I haven’t been blogging on my trip because I’m hoping to give you a big old slideshow of some of the photos I took (unfortunately I lost all my phone pictures because my phone backed up to January – so I also lost all the hot guys’ phone numbers I’ve met since then !) and hopefully some riding recaps when I get home and have a trustier internet connection. I have SERIOUSLY been missing my blogging—the actual process yes but more importantly the sense of community! It’s only been a week and I’m starting to go crazy without this all. So I figured I might as well get right into a good topic that’s been on my mind for the past few days since I’ve got a little wifi and today’s a rest day from riding (we’re nursing hangovers, heading to the golf course, and hopefully hitting the pool today).
Warning: this gets a bit messy and confusing but there are some gems hidden in here, I think!
The other night, I was a bit confused.
It started with a talk about margarine vs. butter. That’s all it took to send me into a bit of a tailspin. I am in the butter camp, FYI, because butter is a real food. Margarine is not “bad” but if I had the choice between a pat of butter or a smear of margarine (or even more telling, low fat margarine), common sense says to me to eat the butter. That being said, years ago I’d have chosen the margarine. Months ago, even. Part of eating healthy is being open to changing your definition of “healthy” and oh has mine changed. I used to be that girl who lived off of low fat everything—salad dressings, peanut butter, yogurt, snacks, etc. needed to be low fat and preferably sugar free or low sugar. Oh, how the tables have turned.
This trip has been a challenge in that sense. When you’re going on these long ass bike rides up and down hills and even mountains, there comes a need for quick calories. There comes lots of discussion about body weight, nutrition, etc. and much of it is innocent but I’m in tune to things. Pasta please, people say. Give me simple sugars and carbs and give me lots of them. Plates arriving with hefty portions met with hungry eyes (myself on this one). Constantly eating to refuel even past the point of refueling (trust me). Conventional wisdom saying give me carbs and the more processed the better. I’m the odd one out, but I like attention.
The margarine vs. butter debate, to me, doesn’t require much to solve it except a healthy dose of common sense. If a food is real, why wouldn’t you eat it? But of course, the discussion took a turn towards conventional wisdom vs. what I’m starting to trust—intuition and common sense. I have been perusing all kinds of reading and one of the latest things that has caught my interest is Gary Taubes’ work. So if fat isn’t causing all the health problems we have on our hands as a society and if low fat isn’t solving the crisis, you can see why I think butter would beat out reduced fat margarine. But if you don’t buy that science favours a flawed approach (read the Mark’s Daily Apple posts about these kinds of things because he talks about them eloquently and I am not even going to give it a shot right now), at least buy that we are designed to eat real food in its purest form.
There’s a balance here. If you can’t afford all real food, then do your best. If you get caught in a pinch and eat a bunch of processed foods for a week or two, you’re not going to keel over and die. But if you’re standing in a grocery store and the choice is between a frozen, processed TV dinner that claims it will make you slim vs. the salad bar, tell me that you’ll choose the fresh food in a more recognizable form. If you’re faced with a fruit roll up or a piece of fruit, choose the damn fruit. If you can eat a bowl of oatmeal or you could have a bowl of Reese’s Puffs, choose the oatmeal more often. Do yourself a favour and eat more whole foods. Regardless of whether you are vegan, paleo, trying some other “diet” or just want to eat healthier, use your head. Jillian Michaels got it right when she made the “if it didn’t come from the ground or have a mother, you shouldn’t be eating it” comment. There’s no guilt in eating a granola bar. There’s nothing wrong with eating a twinkie. But there is something right about eating more fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, and even grains—and the less processed the better. And if you know where they come from, awesome!
One more gripe: I’ve been hearing more and more of the “but what about the hormones they put in the pigs that make them mean—they bite each other’s tails off” or “what about all the chickens whose beaks are cut off” etc. etc. Legitimate concerns. So concerning that I went vegetarian (or tried to) earlier this year. The big one for me was reading “Eating Animals” and the comparison to eating dogs. Guess what? I’m not eating dogs. And guess what else? I’m privileged enough and have the funds to go out and get my meat and my food from places where they don’t do that crap to animals. Not all farmers are bad. If you’re so worried about it, then do something about it. I think this one bugs me the most because I used to be one of those people who complain and worry over these kinds of things but never bothered trying to deal with it. If I was so worried about where my food came from, why didn’t I go to the market and ask where it came from? If someone selling it to you can’t tell you, ask up. I’m a journalist so I have no problem calling a stranger and asking questions, but that this suggestion seems like so much work to people who are willing to fret over whether or not what they’re eating is “good” seems crazy was a shocker for me. If you give enough of a damn to complain, then give a little more and do something about it. Phew.
I really didn’t want my energy or time to go towards food or worrying about eating on this trip, but I think what I’ve realized AGAIN is that it’s okay and healthy to think about it. I’ve come a long way from where I used to be with food and reflecting on this confirms that I’m on the right track, even if I did step off for a few days last week.
I do NOT need a nutrition degree to tell me what I’ve learned in practice. Someone told me that that’s fine and dandy, but I can’t go and tell other people not to eat margarine. Actually, I can—because I’m living proof that giving up the crap foods and eating real food again can leave you healthier, happier, and all that good stuff. I’m not claiming to be a dietitian, I’m not claiming to have scientific evidence that says that you should eat more real foods and eat less things from a factory. Do you really need a scientific study to tell you to eat food? I hope not. If you do, I’m going to let natural selection select me instead of you, because that’s stupid. Eat food, not chemicals. Or go and have your protein shake, your reduced fat this and that, and your sugar free candy or whatever you decide you want. There’s a line between preaching and prescribing and I don’t have the credentials to prescribe a diet to you, but I can speak from experience and from a pretty educated place to say what I know to be true. The margarine butter debate was actually a good thing for me, even if it did send me emailing my academic counselor and second guessing my decision to opt out of the dietetics program for the fall. A good second look at my decision was healthy and I think I’ve come to a realization: it doesn’t matter whether you have those fancy letters after your name or not. I saw that when someone challenged me, I let them make me feel stupid. That’s not okay. I know what I know to be true from a whole lot of struggling, a good deal of school, and a hefty dose of common sense. If ONE person who struggles to find a balance realizes that eating real food is the way to go and ends up healthier for it and less tormented by the labels, a fear of fat, or whatever, then that in itself is a serious victory. And I have realized that, so it looks like victory is mine.
What do you think about this?
PS: I’ve got other posts up my sleeve — a week of biking up mountains = lots of time to think. Spending time with cyclists and in this environment = insight. Thinking about my future and conventional and unconventional careers, how I want to spend my time and money, and what really makes me happy have all come up, and it’s only Tuesday!