Monday, March 28, 2011

Intuitive Eating

Anyone out there heard of Weston Price?

He was this apparently brilliant dentist who, in the 1940's, I believe, went around the world studying different "primitive" (read: isolated) cultures to look at their diets and the state of their teeth.

What he found is that "primitive" diets varied in many ways, but had in common a few things such as:

  1. all contained animal fats and protein -- some rarely ate meat, but all consumed animal protein, and certainly none were vegan 
  2. they all ate lots of the naturally occurring fats that we are now taught to be scared of, like saturated fats. none of them ate trans fats, of course. 
  3. they didn't eat sugar, or white flour, or other processed carbohyrdrates
  4. they had wide faces and beautiful, uncrowded teeth
I am grossly oversimplifying here, and I will try to come back and do a better job soon. 

I first learned about this work from Nina Planck's book, Real Food, and more recently her newer book, Real Food for Mother and Baby. Brilliant and inspiring. (I highly, highly recommend the latter for TTC'ing, pregnant, and nursing women.)

I've tried to eat more like this for a while, and then it gets hard. My mother, in particular, is critical of my consumption of, gasp!, whole fat (organic, grass-fed) milk. And it really is "going against the grain" (pun coincidental but nonetheless enjoyed), and it's hard to do anything that's so contrary to what we hear every day... and my convictions start to erode.

It's worth noting that drinking whole fat, grass-fed, organic, raw milk this summer is what seems to have cured me of my lactose intolerance. For what it's worth. (I'd love to drink raw milk in the city, but it's hard to come by. Still a work in progress... I've got a new lead.) 

Truthfully, the low fat (organic) yogurt that I switched to recently... I like it better than the whole-fat stuff, which leaves a greasy feeling in my mouth. But I'm going to try it again. I might just have to skim the layer of cream off the top, though.

Anyway, I'm very committed to not dieting. But at the same time, re-reading these books, and also Nourishing Traditions, I'm feeling a certain pressure to reform my diet. To start eating more protein (lately, my mainstays have been yogurt at breakfast, with fruit, and milk and fruit smoothies at night) so that I know I'm feeling my girl properly. 

But then, naturally enough (if you know me), I feel the urge to rebel. I'm not so good with authority.

So I'm trying to find a way to work on all this gently. 

So I watched and observed as I started rebelling these past few days, before I had even made any changes. I watched as I bought candy, thoughtfully observing... and noticed that I was content with a few bites. And celebrated that as progress. Even if I finished off a package of candy over a weekend, I saw it being broken down into several different occasions as progress. (Even though before this, I had rarely been eating candy.)

I also focused on a new mantra that I created for myself, "better to add than to take away." 

In other words, I'm going to try to avoid thinking about what I don't want to eat, and focus instead on what I do want to eat.

So today, after my appointment with the midwife, I skipped on over to the fish store, and bought myself some... oh dear, pregnancy brain... lemon flounder? I don't remember. Something light and flaky. 

Of course, when I got home, my feet hurt (the train couldn't stop at my regular station and continued one stop beyond. I decided to enjoy a longer walk home... and got a bit lost in the Hassidic community. For a god-loving people, some of them sure are mean and aggressive drivers. Yikes. Sorry, that's probably hugely offensive and essentializing and all that. But it has "struck" me multiple times recently). So when I finally got home I was tired enough that I wanted to sit for a few minutes... and that led me to snacking on Raisin Bran (on sale at CVS for an incredible $1.87 a box), first plain, then with albeit organic, grass-fed whole milk.

An aside: ever since I had Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome last October and was on a low sodium diet, cereal makes me feel unbearably thirsty afterwards. It's not like I limit my salt intake in other respects. Weird.

Anyway, so I had the Raisin Bran. I could've been critical of myself, but I decided not to be. Very un-Intuitive Eating (this is a whole awesome movement that I've been a part of for two and a half years now) to beat yourself up. But eventually, not too long later, actually, due to the wonders of pregnancy, I was hungry again! Surprise!

So I mustered up my energy and dusted that lovely white flaky fish in ground almonds (I figured that my friend Weston would like almonds better than white flour) and sauteed it in a mixture of coconut oil and butter. Ol' Wes loves coconut oil (as well as butter), as it's high in... lauric acid? I forget. Something that you can't get from anywhere but coconut oil, and maybe also breast milk. Sorry I'm butchering his work so badly. 

Anyway, I'm pleased with myself.

I'm being careful to avoid any goals of weight loss. In addition to the rather obvious obstacle of being pregnant, I'm very wary of hoping for weight loss, as a) it never happens, and b) it gets my head in a bad, mean, self-hating space.

So I won't go there.

But I would like to work on this possible case of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome I've got. My lab work is dead normal -- no elevated LH;FSH ratio, nice low cholesterol and triglycerides, perfect fasting glucose -- but I've got some of the clinical signs, like skin tags, weight gain (was borderline overweight when I got pregnant, but more relevant, had gained at least 20 pounds in the last few years, after being stable at one weight for five years), a touch of possible hirsuitism (not pronounced, but again, different than how I was a few years back), a little acne here an there... Nothing impressive in itself, just changes from the "old" me. 

So I'm hoping this new way of eating might help me physically... without doing any of the mental damage that I've experienced with diets, many of them with touted health benefits, that I've experimented with in the past. 

I'm curious if this is an all or nothing proposition, this "diet"... I don't do well with rules, as I believe I mentioned before. So if I'm not allowed to have a donut, it'll be all donuts, all the time. But if it's just encouraged to limit my donuts unless I really, really want one... I probably won't think about donuts for months at a time.

But the beautiful thing about this way of eating, so far as I can tell, is that it really isn't a diet. So there are no rules. A blessing and a curse, both. 

Most of y'all probably think this is totally nuts, but if anyone has any knowledge or interest in this, please do contact me. I'd love to chat about it. 

This is kind of a crappy website, but if you are persistent and poke around a bit, you can get a better idea of what his work is about.

Please do read Nina Planck's book! If nothing else, it's fascinating and well researched. Whether you agree with the science or not, you won't be bored.


  1. I'm definitely going to check that book out. When I decided to start TTC changing my diet was one of the first things I did. In comparasion to the majority of people I was already eating "healthy" but I wanted to go beyond that. So I have been eating (almost) all organic and natural for about 6 months. No artificial colors, perservative, flavors, and no high fructose corn syrup. I was a vegetarian (for ethical reasons) for a long time, but my research showed that I needed to add red meat back in. I try to get all my meat, milk, and produce local, and what I can't I make sure I know where it's coming from.

  2. I really enjoy following your blog (I'm an SMC as well, three weeks behind you in my pregnancy) and I especially liked this one because this is how I try to eat, too. I became a total local food convert after reading Michael Pollan's and Barbara Kingsolver's books. The ones you mention here I haven't read, but I'll be seeking them out soon. I joined a CSA farm last year for the first time and love it SO much. I now eat local dairy, eggs, and meat after eating almost NO meat for years simply because I didn't know where to get meat that wasn't industrially raised. I often get the whole milk, and I'll have to look into coconut oil. Thanks!

  3. yay for both of you!!!!

    you will love the book. it's so great!

    and glad that the post was helpful... it looks so LONG! i was worried it would be very boring!

    i'd love to hear what you think of the book!

    and thanks for reading!!!

    and casey, i'm thinking of joining a CSA myself this year. i did it once before but ended up throwing out a lot of stuff... i get intimidated by too many groceries in the refrigerator! so usually i go to the farmer's market instead. so great for you and your little one that you are eating all that local fresh food!!!

    do you have a blog??? i'd love to hear about your pregnancy!