Everything Is a Contradiction – Just Eat Food and Stop Thinking So Much.

Insurance Companies Are Ridiculous.

I am sitting here looking at an article from a magazine that Bobby got from his insurance company. It states (I am paraphrasing):

  • (1) “Food choices are responsible for a third of your rate of aging.”
  • (2) “Eat 13 ounces of fish per week to keep your arteries healthy.”
  • (3) “Consume 10 tablespoons of cooked tomato-based products per week to get the benefits of lycopene. Lycopene may reduce the risk of cancers or heart disease.”
  • (4) “Eat peanuts – an unsaturated fat – because unsaturated fat lowers cholesterol.”
  • (5) “Low-fat and nonfat dairy products are good sources of calcium.”

There is more but I will not go into it because that is enough.

This is all crap.

Here is what I think:

(1) Food choices affect your health, but your mental health is what really matters. Mental health manifests itself physically, you know! Some studies have shown that if you eat “crap” (what is “crap”, really?) but you are happy, your medical indicators (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc…) will be better than those of someone who eats “healthy” (ugh, these classifications) but is depressed. If we¬†eat intuitively (meaning we don’t think about eating too much) you will probably be happier than if you worry about what you are eating.

(2) You don’t have to eat fish to be healthy. You don’t have to not eat fish to be healthy. Fish (or any other food) is not some magical solution that will solve all of our health problems. In fact, if you stress out over eating fish, you will probably start to be stressed, which will lead to poor health… (See #1 above.) Eat fish if you crave it (there’s that intuitive eating thing again) and don’t if you don’t.

(3) 10 tablespoons of cooked tomatoes? Really? How about FOOD. Real food. Not too much. Not too much thinking. Just eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. Trying to get veggies but not stressing about it. Eating fats. Eating carbs. Just eating without thinking. (But not eating mindlessly.) Intuitive eating.

(4) First, the assumption that saturated fat is not healthy is completely bogus. It was based on a study that eliminated the outliers (countries that didn’t fit the theory that saturated fat clogs your arteries). More on that at Mark’s Daily Apple. I eat lots of butter and moderate amounts of red meat, and my numbers are fabulous. I feel great. Fat is your friend! Even saturated fat. Second, why focus on peanuts? Lots of nuts are good. So are things like avocados and olives. There is no magic food. Just eat real food most of the time and you will be fine.

(5) Nonfat and low-fat dairy – ugh. If you have lactose issues, full fat might be easier to digest; it also has (healthy) saturated fats. Some good ways to incorporate full-fat dairy into your diet (if you want) is cream in your coffee or maybe some whipped cream over berries. The idea that dairy gives you calcium is not really true either – dairy probably leeches more calcium from your bones than it contributes to them (this is because of the high protein content – our bodies leech calcium to digest animal protein). A better way to strengthen your bones is to get enough vitamin D and to eat other foods high in calcium (like kale!). Weight bearing activity is good too. But remember, don’t stress about it (see #1 again). Eat it if you want it. Don’t if you don’t.

Eat Food. Preferably Real Food. Stop Thinking. Start Living.

I think #1 above is the most important point that I will make today: mental health manifests itself physically – if you are genuinely happy, you will probably be genuinely healthy. Happiness does not mean stuffing your face with burgers – if that makes you happy you have issues. Happiness also does not mean only eating salads – you have issues if you do that as well. Neither of those are examples of intuitive eating.Happiness is enjoying most of your days (but not all). It’s not being stressed continually. It’s feeling relaxed. At times you will be stressed but it will pass. Some days you will have a salad and others you may have a steak. But it all balances out as long as you are not thinking too much about it!

What do you think? Am I saying crazy things?

41 Comments on Everything Is a Contradiction – Just Eat Food and Stop Thinking So Much.

  1. Beth @ To the Fullest
    10 November, 2010 at 8:06 am (4 years ago)

    You are not saying crazy things.

    #3 on the insurance company’s recommendation list is too funny.

    This post reminds me of what yoga teacher Sadie Nardini has has said: “Eat, but not too much.”

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 8:58 pm (4 years ago)

      @Beth: I love Sadie!

  2. Alina @ Duty Free Foodie
    10 November, 2010 at 9:23 am (4 years ago)

    I agree with you!

    Fat, including saturated fat, is nourishing. Real food works better than reducing everything to ridiculous recommendations like “10 tablespoons of cooked tomatoes” and mental health definitely affects our physical health!

    Low-fat dairy is a concept that makes no sense in any alternate universe (get your fat soluble vitamins here, folks, but make sure you don’t eat the fat that makes them work!)

    Relaxing about these rules and eating mostly nourishing foods, I think, is better for both health and sanity.

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:00 pm (4 years ago)

      @Alina: LOL about the alternate universe comment ;)

  3. Megan @ ascension blog
    10 November, 2010 at 9:30 am (4 years ago)

    I think you’re right on the mark! Over-thinking on the “right” foods and the “right” way to eat is recipe for disaster (i.e., eating disorder)!
    And, besides, we’ve all heard a story about a health-nut who did everything “right” – got lots of exercise, never drank, never smoked, ate a super healthy diet – and still got cancer and died, right? Enough said…

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 8:59 pm (4 years ago)

      @Megan: Exactly!

  4. Molly
    10 November, 2010 at 9:52 am (4 years ago)

    I agree with you on most things, but the #1 thing on the list isn’t crazy. Food, chemically, definitely does have a big effect on aging, and if you make the right food choices for your body you will probably live longer. I mean, isn’t that the whole point of how the Japanese live the longest and how Americans are dying earlier? I know food isn’t the whole picture, but it is at least 1/3. maybe mental health can be the other 1/3, and something else like genetics can complete the picture.

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:01 pm (4 years ago)

      @Molly: I think it’s a really tricky thing to measure and we definitely need a whole lot more research. It’s silly how we put so many resources to fixing our health problems instead of finding ways to prevent them in the first place.

  5. Lisa @ I'm an Okie
    10 November, 2010 at 10:41 am (4 years ago)

    Agreed. I do think that what you eat has an effect on aging as one states but I also agree with you that your mental health does too.

    I can tell you that once I became an intuitve eater, I became a lot happier!

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:02 pm (4 years ago)

      @Lisa: Me too! I’m also a better friend/wife/person in general when I’m not pissy about food all the time.

      • Tiffany
        14 November, 2010 at 11:26 am (4 years ago)

        @Maggie, I totally agree–I, too, am a much nicer, more thoughtful woman/friend/wife/dog mom when I’m not obsessing over every morsel of food I am about to consume (or not, out of fear)!!
        I really love this post. I am about to venture further into the world of intuitive eating as I continue to recover from my ED… It’s both scary and empowering, if that makes sense.
        And I love what @Alina said upthread about lowfat dairy. I gravitate toward skim milk for cereal, but really, it’s fairly gross/water when I look at it.
        And what @Megan said makes sense, too–even people who eat totally “clean” can get cancer. Life is unfair that way.

  6. Eden
    10 November, 2010 at 11:06 am (4 years ago)

    You said it! Mental health trumps “physical” and I firmly believe poor physical health will who physically. And lf dairy??? They tell women getting pregnant to load up on ice cream and full fat milk for crying out load! gah, this whole thing pissed me off!

  7. Arlene @ Adventures in Weight Loss
    10 November, 2010 at 11:36 am (4 years ago)

    Interesting point, for sure. But for those of us who struggle with the mind/body connection, that may be simplifying it too much.

    Or perhaps it’s just right. I’ve been counting things (calories, carbs, Points) for so long I don’t know how to eat intuitively. I don’t think I ever did. (If I had, I wouldn’t have needed to be counting anything, eh?) ;)

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 11:39 am (4 years ago)

      @Arlene: I am reading a really great book called “Making Peace with Food” – I don’t agree with everything it says (for example it says that we should all follow low-fat diets) but it makes some good points and it’s forcing me to be more intuitive. It’s definitely hard when you’ve been counting/obsessing but I don’t think that you can really be healthy until you find a way to stop!

  8. Kim
    10 November, 2010 at 12:13 pm (4 years ago)

    I agree with you 100% that mental health is what matters most. I think genetics determine so much, too. Food is not magic.
    You’re reading “Making Peace with Food”?? The green workbook? I love that book! I read it years ago and it really helped me think about intuitive eating in a new, relatable way.

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:03 pm (4 years ago)

      @Kim: I just got it a few days ago! (I had ordered it from Amazon.) I need to keep on reading it… I love how she makes you write in your answers in the book. I think the book was originally published in like 1985 and it’s very cool that it’s still relevant.

      • A.
        14 November, 2010 at 1:32 pm (4 years ago)

        Is it possible to do that if you need to gain weight? Intuitive eating?

  9. Maggie
    10 November, 2010 at 3:49 pm (4 years ago)

    Lots and lots of people have no clue how eat appropriately. Telling someone who lives off of fast food to start eating “real food” is too vague and not meaningful. Same goes for saying that they should just eat less or watch portion sizes. How are they supposed to know such things.

    Sure, that list of “to-do’s” may seem funny to someone like you. But to the uninitiated, those are small, specific, attainable goals or guidance to think about.

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:11 pm (4 years ago)

      @Maggie: First, I like your name :)

      You have a really good point. And just a note, I actually didn’t really mean for this post to be about weight loss, but more about overall health. The problem is that giving people a list of random rules is no better than telling them not to do anything. People who don’t know what “real food” is need a better resource than a pamphlet from their insurance company (if they even have insurance) and, admittedly, they need a better resource than someone just telling them to stop thinking about food so much and eat real food. The thing is, you don’t get to be incredibly overweight and sedentary without there being some kind of underlying issue. At some point you have to realize that eating an entire pizza is making you feel like crap or that not getting any exercise (and I don’t mean strenuous exercise – I just mean some kind of movement like walking) is also not helping things. What ends up happening to those people is that they focus in on rules like these, and then when they can’t stick with them they just go back to their old habits but probably worse than before. People don’t realize that being healthy is not something that you can do for a while to fix your situation and then go back to the way things were. It’s about moderation in everything. But yep, figuring out what moderation means is hard too.

      This reply is getting epic. Basically, I agree that people have no clue – but I don’t think that a list of “to-dos” is a good way to go about it.

      Maybe I will write more on this later. Would love to hear more of your thoughts too!

  10. the dainty pig
    10 November, 2010 at 5:35 pm (4 years ago)

    hello dear Maggie!
    I don’t have much time to comment these days, but absolutely needed to when I read this post. Totally agree with you!
    Mental/psychological stress demolishes most “healthy” activities (eating, exercising, etc.). I think if you can relax, not stress, and use a bit of good judgment, you will be just fine… but worrying over eating potatoes or carrots or chocolate cake just manifests itself negatively in the body.

    Ahh…. so much to say. Great words, thanks for this post!

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:12 pm (4 years ago)

      @the dainty pig: thanks for commenting!! Poor mental health *does* completely demolish healthy activities. I like the way you phrased it :)

  11. Rachel
    10 November, 2010 at 6:09 pm (4 years ago)

    :) I second the “ugh” for low fat/fat free dairy. It’s amazing to me how much time and effort I have spent trying to eat the way other people to tell me to eat, in spite of how eating that way made me feel. Lately I’ve just been trying to pick and choose what works for me and my plan is essentially what the title of your post says. It makes intuitive sense to me to eat real, clean, whole foods (like whole eggs, grass fed beef, and raw milk) and eat when you feel like eating, which may not necessarily be a three meal + 2 snack day. I’m still working on the not thinking so much, but I’m hoping that that’s the way I’ll end up :)

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:18 pm (4 years ago)

      @Rachel: Practice makes perfect :)

  12. Kath (Eating for Living)
    10 November, 2010 at 8:57 pm (4 years ago)

    I’m with you in everything you say! There’s so much crap circulating when it comes to nutrition … The more I read about it, the more I come to believe in conspiracy theories. ;) I think blogging may be a way to get things into perspective again, because it all depends on knowledge, and at least some people will read your blog or others that are of like mind and rethink what they’ve learned about food. Many people are just badly informed because they’re told by their doctors and nutritionists and take their word for truth, but those nutritional guidelines will actually make people ill. This makes me angry and sad.

    • Maggie
      10 November, 2010 at 9:14 pm (4 years ago)

      @Kath: Blogging can be good, but there are also so many blogs out there that are promoting disordered behaviors even if they appear to be “healthy” blogs on the surface. I also agree that Dr’s and other health professionals are often misinformed. It makes me angry and sad too :( But I don’t know what to do about it (besides writing this blog).

  13. caronae
    10 November, 2010 at 11:22 pm (4 years ago)

    I am in agreement with your thoughts here, mostly. I blog jointly about mental and physical health prewcisely because I think they are intertwined. What we think and how we feel (happy/sad/ecstatic/confused/anxious/grievous/stunned, etc.) affects our bodies physically. It’s so simple, yet also so….complicated.

    I have recently switched to mostly low-fat (as opposed to fat free) dairy products. I have also added more fats to my diet in general (more avocados, walnuts, fish, meat, butter, coconut oil) and feel GREAT. I have lost a little weight recently and am hesitant to attribute it to that, but we’ll see. I’ll just have to continue the experiment. :) I do think dairy is the best source of calcium though. By no means is it the only source nor does anyone have to consume it, but it really is a phenomenal source. My dad and I have been talking about it recently (he’s a doctor). He was telling me that most plant based sources (kale, spinach, broccoli, etc.) cannot necessarily be absorbed by the body. I’m sure more research has to be done on the subject either way. I do find it annoying that everyone is constantly saying how we must eat X amount of dairy to get enough calcium.

  14. clare
    10 November, 2010 at 11:23 pm (4 years ago)

    Nah Mags you are not crazy. But remember to have compassion…not everyone understands what you do and has your knowledge and experience. Yah, the insurance company is stupid, but what is more sad is that people think they are being educated by these things. They just don’t know any better. And for that, I have compassion as well as frustration.

    After I suffered a bacterial infection that caused ulcers, my insurance company would not stop sending me things on how to not eat pizza and fried foods and how to quit smoking, because apparently the only way to get an ulcer is via fast food and cigarettes. The truth is that I likely caught the bug from a fresh vegetable product and my weak digestive/immune system couldn’t fight it off. But instead of knowing my real story, insurance lumped me in the fast food eating cancer stick sucking Rolaids popping category. Sigh, oh well. It would probably cost them more money to actually know me than to send me pointless crap.

  15. sophia
    11 November, 2010 at 12:29 am (4 years ago)

    I love you. You’re the only non-crazy ones I know, actually.

    I really don’t CARE abt nutrition anymore. I just eat, damn it. food is food, why think and analyze so much? The more we analyze, the more we find that we have to restrict, and the more stress, which causes physical stress.

    I’m off to eat some WHITE bread and BUTTER now.

  16. Neela Marijana
    11 November, 2010 at 6:49 am (4 years ago)

    maggie! you made my day!
    I really want to scream everytime I read all this crap info about what to eat to influence your mood and so on. well the research behind this is so minimal and most people that do get a benefit for eating something like fish actually just egt the placebo effect.
    thank you sharing

  17. Kimberly
    11 November, 2010 at 8:32 am (4 years ago)

    Great post Maggie! I too get so tired of hearing ‘eat this, don’t eat that’. It drives me crazy sometimes how everything seems to revolve around food!! I know some people have NO idea how to eat well and they may need some guidelines, but I think our society places way too much emphasis on weight and ‘diets’. There are more types of ‘diets’ out there that we can’t even count them–low-carb, low-fat, grain free yada yada yada! All that information and there is still a problem of obesity! Something is wrong with that picture!! Anyway, I am trying to just eat without putting so much of my energy towards thinking about food all the time. If we really learn to listen to our bodies, we will know what to eat or not eat. Learning to do that is the hard part. People are so out of touch with the cues their bodies give them–they are too busy listening to what everyone else is saying. I’ve been there and done that, so I’m not bashing them in any way!! Getting off of my soap box now :)

  18. Toni Jo
    11 November, 2010 at 9:34 am (4 years ago)

    I haven’t commented in a while but I LOVE THIS POST. And I agree 100%. I honestly wish I thought about food even less than I already do. I think our bodies tell us what they want, when they want it! We just need to listen! (I am reiterating what many people above have written but it’s SO TRUE).

    Side note: Right now my body really wants fish + chips for some reason. And it’s not even 10am. What is that all about!?

  19. Peggy (Mom)
    11 November, 2010 at 11:57 am (4 years ago)

    I just thought of something as I was reading the talk about crazy rules. One time, when you were about 5 or 6, we went to a playground with the Blains and there was a list of about 25 rules on how to use the playground. Susan (the Blain Mom for those of you who aren’t Maggie) said, “HA! Too many rules so we won’t even read them!

  20. Krista
    11 November, 2010 at 12:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I think this is a great post, Maggie. And I wholly agree that if you are well mentally, you are well physically. There have been many times that I’ve been overly stressed out and have become ill as a result.

  21. Stephanie
    11 November, 2010 at 5:27 pm (4 years ago)

    Of course you aren’t crazy! And of course the insurance companies are ridiculous and those rules were definitely crap. Doesn’t it seem like all of this food over-analysis has caused so many problems with eating when in reality, eating should be for fuel and for pleasure. I’ve recently decided to stop my subscriptions to a lot of women’s magazines because they are so focused on eating this or not eating that (many times with goals to lose 5 pounds over the weekend!) that I’ve just gotten fed up (and frankly, bored) with it all.

    Amen to Intuitive Eating, sistah!

  22. Jill
    11 November, 2010 at 8:52 pm (4 years ago)

    I have to agree with you. Intuitive eating all the way!

  23. Katy
    13 November, 2010 at 5:09 am (4 years ago)

    I absolutely love this! I’m currently reading THE book on Intuitive Eating and it’s influenced me a lot.

    You are right about full-fat dairy being better for those with lactose intolerance. I absolutely love my dairy but I can only eat full-fat yoghurt, cheese and butter. Not cream or milk (which is weird but moving on..). I am so much more satisfied with my meals if I eat fat. It adds so much flavour!


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