boards. People are so rude. “Why are you eating conventional meat at all? Don’t you know it’s bad for you?” Um, is it really bad? Or is it actually better than the sandwich they used to eat? For me, I spent a lot of time with conventional meats, learning recipes that weren’t carb-based. I loved enchiladas and sanchos. And I loved soups with noodles. And potatoes. FOR ME, I found out, after eliminating it, that I have an intolerance to gluten. Does that mean I can’t ever have it? No, but it’s one of those things I TRY to eat less often.

And does that mean because it bothers me it bothers everyone? No! In fact, some people might be bothered by dairy (I’m not). Or eggs (I am, unfortunately). Or nuts (I’m not!). Every body is different, and every owner of that body has to do the work to find the right mix to nourish it without pissing it off.

But so many people think their diet is right. They think the amount of carbs they eat is perfect. They think their oatmeal for breakfast is magic for everyone. They think sour cream is evil across the board. The truth is, everyone’s body digests differently, and likes and dislikes different things.

I feel like food is to the inside of the body what clothes are to the outside. Sure, you and I might be the same height and weight and you can pull off leggings and tall boots, but I can’t. Or you might be able to put on that dress that fits you perfect, but it doesn’t flatter me at all. However, this pair of jeans and this shirt look fantastic on me, and you’re all, “Really? Ew.”

This isn’t the Sisterhood of the Traveling Diet.

And people pretending it is, is absurd.

Stop being jerks. And stop assuming your body is everyone else’s. Let them travel their own journey. Give them things to consider or things to try. Give them a way to test themselves or to work away from something they’re avoiding. But don’t be the asshole who derails them all together, telling them that because something doesn’t work for you it isn’t for them.

Here’s my experience. I’ve been trying for over a year to lose weight. During that time, I actually GAINED weight. I felt like I was eating the same amount of calories the whole time. And was so frustrated. I have some weird stuff going on that’s either an auto-immune response or a full on auto-immune disease. I’m not sure which, and am not sure a diagnosis will matter, honestly. If it’s a full-on disease, there’s no cure, and the meds they’d give don’t generally work. I’m not going to die or sustain anything permanent by going on my own path. I also have displayed some signs of insulin resistance.

In my studying and researching and obsessing, I kept coming back to a “moderately low-carb diet” as potentially helpful with weight loss with an auto-immune disease. And specifically helping heal from insulin resistance.

And what do you know? I reduce carbs, and slowly (VERY SLOWLY) the weight finally starts to drop. Same number of calories. But the weight is finally moving in the right direction. I was so elated I wanted to scream it from the rooftops! But then I realized, this isn’t going to be the same for everyone. Plus, the journey I took to get here is so much more helpful and long-term than simply having someone say, “Restrict your calories to less than 80 per day.” And I wouldn’t have realized peppers and eggs were “trigger foods” for me. And I wouldn’t know that gluten does affect digestion and how I feel. So along with moderately low-carb, I also have to avoid those foods to see progress. No one could have told me that.

And if someone comes along and tells me, “Bread doesn’t hurt you.” Or, “That’s absurd. No way you’re have an intolerance to peppers/eggs.” I know they’re assholes. Living in their own world. With their own experiences.

This is your body. Unique as a little snowflake. Figure out what it needs. And don’t let someone along the way push you off your own path. After all, they don’t live in your body. And they probably don’t care about anyone except their ego anyway!