Paleo huh?!?

I had a rather unexpected conversation last night.  By all rights it should not have been unexpected and I should have been prepared with a response, but I was not.  The conversation was the first (of many, no doubt) where someone asked what I thought of the Paleo Diet.  I was caught off-guard and so concerned with not offending or insulting her, that I did not give a very clear or concise answer.  I did a disservice to both of us, and I plan to correct this today.

In order to clearly explain my nutrition coaching philosophy, I will breakdown each of the three elements: variation and moderation, mindful eating, and “seed to table”.

The first, most important aspect of my nutrition coaching philosophy is that I do not support ANY fad diet.  The American Dietetics Association defines “food fads” as:

“unreasonable or exaggerated beliefs that eating (or not eating) specific foods, nutrient supplements or combinations of certain foods may cure disease, convey special health benefits or offer quick weight loss.” Press Release 1/17/2007

What I do support is a varied and moderate diet.  There is significant scientific research to back up the claim that a varied and moderate diet is the key to good health.  I cannot, in good conscience, support an individual in following a diet plan that I know is unhealthy and not possible to be sustained over a lifetime.  I also have a personal bias against fad diets because I have witnessed, firsthand, the unhealthy nutritional habits that become ingrained

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in adherents.

Secondly, I support mindful eating.  Through the process of mindful eating, the individual learns to listen to and interpret the ques of their body.  By being present in the process of eating, individuals are able to consume what their body needs and no more.  This technique allows individuals to determine for themselves what makes their body feel and function the best, as well as curb over and under-eating.

And lastly, I support connecting as fully as possible to the source of whole, healthy foods.  My approach is one of “from seed to table.”  I work to inspire people, even those with

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incredibly limited space, to grow their own food.  I also support people in learning how to preserve their own food and to prepare meals from scratch.  In this vein, it is my mission to help individuals understand that it is much more cost-effective to buy and grow individual ingredients to prepare food, rather than to buy processed and packaged foods.

My response to the question, “Do you do the Paleo Diet?” should have been:

No.  I work with individuals who are working toward a nutritional lifestyle that consists of a varied and moderate diet.  My clients strive to be more mindful in their eating habits and are learning to connect more fully to a wide spectrum of nutritious foods.

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One Rule: Variation and Moderation

I do believe in snacking, but you can’t argue with the simplicity of this!
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How many diets are out there?  I have no idea, and I really have no way to know, but there are A LOT.  I have followed three: the Atkin’s diet, the Candida Cleanse, and Eat Right 4 Your Type.  This fad diet portion of my life began when I was 13 years old.  Yikes.  I eventually stopped following fad diets and became a vegetarian.  I remained a vegetarian for 10 years and only began eating meat again when I was pregnant and tempted by orange chicken.  Muy Delicioso.

At this point in my life, I do not label the way I choose to eat as a specific “diet,” but  I do have one rule for eating: variation and moderation.  Believe it or not, the first time I was introduced to this simple and logical idea was in my first nutrition class in college.  Our professor would repeat this mantra nearly every class, and it has stuck with me for all of these years.  Specific medical considerations aside, the only “diet” I support is variation and moderation.

It has been my experience, and science will support me in this, that fad diets do not result in long-term results.  They are (mostly) designed to help people lose weight rapidly and spend little, if any, time addressing complete nutrition.  I know that many of us need to lose weight to be healthier, but simply being thin does not mean you are healthy.  I have been thin at the detriment to my health, and I have no desire to ever experience that again.  I want to feel great every day and enjoy all the food that I eat.  Fad diets place too many rules on how to eat and contribute to people ascribing value judgements to the food that they eat.  This is not healthy.  True, a bag of chips and a soda are “bad” for you, but enjoying these unhealthy snacks infrequently will not completely undo the positive benefits of a daily diet of varied, whole, healthy foods.

In sum, I believe that eating should be joyful and free of value judgements.  Food should make you feel healthy, energized, and even inspired.  We don’t need diet plans to tell us what and when to eat it: we may just need to learn how to listen to our bodies.  Let’s all be happy and healthy, not malnourished and hungry.

Do you have any nutritional rules that you follow?  Have they been helpful or harmful?