Friday, October 15, 2010

The Downside of Clean Eating

Not to pat myself on the back, well, okay, yes to pat myself on the back, but my family and I have recently found a new level of calm and happiness in eating real foods and limiting processed foods. We are eating a record low of refined sugar. I have replaced our traditional crackers with gluten free rice crackers and the kids are actually eating them. DH was happy about the date truffles and I am praying this means that he might be one step closer to getting his sugar addiction under control. I stopped buying potato chips because they are all fried in polyunsaturated oils. And that was a big one. There are plenty of companies that state that they fry in "peanut/ canola oil". Well that means if they can't get peanut oil cheap enough they will get the other. I can't guarantee that I am not eating those poly oils, so I have to move on. I can't say I'll never eat them again, but if I am down to a few times a year, then I am going to give myself some credit. I loved potato chips. *sigh*.

The downside you ask? Last week I attended an offsite business meeting with a colleague. The meeting started at 2pm so we agreed to meet at a restaurant for lunch. Now there are plenty of good restaurants and clean places to eat in Manhattan but where I was that day there was not a great selection. We chose a conventional restaurant similar to a Friday's or Applebee's. You might think the food at those establishments is kinda gross. But I was raised going to places like that as a special treat. And I firmly believe, as a practical real food person, that once in a while is fine. The food police are not going to come out and arrest you, or worse yet, judge you. But beware. The salt and sugar, white flour and soybean oil all go down so hot and beautiful, but the payback comes later. I had mayo, what had to be CAFO chicken (because they ALL are), conventional frozen to oil fries and *Gasp* conventional ketchup. I wasn't going to feel guilty. It was the best establishment available. I could have ordered a salad. But I was starving! I ate half my lunch so I wouldn't fall asleep in my meeting. And of course, a half an hour later my stomach was in turmoil.

I think it was the oil mostly. Whenever I eat large amounts of vegetable oils now I always get an upset stomach. Even yesterday my office had catering for a special meeting and I ate the tortilla chips. Why? Why haven't I learned my lesson. They aren't even that good. Maybe it is force of habit. Perhaps it is nostalgia for foods that I used to love but now make me sick. Like a boyfriend that is kind of mean to you, but you keep going to hang out with him even after he has broken up with you.

This makes me think of the disease that has been increasing in the frequency of diagnosis recently, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS is an increasingly popular diagnosis. Symptoms including abdominal cramping, spastic colon and the like for more than 12 weeks. IBS has been recently a disease of exclusion, or basically when everything else has been excluded, IBS is the diagnosis. That is changing, but the definition of the disease seems to hinge on it NOT being something else like colon cancer or celiac disease.

I don't like taking medicine. I don't even like taking my vitamin every day. I don't think we should have to. I am appalled by the pharmaceutical industry's funding of "symptom management drugs" where there is no cure for the specific disease, only a pill that you must use for the rest of your life. There is no money in curing disease, only in getting you on a prescription. I find his way of thinking deplorable and part of the reason that our current health care system is so dysfunctional. Couldn't it be said that some of the IBS diagnoses fall into this category? I certainly don't have IBS, but if IBS can be managed by eating a healthier diet of lower fat and less processed (just not raw) foods, couldn't it be said that some cases of IBS is just those bodys' inability to adapt to the modern industrial food that we shouldn't be eating in the first place?

Perhaps I am uneducated about IBS. But after reading even just a little bit about it, it seems like a spectrum disorder where perhaps no two cases are alike. That to me suggests that it is still a diagnosis of exclusion. And to characterize a person as having a dysfunction or an improperly working digestive system when what is really happening is they are unable to digest the non-food we are all accustom to eating. Well that seems foolish to me. Then we can give those people a pill to force their digestive systems to properly digest Doritos, which we shouldn't be eating in the first place. Doesn't that seem odd to anyone?

And if it is not IBS, it is constipation. I ate Activia yogurt like everyone else 5 years ago and while it worked, no one ever told me that I didn't really need to eat Activia yogurt. All I needed to do was eat vegetables and real foods. Thing 1 used to really struggle with constipation. Now? Never. Just like that Dyson guy says "I just think things should work properly." Common sense folks. Eat real foods, eliminate health problems. Down with the unnecessary pills.

Now I suppose the question is, will I ever learn my lesson? Will I ever stop eating foods that make me sick? I suppose now I am the same as everyone else. There really is no difference.


  1. Of course, there is also the difference in that you are making your own live culture yogurt, cheese, etc. and not relying on a special service product to give you the normal gut flora you should have from a normal healthy diet.

    As an aside, I just wanted to share a new facet of healthy eating that was just introduced to me. Dog food. I don't know if you have a dog, but in the obedience class I take my dog to, we had a talk about food, and the intolerances that a lot of dogs have to the filler ingredients companies use to keep it cheap. Corn, wheat, and soy are top offenders, often listed as top ingredients. Then there is the meat used. I'll stop here, lest I repeat the entire lecture, but I will leave off with something the instructor said that reminds me greatly of you: Dogs shouldn't eat beef as their main diet, because in what world can (most) dogs bring down a cow?

    I just hadn't thought about the food my dog eats, but now I am. I am searching for a more nutritionally sensible food, and not one that just meets the checkmarks they are required to of protien, fat, fiber, etc. Hopefully, it will sove the gas and pooping problems (hmmm....doggie IBS?) and hopefully the price increase will be a wash because he will eat less of a more nutritionally dense food to get what he needs.

    Just wanted to share.

  2. Thanks for this feedback Dianna. I think it is a very astute callout. We live in a building that doesn't allow dogs, but we do have a cat. Have you ever checked out that Marion Nestle book about feeding your pet? I believe she has some interesting insights about the pet food industry.

    I am beginning to resent corn, wheat and soy in general.

  3. Dianna, I agree with your excellent point about considering what's in our pets' food! I hate to burst your obedience instructor's bubble, though, about a dog bringing down a cow. Dogs' natural behavior is to hunt in packs rather than individually. A pack of dogs most certainly can bring down a calf or a cow, especially a grass-fed cow which naturally tends to be significantly smaller than a grain-fed cow pumped up with antibiotics and growth hormones.

    The problem is that dog food manufacturers in this country are putting grain-fed beef in their products. A friend of mine feeds her 2 beagles Alpo with beef. I love dogs and grew up with an assortment of them but I can barely stand to be around those 2 sweet beagles because they constantly pass the stinkiest gas I've ever smelled.

  4. What about whole corn? Like corn on the cob?