The one piece of advice I am definitely going to take from Elena is to take it one step at a time and experiment.
My goal, if at all possible, is not to CUT OUT anything entirely (as in never-ever-ever eat it again) but to remove it from my regular diet.
I am very serious when I say that, while I admire Elena's resolve, I CANNOT and WILL NOT live a life where I examine every single ingredient on a restaurant menu or send instructions ahead of me to friends or family who invite me for dinner. Holidays and vacations are also non-restrictive zones. I'm not (what would be to me) spoiling those occasions by obsessing about every morsel that I eat.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying ANYTHING about Elena's reality here, just about what's not acceptable to me.
So, here's where I'm going to begin, based upon Elena's advice, my own research, and previous experience:
- Cutting back on processed foods is definitely something I'm going to start doing right away. I have done this in the past and I have noticed energy as well as weight-loss gains. The more and more I think about it, the more I realize that, with the exception of a few key items (like Heinz Baked Beans) I ate a lot more unprocessed food when I was living in England. Since I've moved to the US... not so much. Is it a coincidence that I now weigh a wopping 60lbs more than I did when I moved out here 15 years ago? I think not.
- Bread is bye-bye. Again, I have done this before (back when I was 105lbs) and have lost weight cutting it out of my diet. Honestly, it's not that big of a deal for me. Do I like bread? Yes. Is it essential to my enjoyment of food? Um, no.
- Cut back on inflammatory foods. Increase anti-inflammatory foods and ingredients. Fish, berries, vegetables, olive-oil, whole-grains, brown-rice, ginger, rosemary, garlic, onions, red wine, and green tea - IN. Salt, soda, bread, sugar, red meat, fried foods, smoked foods, and processed foods - OUT. (Honestly, aside from the sugar and processed foods, I don't really eat much of anything on this list already.) Dairy is also on the inflammatory list. I'm on the fence with this one - I love eggs, cheese and milk. These will be a last-resort removal, although I'll definitely be more conscious of how much I consume now. Let's face it, do enough research and you'll find that eggs and milk, especially, have many of their own health benefits. Everything in moderation. I truly believe that: I think that (with the exception of all the added-in crap for processed and packaged foods) your body needs a little bit of everything (some more than others) to work optimally. Cutting any major food group out just doesn't make sense to me, unless, of course, you can establish that you are allergic to it.
- Consider adding supplements and/or different herbs and spices to my diet. Chamomile, Ginger, Willow-Bark, Boswellia, Bromelain, Vitamin D, Calcium, Paprika, Cumin, Tumeric, and Fish Oil all seem to come up over and over again on websites I found on anti-inflammatory diets and digestive health. (Although, the more I started researching, the more I found that just about every vitamin, herb or spice seems to have a magical digestive or anti-inflammatory property which makes me somewhat skeptical overall.)
I'm also looking seriously at studying the Mediterranean diet in more detail. I've heard from many sources that people living in Mediterranean countries consume high amounts of fat but incidences of heart disease and cancer are lower. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (so, not some goat farmer from a rural area of Greece) found that a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces inflammation and cardiovascular risk.
Finally, I'm not throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. I'm going to continue doing (or try to improve my consistency in doing) many of the other, more basic things that I have always found to work: drink more water, eat little and often, and don't eat after 6pm. I'm also planning on keeping a food diary.
Last night we went to the store and I bought Ginger Tea (not bad as it goes), raspberries, lots of salads, spinach, onions, fish, and veggies. A good first step. This morning I ate a healthy egg-white omelette with onions, spinach and a small slice of cheese.
My main focus initially is to find things I already like that fit into the "new diet" category and eat more of those rather than to add new things into my diet that I may not enjoy so much. I mean, how likely am I to stick to a new nutrition plan if I'm not enjoying the food I eat? Knowing me - not frickin' likely at all.
As one website said: Eating well doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out your favorite foods. It entails making adjustments to the amounts you eat from each food group.
THAT I can deal with. Wish me luck!
Side note for Elena: I tried a Gluten-Free diet for about 4 months last year (had to stop when I got pregnant on the advice of my doc) I experienced no significant health or weight loss benefits as a result. Conclusion: I am not gluten or wheat intolerant. While some foods that contain gluten and wheat will probably be on my no-no list for other reasons, I don't see any value in removing either entirely.