Ditch the Diet Debates

Note: In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I created a page on my blog dedicated to my own struggles with an eating disorder and some of my most helpful posts on the topic. Check it out here and visit nedawareness.org for even more information. 

You know me…never afraid to take on a touchy subject 😉 I’ve discussed Instagram disordered behavior, figure competitions, rest days and intuitive eating and orthorexia in my personal life.

But what I haven’t talked much about is the crazy debates out there about the ‘perfect’ diet. There have been a lot of posts lately touching on the pros and cons of paleo, the Whole 30 and the primal-based lifestyles that are gaining in popularity. And of course, Instagram is full of #IIFYM hashtagged photos of ‘proyo’ and Quest bars and Walden Farms condiments. And if you’ve spent any time on my blog or Instagram, you’ll see all the raw fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds that make up my newly adopted raw vegan lifestyle. With all these conflicting dietary views out there, which one is best?

Honestly…none of them are! Let me explain. The ‘best’ diet for all humans doesn’t exist–we’re all so unique in our needs that eating a egg salad sandwich on Ezekiel bread for lunch may work for you, but it will make your gluten-free vegetarian friend feel like crap. The ‘best’ diet is the one that works for YOU and your body, period. It doesn’t matter what’s trendy, or what everyone at your gym is eating or what the latest episode of Dr. Oz tells you not to eat. If something works for you, eat it. If not, don’t…and don’t feel guilty for not eating a certain way.

This approach doesn't exactly work for everyone.

This approach doesn’t exactly work for everyone.

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The thing that gets me the most about these diet debates is how people trash each other’s eating style. The paleo people cut down vegans for not eating enough protein, high carb low fat vegans are militant about shunning fats and omnivores criticize many diets for being too restrictive. Where’s the appreciation for the benefits of each diet? Other than the Standard American Diet, there are benefits to every eating style, which is why people choose to follow them. Each diet gets some things right–veganism emphasizes the benefits of consuming mostly plants, primal eating promotes real food over processed crap and healthy diets that don’t exclude any food groups show the benefits of moderation.

We ALL need to be eating more real food.

We ALL need to be eating more real food.

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I wish people would be more respectful of everyone’s chosen eating style. I came across a blog post the other day where the blogger shared her experiences as being a vegetarian for a week and how she couldn’t do it because she’s an athlete. Nothing wrong with not being a vegetarian, but don’t claim you couldn’t cut out meat because you’re an athlete. If that were true, then Brendan Brazier, Venus Williams and Scott Jurek (all plant-based athletes) wouldn’t be among the best in their sports. Sure, you may have to be better at planning your meals as a plant-based athlete but that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid animal products and still be athletic. I know I’m guilty of questioning the paleo diet from time to time but I recognize that it works for some people and that’s great. Just because something is restrictive for you personally doesn’t mean it’s restrictive to someone else and we need to respect that.

Who says vegans can't be strong and fit?

Who says vegans can’t be strong and fit?

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Personally, I advocate for a plant-based diet because it’s healthier to fill up your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies and of course it’s cruelty-free, but I understand that everyone has their own beliefs and needs that determine what they eat. I try to come from a place of understanding and respect and I wish there was more of that in the blog world and life in general!

What’s your take on the ‘diet debates’?

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Adventures in Raw: 80-10-10 or Gourmet?

I want to preface this post by saying I don’t believe there’s one right way of eating for everyone. Not only is it a matter of personal preference, but it’s also a matter of what works for YOU and your body and lifestyle. I do think that the SAD (standard American diet) way of eating isn’t good for anyone, but within the spectrum of healthy eating, there are millions of variations and one way doesn’t work for everyone.

If you do any research into the world of raw foodism, you’ll most likely stumble upon two different ways of thinking and eating. The most-discussed one is the 80-10-10 diet, which is based primarily on fresh fruits and vegetables, with the addition of some overt fats (things like avocados, coconut and raw nuts) very occasionally. The name ’80-10-10′ refers to the macro breakdown: 80% carbs, 10% protein, 10% fat. 80-10-10ers believe that it isn’t fruit or the sugars in them that make us fat, but the combination of sugars (primarily processed ones) and fats. They consume mostly fruit in order to get enough calories (and they generally recommend at least 2500 calories per day) and eat greens and other veggies to get more vitamins and nutrients.

An 80-10-10 approved mono meal of peaches.

An 80-10-10 approved mono meal of peaches.

On the other end of the raw spectrum is gourmet raw foodists. They also shun processed foods but focus their diets on raw, plant-based sources of fat–coconut, nuts and seeds, avocados. They generally get upwards of 50% fat in their diet, with relatively low carbs and moderate protein from the more protein-rich fat sources. They still eat plenty of fresh produce, but veggies and especially fruit are rarely the base of their diet.

Even though I’m not strictly 100% raw right now, I’ve still been considering both of these forms of raw foodism. Where do I fall, and which one is better? For me, I believe a balance between the two is optimal. I think fresh produce should be the base of everyone’s diet, but I’m not about to eat 15+ bananas in a day and nothing else. I also think greens are very healthful, but there’s honestly no point in eating them if they aren’t consumed with a fat. The nutrients found in fresh veggies can’t make it to the bloodstream as easily if they aren’t eaten with a fat–numerous articles and studies are coming out saying that having some fat with your salad is actually a good thing, and better than having a salad with fat-free dressing, for many reasons. I’m not a fan of most salad dressings from the store, but I love topping my salads with raw seeds or guacamole or a homemade cashew-based dressing. Am I freaking out because I’m eating more than 10% fat? Heck no! I definitely don’t want to go back to my eating disordered days where I was scared of fat. I’ve come to love my healthy plant-based sources of fat and I don’t feel guilty for enjoying these whole foods. However, I don’t plan on going to the other extreme and consuming most of my calories from fat–there is a limit to how beneficial fats can be and I wouldn’t want to crowd out other nutritious foods just to eat more fats.

I prefer more balanced macros, as seen in this banana softserve creation--still raw, but with protein (Sunwarrior) and fat (pumpkin seeds).

I prefer more balanced macros, as seen in this banana softserve creation–still raw, but with protein (Sunwarrior) and fat (pumpkin seeds).

I’m also probably eating more than 10% protein, from the nuts and seeds and Sunwarrior powder and sprouted legumes I eat, and that’s okay too! I don’t buy into the hype that we need so much protein (because we actually don’t), and 10% seems to be the magic number or at least the minimum for even active people, but I do like to have a little more than that to fuel my lifting workouts. Protein is in so many things, even vegetables, that it isn’t hard to hit 10-15% or more eating just plant-based sources.

A lot of things, especially eating, always seem to be so black-and-white, like one way is wrong and the other’s right, but it doesn’t have to be that way! You can eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and still enjoy plant-based fats and protein on a raw diet–it doesn’t have to be high carb low fat or high fat low carb. Moderation is always best, and when it comes to diets that are already pretty dang healthy as it is, there’s no need to nitpick over the logistics. Just eat whole foods from the earth, raw if you roll that way and don’t stress if it isn’t ‘perfect’.

What’s your take on the ongoing diet battles?