Friday, June 11, 2010


SAD. The Standard American Diet.

Highly processed foods, refined flours, refined sugars, fast foods, rancid oils.  

I've talked before about my journey with food and cooking. Yet for all the strides I've made, our diet still closely resembled a SAD diet. I think maybe it's just so ingrained in many of us, that we don't even notice it. I certainly didn't. At first glance my families diet seemed slightly above average. Local and organic foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits. Grains. And more grains. And refined flours and sugars. Oops.

I'm not a nutritionist (though I plan on going to school for just that in the next year or so) and this obviously is not a medical blog, so take anything I say here with a grain of salt (or pat of butter) - it's all purely my opinion and nothing more.

At the early part of the last century, American cookbooks were much different than what they are today. In some ways, cookbooks and recipes and meals are better today - we have a wide array of ingredients available to work with, we have appliances to make cooking quicker and easier. In other ways, those old cookbooks might have been better. For the most part they concentrate on whole ingredients. You'll rarely see recipes (receipts) calling for a can of this or a bag of that (well, I guess they didn't have freezers either!). They used lard and whole, real fats. Ingredients were often basic - probably because many things were still bought from a local farm or grown in their backyards. During the war, sugar in recipes was low due to the rationing.

I firmly believe that whole, real foods are superior to processed foods. And since last summer - that thinking has spread to include whole milk, lard, full fat cheeses. For as long as I've been moving towards a whole foods diet, I was still buying low-fat products. Why? Well, because I was trying to  lose weight, and doesn't the USDA say that a low-fat, low-cal diet is the way to go?

My first clue was (or should have been) my experiences last summer. I spent months getting up at 5am to go running before work. Dieted. Blah, blah, blah. Lost nothing. Not one little inch. At the end of the summer I started buying whole fat milks (because that's what was available at our farmers market). I stopped dieting, and I stopped running because we were moving and I was working overtime. That month, without trying, I lost 10 pounds. Yet, that barely clicked with me until a couple months ago.

I won't go on too long about my weight, because - frankly, it's boring and no one cares. But. Remember my whiny blog from last month, and how I wasn't going to weigh myself? Lies (not intentional, really!). I did weigh myself. And I did keep thinking about it. Because the next week I started atkins. Gasp! If you're like I was, you're shaking your head and muttering about how that's the stupidest diet ever. And maybe it is.

Here's what happened. One morning I was grumpy and feeling fat. So I was going to sign back up for weight watchers online.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. "
Albert Einstein

Only, I remembered a friend mentioning her success on atkins. And this friend is pretty smart and like me loves good food and good wine. So, on a whim I checked out the atkins website. What's this? They gave tons and tons of information, for free?! Weight Watchers is between 45-60 dollars for a 3 month online subscription. Well, hell. For free, I'd read about it.

And guess what? It made sense. Really, it did. Especially to me. For 7 years I've been bouncing around with calorie restriction and low fat diets, and where am I? Um, still not thin. I was surprised at the whole foods emphasis. And the truth is, I do eat  a lot of processed carbs. It's not unusual for a typical day to consist of something like toast or granola for breakfast, a wrap for lunch and a pasta and bread for dinner. I'd have fruits and veggies through out the day of course, but still. That's a lot of bread and starch. Also, we loooove potatoes, and we easily ate those 4 or 5 nights a week. What? They're good! And cheap!

So anyway, I've been doing this thing for about 10 weeks now. I've lost 12 lbs. 8 of those pounds came of in the first 2 weeks. So I'm not losing fast. Admittedly, I followed the diet perfectly the first 2 weeks, and the last few weeks not as well. I've waaaay over indulged in wine on the weekends and I had popcorn last night (which I'm not "supposed" to have yet). I don't care about losing slow though. All I care about is that I'm losing. And more importantly - I feel good. I do. I don't know how to explain it, really. I just feel better. When the kids make a comment about how I'm "not supposed" to have this or that, I remind them that I can, I'm just choosing not to. I'm still cooking breads and potatoes and things for the family, though slightly less than before. I don't think these things are evil (they are delicious), I just think we eat too many. Especially me!

Now, realistically, I'm not going to stay off bread and sugar forever. I mean, it took me 5 years to make the perfect loaf of bread. I will eat that again. And I know, I know, that's the downfall right? Whatever.

What I'm doing is no longer Atkins, it's more Atkins-inspired. The one thing I didn't like was all the mock this, fake that, splenda based foods. I'm ok with trying new things. Like cauliflower pizza crust or sporadic use of xylitol and stevia. But I'm not into constantly re-creating things that I'm not  supposed to be :ahem: choosing not to eat. I mean, why not embrace the whole, real foods that are part of the way I'm choosing to eat?

What I'm doing is just being more mindful of processed carbs and sugar. For now, I'm staying away from even whole wheat flour and experimenting with things like almond and oat flour. Eventually wheat and grains will come back - as treats. Homemade waffles with the family once a month? Sure! And with sugar, I've cut it out almost completely (which is surprisingly hard - it's in everything!) But I'll indulge from time to time, like in homemade ice cream. And I'm sure I'll be adding in honey and maple syrup soon, in small quantities.

It just makes sense to me. I'm not a farmer (though I wish I was). I sit at a desk most of the day. I simply don't need those carbohydrates.

Anyway. So that's where I am and that's what I've been doing. And I guess I'm sharing because, well, I don't know. Because if I start posting recipes with almond flour you'll know why. And I guess because I've been so astounded at how effortless it's been to drop a few pounds, and how amazing I feel eating this way.


Guanyin8 said...

I haven't read much about Atkins, but I know that it's deterred many people from eating any grains at all. It's important to remember: whole grains=good, refined grains=bad. So while white bread and pastas are empty starches, whole grains like quinoa, bulgar, wheat berries, brown and black rice, and pearl barley are full of fiber and protein. Also if you make pancakes, use whole wheat or spelt flour. These grains also help fill you up, useful if you're one who wants to reduce meat and eat more veggies! :)

gardenofsimple said...

I think even with whole grains though, they are good to a point (and not for everyone). In general, Americans eat too many carbs in the form of breads and grains and pasta. I'm already looking into sprouting grains for when I do begin adding them in again.

I already ate (what I thought) was a lot of vegetables before, but now I'm eating tons of green veggies.

I have eaten bread, like at the italian restaurant we went to on our anniversary. But most days I don't. And I can't describe how much better I feel. It's really been amazing.

Anyway, I've been tracking what I eat most days, to make sure I'm still getting adequate fiber and other nutrients, and so far it's going pretty good.

The thing with atkins is some people can take it too far. A KFC double down is not a healthy meal just because it's low in carbs. The emphasis needs to be on fresh, whole foods.

gardenofsimple said...

oh - and I've found a local, organic company that I've been buying flour from - wheat bread and pastry and this week spelt - for when I bake for the family. They grind it per order, which is pretty neat.

Sara said...

My MIL did Atkins. She lost a ton of weight. Literally over a 100 lbs. She went off and it came back on fast. She complained of not feeling well, thinning hair, etc. So while her experience at losing was great, she wasn't happy with how she felt and her hair and skin looked. I suspect she was missing a few vitamins and minerals that could have been supplemented.

Anyway, Atkins-inspired sounds much better than strict Atkins. Good luck!!!

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Little Messy Missy said...

I figure if I grow it I know where it comes from. I have been on every diet there has ever been. You find what works and modify it to work in your real what you have done with the Atkins...good job! Keep it up! You should check out
she is way cool and inspires me, not to mention funny as hell!!!

Valkyrie said...

Well, as you know, I'm a believer in Atkins, and it just about drives me crazy to hear people talk about it because it's obvious they haven't read the literature. And I do know people who did it entirely wrong. They focused on eating bacon all day and didn't eat the vegetables. When done correctly, it is nutritionally sound and backed by a lot of science.

My skin is better now than it was before, and I'm 30 pounds lighter and way more energetic.

But like you, I am at the Atkins inspired stage. I really don't deprives myself of anything anymore except processed food and sugar and white flour. I eat potatoes, quinoa, fruit, everything good. And I have my wine--just not as often.

Do what works for you and what makes you feel healthy and good. I am convinced the real key is to get to your target weight and then *maintain* with exercise. Once you are at your goal weight and exercising regularly, just eat whatever you want but eat healthy whole foods--no cans, no boxes.

I never did artificial sweeteners. I just did without any kind of sweets altogether. And I was fine with it. Sweets aren't really my issue... French fries and potato chips are.

Star said...

I hated Atkins. But that was because I'm not a very meaty person, so all I ever ate were chicken and veggies. Got v boring.

And I didn't love the strictness. Atkins inspired sounds much more reasonable.

But I've seen lots of people succeed with Atkins. Hell, I lost weight on it, I just loathed it, lol.

I think it all comes down to what your body likes.

Glad things are working for you!