Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Worst Diet in the World vs The Optimum Diet

At the end of last week I had about 3 different ideas bubbling around just waiting for me, but we were really busy with company in town and I never had a chance to write (and now I have even more to say)!

Photos courtesy of Jenette!
Speaking of company in town- my best friend Emily was here this weekend! She is my first friend from the States to see me out here in Bavaria and it was a blast to have her- along with, John, Shane, Jenette, and John. Yes, there were two Johns, I'm not just having a brain fart... although I have been a total space cadet for the past two days and wouldn't be surprised at myself for writing the same thing twice! Over the weekend, We hung out in Rothenburg where we did the Night Watchman's Tour (great the second time, too!) and even found a table for seven in Hell! What luck ;)  We spent Sunday in Bad Windsheim where we had some super yummy meals and everybody enjoyed relaxing a bit after all the traveling they have been doing! I already miss having the company here...

I have another side note about friends: We had the most lovely Crossfit ladies' dinner at Steffie's house last week! I told so many people about the delicious food (in detail) and everybody I know about how wonderful the company was. Did I mention that we had the most amazing meal?? Even with the food being out-of-this-world fresh and satisfying, the best part was being able to share dinner with such smart, inspiring, funny, and interesting women; and it helps me so much to listen to conversations in Deutsch!

Crossfit truly is a family, and with Cody and my family being so far away, I can't say how much I appreciate the love and support that is supplied to me on a daily basis from our wonderful community. Speaking of support- soooo many people checked out my blog after my last post, and it totally blew me away! I owe a huge thank you to everybody that took the time to read and share my post; never in a million years did I think that 500+ people would read something I wrote. It is super exciting!

But, enough with the side stuff, and lets get onto the semi-related bulk of the post:

I just finished reading another book on Nutrition; this one is titled Eating Well For Optimum Health and it is by Andrew Weil, M.D.

What a happy lookin' guy!

There is a ton of information in this one, and he gets very in-depth about the effects of the macro- and micronutrients in/on our bodies. I learned a lot, but this book is a little bit dense, and it took me a while to work through. I love the recipes at the end (mmm super healthy and creative) and I truly understand his take on the absolute best diet for our bodies. Plus, I love that he is a bit unconventional...

Dr. Weil starts with explaining what he believes are the seven basic principles of diet and health:

1. We have to eat to live
2. Eating is a major source of pleasure
3. Food that is healthy and food that gives pleasure are not mutually exclusive
4. Eating is an important focus of social interaction
5. How we eat reflects and defines our personal and cultural identity
6. How we eat is one determinant of health
7. Changing how we eat is one strategy for managing disease and restoring health

The principle that surprised me the most is the fourth: Eating is an important focus of social interaction. We all agree that this is an obvious truth; most social functions do revolve around food. The interesting part is that, according to Dr. Weil, to remove the social pleasure from food, is to also remove the health benefits:
"The social importance of food and eating, like their association with pleasure, must be honored by anyone advocating eating well. Too often people who follow rigid diets in the name of health isolate themselves from the social interaction that is itself an important factor in optimum health." Dr. Weil quotes Ronald Koetzsch at the end of this section in stating, "(when) food is blessed by being shared, by being eaten in fellowship amidst conversation and laughter... all food is 'health' food."
I couldn't help but think about these sections of the book while eating the lovely dinner at Steffie's home (although all of it was nutritious in the general sense of health already) and while sharing meals with my friends this weekend (not so healthy indulgences). Indulging in a piece of chocolate cake while sitting alone and feeling guilty is unhealthy in several ways. But I think that sharing a chocolate cake among friends at the end of a long and happy meal is healthier than abstaining from the cake and being stressed and unhappy from being isolated socially from those around you. It kind of makes you think...

Food is fuel, but let's face it, some food is eaten purely because it is delicious. And I love that Dr. Weil says its okay.

Dr. Weil later touches on the importance of surrounding yourself with those who eat healthily, so he is not saying that we should all sit down and eat a BigMac and Large Fry every night because our friends/family do; but we should allow ourselves the pleasure of occasional indulgences instead of isolating ourselves in the name of health. 

The thesis of the book is that there is an optimum diet, and it is part of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. Here is a nice visual of Dr.Weil's description of the "optimum diet;"

Take note that there is a very tiny portion of beef, pork, chicken, etc. included. Dr. Weil is a pecto-vegetarian. The focus on meat is his biggest complaint about Paleo, along with the lack of whole grain, which he believes can be healthful in specific forms. I believe part of his aversion to meat is because grain-fed meats have so many negative effects on our bodies, and back in 2000 when the book was written, it was much harder to find grass-fed.

Before revealing the "optimum diet," Dr. Weil has written a chapter titled "The Worst Diet in The World." This comes after he has scientifically explained the help and harm caused by certain foods. The following excerpt is from that chapter:

"Let's put our heads together to see if we can design the Worst Diet in the World, one that would be most likely to undermine health and shorten life.
To begin, let's stuff it with calories, more than most people will be able to burn off, so that it will promote obesity. In particular, we should overload it with carbohydrate calories from high-glycemic index foods. That means lots of refined flour in fluffy breads and pastries, lots of potatoes, sweets, and sweet drinks-- fruit juices and sodas-- especially those made with high-fructose corn syrup to take advantage of any disruptive effects of that product on metabolism.
For fat we will need a glut of saturated fat in the form of cheese, butter, cream, and other whole-milk products, along with a lot of beef and unskinned chicken... We should also include plenty of hydrogenated fat in the form of margarine, vegetable shortening, and snack foods made with partially hydrogenated oils... We should also throw in some well-used cooking fat, consisting of cheaper vegetable oils, to get even more trans-fatty acids and their damaging effects on membranes, hormones, and cardiovascular function.
As for protein, we should probably go for as much as we can eat and make it mostly commercially raised meat and poultry rather than fish or vegetable protein. That will maximize intake of drugs and hormones used to raise animals for meat as well as environmental toxins concentrated in their fat and other tissues...
The Worst Diet in the World should also be distinguished by what it does not provide. We will want very inadequate amounts of the micronutrients... the best way to make sure of that is to restrict fruits and vegetables. Of course we will allow unrestricted amounts of floury potatoes and refined grains... We can let them have canned fruit in heavy syrup... but they ought to keep their vegetable consumption down to some iceberg lettuce smothered in dressing made from unhealthful fat and maybe corn on the cob with lots of butter. Perhaps pickles, high in sodium, and ketchup, high in sugar and sodium, will could as vegetables in our diet..."

Hmmm... why does this sound so disgusting... yet so eerily familiar?

Maybe because this "diet," the "Worst Diet in the World," is offered in almost every fast-food joint in every town across the States, and now, across the world. After my restaurant experience, I believe it is not only offered by fast-food chains, but also in the sit-down restaurants in America. I used to get so aggravated seeing menus with the same items in every chain we went to- it was all deep-fried, over-processed, over-portioned, crap.  I remember not even being able to find a healthy salad in most places!

These restaurant menus have seeped into our culture as a whole, so now, even recipes for home-cooked meals can have upwards of 1,500 calories per serving. Home-made does not mean healthy anymore.

What may be the most shocking part of all is that American citizens, who eat this way day in and day out, are surprised that we are having more and more health issues than ever...

Because you all get the point, and because the issue is way larger than I can even begin to tackle I think I'll just stop here and let it sink in...

If this makes anybody want some of Dr. Weil's recipes, or any recipes that I have found to be tasty and healthy, please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Weil invented the oh so wonderful ORTHOHEEL shoes and you even have a pair. !!!