Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: It Starts With Food

I don't know why I keep picking up this type of book. I know in my heart that it will do little to make a dent in my daily eating habits, despite a deep desire to improve our diets. At least this book tried to assuage my feelings, saying that it wasn't due to a lack of willpower, but rather due to the addictive agents in the food we generally consume these days. Still, it was more of the same arguments I've read before but cannot seem to act upon on a regular basis. I don't know how I could imagine that I could even tackle 30 days of this suggested program. I know people do it all the time, just not me.

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig is yet another program offering better health if you ditch unhealthy food and focus entirely on changing your eating habits. They suggest vowing to do the program for 30 days and then gradually reintroducing those unhealthy things to see if they have been triggering ill health in ways in unsuspecting ways. I guess the biggest problem I had was with what constitutes unhealthy food in their opinion.

They begin by discussing the usual fare: immunological systems, hormonal balance, and what is necessary for a healthy gut. Then they offer up the foods they view to be "less healthy." These are the things they wish you to eliminate entirely from your diet for 30 days: sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, seed oils, grains and legumes (even whole grains, even black beans), and all forms of dairy but butter and ghee, Some of these I have no problem with. I can get behind sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, and seed oils. It is the last part of the list which troubles me the most. No toast with peanut butter. No rice, pasta, bread ... nothin! And dairy? How could I give up my almost daily consumption of cottage cheese? I just cannot see me following through on this strict diet in order to get to the nirvana they claim will follow at the end of the difficult trip over the rainbow.

Their suggested diet consists entirely of meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables and fruit. I applaud those individuals who follow through with this limited diet and find all kinds of health benefits (as in the many testimonials offered at the start of each chapter). I really do. I just don't think I have it in me. Moreover, it seems like moderation is always lacking in these kinds of books. It's that all or nothing mentality that I find myself resisting against.

I'm still struggling with leaving behind the processed foods, let alone giving up things like peanut butter and whole wheat bread and cottage cheese (and don't even tell me I can't have an occasional ice cream). I have relatives who have been forced to alter their diets (one due to severe Crohn's disease and one due to an overwhelming number of food allergies). I just don't know how I would ever achieve that goal of restricting my food intake merely to meats, eggs, vegetables and fruit. Even though I know they are the building blocks of good nutrition, I still fail to alter my diet effectively enough. Perhaps I should just stop reading all these books since I have no intention to follow through on what I read. I will just admit defeat and say that I'm too much of a wuss to incorporate what my head knows would be the best path to follow.

I loved this bit of review from Elizabeth Foss on the Amazon site for the book. She writes: "One quote that keeps popping up is 'this is not hard compared to birthing a baby, quitting heroin, or beating cancer.' Actually, it is. I haven't got any experience with heroin, but I had 7 unmedicated births, 2 c-sections, and I beat cancer. Those things are hard, too but that doesn't make this easy. This is hard. It's hard to eat this way in a world that doesn't. It's hard to cook for a big family -- either all eating this way, or them eating this way and me not eating what they're eating. It's hard to stick with it day in and day out. It's not too terribly hard for a few weeks, but it is hard as a lifestyle. I feel anti-social. I know my eating habits put a damper on others' enjoyment when our eating out choices are dictated by my "can'ts." I know I've offended more than one gracious hostess with my polite, "No thank you." And I do miss crafting a perfect loaf of artisan bread or making my grandmother's homemade pasta. I miss tomatoes fresh from the garden with olive oil and fresh mozzarella. I miss handing on food traditions of generations to my own children. I couldn't care less about sugar and I'm not lamenting processed foods at all. They were never in my diet. I'm struggling with the limited choices of real food left for me."

So, if you have the willpower to change your life... if you want a plan for changing your diet in substantial ways ... if you can not only read about what is best, but also follow-through ... then this is the book for you. It will give you food for thought and a motivational pep talk for getting where you want to go. It won't offer up any recipes for incorporating those few foods you are allowed to eat, but it will provide plenty of resources for finding recipes to follow the Whole30 plan. But, like Elizabeth Foss, I think this would be a very hard plan to follow religiously (they tolerate no slips and say so). Good on you, if you can.

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