I'm Diet confused
It's hard to approach this post concisely and give it structure since it's about my confusion regarding diet... Also, I'm neither a nutritionist nor a scientist, this is just a summary of the (often contradictory) information overload I've received over the years as I've hopped about this earth trying to ensure a long & healthy life, and this is a hot topic for me right now as I am trying to lose weight. So by the end of reading it, if I have left you as confused as I am about what consists a healthy diet, I do apologise.
I have lived in 6 different countries so far, each of which have different diets and cultural attitudes towards food - and by diet I mean nutritional choices as well as weight loss beliefs - I was my healthiest in Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland is where I grew-up, I had some weight issues in puberty but regardless, by my late teens my weight was considered normal per the BMI chart; I was active, snowboarding every day in the winter, swimming 2km a day and eating more or less healthily in my opinion with the knowledge I had at 20yrs old: a lot of fruit & vegetable, pasta/rice/bread/meats/dairy all in moderation. I did not know or care about the negative effects of sugar & grains, the need for Omega-3s or that Kale existed! Italy, is my second healthiest place of residence, I was also more active in Italy than other countries, I cycled everywhere, went to the gym a couple times a week, played tennis once a week, but the key thing nutritionally is I shopped mainly at the weekly street markets, thus eating seasonally & locally. I did not spend my time in Italy freaking out about food, limiting my diet to only certain types of food and did not think about my daily intake of nutrients in the form of calories or as a division of carbs/protein/fat. In Italy you do eat high fat because of the cheese, you don't eat loads of red meat, you do eat wheat based carbs, and you do eat loads of fruit & vegetable. I think another plus about Italy was the positive attitude everyone has towards food, there is pride of local produce and a love of sharing food with friends & family. I identified with Italian nutritional choices & cultural attitude towards food.
In continuation of the above paragraph on cultural habits & attitudes towards food, I think we should take into consideration ethnic backgrounds and body types (think Ayurveda doshas & blood type diets) when establishing a healthy nutrition for an individual. I don't think we can all on this great earth eat the same diets, we have not all evolved eating the same foods based on our geolocations and as a result, even at the incubation stage, when we being nourished by our mother's amniotic food, we eat differently. You cannot get a Japanese person to eat exactly like a French person, they would probably get ill - when I went to Japan with friends from Europe for one of our friend's weddings, by the end of the first week of eating Japanese food, we were all super constipated (TMI I know, but I am trying to make a point). Does it make sense to use coconut oil vs olive oil when you live in the mediterranean? Should you eat Alaskan Black Cod in South Africa?
One huge diet trend at the moment is the Paleo diet which supersedes other fad diets such as Atkins or South Beach Diet (all created in the US mind you) - eat like your pre-agriculture ancestors did. Paleo's supporters state that 80% of your diet should be comprised of fats of which some are saturated; according to the author of "Eat Bacon, Don't Jog", you should not eat fruit and not vegetables that grow below ground (they're high in sugar), "just meats & leafy things". The other premise of the diet is the need for short high intensity workouts, some say maybe just 15mins a week does the trick, bye bye hour long cardio sessions. This goes against everything we've ever been told but people who follow it swear by it, lose weight on it and state their cholesterol levels are normal. I am completely skeptical about it mainly because I am not a huge meat eater and it goes against everything I've ever been told about nutritional health but hey, Paleo'ers are thin with low cholesterol and I'm not! The podcast Chewing The Fat approaches that skepticism and they do a good job of playing devil's advocate even though they are pro Paleo. I think it works for a lot of Americans who eat a lot of processed foods, loads of hidden (and not so hidden sugars), GMO's as well as huge portion sizes and so on, but for us in Europe, hidden sugars is not as much of an issue, for starters, our cows eat grass so our dairy & beef is lower in sugar than in the US, we also eat less processed foods and small portion sizes.
So we've established the cause of my confusion - how to lose weight? High fat diet? Low fat diet? Should I abandon cardio for free weights? With that in mind, I decided to go see an endocrinologist to get blood tests and to understand if I have any metabolic issues as I have had in the past. Nope, all my levels are great EXCEPT for cholesterol which is just over the limit. After a horrendous meeting with a dinosaur of an endocrinologist a couple weeks back, I decided I wouldn't see him again and started researching endocrinologists & nutritionists in Barcelona. I came upon a clinic called Alimmenta, who specialise in nutrition, not just in dieting but in sport nutrition too, they have a psychologist & an endocrinologist on the team, they have published a couple books as well - all in all, Alimmenta seemed like a trustworthy option for me & my goals. I made an appointment with nutritionist Júlia Farré, who was really nice and up to speed with diet trends but not in agreement with Paleo at all ("Paleolithics were not renowned for being very smart or evolved" she said), with strong opinions on each one. Júlia's diet for me is an all in moderation diet, 1870Cal a day, very Mediterranean (lean meats/white or blue fish/non-animal options such as tofu, seitan, low fat dairy, loads of veg, small portions of grains & fruit) and the importance of eating every 3hr hours and exercising at least 30min every day. So this is what I'm going with and so far, I feel good, I have more energy, I'm losing weight, I'm eating seasonally & locally like I did in Italy so hopefully it will work and I'm also adding my touch of nutrition for healing by eating gluten free, eating avocados & eggs, adding ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, nut, etc. I definitely need to work out more, I really do enjoy circuit training as it's not boring but all in all, I'm happy for now.
So, are you confused? Tell me your story.