Maybe It Doesn’t Matter What You Eat?

I don’t mean at the extremes –  if you eat massive quantities of junk food, it will affect your health. Profoundly. I mean at the margins  - like what if you started eating muffins every morning for breakfast rather than omelets, had chocolate every afternoon, cut way back on your greens and sometimes had cereal for dinner. What if this became a habit – would it affect your health?  I wonder, because this has started to happen to me.

It’s not like I’m popping donuts all day long, but ever since Finn was born, (9 months ago), it has been much harder to eat with the radical focus on nutrition that I used to. I am far more tired, spend more time preparing his food than my own, visit the farmers market half as frequently and I have a whole new need for “comfort food” that I never had before.

Our routine has been to go to the local coffee shop in the morning where I bring Finn’sorganic broccoli puree,  a chunk of  pear and feed this to him while we chat with friends, sip on coffee and I eat my muffin.  Sure I could order the omelet, but the muffins fast, the service for cooked food slow and Finn’s patience limited.  So I sink my teeth into a blueberry banana muffin (it sounds healthy, but believe me – it’s cake), and I feel as soothed as Finn does when he’s sucking on a bottle.

At dinner I used to be a slave to the green gods, and whatever was in season at the market would get sauteed.  I would feel deeply self righteous as I downed my picked-that-morning kale and protein-rich quinoa and savoured every bite of the wild salmon with miso dressing.

Tonight I had cereal.  A healthy cereal (and I’m giving away free coupons for it so keep reading), but it was cereal – which at last check contained no chlorophyll.

But here’s the thing – I don’t really feel like it’s affecting my heath.  I thought I would feel the effects more but I don’t. I’m back to my pre-baby weight, and sickness-wise, I’ve only had one cold (and there was no chance I was NOT going to get it, since Finn had it and I pretty much inhale his exhales.)  Maybe, if I don’t return to my disciplined eating, my muffin morning’s will lead to my early demise, but maybe not.  Maybe all this time that I’ve been so conscientious about limited starches and sugars my body’s been like, “This is nice, but honestly, you really don’t need to….”.  Then there’s the placebo argument which suggests that if you believe you’re taking care of yourself by eating well, then it’s thebelief part that deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

Do you think we can at times become overly obsessed with eating “perfectly” when in fact our body are far more forgiving than we think?  Chime in …

Oh and one lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive FIVE free-product coupons for an awesome cereal that has become my go-to dinner-cereal :) It’s Buckwheat and Hemp flakes, 100% organic, non GMO, just a hint of sweet and retails for over $5/box. You can find it at most Whole Foods and other health food stores.  These coupons are actually good for any of the Erewhon cereals. (Full disclosure, I do some writing for Attune Brands who own this brand and they have generously provided these coupons.)

 

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  • elucas

    Minus having the child, you just described my life right now. I broke my foot, worked on multiple states for the election and have been debriefing, prepping for board meetings, attending conferences and holiday outings and have fallen a good chunk off the wagon. Here’s to hoping it’s not all contributing to my demise. The long hours have had a big impact on my will power, energy levels and not being able to run has seriously upped my stress coping mechanism. You can only ride a stationary bike so many days in a row… The jury is still out, but I am feeling sluggish and off my game. It may very well be more mental than anything and the good thing I learned is that I won’t put on 10 pounds automatically by not running an hour a day. 2 cents.

  • Anonymous

    No you don’t have to eat “perfectly”. But you have to do better than rationalize what you are doing.

  • Teresa

    You said “I am far more tired”. To me that is a big difference in your health status. And all those simple carbs can be contributing to that tiredness. My babies are grown and gone, but one of the tricks that got me through their childhoods was 1) sleeping when they slept and 2) doing meal preparations that required two hands while the baby was sleeping. Sounds like directly conflicting suggestions, but being a new mom draws on our creative problem solving skills! Good luck…and start adding some greens back in just to see what happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tina.gaddes Tina Gaddes

    I am right there with you on the not having as much time, I have a 7 week old baby and the first few weeks were definitely not nutritionally perfect, however I’m finding a bit of a turnaround at the moment, getting more hands free time to do eals and it’s really helped. I don’t know if it’s in my head, but I cope better when I eat better. I’ve returned to working out, and I’m still breastfeeding, so I don’t whip myself if I do sneak in some sugar based carbs to help me through.

  • debbiejl

    I hope our bodies are forgiving! I just wonder over a loooooong period of time what happens. Right now, life seems complicated so youre doing the best you can… and thats okay.

  • Tammy

    Of course your title caught my eye …. last week my co-workers & I went out for a big carb-loaded breakfast & by mid-morning we were all sleepy… so health-wise I think it may not matter too much in the long run to indulge now and again. On the other hand, that day when I needed another cup of coffee to keep from being sluggish, then wanted a snack, I think I could spiral down into a diet that would just get me a bigger butt .. so in the end, I still think “everything in moderation” is best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elizahleigh Elizah Leigh

    I definitely think that there is an ebb and flow to pursuing a healthful lifestyle and sometimes, it’s just not as practical to ‘stay the course’ depending on the specific circumstances in one’s life. Having a child changes former habits radically — you’re responsible for the comfort and general well being of another human being. Suddenly, the idea of consuming virtuous foods becomes secondary to the necessity of making sure that your child receives the very best start in life. Perhaps your body is forgiving right now because you have been dedicated to nutritious eating for so long!

  • Enid

    Enjoy your muffins! Enjoy your cereal which is good at night for sleep.
    Being kind to yourself is as important as what you eat. Obsession over ones diet – and the resulting stress – has never done much for anyones health. There’s plenty of time for greens!

  • PDL

    Long term, of course, short term, like a day, maybe not. All I know is that if I break down and have a diet coke, I feel like I want more sugar for days. Not worth it. If I eat too much salt, I feel it, not immediate, the next day, in puff around my eyes and face. But when I eat clean, fresh and whole, I feel wonderful. I love waking up and feeling “empty”, like I only need water and 30 minutes of yoga and the world is mine. I look forward to a bowl of homemade minestrone when I get home from work, it fills and warms me and I know I did right.

    All that said, a “cake” muffin does sound pretty good now and then.

  • Karen

    I honestly believe our bodies are more forgiven than we give them credit for. Our bodies are in tune to what we need, and when we need it. This is just your time to not stress over it. You will get back to the greens soon, but raising that baby is far more important!

  • Karen

    I honestly believe our bodies are more forgiven than we give them credit for. Our bodies are in tune to what we need, and when we need it. This is just your time to not stress over it. You will get back to the greens soon, but raising that baby is far more important!

  • Sarah

    I think you get a reprieve after having a baby. It’s not an entirely free pass, but your metabolism is ramped up so you can produce that calorie-rich breast milk. Enjoy it and eat whatever you please, for a while at least. Eventually the spring greens will entice you back and maybe they’ll make you feel sharper, cleaner, more energetic. If you start craving sugar or quick pick-me-ups, you know it’s time to cut out the muffins and cereal. Three years after my last baby I’m back on greens and protein, but I’ll probably indulge in some freshly baked gingerbread men tomorrow too!

  • Mary

    Right on! All things in moderation…

  • dbspeanut

    I wish I did cook a bit more healthy. But I did for years when my sons were home. I do, however, heat healthy considering what most people eat. I eat low-fat and “clean”. Mostly because
    I have to due to medication. But I feel good and at my age (50+) I am in great shape. I exercise because I want to. But I don’t get in a tizzy if I eat ice cream when I want. AND, there I nights I crave a bowl of cereal.

  • http://twitter.com/MsLynnChen Lynn Chen

    ever since i stopped labeling food as “good” “bad” “junk” etc. i’ve noticed i stopped gaining/losing weight to extremes and just fit into my clothes for the last 3 years. that to me, is healthier for my mind than any other way of eating.

  • RoseAnne

    I think a lot depends on how healthy you are. If you have been eating super healthy for quite a while and your body is in a very healthy state then I think the body is very forgiving and can subsist for quite some time on a less nutrient dense diet. I do think bad food habits will eventually catch up with you though.
    However, I think a person who has been eating super healthy for a shorter period of time and whose body is still trying to heal from years of misuse will experience more of a setback when they “go off the wagon” and revert to bad habits. In this case the body simply does not have the reserves it needs to handle the decrease in nutrients.

  • Jen

    I think it depends on your current state of health, and your propensity for food addiction. My immune system went haywire a few years ago, and I start feeling crappy pretty quickly when I stray from Nutritarian eating. For me, it becomes a slippery slope…any added bread or sweets in my diet cause cravings for sugar fixes to resume again. This only gets resolved when I go back to perfection eating.

  • Jen

    I think it depends on your current state of health, and your propensity for food addiction. My immune system went haywire a few years ago, and I start feeling crappy pretty quickly when I stray from Nutritarian eating. For me, it becomes a slippery slope…any added bread or sweets in my diet cause cravings for sugar fixes to resume again. This only gets resolved when I go back to perfection eating.

  • Melanie

    Don’t be fooled! You’re young and you’ve been taking great care of yourself….now moreso finn. As you age it will catch up to you!! I think your body is more resilient right for two reasons – you’re young and your in good health. Allow yourself those comforts temporarily but get back to eating healthy again….you won’t regret it :-)

  • Melanie

    Don’t be fooled! You’re young and you’ve been taking great care of yourself….now moreso finn. As you age it will catch up to you!! I think your body is more resilient right for two reasons – you’re young and your in good health. Allow yourself those comforts temporarily but get back to eating healthy again….you won’t regret it :-)

  • lymore

    i hear you girl! i am actually 4 months pregnant now and during the first 3 months, all i wanted was soft doughy breads and cakes and all things yummy and devoid of any actual nutrition. i’m sure many of you have been there. hanukkah just ended, thankfully, because each day i made it my mission to try a jelly doughnut from a different gourmet bakery. i live in tel aviv, so the variety here is crazy!! i found my fave and had it twice. oy. anyway, i actually felt pretty good, physically during this time, only gained 2 pounds and my skin has never looked better, but i was mentally beating myself up. yesterday i started a wheat and sugar detox and of course adding in all those beautiful greens again, so we’ll see how it goes, but honestly, i felt good before. what gives?!

  • Robin

    I agree with other comments, it’s a slippery slope. Also it isn’t just about gaining weight, but how you feel!

  • Robin

    I agree with other comments, it’s a slippery slope. Also it isn’t just about gaining weight, but how you feel!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynettesheppard Lynette Sheppard

    Absolutely, I believe that we can become too rigid about eating “healthy”. Lately, as a post menopausal woman, I’ve begun to relax just a bit about what I eat. Sure, eating donuts as a steady diet we all can agree will have deleterious health effects. A combination of generally good eating habits (allowing for the occasional scone at Starbucks which is also just like cake) combined with regular exercise and reducing stress as much as possible can overall contribute to health. As an RN, I’ve been pretty obsessive about healthy eating, and then about my weight (thank you, menopause). So that extra 10 pounds I’ve tried to lose with every diet known to man and woman? Never came off. Now that I’ve relaxed and given up the scale? I feel better than I have since my 30′s, have lots of endurance, and my clothes are getting looser! Could being kind to myself have been the remedy all along? Not sure, but maybe.

    Lynette sheppard, Menopause Goddess Blog

  • Chelle

    You might want to check out Matt Stone’s “180 Degree Health” Blog. It’s like a breath of fresh air. After obsessing for years (mom put me on my 1st diet when I was 8, and it’s been up and down ever since), Matt’s work feels like Independence Day. I’m just a woman who has been on a quest for “perfect health,” only to realize that diets aren’t sustainable, and food fanaticism is stressful and dull. Plus, I’m feeling really, really great since implementing some of his radical ideas, like just eating the food, and listening to my body. Eat drink and be merry – what a concept! Sometimes the simple pleasure of just living for the day and enjoying your time on this earth with a muffin/cake is its own reward.

    • Nicole @WholeHealthRD

      I second that. His blog was the first thing I thought of when I read this post. He’s very funny and digs deep into nutrition research and theories. “RRARFing” makes total sense the more I see patients who have been dieting and/or restricting certain foods for years. And his thoughts are sugar are mind-blowing! The blog comments and e-books are super valuable as well.

  • Carrie

    i just stopped entering food into my food diary a few weeks ago and I’m trying to eat more intuitively. It seems to be working, and I was glad to see this post in my feed this morning for validation!

  • Martha

    Hi Michelle,

    Way to rock the boat with buckwheat and hemp flakes! I’ll be worried about you when you’re knocking back Cocoa Puffs with Mountain Dew but for now it sounds like you’re in a safe place.

    I agree with you that those of us who are passionate about food, can take things too far. I’m not ready to abandon my belief that putting real food into your body is very important but I do think that healthy most of the time, less healthy some of the time is a good way to live.

  • islandpoet

    I think moderation is key. My problem is if I start with a muffin (= sugar) then later in the day the craving is up there, and my willpower is lower and it can start a cycle. Once in a while it’s ok but it’s not good for more than a day in a row. For me.

  • http://www.mommysnest.com MommyLisa

    Just be careful – after I quit breast-feeding I had forgotten how to eat and put back ALL the baby weight. I just had not worked out like I used to and let myself have that PB sandwich at mid-morning. :P

  • MommyMarilyn

    I have to say I honestly feel better and have less brain fog when I stay off the starchy foods. Having said that…..my eating has spiraled into a land of convenient fast starchy carbs as having baby no. 2 has left me with little time and even less energy. Once I start on the carbs….my body just wants more!! Its a very slippery slope for me and a daily struggle to choose green food over white food right now. Okay – i’m rambling so for the record….I do feel the starch & sugar is affecting my health….or the very least my energy and how I feel.

  • MommyMarilyn

    I have to say I honestly feel better and have less brain fog when I stay off the starchy foods. Having said that…..my eating has spiraled into a land of convenient fast starchy carbs as having baby no. 2 has left me with little time and even less energy. Once I start on the carbs….my body just wants more!! Its a very slippery slope for me and a daily struggle to choose green food over white food right now. Okay – i’m rambling so for the record….I do feel the starch & sugar is affecting my health….or the very least my energy and how I feel.

  • David Tresner-Kirsch

    Well, at least the go-to cereal dinner is still pretty darn wholesome!

  • Brucy McGraw

    There is never a bad time for cereal!!

  • Shea

    I have a hard time with this one too, being the mom of a young one (and watching one or two more during the week), but my major downfall is Ben and Jerry’s. A whole pint. After bedtime. My warning to you is that after a month or so of doing just what you are describing (but adding the B&Js 2x a week), I got SO messed up in the gut! My body forgot how to do anything right down there and I had to do a veggie and juice cleanse… took weeks to get normal again. So I got right back on track, at least for the greens at dinner and such, but the Coffee Heath Bar Crunch still makes its way to my freezer at least 2x a month still…

  • beyond

    moderation is key… like with everything in life.
    (and cereal for dinner every once in a while is awesome!)

  • KKERBER

    So nice to see you admit being human. Young babies drain your energy and needing comfort food is just fine. Once the kid(s) are older you will get back to healthy eating or watch swings in your families diet. We ate Brussel Sprouts tonight!!! Tomorrow who knows, but we try.

  • Rick

    As a yin and yang foody …. my sense is that mixing a “little” junk food is good for the soul – like fish and chips – but not too often. Moderation is the key. We should listen to our bodies – my wife enjoys a boiled egg with a cereal/milk desert for supper.

    Having said moderation is the key, my real downfall is Cookies. Being a grazer … (perhaps I was a cow in a former life) …. my will power is overcome by my appreciation for my wife’s good baking and I would not want to hurt her feelings!

    Seriously, eating “perfectly” means different things to different folks. For example, Mediterranean cuisine of oil, tomatoes and red wine; Arctic indigenous peoples diet at one time had no veggies; Vegan folks expouse “perfection” to mean “without meat” – these are all fine, all can be healthy! And we’re all different, we just have to listen to our bodies and enjoy little luxuries occasionally. Genes and life style will have a far greater impact on ultimate health.

  • Guest

    I agree with not getting obsessed with food calculations, and that moderation is key. However, by rationalizing it’s “okay” to eat certain things, it is a lot easier to eat too much of it and eventually you will find yourself with less than optimal health and have a lot more work to do to get back to a state you want to be.

  • Emily

    I love this post, as I am often in the same boat! Since returning to grad school, working part-time to pay the bills, and keeping up my general crazy schedule of activities, I often find myself standing at the counter at 9:30pm (not my normal dinner time), looking for something quick and semi-healthy for dinner because I haven’t gotten a chance to prepare a single meal, all day. When I get my physicals, I ask my doctor about salt, sugar, and fat intake and they look at me like I’m nuts, because by all accounts, I look and seem perfectly healthy (I think this diagnosis would change if I weren’t so active).

    So I’ve just started believing them. I pretty much eat what I want (almost always healthy, though I have a dangerous sweet tooth) and try to maintain healthy portions on the unhealthy stuff. Maybe the bulk of it is attitude, but I suppose only time will tell. Anyways, thanks for the post!

  • Alyssa

    Stressing about maintaining a healthy diet might un-do the good you are trying to achieve in the first place by eating well. I agree that it can be a slippery slope, but I would think that it’s just as unhealthy to sacrifice sleep for food preparation, or take time away from family time just to get to farmer’s market. I think if you make good, conscious decisions for the majority of your food intake, you can afford the daily indulgence. Sometimes that pizza that my boyfriend wants to order during the football game is worth saving cooking preparations so that I get to spend the extra time with him doing something we like together. And keeping an active lifestyle makes all the difference in how I personally feel that my body processes the food I eat – and I don’t mean a 10 mile run. Simply caring for an infant consumes effort and energy, the same way you might expend energy bustling around all day running errands and cooking for a dinner party. I think diet always has to be balanced with your activity level and your happiness – the best diet in the world won’t necessarily make you healthy if you are stretched thin, depressed, or distracted.

  • Fred

    Well, I certainly hope you can find the right balance with the issues you are juggling. One solution i have for the “eat your greens” advice is to check out Amazon.com for those “Super All-in-one” concoctions! They have some really good prices and the reviewers can be extremely helpful. I use a combination of 2 different brands and I can really feel a major beneficial difference for some years now. All the best to ya!

  • Fred

    Back!!! I forgot to mention that Vitacost.com is also excellent and I avoid any product that is not organic and/or non-GMO. I see more and more studies confirming just how much of a nasty toll non-organic and GMO products can take on our bods.

  • michellea

    Nice try. Can you imagine what’s in that muffin? And the calories! lol I guess the next article will be – elastic waists, they’re not so bad, are they?

  • MamaHolt

    Then there’s the placebo argument which suggests that if you believe you’re taking care of yourself by eating well, then it’s thebelief part that deserves the lion’s share of the credit.

    That’s your ticket, right there.

    Eat what you what, when you want. Listen to your body. If you’re eating gallons of anything all day, then it’s not about eating anyway, it’s about something else.

    Eat food. Most healthy. Some not. Be happy. Enjoy every single second of that baby and know that you’ll have years and years and years of good and not-so-good eating in front of you. Just enjoy the ride, you’re never finished.

  • dee

    OMG My whole foods just got this into stock and it has become my all time favorite of the Erewhon cereals. I am having this just about every day and vary it up between coconut milk and hemp milk!! Delish!!!!!

  • Faith Harris

    Definitely food for thought!

  • msveee

    just started (yesterday) trying to change my habits…on monday, i went and got some supplies, vitamins and looked into juicer/blenders…yesterday, i took in more veggies/fruit & legumes than i have in a while…after a very stressful year, my already not great habits got worse. but a lightbulb went off…i don’t want to just do this for 2-3 days (juicing or cleansing)…and i don’t want to give up my occasional burger or wine or splurge…but that was the lightbulb…if i do things “right,” most of the time, then i can enjoy these things…actually enjoy them, taste them etc…baby steps for me.

  • Mario

    I don’t believe in all the healthy food hype and diets. I eat what I want to eat. I eat what my body wants, and I believe it is the right thing to do. If I crave meat, I will eat meat, if I crave fruit I’ll get fruit, etc. If I want a Big Mac, I’ll eat that too and won’t care about some know it all wiseguys on the internet telling me it’s gonna kill me. However, one thing I would not ingest is unfiltered water.
    It contains metals, toxins, and allergens. Now, water makes up approximately 60 percent of the human body. Your blood is 93 percent water and your muscles are about 75 percent water. I think I’d rather consume quality mineral water, than worry about some silly diet!

  • Virginia

    Great article. This is so interesting. It’s unfortunate that bad celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher, take their diets to the extremes, place their acting careers before their nutrition, and end up jeopardizing their health.

    http://celebritychef.tv/2013/08/07/fruit-diet-fails-ashton-kutcher-during-prep-to-play-steve-jobs/