Yep, going to talk about “clean eating” and pause now for collective groaning. Be done with your complainering and push on!
I first heard about this concept a couple years ago when I started working with a personal trainer who helped me make some important dietary changes. The focus for me was higher protein combined with whole grains and lots and lots of greens. I had been encouraged to make these types of changes from my endocrinologist to help with the insulin resistance that goes along with PCOS but as with a lot of things our doctors encourage us to do, I read about it and didn’t follow through very well.
One of the usual side effects for a typical medication prescribed with PCOS – metformin—is that if you aren’t careful what you are eating, you can experience some unpleasant almost IBS-style stomach ailments. Combine that with my lack of gallbladder (a victim of the fat-free diet craze in the 1990s) and it didn’t take me long to realize that I had to make significant changes if I wanted improvement along all fronts.
The major changes for me were in the amounts of food (many small meals throughout the day) and the combinations (protein + small amount of whole grain or slow carb like sweet potato + greens or non-starchy veggie) and other snacks like apples + nuts. The focus was on minimally processed foods in simple combinations that I could easily prep.
After two years of that — and reading about all the other thoughts about so-called clean eating — I realized that I had developed a level of comfort akin to a pyramid (like the one most of us grew up with us telling us to eat like 11 servings of grains? I can’t remember…) that I mentally went through every time I made decisions about food. I was adding a level of complexity and stress to my eating so that I would feel better at some level that it was clean.
I once saw a live, local news broadcast (Atlanta) where the reporter said, “It’s organic – that means you can just eat it straight from the garden,” and proceeded to take a giant bite out of whatever it was. I think I spit out my tea and hoped he didn’t get sick cos I mean, you still have to wash your organic stuff bro.
I’ve read all the stories coming out about the organic dirty dozen (and clean fifteen I think) and then others by nutritionists where when food was analyzed, organic really wasn’t that much better and it had more to do if with it was local (especially with greens) and how quickly it got to market. I would stand at the grocery store frantically wandering through the produce wishing that I had a DNA-level insight as to how long it had been in storage.
Then you have all the types of choices beyond just the levels – frozen versus fresh versus dried versus raw versus cavemen versus heirloom versus I finally got that DNA-level insight I wanted…
Like all things in my life lately, I am learning balance. With food more than anything else right now, I aim for the top 80% of my food comfort pyramid. The bottom 20% are for the times when heck yes, gonna have that burger. Do I need the triple burger? Nope. There’s my balance.
It has been extremely satisfying to grow a tiny garden this year with lettuces, spinach, peas, jalapeno (only one grew…but hey), tomatoes, and so many herbs – so fresh and delicious! And I plan to do a winter garden and then next year, another plot for squashes and cucumbers! Just be sure to wash it so it’s, ya know….clean.