If we’re going to be friends, there is something you should know: you must never, under any circumstances, give me a diet/nutrition book. Even if I ask you for it. First of all, I’ve probably read it. I’ve read them all. Or if I haven’t read it, I’ve read something very similar to it because truly there are only so many ways to adulterate your food. Second, I’ll do bad things with it. Case in point: This weekend.
Over the space of two days I burned through Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, The Eat Clean Diet: Fat Loss that Lasts Forever by Tosca Reno and Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel. All good books. Three accredited, smart and talented writers. One big pile of confusion.
My problem lies in that I believe everything. Now before you hucksters out there get all rabid, my gullibility only extends so far as nutrition. I know I have no unclaimed funds in government accounts, nor do I believe Microsoft will give me a million dollars for forwarding an e-mail and I absolutely will not help you get 15 trillion dollars out of Nigeria. Even if that would solve our current financial crisis. A college friend once summed it up thusly, “Charlotte, you are one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. But you have no common sense. Like, zero.” Lest you question his assessment, he was saying this to me mere minutes after I had been knocked nearly senseless by the guard arm coming down across a parking lot exit. Which I didn’t see because I was crossing the street and reading at the same time.
This is what you are dealing with when you give me a book on nutrition.
Let us start with Real Food. The gist of this book is similar to the Primal Blueprint in that it maintains that historical peoples were healthier than we are and therefore we should eat like they did. Rather than eat like cave(wo)men, however, Nina Planck encourages us to eat like mid-19th century farmers. Raw dairy, lard, fresh eggs, meat, garden veggies – the whole works. Saturated and animal fats are encouraged, carbs are minimized, and spring grass-fed dairy is the Holy Grail. The only thing missing is Willa Cather and a freckled heroine in plaits running the basket to your door. And if you eat this way, she promises health, long life and a low BMI. I was immediately 100% converted. My plans of dietary Nirvana were thwarted, though, when I found out it is illegal to buy raw milk in Minnesota. And you can only get fresh, local veggies here 6 months out of the year. And the city will not allow me to raise a cow nor chickens in my backyard. Neither will my husband.
Next up was The Eat Clean Diet which was kindly loaned to me my Reader Gretchen who is hereby absolved of all ensuing insanity on my part. In this book (really more like a magazine – all shiny pictures, lots of collumn padding and random!! puncuation), Tosca Reno, a 50-something woman with the body of a 30-something, explains the principles of clean eating according the Gospel of Bodybuilding. Already indoctrinated in this school of thought thanks to Tom Venuto, Bill Phillips, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others, it almost felt like coming home. This was the first diet I truly embraced. The keys here are to eat 6 small meals a day with each meal containing a complex carbohydrate, a lean protein (the boneless skinless chicken breast is the official Bodybuilder mascot), and a green veggie. Sugar is the white satan, saturated fat is verboten and donuts, ice cream and soda pop are the great evils of our time. Reading Reno’s book made me remember everything I loved about this diet the first time around (the literal written guarantee of a picture-perfect body! the promise of never being hungry! the simplicity!) and then all the things that made it fail for me (I hate eating meat! And giving up sugar for the rest of my life is impossible!).
Lastly, in a fit of anxiety, came Thin is the New Happy. Every health, fitness and body image website in the blogosphere has been singing Frankel’s praises so when I got one child-free hour, I raced to Barnes and Noble and sucked it down. Along with touching my tongue to my nose, speed reading seems to be one of the few God-given talents I have and so I am ashamed to say that this type of B&N binge is a semi-regular occurence for me. I do apologize to both B&N (I know you’re not a library!) and to the authors whose books I do not buy (It’s just that I’m so very poor!). Anyhow, guilt revelling aside, it was a very good read. In it, Valerie Frankel describes how over the course of her life she has tried every diet in creation – sound familiar? – and finally found health and happiness through “the anti diet.” Which means that she gave up all of her food rules and just… ate. And she dropped 10 pounds without even trying.
So here is what I took away: Real Food says to eat your animals – fat, bone marrow, organs, cream, lard and all. Clean Eating says to only eat the protein-rich muscles and ova of your animals but to leave behind the fatty bits. Real Food says raw dairy is the answer to all your ills. Clean Eating says that dairy, especially whole fat dairy, will clog your arteries, cloud your mind and make you bloat. Real Food says to avoid grains, mostly. Clean Eating says to eat complex carbs in the forms of grain or tubers at every meal. Real Food says to eat two entire eggs fried in grass-fed butter for breakfast. Clean Eating says egg yolks will kill you and you should eat six egg whites fried in a non-stick pan for breakast. And Frankel’s book trumps them all by saying you just shouldn’t diet at all. Really the only thing these books agree on is that you should eat breakfast. And vegetables are good.
My orthorexic mind, exhuasted from an entire weekend of paradigm-shifting, says to heck with it all I’m only eating vegetables, thereby demonstrating again my utter lack of common sense.
Let me set the record straight: I think that Planck, Reno and Frankel are talented, healthy, beautiful women. I think that they have each, in turn, discovered what kind of eating works best for their body. And I think that it is from a place of magnanimity they share their knowledge with the rest of us. I just don’t know that their solution is my solution. I wish I had the resources to try Planck’s retro-diet. I wish I had the self-control to try Reno’s clean diet again. And, most of all, I wish I had the guts to try Frankel’s anti-diet. I do, after all, have 10 pounds to lose.
Unfortunately I also have a tenuous hold on my sanity. Which is why for now I’m taking a pass on the diet books. Thank you.
So now tell me, have you discovered The Way To Eat that works best for you? How did you discover it? How long has it been working for you? Anyone else as lost and confused as I am?
PS> I have just been informed that one of our very own – Reader Daria – won the MBT shoe giveaway that I featured on my site! Yay Daria!!!