How I Eat (Part 2): Diet Dogma

Posted by joe rignola on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 Under: Health
About three years ago (Dec. 2010) I posted a blog on my old website, Eat Think Wellness, describing how I generally ate, and why. Three years in internet time is a LONG ass time. Back then I think I had maybe 5 or 6 followers-- one, if you don’t count my family. Alright, zero if you don’t count my wife. It was a lonely time for me in the health blogging world.

Things sure have changed since then but one thing definitely hasn’t: Diet Dogma.

Back in 2010 I encouraged folks not to become too attached to a label or a diet. Instead, I urged, listen to your body and give it what it needs. Furthermore, be open to change and recognize when your current way of eating needs to be updated, tweaked or completely ditched. We’re not static beings and what works for you today, may not work as well for you next year or next week.

The underlying message of course, is that food should not be like religion. Food is something that should be enjoyed and shared. It should be a source of nourishment and happiness, not a source of sickness and anxiety.

To that end, I “admitted” that my eating habits back then were based on the paleo template. I also, however, admitted that I indulged in some gluten-free treats, plenty of dairy and that I didn’t fear sugar. I even went way out on a limb and said there could be very real benefits to loosening the reigns and enjoying some sugar and carbohydrates.

So here we are, three years later and there seems to be a “new” movement coming around. It’s called, the Not Being Dogmatic About Food Diet, or the Eat Food movement. OK, it might not have an official label yet but more and more people are demanding that by following any one diet, you are practicing dietary dogma.

Well, so far so good. I like the concept. We all know that with any dietary philosophy, (or religion for that matter) follows a group of outliers that become fundamentalists. These are people who alienate themselves from the masses and shun any thought of individuality, nuance and flexibility. We’ve seen it in the vegan movement and we’ve certainly seen this in the Paleosphere-- but it’s nothing new.

Well folks, as irony would have it, there seems to be the subtle beginnings of the Non-Dogma Fundamentalists. You guessed it, these are outliers that are getting really dogmatic and not being dogmatic. I know, I know... let that sink in for a second.

Like I said, it’s subtle but you’ll recognize it when you see it. There’s no nuance, no room for individuality. Everyone should be able to eat whatever food they want regardless of the potential issues with that food. If you do have a problem eating a particular food, like dairy or gluten, then it’s not the food-- it’s you! It’s your metabolism or your digestion or you clearly have an eating disorder. You obviously just need to eat more pizza and Haagen Dazs. Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza and ice cream and if you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know I’m not afraid to enjoy those things. Sure, it just happens to be gluten-free pizza and raw, grass-fed ice cream. What can I say, I guess I have an eating disorder. That may not, however, be the answer for everyone. Not everyone, can indulge in “junk food” ad libitum. I’m also not going to judge someone because they choose not to eat those things.

Once again, people are getting caught up in a way of eating that they strongly identify with and that serves to separate them from other people. “I eat this way and if you don’t, you’re wrong.” It’s just another form of religion.

To be truly non-dogmatic you must completely non-judgmental. You must be open to the fact that there are ways people choose to eat that make them feel good. You must also recognize that certain ways of eating can be therapeutic. A vegan diet can be beneficial to the right person, under the right circumstances for a period of time. That goes for a ketogenic diet, strict paleo, GAPS and yes, even an Eat Anything diet.

Finally, you must detach from your way of eating. I don’t say, I AM Paleo, I say, I generally eat “paleo” foods.

Oops... Guess I let the cat out of the bag there. Yes, the way I eat has not changed tremendously in the past three years although I’ve adjusted ratios here and there, tried different foods and just continued to listen to my body. I went through phases where I tightened things up and when I loosened up big time. I went high carb, I went lower carb. I even ate some “junk food” when I thought my body needed some cheap calories.

Where things have changed more is that I make a greater effort to source local and ethically raised animals and I eat more organ meats. In fact, I have some turkey hearts in the slow cooker as I type this. They smell amazing by the way. Where things haven’t changed is that my basic diet is still generally “paleo” foods. Sure, maybe it’s more like 75/25 paleo where three years ago I was more 80/20. In other words, I eat paleo food about 75% of the time, the rest I fill in with other foods that I love and don’t hurt me. That still means no gluten for me. Do I think there’s something wrong with me because I don’t do well with gluten? Hell no. I think there’s something wrong with YOU if you can. You can digest gluten? That’s fucking weird. No, I’m kidding. You’re not weird. Probably.

Anyway, that’s what works for me at the moment. I want to hear from you. What is working for you at the moment? Do you ever feel like you are too attached to a way of eating?

For more on Diet Dogma, check out our Podcast at A Tribe Called Health. Our episode where we talk about Diet Dogma with Sean Flanagan will be posted soon.

For those of you who haven’t been following me for three year (in other words, all of you) here’s that old blog post.

What Type of Diet do I Follow and How Did I get here?

This is a loaded question. First I’ll say that I don’t necessarily follow one specific diet plan. My diet has evolved from years of tweaking and learning and paying attention to what my body was really asking for.

A couple of years ago I tried being a vegetarian because I thought that's what I needed at the time. I was taught and I believed it was healthier. It’s also the way to enlightenment, don’t you know? I also had some health issues that ranged from diverticulitis and kidney stones to ADD and depression. I was also about 40 pounds heavier. Some of these symptoms did actually improve… for a while. Thinking back of course I realize that it wasn’t because of the vegetarian diet, but because I was eating less processed food and more whole foods. It had nothing at all to do with the fact that I was not eating meat. In fact, that led to a cascade of other health issues. I didn’t pay much attention to what my body was telling me then. I just followed what I thought was the best diet on the planet. When I felt bloated, I dismissed it. When I felt fatigued I tried to ignore it. When I couldn’t sleep I convinced myself that it couldn’t have anything to do with my dogmatic view of food. Depression, joint pain, gut inflammation, IBS…. I tightened the blinders around my head and soaked my lentils. The truth is, I generally felt pretty crappy.
When I could no longer ignore what my body was telling me, I began to listen. I started to slowly dwindle down on the grain/legume deal and adding in more animal protein. The less grains and legumes I ate and the more animal protein, saturated fat and cholesterol I ate, the healthier I felt and became. I still do some dairy like raw milk, yogurt and cheese and sometimes I enjoy some gluten free pancakes and other bread type treats. Like I said, I learned to listen to my body and sometimes my body says: “have a grilled cheese sandwich… on gluten-free bread.” (My body will never tell me I need gluten). I'm not even afraid of sugar anymore. I've realized that when you cut out processed food you can definitely add some sugar back into your diet. In fact, you will realize some real health benefits by doing so.
Now if you held a gun to my head and made me label my eating habits I guess would say it's sort of a Paleo-ish type of plan in that I eat almost no grains or legumes. But as I said, I can't ignore the health benefits of the correct type of dairy products and I probably eat more fruit than the typical Paleo follower. Also, I think a lot of people assume Paleo means low carb.  My diet isn't necessary low carb at all. I do eat a fair amount of veggies and along with my good clean, pasture-raised animal sources. That's the fuel mixture that works best for me at the moment. Figuring out that ratio is a process to say the least and it's ever changing. Like I always say, listen to what your body is telling you and give it what it needs. Those signals will likely change a couple of times throughout the year.
Personally, I think creating a label for your dietary habits can be a slippery slope. It seams like some people become really attached to a certain way of eating. They sort of fall in love with the idea of being “vegan” or “paleo.” Lately I feel like I’m seeing a lot of vegans coming out of their proverbial carnivorous closet. Imagine identifying so strongly with a diet that you’ve had to hide the fact that, for the past several months, you’ve been eating some salmon.
Whatever you want to call it, I know that I’m healthier than I’ve ever been on my current eating plan and I don’t plan on making any radical changes anytime soon. However, I won’t lose the ability to truly listen to what my body is asking me for and tinker with things as needed. After all, there are a few things that I’ve learned about myself. One: I need to eat things that had a face, Two:  too many grains and legumes eff me up, and Three, I really like bacon. I’m not sure why that’s important here but I just thought I’d mention it.
As a Holistic Health Coach the best service I can offer is to help people understand how different foods affect their personal physiology, teach them to make better choices in the super market and help support them on this crazy journey. Most importantly, try not to make things too confusing.
I guess the best label for my diet is simply… “The Joe Diet.” And yours should be the Jim Diet or the Helen Diet or the Sam Diet or The… you get the idea. Your health is in your hands. Don’t leave it up to Dr. Oz or your Facebook friends to decide what’s best for you. Do the research; learn what actually happens in your body when you eat certain foods, find out what kind of foods your grandparents and great grandparents ate and be open to feeding your body what it needs. Most of all, sit down, shut up, close your eyes and breath. Your body is trying to tell you something. Start listening.

In : Health 

Tags: diet dogma  paleo  just eat real food 


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About Me

Joe Rignola, HHC, FDN Joe Rignola is an author, Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist and Health Counselor. More importantly, I hate talking in the 3rd person. I'm really just a guy who took control of my own health and overcame several ailments including metabolic disorders, digestive issues, depression and ADD. Actually, my recovery from ADD however is questionable.