After eighteen years of the SAD Diet, one year of Paleo, countless hours spent researching and reading, plus a fair amount of personal exploration, I believe I’ve come to understand what diet works best for me.
That part is imperative: it works for me. Every single one of us has a unique body with unique needs, so picking a diet (including mine) and following it because it is supposed to be good for you disregards the complexities and nuances of your individual body and situation. Don’t be a sheep. Sheep get eaten.
If you have strange aches or you’re gaining weight in strange places or you start getting cramps every morning, something is off-balance. The solution is not to adhere more strictly to your chosen diet (be it Paleo, PHD, Low-Carb, Veganism, or even SAD). The solution is to be self-conscious, well-read yet thirsty for more knowledge, but above all, to be open to possibility and change.
I say this because I can be a real nut. I tend to be an all-in sort of person, which makes me passionate, but also passionately foolish. When I started Paleo my initial results were so incredible that I disregarded some less-positive results six months and nine months in. What I’ve come to realize (since hindsight is 20/20) is that I was unintentionally eating very low-carb for a very long time, whilst being physically active. Though I was eating 100% clean (by Paleo standards) I was feeling less than a 100% healthy.
The way I eat now fits a lot of descriptions: Paleo Diet Lifestyle calls it Paleo 2.0, it has a lot in common with Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet, and my food choices also seem remarkably in step with Weston A. Price Guidelines (perhaps because I’ve read all their material extensively?).
However, as concerned as I am with my own personal health, eating clean has also shifted my perspective on how our dietary choices affect the world around us. This is why I eat organic and pastured/humanely raised meats instead of their cheaper counterparts from the supermarket; they are superior nutritionally but also morally and ethically responsible choices. It can be expensive sometimes, but it turns out I care more about the impact of my eating habits on my body and my surroundings than I do about other things. When money is tight I buy the cheap cuts of meat and the cost-efficient vegetables (like beef roasts and cabbage), or I trade work for food. Turns out asparagus wins over a new phone, a Netflix account, and new stuff in general (hello Salvation Army and yard sales!).
Whew. All that said, here’s what I eat on a regular basis.
The Extremely Important All-Encompassing Guide to What I Eat:
Meat (wild is best, pastured and humanely raised is better, conventionally-raised turns me into a vegetarian)
Seafood (though I don’t have tons of access living in a remote, landlocked area, so sardines and I are good friends)
Vegetables (local and organic is best, if I’m buying from the grocery store I use the EPA’s Dirty Dozen List as a guide)
Eggs (pastured and humanely acquired)
Yummy Happy Good-for-You Fats (coconut oil, animal fats, butter, olive oil)
“Safe Starches” (AKA rice, potatoes, and yams)
On a less regular basis but still in the running:
Fruit (sugar makes me a little crazy)
Nuts (Ditto, especially pistachios!!!)
Natural Sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, you know the drill)
Dairy ( Raw and pastured or no dice – I have violent allergic reactions to conventional pasteurized dairy)
What you will NEVER find me eating:
Fake stuff (soybean oil, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.)
Grains (though I wouldn’t turn up my nose at traditionally prepared Masa harina or fermented oat porridge)
Sugar (stick with it, after a while, carrots taste like candy!)
I also attempt to buy from all local sources and eat in season. That makes for a lot of root vegetables in the winter, but then spring salad greens are all the sweeter. When I eat like this, I feel pretty awesome. Excellent sleep, tons of energy, and I don’t look too shabby either. When I don’t…let’s just say my dairy allergy is a sight only my family should be tortured with.