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WIAW: Against the All-or-Nothing Diet

Do you ever end up writing something completely different than what you thought you’d write about on a What I Ate Wednesday? That’s how today went. I had a certain theme in mind as I walked down to breakfast, but throughout the day, I started thinking about something else entirely.What I Ate Wednesday ButtonWhen I was little, I remember my mom telling me that in high school, she decided that she was going to have a certain “look.” She thought she wanted to always wear really long skirts and hoop earrings. The moral of her story, when she told it to me, was that she learned that she didn’t have to have just one “look.” She could vary her fashion from day to day and didn’t have to be stuck with one fashion identity.

I feel the same about how I eat. Science and medicine have found that certain ways of eating appear to be healthier than others. Doctors and dietitians give advice like eat less sugar and more whole grain, eat more plant-based fats rather than animal-based fats, more fruits and vegetables, more fiber, etc. And that’s great advice to follow.

But what I’m not a big fan of is following diets with all-or-nothing approaches.

Let’s say that you decide to reduce the sugar in your diet. This is something I’ve been trying to be mindful about, since sugar is tough on your digestion, without letting it become a disordered rule or obsession. I believe (and hope!) that I may still reap some of the digestive benefits of reducing sugar by mindfully eating more savory snacks and meals without cutting out all dessert or never ever putting brown sugar on my oatmeal.

Or take vegetarianism. Now, I know many people choose to be vegetarian on absolute principle because they believe eating meat is immoral, and I respect that point of view. However, there are many other good reasons to eat less meat, especially health and environmental benefits. I’ve gone through parts of my life eating mostly vegetarian, but I’ve added more meats in, especially now that I have a lot of food intolerances. I have to eat something, after all! But even though I enjoy meat sometimes, I still know that humans can help the environment simply by eating less meat overall and producing it more humanely and sustainably. The world doesn’t have to become 100% vegetarian for real change to be made!

Even the low-FODMAP diet, which asks folks with IBS to give up certain foods entirely for a period of 2 to 6 weeks, isn’t an all-or-nothing diet. After the 2 to 6 week elimination phase, you are supposed to re-introduce high-FODMAP foods to see which ones you can tolerate. And you can totally “cheat” on the low-FODMAP diet and eat anything you want as long as you don’t have a more dangerous condition like celiac or allergies. Just realize your tummy might be grumpy for a few days. 🙁

So with that thought in mind, here’s what I nommed on Tuesday:

BreakfastDSCN1602As I said above, I don’t eat a lot of meat. Still, I haven’t had bacon yet the whole time I’ve worked at the Y. So I decided to go for it. The bacon was meh. I’m probably one of the only people I know who neither adores nor loathes bacon. Also ate scrambled eggs, spicy breakfast potatoes, and pineapple.

SnackDSCN1603Banana chips (a lot more than just these.) As I said above, I’ve been trying to be mindful about sugar in the hopes that it might impact my digestive health. I seldom drink pop or juice, and I don’t eat dessert with each and every meal, but I often reach for sweet snacks like granola bars and sweetened yogurt. I’ve been trying to opt more often for things like pretzels, nuts, or string cheese. I’m not cutting sugar out entirely by any means, though, and I’ve still been eating some every day, especially in the form of fruit!

LunchDSCN1609Vegetarian nacho salad with greens, carrots, olives, jalapenos, corn chips, salsa, vegetarian refried beans, and cheese. Refried beans are definitely not low-FODMAP, and even though I can tolerate some GOS and fructans, beans still don’t sit very well with me. Still, I don’t like to exclude them entirely from my diet, since they’re such good sources of nutrients and fiber, healthy for the heart and the digestion, so I went for it! Fingers crossed; sometimes they go down fine.

SupperDSCN1616 (2)I seem to be quite sensitive to wheat, so when dinner came around, I skipped the pasta and made some instant grits that I’d brought from home. While I know that folks with celiac disease can’t ever eat anything that contains or has been even cross-contaminated with wheat, I count myself fortunate that I can eat things like non-gluten-free oats or sauce that’s been thickened with a small amount of wheat.

I topped my grits with parmesan and hot pepper flakes and nommed them alongside red pepper and tomato soup, plus a salad of greens, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, sunflower seeds and French dressing.

SnackDSCN1617A small bowl of multigrain Cheerios and vanilla soy milk. Both quite sweet, but I told you I wasn’t giving up on sugar. 😉 Although I’ll tell you something odd about me–I’ve always liked unsweetened cereal better than sweetened. Weird, I know.

Have you ever tried eliminating anything from your diet entirely?

How do you feel about bacon? Heck yeah, ew gross, or meh?



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  1. Emily says:

    I actually really like granola for cereal + a less sweet cereal. And I completely agree with you that I’m not quite an all or nothing person. It’s more about balance than extremes. 🙂

    1. Joyce says:

      A mix of granola and cereal? That sounds awesome. I really like homemade granola with a little almond milk for breakfast!

  2. That salad though! I’m definitely craving refried beans now, yum!

  3. Ellie says:

    Banana chips are so good! I’m snacking on some now too 🙂 I think people do get into the all-or-nothing mindset because it gives them a “tribe” or an “extreme” that makes them feel somehow, included. It is very alluring to fall into those camps because it’s like having an army of people who support your lifestyle. I like what your mom did with clothes and agree with you about how it should be applied to food. Eat what your body wants!

    1. Joyce says:

      I hadn’t thought about that, but I think feeling included may be part of it. It definitely has to do with identity, I think.

  4. I think your approach totally makes sense! Even though I’m a vegetarian, I actually don’t try to convince people to stop eating meat. I think meat can actually be really good for you sometimes! (I just don’t like it haha) My husband is very flexitarian, which is nice. He’ll eat meat if it’s ethically raised and sustainably sourced. So I’m with you! 🙂

    1. Joyce says:

      I’ve called myself flexitarian for a lot of my life. I’m hoping, if I’m able to find a way to tolerate more meatless protein sources like beans and soy, I might go back to calling myself “flexitarian” again. But to me, it’s not really about the label–it’s about taking action for a more sustainable world that counts.

  5. Joann says:

    I’m definitely in the anti-bacon camp. But I’m vegan so I guess that’s no surprise! I have been a vegetarian for over 20 years so I don’t feel I’m leaving anything out of my diet. It’s just totally natural for me now. I am thrilled if people cut down on their meat consumption in any way. 🙂

  6. Kate says:

    I’m definitely not an all or nothing person anymore. Life is too short and I don’t think the majority of dietitians support that message anyways.
    I don’t do many beans either because they tear my stomach up, but refried beans seem to be less of an offender, thankfully! Probably because they are cooked so well!

    1. Joyce says:

      That’s a good point about how they’re cooked so well. I have heard that beans that have been soaked more thoroughly can be easier to digest!

  7. Cora says:

    I think I definitely tried to do the same thing as your mom when I was younger. I really wanted to be “known” for something very specific, like my style… and I think this has gone into food and diet as well. To echo what Ellie said, I think humanity has such a strong pull toward things that regiments them and makes them feel both separated and included in something very specific. Maybe a control thing? I know that what a big part of the allure when I was vegetarian, and I still get the urge to take things out of my diet to become a “part of something” more unique.
    I’m really glad you risked the refried beans, because they are one of my favooorriiteess. Though, I sure hope they didn’t give you any/much grief.

    1. Joyce says:

      I didn’t know you used to be vegetarian. I did that for a while, too. There are some totally awesome reasons to be vegetarian or go low-FODMAP or whatever, but I admit, there’s also a “cool” factor in being able use that label.
      I really like refried beans, too. They didn’t cause me any more grief than I consider “normal,” so hey, why not go for it once in a while? 😉

  8. The majority of my posts end up differently than I’d intended – sometimes slightly, sometimes way different. Apparently that’s how my brain works …
    Your approach to eating sounds very reasonable and you eat some delicious food. Aside from being lacto-vegetarian for ethical reasons I don’t cut out any foods entirely, either. Not even those foods that I know don’t sit well with my stomach but taste too good to skip.
    Regarding sugar/sweetened vs. unsweetened versions of certain foods I feel similarly to you. Growing up on organic peanut butter with only two ingredients (peanuts and salt) any kind of sweetneed nut butter I’ve tried so far didn’t really knock my socks of. I can eat some and enjoy it but will always go back to natural nut butter.

    1. Joyce says:

      I was super spoiled as a kid: natural peanut butter, fresh ground from the grinder at the co-op, and real maple syrup. Also homemade pancakes and homemade biscuits. My mom wasn’t a huge cook, but she did have some excellent tastes! Bisquick and “maple-flavored pancake syrup” just isn’t nearly as good.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I’m definitely a bit late on the commenting here, but I have been considering the low-FODMAP diet for a little while now. I naturally avoid most of what’s on it at any rate, just from bad experience! But I would never cut sugar out- only lower my intake, like you’re doing 🙂 Super sensible.

    1. Joyce says:

      The low-FODMAP diet has made some difference for me. I know for some people it really clears up all their IBS stuff, whereas for others it makes no difference. I just wish I had re-introduced foods earlier on.
      Glad I have a friend on team sugar!

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