Continuing on from the post I shared Tuesday, I think it’s time for me to share my thoughts on the dreaded word- diet.
Let me start with a little background first so that you understand where I’m coming from. For those that don’t know, I studied Food Science & Technology at Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!) and earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in that field. That landed me a position with a major food company for which I currently work full time.
Now, I want to make this clear. I am by definition a food scientist. I am NOT a nutritionist, dietitian, chef, baker, culinary mastermind, etc. However, I took enough nutrition and science courses and have done enough research on my own to provide a decent background in that area. But like I said, I’m a food scientist, not a nutritionist.
In case you are wondering what a food scientist does, I always give the example, “We study why bread turns brown when it’s toasted.” We don’t study how it’s digested in the human body or how to toast it to culinary perfection. It’s the science that supports the why. Sometimes our job partially entails the culinary aspect of things such as in a research and development position but I can talk about that another time.
Along with being a food scientist, I’m very active. At some point or another I’ve been a soccer player, collegiate dancer, marathon runner and CrossFitt(er). I’ve been across the spectrum in terms of goals such as eating to “get bigger” or eating to look good in a crop top on national television. I’ve been there, done that. Most importantly, I’ve learned over the years what I need to eat in order to properly fuel by body, how much, how often, etc. depending on my goals at the time. This subject gets my gears turning so I’ve done a lot of research and tested many different diets (mainly as mini experiments for myself).
Speaking of the word “diet”… I hate it. People see it and immediately assume it means to lose weight. In all actuality, the word diet literally means the food a person consumes. Nowadays it has such a negative connotation tacked on to it because of our culture. I read an article a couple of weeks ago specifically talking about diet culture. This phrase, which is becoming more common recently, is founded upon the shared view of the “perfect body”. The obsession that comes along with that image is what characterizes diet culture.
In the article the author did an experiment to really see how prevalent diet culture is. Her results were simple: it’s everywhere. Take a look in the store, for example. You’ll see words such as, “thin, skinny, weight, slim” on so many products. But as someone that works in the food industry, I think it’s important for me to mention that 100% of the blame can’t be put on “us”. We’re criticized for making these products and yet we’re criticized if we don’t. Do you know what the great thing about being a consumer is? We can decide what we do and don’t want to buy. If you don’t agree with a product, don’t purchase it. I sure as heck don’t. If enough people feel the same way and follow suit, the demand for volume will decrease and the company will have to make a decision- Should we continue or discontinue this product?
After experimenting for years with food, my outlook on diet is quite simple. I don’t agree with restrictions. I think “clean eating” is a bunch of bull (So… Every other type of diet is “unclean”?). I wholeheartedly believe in the good ol’ phrase, “everything in moderation”, meat included. I chow down on fruits, vegetables, and nuts on the daily but If I want a donut, I’m going to eat a donut. Life is too short to stress over it. If I’m feeling “fluffy” as I call it or IF I want to lose weight, I’ll focus on more vegetables and protein and less sugar.
I don’t believe there is a perfect answer to the diet question. I think every person should do what makes them happiest and feel the best. I know I feel the best when I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, hands down. However, I love being able to enjoy a treat every night after dinner (more than just fruit). It makes me happy so I do it! Some people can live without any sweets and be perfectly content too. If they are completely happy on just a vegetables + fruits + nuts and seeds diet, more power to them. Every person is different.
When tackling diet ask yourself this question- How would I need to eat in order to feel the best and be the happiest? I guarantee that it’s not possible to check the boxes of both parameters by consuming foods that lack any nutrients all day. Focus on finding the balance between feeling good (healthy) and being happy. After all, those are the two most important things in life, right?