My daughter is a runner. She recently decided that she needed to lose a few pounds in her attempt to drop some time on the track. My motherhood antenna went up automatically. Since she already runs quite a bit and also works on strength training, exercise is not something she needs more of. So she is focusing on the kitchen and on eating healthier. Of course I am all about my kids eating healthy.
Unfortunately I also know that we all can become out of balance sometimes. We are, most of us, aware of the issues of eating disorders for teenage girls and young adults. So when a 17 year-old tells me she wants to drop a few pounds, my first thought is NO! Yet I also remember that sometime around that same age I first started becoming aware of eating healthier. In some ways, in fact, the early we recognize that good food choices are important in maintaining healthy weight, the earlier we can make good habits a part of everyday life.
This morning I brought home a dozen bagels. My daughter told me that she wanted one, and I told her to go ahead and eat one. This began a discussion about balance. I hear a lot of people talk about not eating carbs or cutting out gluten even though they are not allergic to it. I wholeheartedly believe that cutting down on unhealthy carbs is a good idea. Things like white bread, pasta, rice, etc. are all fairly unnecessary. We can replace them with whole wheat choices or we can even forgo bread altogether at certain meals. However, I start to get uncomfortable when I hear people talk about food in extremes. Even white bread every now and then is not going to kill us.
Balance really IS key. I told my daughter that whatever she is doing in terms of healthy eating should be something that she can reasonably imagine doing for the rest of her life. If we are choosing some kind of extreme eating, chances are we will not be able to keep it up (nor is it even necessarily good for us long term). We will do it for a while but then go back either to unhealthy choices, or possibly become more extreme.
Moderation is a good measuring stick. I can usually tell if I am going in either direction away from that measuring stick. I am fortunate that I have genetically inherited a fairly lean body. So I realize that the natural body I was born with does not tend towards heaviness. That being said, I also know that I have to work at maintaining a good weight for my frame. Too much bread, etc. will cause me to gain weight. Too much restriction of certain foods, though, can cause me to lose weight which I really don’t need to do. I have discovered over many years, what is the best balanced diet for me. That diet is likely different for someone else. Which is why I hesitate in talking in too general of terms when speaking about food.
I recently read about a mother – daughter team who wrote a book about food and eating disorders. The mom is a food writer who did not realize right away that her daughter was struggling with food issues. Here is an excellent article that they also wrote. It links to the book, You Must Be Hungry, that they authored together. I have written before about the “Rule of 70”, which says that about 70% of maintaining healthy weight is what we eat, and 30% is what we do (exercise). As I mentioned earlier, a good rule of thumb to follow when deciding what kind of general “diet” we keep, is to think long term….Could you keep this up for the rest of your life? If so, then it is probably reasonable. If not, think about a different more reasonable approach.