The Answer is No

Back when I still worked at Ye Olde Office Job, my tiny Finance Team had an ongoing joke about the answer to any question always being no. All three of us were/are abnormally nice people who tended to be overly accommodating of the needs of others, but in secret, when we were sure nobody else was listening, we used to practice bellowing with authority: The answer is no!

Need a spreadsheet made? The answer is no!

Donation amounts need to be tallied and reported at the next staff meeting? The answer is no!

Can we please mail out the charitable tax receipts by the end of the day? The answer is no!

Is it possible to– NO! The answer is no!

(Yeah, I know it’s not very funny, but to our simple accounting department sensibilities, the idea of being Make Believe Jerks to our coworkers never got old.)

Well. It’s been a year and a half since I left my day job, but I’m finding that dirty, two-letter ‘n-o’ word creeping back into my daily existence again, especially when it comes to food. My awareness of this sneaky phenomenon peaked when I read Kathy’s recent post,ย 50 and Fat– or 50 and Fit? (Weighing in on Mid-Life)ย and again when I encountered a brief aside about “Kimberly [Snyder] disapproving of cashews” in this post from Housewifing Around. Kathy spoke of her mother basing many of their conversations on foods that she either could not or would not eat, and something about that wagging-finger, “disapproving of cashews” comment burrowed its way into the rotten core of my soul and annoyed me enough to start writing this post. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Is food really the enemy? Do I need to start being a real jerk to sustenance?

I disapprove of molasses!

Most Foods: The Answer is No?

I’m sure we’ve all encountered “revolutionary” eating plans before that promise amazing results but demonize major nutrients. There are low-fat diets, low-carb crazes, no-carb devotees, detox programs that require abstinence from tropical fruits, fermented foods, flours, refined sugars, and even mushrooms– the list is truly endless. I’ll guiltily confess that my youngest sister and I once spent two weeks fearing the sweet wrath of carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes on the advice of one fad diet book, and I’ve also gone for several months before, honestly convinced that one of the worst foods I could ever eat was a banana. For real. Obviously, a diet based on cupcakes and diet sodas is going to take you nowhere fast, but I’m highly suspicious now of any so-called “healthy” program that demands its followers to deprive themselves of fruits or vegetables. Apricots are not the devil in disguise, am I right or am I right? (Unless you have a serious apricot allergy, in which case, they probably are the devil in a squishy orange disguise.)

Anyway…

I started on the Beauty Detox Solution last year-ish, very much in love with the whole concept. (This again? Yes!) For once, I didn’t have to find vegetarian substitutes for the “lean chicken breast” recipes in Food Book #1, and for once, I didn’t have to omit cheese or milk from any recipes, either. (All of Kimberly’s recipes are vegan.) I didn’t have to worry about finding an acceptable stand-in for “cashew cream” desserts or soups– because, as you just discovered, Kimberly “disapproves” of cashews due to the high possibility of them containing toxic moulds. (Have I ever told you how allergic I am to cashews?) And finally, finally, I didn’t have a dietician or nutritionist recommending pounds upon pounds of tofu or soy to satisfy the vegetarian contingent of readers. (Seriously. Soy will not save the world. A girl can only pound back so much edamame before her very bowels transform into long tofu dogs. Go on: Ask me how I know this.)

Yes, these soups are homemade and vegan, but are they raw? Tsk, tsk!

The Beauty Detox Solution seemed to offer a seamless, well-researched solution to all of the questions I’ve ever had about what I eat. I didn’t need to consume 10 pounds of lentils every day after all! Low fat yogurt was not a requirement– huzzah! Theย BDS spokesperson was an impossibly beautiful woman with a blindingly large, genuine smile, and I gravitated easily to the idea of prioritizing whole foods and becoming the best person I could possibly be! In retrospect, this was the honeymoon phase. I was practically giddy with love!

Kimberly makes a lot of recommendations in her book. True, most of them are small and simple steps that can be incorporated over time to achieve optimal health, but if you were to make a list of everything she suggests to do in her book (which I did– don’t judge), it ends up being a pretty lengthy list. (Then you go and read her blog and find out you also need to install shower head filters, buy organic eco-mattresses for the best, most planet-friendly sleep, and possibly even stop touching money. After all, it’s disgustingly dirty and contaminated. The answer is no, my friend!)

Originally, the super geek in me (the one who loves to make spreadsheets and cross items off To Do Lists) was pumped to tackle each of these recommendations, one by one, until I emerged from the process as a Radiant Goddess of Gastro-Intestinal Perfection!

(Aside: I should try to rustle up one of my earlier fertility charts so you can see just how OCD I am about graphs. I recorded everything I possibly could about my body every day– temperature, heart rate, secretions, cervical position, dreams, bowel movements, glasses of water consumed, mood, moon phase, etc.– and then color-coded it all. A RAINBOW OF FERTILITY! The Gigantic List of Things to Do with the Beauty Detox Solution was right up my alley.)

Gradually, though, my love for the Beauty Detox Solution began to fade. I lost the spark. I no longer felt the good vibes. I just wanted to be done with food combinations and excited about eating spontaneously again. I was tired of being the person who needed to schedule 1-hour blocks of time before and after eating an apple, and don’t even get me started on eating out at restaurants. Me: Can you believe they put both pecans AND avocado on this salad? Clearly, they haven’t read The Beauty Detox Solution and don’t realize you shouldn’t put two fats together in one meal. And wait– is that extra virgin olive oil in the dressing? A third added, albeit healthy, fat? Don’t tell me that’s balsamic vinegar, too– crikey!

“NO!” was beginning to permeate every aspect of my life. Can I please have a cup of warm water with lemon juice right before breakfast (and not 30-45 minutes before)? Is it possible to put flax seeds on my oatmeal instead of on my salads? What if I feel like peanut butter on a cardboard-esque Wasa cracker? Are the omelet sandwiches I made on marble rye bread acceptable? THE ANSWER IS NO!!!!! Like a rice racist, I seriously considered tossing the (white) sushi rice in our cupboard before the thrift-conscious side of me won that particular battle. Penny pincher vs. white rice finger pointer-atter. Any food with a dates-base was suspect, and I often found myself spouting the words “But Kimberly says…” like a knee-jerk reaction to anything that contradicted herย Beauty Detoxย bible.

Enough of that. I don’t care what the gorgeous lady says: this girl’s gotta give.

I’ve decided that, for me, simple is truly better. I need to relax! Dried figs aren’t going to kill me! After readingย The China Study book, I’ve found my newest touchstone when it comes to food:

ย  “Eating should be an enjoyable and worry-free experience, and shouldn’t rely on deprivation… The recommendations coming from the published literature are so simple that I can state them in one sentence: eat a whole foods, plant-based diet, while minimizing the consumption of refined foods, added salt and added fats.” (p. 242, emphasis added)

So much easier, yes? Even looking at these words makes me breath a huge sigh of relief! It’s kind of painful for me to admit this (because I’m abnormally nice and don’t enjoy disappointing people), but maybe the principles of the Beauty Detox Solution aren’t as clear-cut fabulous as I first thought they were, at least for me. (Disclaimer: many/most of the principles still are great, but I’m no longer trying to combine them all into one and achieve super-humanness.) Maybe I can go on without eating meat or dairy but not feel so bad if I’m not regularly consuming raw sauerkraut, too. Maybe it’s okay for me to enjoy some non-sprouted breads every now and then or to put two types of seeds on my salads. (Such a rebel!) I should be able to enjoy hummus without hearing the words “beans are Mother Nature’s “oops!”” (because they naturally combine proteins with starches) echoing in my brain. Heck, I might even dip crackers into hummus and not fret that I’m messing up the sacrosanct food combinations even more. Whoa. Can you feel my diet rebellion picking up speed?

Maybe I’m weak, maybe I’m stubborn, maybe I’ve failed at Shimmering Goddess Lessons, or maybe I’m just cranky, but I’m sick and tired of organizing such a huge part of my life– eating– around the word ‘no’. I’d much rather say YES! to whole foods, YES! to fresh fruits and vegetables, and YES! to foods in their unrefined, minimally processed states. That’s it! No need to break things down into a million sub-rules or minor clauses. Just eat clean food. Period.

[end rant]

What do you say?

ย  ย  Are there certain “diet rules” that really chap your ass?

Are you consumed by “following the rules” or “sticking to” a particular eating program?

Are you a serial wagon-falling-offer like I am, at least when it comes to food plans?

Are you one of those mystical beings who seriously only eats food for fuel and never gets caught up in emotional eating? (And if so, can you be my guru?)

PS: Lest you think that I’m just going on a rant to somehow justify a lack of weight loss or a general state of unhealthiness, the last time I checked, I was halfway back down to my pre-harbour weight. Yes: I’m ten pounds lighter than I was in December, and I’ve done this by embracing the KISS motto: Keep it simple, silly. ๐Ÿ™‚

33 responses

  1. This is fabulous! Way to go – I’ve sort of subscribed to this as well, while also being very mindful of what is “what I need to eat” and “what I want to eat.” Plus drinking lots of water and exercising.

    It’s helped a lot!

    • Thanks! I love me a good To Do List, but eventually, I just feel worn down by all the ins and outs of specific eating plans. The summary sentence from The China Study is specific enough that I can manage it, but it’s also broad enough to allow for flexibility and being human. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I try to eat natural foods-not out of a box, I don`t worry too much if it`s organic but I do like it to be locally produced and in season if possible, I try to cut out the meat but I struggle with the sugar in my coffee. And I try to do 30 minutes of exercise every day. Shopping the outside of the grocery store (away from the boxes) helps tremendously. I don`t do smoothies because I don`t know what`s in all the ground up stuff to go in them- and I don`t eat fried food. That covers it for me. I like the mantra of The China Study. Makes sense.

    • I remember reading a diet book once that assured readers they could still follow the plan while eating entirely frozen entrees and packaged food. I obviously don’t cook *everything* from scratch *all the time*, but eating nothing but processed foods just didn’t feel like sage wisdom to me, either. I’m in love with grocery shopping and especially with produce departments, and The China Study advice really struck a chord with me. Simple but effective. Still room to be an actual, living person and not crumple at the first sign of “bad” foods.

  3. Dana, wow, great blog. I can resonate with so much of what you say. We were on a rather strict macrobiotic diet for maybe three years as I tried to heal my gallbladder. (It kept attacks at bay, but unfortunately, the GB continued to decline.) The diet was good. It made you feel good. It really was good. Your skin shone with healthiness, you lost weight…but there was also that no-so-subtle decrying of bad foods/good foods. Years later I am still trying to undo some of the emotional/mental/physical damage I did by harsh inner labeling. You’ve got it, girl. The “truth” involves more relaxing. Relaxing when we’re about to stuff the 8th ginger cookie into our mouth. Relaxing when our mind says cashews are bad. Relaxing, relaxing… OK, there’s probably more to it than that, but that’s the bare bones of what I’m learning.

    • See, I’m also so academically programmed that I find myself naturally gravitating towards simple categories of “good” foods and “bad” foods. I could write a dissertation on what foods are “allowed” and which ones should be “avoided” altogether. It makes me miserable, though, and I’m pretty sure my friends who don’t eat “perfectly” but also aren’t obsessed with everything they put into their mouths are healthier overall than people (like me sometimes) who can get overly caught up in the minutiae of food. I still LOVE eating clean foods, but I’m ready to be more forgiving of myself. It’s time.

  4. You’re clearly much more disciplined than I am. I took a look at Kimberly’s book too, and as much as I wanted to do the whole thing, I decided that I didn’t have the willpower. I’m a weak person and enjoy my vices too much (btw, I love cashews). I do make a glowing green smoothie quite frequently though. And eat Mcdonald’s once a month. Life’s too short to deprive yourself of too much.

    And now I’m off to have a Dunkaccino!!! (basically nothing but caffeine, cream, and tons of sugar. I’ll probably die early but I’ll die a happy woman)

    • Sometimes discipline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when it borders on obsession or compulsion. ๐Ÿ™‚ I do think that a lot of the recommendations in Kimberly’s book are fine (great, even), but implementing them all together (or even one on top of the other) proved to be too much for this woman to handle. I’m back to keeping things simple.

      Before I found out I had a dairy allergy, I was pretty addicted to the Canadian version of Dunkaccinos– Iced Capps from Tim Horton’s. Not even real coffee- just coffee-flavoured syrup blended with more sugar and a cup or so of cream. Terrible… terribly delicious! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Gosh, thanks for the shout-out, Dana. Another post from me today about diets. We’re on a roll!

    At any rate, I love the notion of simple–absolutely love it! I don’t think you can go wrong with that, Dana, as you have already proven. Good for you on having lost 10 pounds since December. Damn, that’s good, my friend. Love it!

    Hugs and happy eating,
    Kathy

    • I used to enjoy making the most complicated, ingredient-dense recipes I could find in my vegan cookbooks, but that has fallen by the wayside, too. I mostly stick with what I know and enjoy (soups, salads, stir fries), but I mix up the specific fruits and veggies when I can. I’m such a creature of habit– even though I admire food blogs and am enticed by new food items to try making, I never actually end up doing it. Surprise! Soup over quinoa for dinner– AGAIN! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’ll be catching up on other posts this afternoon, so I’ll look forward to reading your next post, Kathy. It’s always a pleasure.

    • I think it’s easiest this way, Christy. That way you don’t get caught up in whether certain foods are “allowed” or “forbidden” by whatever “plan” you happen to be following at the time. It’s just about variety and moderation, always and forever. Smart woman! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Love your style! Sadly, I fail miserably at diets – can we say – 1 hour and whatever the touted taboo food is – I have the world’s largest craving! So, instead of spending my hard earned dollars on fads, I put myself through nutrition school. No expert over here – but I think you summed it up right – whole foods, plant based diet. Eat locally and minimize in pesticides and other poisons when possible, drink clean water and ditch the non-foods! 80/20 also applies, otherwise I will be on a chocoholic binge to end all binges! I went on a anti-salt kick, but find now that I am sometimes adding or craving salt! No worries – I eat minimally prepared/processed food and at the end of the day – some salt is fine! I do still eat meat, although I try to have meat free days (if I totally abandoned meat, I think my partner would leave me!!!).
    One of the books we studied was by Haas – he had 10 principles – here is a link – http://nutritionallyyours.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/new-years-resolutions-bah/

    Love your post – great rant! Just what I needed as a mini procrastination from my report for work – time to get back at it!

    • We always seem to want whatever we can’t (or aren’t supposed to) have, hey? I could go for years and years without eating, say, oranges, but if a diet book ever told me I couldn’t eat oranges, that’s all I’d suddenly want to eat!

      It was a much better plan to go to school for nutrition rather than waste any money on fad diet books. My days of fad dieting are long over, and I don’t think that the main principles in The Beauty Detox Solution are faddish, but a degree/diploma/certificate is always worth more than a book will ever be.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting– I really appreciate it!

  7. i’m totally in line with what page 242 says ๐Ÿ™‚
    i do pay attention to instinct eating (what’s in season and what’s appealing and what’s in the pantry) and enjoying my food in general. though i mostly eat whole foods, this does not mean i don’t eat a candybar now and again. did i say chocolate is a major food group ๐Ÿ˜‰
    i think if things are out of balance gastronomically, yoga and chinese medicine practices may help a lot. oh, and sleep and fresh air are biggies, too. they are like foods, in a way.

    it also helps to gain perspective on current eating trends when i read older cookbooks (like diana kennedy’s about traditional mexican foods published in the 70s or even julia child). i think a bit of nourishment can be from the actual preparation and appreciation of the foods, not just the straight “nutrient facts, etc.” i’m finding myself drawn to learning about ethnic diets lately. not necessarily trying them, but it’s so interesting. (think: inuits and the raw meats consumed)

    ps. i love butter . always have. and so does my grandma (age 93) who attributes her lack of wrinkles to eating lots of butter throughout her lifetime.
    thanks for a thoughtful piece and that rainbow of fertility chart sounds crazy good.

    • Hey thanks! I read something a while ago (can’t remember where)– It was written by a “yogi in the kitchen” who talked about the extreme importance of enjoying both the process of food preparation and food consumption to the max. She said that no matter how ‘nutritionally sound’ a restaurant meal was, chances are that it would still be lacking because it most likely wasn’t prepared (or consumed) with love. (Most restaurants are obviously focused on the bottom line, and have you ever seen line chefs? Not exactly a relaxing occupation!) The thought has stuck with me since then– part of why I love being in the kitchen so much now is because I know that I am creating nourishing meals infused with positive energy.

      I like what you said about eating instinctively and in season. Part of what bogged me down with the BDS was the morning smoothies during the winter months. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but the last thing I feel like downing on a chilly morning is an even chillier smoothie! I’m glad I’m not the only person who likes to hunker down more when it’s cold outside… and I definitely agree that chocolate is its own food group. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Oh, I miss butter so much! My two favourite foods used to be chocolate and butter, followed closely by kale (of all random things). Since discovering my dairy allergy, I tried to reincorporate small amounts of butter after eliminating dairy 100%. To my extreme disappointment, even small amounts of butter throw my digestion into a colossal wreck now. It’s the saddest story of my whole life. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting– the next time I visit ye olde storage unit, I’m totally looking for one of my old fertility charts. The over-the-top detail in them is truly spectacular!

  8. I’m so in line with all of this – simplicity and real, whole foods are the way to go. And with an eased sense of guilting myself when I “stray from the path”. I’m doing the best I can at any given moment and to expect something different of myself is an invitation to suffering. Not cool. Or in any way healthful.

    Last night, I made an amazing dairy-free chocolate mousse that I then poured into an organic (but otherwise traditional) pie crust. I took it to work for a bake sale but I don’t think anyone’s been too interested (I work in a good ol’ fashioned manufacturing plant)… That bummed me out at first because I was so proud of it. But I had to laugh – if it doesn’t get purchased, I guess I can just bring it back home!

    • Hey Michelle! I have to apologize for being so lax checking out and commenting on your new blog… Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting here– gives me that virtual kick in the pants I so desperately need. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Too bad we don’t work in the same place– I would have totally bought your sweet concoction! This newfound food-related flexibility has already proven to come in handy. We were served some items as guests yesterday that I would normally have kept away from if left to my own devices, but guess what? I didn’t beat myself up over eating them and I came across as a polite guest, too. Win win win! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Just quit Weight WAtchers last week. It was too much money to not play the game. And after losing 13 pounds I had gained back 5 by not playing. It was such a relief to feel like I could eat anything I wanted again…but I also know I have to keep an eye on things. I will try to do that without anyone telling me how to do it for awhile. We’ll see.

    • Being told what to do (at least when it comes to eating right) can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes I embrace the idea of just following a plan and not having to worry about making choices on my own. (Yes, I can be lazy!) Most times, though, I grow tired of the restrictions and eventually rebel. I think sticking to my own thing will be better for me in the long run– I can work through my own trial and error process without feeling the intense urge to overthrow my oppressors! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Good luck finding your own path too, Dawn. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

  10. Good for you!! I read The China Study last year (got my husband reading it now), and the advice in that book along with Michael Pollan’s advice (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) have become my food rules of late. I’ve spent a good part of my life trying one fad or another, and I don’t believe any of them have led to good health or a healthy weight.

    Excellent rant, Dana. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Robin! I was actually inspired to start reading The China Study after hearing about it from you. Simple is so much better when it comes to food, is it not?

  11. Gosh…where to begin?

    1. I though I was the only color-coding obsessive fertility chart making crazy person in the world. That we have this in common is borderline creepy. Who am I kidding? It’s completely crossed the line.

    2. I joined your blogging journey mid-way through you beauty detox quest. Your post about you saur kraut making exploits was one of my all time favorite.

    3. I was going to quote Michael Pollan, but Robin beat me to it.

    • Are you my sister from another mother? I thought I was the only OCD-colour-coding-fertility person on this planet. [cue Twilight Zone music] Can you believe I’ve never read that Michael Pollan book yet? I really enjoyed his Omnivore’s Dilemma and am currently reading A Place of My Own… looks like I need to catch up on the Pollan staples.

  12. Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking
    back frequently!

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