Eat Food!

I read an opinion piece today that I found kind of intriguing. It cited some recent research that shows that in all our efforts to break foods down and rebuild “healthier” alternatives, we’ve really only succeeded in creating new food ‘evils’ that have furthered our collective nutritional downfall. Hmm, ok…tell me more!

Sharing! Here’s a link to the full text of the article so you can read more, “The entire approach to food based on nutrients is wrong.” It’s not long…go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’m intrigued by this for a few reasons:

I “learned to eat” based on nutrients … that is, once upon a time I didn’t know how to create a balanced plate with proper portions of proteins, carbs, and fats. I ate –whatever-, and I was (let’s be real here), extremely obese. That was when I ate generally very high in carbohydrates (and processed, simple ones at that).  When I decided it was time to make a change, I went to the other extreme and shifted to the high protein/high fat and next to zero carbohydrates approach.  Aaaaaaand then eventually, I settled into a very regimented routine of trying to track and count everything very carefully, down to each gram of each nutrient every minute of every day!  Healthy, huh? One could argue that one way is ‘better’ than another, and don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot about nutrition along the way and, these shifts eventually did lead to a healthier lifestyle. But in the end, for me, all of these led to a very large disconnect in one way or another (leaving out food groups entirely, social isolation, mind-body disconnect, you name it…it was there).

I’m “re-learning to eat” based on food

Mmm...hello potato!

and I would say (and I think a few people that know me would agree) that I’m healthier and happier than ever. That is, after years of going from one extreme to another to another, I’ve finally recognized that ‘food’ makes me feel good. Whole foods, real foods, non-processed foods that *generally* naturally exist without being chemically altered in some way; I still eat processed things – for instance, I’m sure I keep Splenda in business and I happen to like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, whatever chemistry experiment gone wrong that is! But, I’ve found the meticulous counting, while once helpful, pulls me away from the joy of food, and learning to trust the cues the body gives me is helping to rebuild the mind-body connection that got lost in the intricacies of the nutrients alone.  Besides, “A potato is a potato” feels good to say (and eat)!

As an aside: I think it’s interesting that my own personal food evolution roughly coincides with that of our society in general (at least, according to the timeline presented in the article).

ANYWAY – getting back to it. As a way of life, as a lifestyle (note: not as an approach to weight loss, that’s entirely different) I both agree and disagree with this author (there’s a shocker, I’m always a fence rider), and here’s why. Agree – I think a back to basics Eat Food! approach is exactly what we might need. The article reads,

“A food-based approach to eating is not only healthier but also easier. Instead of worrying about things you can’t see, smell or taste; it asks you to pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. It supports an eating plan of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and unfettered meats over processed foods, packaged meats, and sugar-laden beverages; and favors home-cooked food over store-brought or restaurant meals.”

Doesn’t that just SOUND nice and FEEL right? Easy, uncomplicated, makes sense, no food guilt…I’m in!  BUT – here’s where I also disagree:  There are some good things that have come out of the nutrient based system that I don’t think we should abandon altogether. I’m not going to suddenly start slathering butter onto my potato, I’ll stick with the ICBINB spray (thanks, Fabio!).  And I think I’ll continue to try to ensure that at least the 3 macro nutrients are present in each of my meals (no all pasta, all the time diets for me). I don’t think I could have gotten the Eat Food! concept without having gone through my own personal food evolution. I had a lot to learn about food, even natural whole foods, and in my observations and in my experience – I don’t think I’m alone in that. You’d think on a basic, animal level we’d ‘get’ this rather easily, but there are a lot of “things” blocking or strongly influencing the development of that skill these days.

Final thoughts – We abandoned this concept some 30 years ago, and it may take another 30 years for it to come back and fully trickle through our belief (and action) system again. Until that time as a full generation or two has internalized this, I think there is still a lot of value in a nutrient based system.

Now it’s your turn…so many questions! Are you aware of how you eat? Are you nutrient or food based? Does it work for you? What do you think about this argument in general? Discuss! There are lots of ways to join in – subscribe, leave me a comment below, tweet, or ‘Like” Bloom on Facebook and join me there.



    • Nancy on August 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    • Reply

    Great read Cathy. I guess at this point in my life I have come to the point of trying to find balance. I can’t live my life happily if I am focused on every macro/micro I am consuming. Yet I need to keep aware of what and how much I am eating. I have most definitely notice that I FEEL much better when I consume primarily whole un-processed foods. If drink plenty of water, stay away from hfcs, limit my carbs and keep the white foods to a minimum I and my body are much happier for it. Awareness and balance.

  1. Hi Nancy…
    I think you’re hitting it right on the money…for healthy *living* (not dieting), we can’t be too nutrient focused without losing something in the process..staying dialed into and in tune with the body and how it FEELS with whole, unprocessed natural foods…now that just sounds good right? I just think it takes some practice, since many folks have been so focused on the component parts for so long…but then again going totally away from the nutrient based approach and not watching things like HFCS, etc…doesn’t make total sense either. Practice, practice…we’ll all figure it out.

    Thank you for posting!

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