Parsing the diet trend of the moment
March 14, 2018
I think I'm ready to eliminate my elimination diet.
You know what I'm talking about. It's the "no this," and "no that" of the fitness and wellness elite, those of us who are wealthy enough that cutting food out of our diets has become a quasi-religion we can afford to believe in.
I've thought about this a lot over the years, like when I had to cut out carbs and wondered how the Russians survive living on potatoes. Not to mention the entire continent of Asia, where I'm pretty sure they eat white rice at every meal. And now that gluten is the poison of the day, how would the Europeans fare without bread, never mind even considering going dairy-free? Please explain how it is that the French live on bread, cheese, chocolate and wine and yet all the women are thin and beautiful?
I'm thinking that's another reason (besides Trump) to move to France: to simply enjoy life and the good-tasting food that goes with it.
Don't get me wrong: Over the past six months I've discovered a lot of new foods I love. I didn't really feel like I was deprived, but eating delicious foods that were new to me. Even though the weight I lost initially came creeping back on, I'm pain-free, I sleep well and my skin is the clearest it's been in years.
That was all fine and good until one day, I decided to order a veggie burger at Sure Thing Burger in Willits.
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When you have a 2-year-old, you become a bit limited in terms of restaurants that don't mind a little blond toddle monster running around the restaurant like a wild child and hugging every little girl he sees. That means we're pretty much stuck with Mexican food and places with easy-to-clean floors where you can order at the counter.
So we're at Sure Thing and I decide a veggie burger is a healthy compromise. This is somewhat of a departure from my former life as someone who avoided carbs and would have chosen a turkey burger without a bun. That's probably a healthier option, but it's no longer the diet trend du jour.
But that's exactly my point.
I was already one beer deep and throwing my inhibitions to the wind and I did not bother to ask if they had a gluten-free bun. I was loose. I was going for it. Yes, ladies and gents, call the yoga police because I was going to eat bread!
The good news is that when you are gluten-free, things that were once off the table, like potato chips and fries, are now fair game because (wait for it) they have no gluten. Because you've eliminated so many foods you can now eat junk food with a clear conscience. So of course I ordered my veggie burger with a side of fries.
I can't even tell you how delicious that damned bun tasted after all this time.
After dinner, we went to Whole Foods to buy a bunch of snacks. Despite cutting like 10 food groups out of my diet, I have gradually discovered plenty of snacks that are permissible: chips made from chickpeas, blue corn chips, potato chips, popcorn and gluten-free pretzels. I also love all the delicious gluten-free baked goods, which essentially substitute white flour with another type of highly processed flour made from things like potato starch and tapioca and have just as many carbohydrates and calories as regular flour, only they cost four times as much.
Now totally confused, I also got some amazing looking vegan chocolate chip cookies, which did have gluten in them, but whatever! I can only focus on one healthy diet at once.
When I got home and took a bite of these rich, delicious cookies, I grabbed my reading glasses so I could see the label. These suckers had 400 calories each and are mostly made with palm oil and sugar.
Meanwhile, the taste of that damn bread lingered on my tongue like a magical kiss for many hours, even days afterward. I could feel my desire for more bread bubbling up from somewhere deep inside me like a pressure cooker ready to burst the lid.
Here's the thing about elimination diets: When you first cut out all these food groups, you lose weight because you also cut out calories. But over time, you find other foods that are permissible but end up bringing those calories back in. And because apparently we are no smarter than a herd of cattle and just follow whatever stupid diet trend is the most current, the marketers figure out how to brand their products to trick us into thinking they are good for us. And so that bag of potato chips now has the words "gluten free" in big letters on their packaging and suddenly your perception changes, even if the facts remain the same.
And by the way, coconut oil is not a superfood after all, but is actually really bad for you because it's a saturated fat that can lead to high cholesterol! Shocker!
I do believe that all the processed foods, preservatives and chemicals used in much of our food is toxic and does cause inflammation in the body that can lead to other diseases. But despite the diet trend of the moment (remember when everything was fat-free?) good nutrition is not about extremes but balance and moderation. Whole foods in their natural state are going to be your best option (and I'm not talking about that god damned grocery store chain that has brainwashed me into spending a ridiculous amount of money on things like spiralized zucchini and white miso paste) but the food itself.
An apple a day probably does keep the doctor away, but for crying out loud, enjoy a real burger next time. Chances are the "cows come home diet" will be the next craze.
The Princess desperately needs to go out for dinner at a real restaurant. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.