Choosing a diet is like choosing a religion. You have to commit. Now, before you commit, you can do some shopping around. Heck, you can even be fully involved for years, but at some point, you’re going to have to pick, or just be a-religious (and eat whatever you want, whenever you want, reap the consequences and maybe die earlier because of them).
Around Lenten time, I committed to Locavorism–and it was AWESOME. Now, for the past 4 weeks (two more to go!) I’ve been Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “nutritarian” AKA a vegan that actually eat vegetables. In between these diets, I was mostly just eating whatever I want, whenever I want. Loved my Bulletproof coffee in the morning, and aspiring to be Paleo-ish…
Keep in mind, this outline is coming from a bachelorette with a decent income in a diverse city. I have no idea what this would look like in the Midwest, or the South, with a family, on a smaller income (all the food would probably be a lot cheaper, but again, I do not know). This guide is for the wise-ish, single-ish, hungry 20-30-40-something who really wants to commit to healthy living, and especially helping to make the world a better place with food.
Also, all these “diets” basically let you eat as much as you want. Just don’t let this happen to you.
1. My Beef with Vegans and Vegetarians.
I believe vegan or vegetarian is actually not a bad way to go. If you don’t know the difference, vegetarians may eat animal products (milk, cheese, eggs) and vegans do not. Either way you go the fact remains that Americans eat way too much meat. That meat is pretty bad low-quality meat, that wants to kill you. So stop eating it. Bad meat is bad for everyone, and is probably served at 99% of restaurants in the US. So, just don’t eat it. Even the Bulletproof Exec (who loves meat), says not to eat it if you can’t find the good stuff.
My problem is that vegans and vegetarians don’t eat enough vegetables. They can eat bread, pretty much anything processed, and let’s not forget all those vegan and vegetarian processed meats, cheeses, flavorings, etc etc etc. Vegan might even be slightly better than vegetarian because it forces you to become real creative real quick. You figure out how to make healthy hardy baked good with no butter or eggs. But again–it’s the flour and sugar that is killing the vegans and vegetarians! So, if you are a vegan/vegetarian cut the processed stuff, most grains, and all sugar, and you come closer to what is a nutritarian. Be a good vegan like super athlete Rich Roll.
2. The narrow path of the Nutritarian.
Everyone should probably read Eat to Live by Dr. Fuhrman before attempting vegan, vegetarian, or nutritarian.
Take vegan, cut out all processed food (oils, breads, grains, sugars, salt, anything processed, i.e. was manufactured and packaged, and is far from it’s original form), and you have the Nutritarian. Don’t worry about organic, local, blah blah, just eat more vegetables!
Eat at least 2 pounds of veggies, 4 fruits, 1 cup of beans, and 1/4 nuts or seeds, per day, 90% of the time. I’ve been doing this diet for about 4 weeks, and it’s pretty awesome. Honestly, not bad at all. The first couple weeks are laden with flatulence, bloatiness, and a bit of constipation. But it’s been smooth sailing from there. I’ve lost a couple pounds, I feel energetic, I sleep well. I’m getting plenty of protein (40-50g/day). I don’t exercise (except for walking 5 miles/day), and I don’t know how this would work if I was exercising. I would have to eat a ton more, and my wallet is already hurting.
Speaking of my wallet, while on this diet, Costco is where most of my produce comes from. (I can hear the scoffing.) The only problem I’ve encountered from buying lower quality produce at cheaper prices, is that while your taste buds adapt to sensing all the flavors, you can actually tell the difference between a low quality and high quality fruit of vegetable, and you don’t want to eat cheap vegetables that taste bad! Hence, why I will be hitting up the farmer’s market today, posing as a Locavore.
3. Fall in love with a Locavore.
Of all these crazy cult-like religious food eating habits, I love this one. Barring the lack of coffee and olives at this latitude, IMHO Locavorism is the most badass. Committing to be a locavore takes more than just a trip to the grocery store, it takes farmer’s markets, CSAs, calling around, nagging farmers, wineries, breweries, actually getting to know your country and community. The food is all so good–meats, seafood, cheeses, veggies, breads, honey, eggs… Being a locavore feels so natural and community oriented. It gives back more than you can consume.
There are many varieties of locavore, obviously. Some are more vehement than others (just like in the Catholic church), but just trying it, learning about where the food comes from, who grows it, who raises it, who cooks it, and supporting the people where you live, feels and tastes so good.
Now we’re getting closer to the cult-like religious eaters: Paleo and Bulletproof.
4. Paleo = Nutritarian minus Beans plus Meat plus Exercising in the Forest
I haven’t really done the Paleo thing in the most formal sense, but my understanding of it is the formula above except you can eat all the nuts and seeds that you want, some dairy is ok, and olive oil is ok. I know that the Crossfit people are into it, and they occasionally take days off diet. Sounds good to me. I respect the Paleo’s rejection of grains and processed sugars, and their commitment to raw stuff, fruits, veggies, nuts, and meat. I like that they eat bacon, maple syrup, and bacon covered in maple syrup with cashew ice cream. They have some of the best healthy baked and raw goods around. When was the last time you ate a date? Too long! Paleo’s eat them everyday.
Which reminds me–Raw foodies.
I take back that Locavores are most badass, raw foodies are insane. It is what it sounds like: they eat only raw food. Again, there are varying levels of intensity, but generally, all their food is never cooked, occasionally frozen (if you freeze it yourself), and occasionally dehydrated (dried fruits and veggies). Raw foodies are dependent on freezers, food processors, Vita-Mix, and their dehydrator. While I have made a lot of raw food goodies, I don’t think I could ever go raw, unless oysters and sushi and steak tartare are allowed. Power to you.
5. Bulletproof AKA Upgraded Paleo
If you haven’t heard of the Bulletproof Exec, I suggest you go check him out now. Here is what he recommends: 50-60% healthy fats (grass-fed butter/raw dairy, MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil), 20% protein (grass-fed meat, mostly beef and lamb), and veggies from everything else. This is basically the Inuit Diet–people living in cold-ish, mountainous terrain, desperate for calories, lots of fats (raw seal liver anyone?).
When I was doing my Locavore thing in the dead of winter, I was kind of like Bulletproof lite. I took my Bulletproof Coffee loaded with direct trade beans, local grass-fed butter and coconut oil in the morning and it kept me full and energized well into the afternoon. Ate a small-ish lunch: salad, roasted veggies, sweet potatoes, loaded with butter, oil, and amazing local cheese. Dinner was either the same as lunch, plus some local grass fed meat (or eggs), and Bulletproof fatty delicious Ice Cream. I veered occasionally with local breads, grains, less than grass fed cheeses and dairy, and locavore treats (Apple Cider Donuts and alcohol). But I did eat a lot of fat with my bulletproof coffee and ice cream. On my strictly Bulletproof days I felt good, and I was full, and I didn’t crave.
What worries me about this diet, honestly, is that it’s not really been done before (except in very isolated and specific regions). You can argue with me on that point. Except for science experimenting with the ketogenic diet (for people with epilepsy and other brain issues), I don’t believe there is a people who actually eat this way, all the time, because historically that much fat isn’t readily available for people to consume everyday for their entire lives. Yes, for the middle class person in western culture, living in the 21st century, you can make this diet happen. But there are very few who have this diet, their entire lives. Again, correct me if I’m wrong. I need to learn more human history and biology.
So, we’re living in a time where we can make the Bulletproof Diet happen, but we don’t really know what the long term effects will be, because it hasn’t been done before. But experimenting is okay! You’re experimenting every time you eat at Wendy’s, might as well experiment instead eating high quality butter all the time. Right? Not a bad trade.
[Note: Local grass fed butter is nearly impossible to find. Thank you dairy lobbyists… (Booooo hisssss).]
So, even with my skepticism, I would definitely recommend this diet, or at least incorporating grass-fed meat, wild fish, Bulletproof coffee, and ice cream, and see how you feel (probably kind of horny, because that’s what fat does…)
So what do you choose?
Any of these diets are better than the SAD (Standard American Diet). Commit. Learn. See how you feel. Commit some more. They all remind you that eating fruits and vegetables are important. They all emphasize how Americans eat too much processed food and meat, and high quality is important to the nutritional value as well as the environment. They all, to some extent, encourage organic, raw, and local living.
- If you have to eat meat and dairy, get the best meat and dairy (Nutritarian, Paleo, Bulletproof, Locavore).
- If you hate meat and dairy, you are saving the environment by not eating it (Nutritarian, Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw), but you might still be killing it if you have a grain and sugar addiction (Vegan, Vegetarian).
- If you love fat, choose the best fat (Bulletproof, Paleo).
- Just don’t let this happen to you: The Tragedy of the Healthy Eater.
Now go be a good human in the way that you eat.
Choosing your diet is like choosing your religion. Most religions seek good. Same with these diets. If every American actually followed one of these diet plans, committed, believed, but without forcing it on anyone, our country, and probably the world, would be a better place.