About a year ago I had an idea for a post. I’d list and rank my worst nutritional mistakes. There would be the usual suspects, such as the vegetarian phase and The Zone Diet. Then I started thinking about the years when I would eat protein bars and I even went through a phase where I was buying Egg Beaters from Costco. Cases of soy milk! I was so wrong. Oh and then I had my George Foreman grill phase, where I’d destroy good salmon by squeezing every molecule of fat into the run-off tray.
I never wrote the post because I got this feeling the premise for the post was faulty. At several points in my nutritional journey, I got overly confident. I felt that I had figured things out only to see my progress stall and eventually reverse. When I followed The Zone Diet, I looked down on my vegetarian period as a stupid mistake. Today I view The Zone Diet as a mistake. Although I’d like to think that my current nutritional path is optimal, my experiences have told me not to get too confident. The gains I have achieved with a Paleo/WAPF diet have lasted longer and been easier to maintain than any other nutritional plan I’ve followed, but I still refuse to declare victory.
Photo by elycefeliz
Were My Dietary Mistakes Really Mistakes?
Even though I would love to go back in time and smack my 20-year-old self for following a vegetarian diet, I did learn a lot about food during that period. I read the labels and menus closely. I explored many cuisines such as Indian, Ethiopian, and regional Asian that I did not eat prior to becoming vegetarian. I also began cooking more of my own meals and became more comfortable in the kitchen.
The same was true with The Zone Diet. During this period I embraced more foods with healthy fats and ate a wide variety of seafood, which was easier to do living on the Gulf Coast of Florida than in Central Ohio. What I learned about food as a vegetarian became the foundation I built when following The Zone Diet. And then when I eventually went Paleo, I had developed enough knowledge and discipline regarding food choices to make that transition work with relative ease.
My Worst Nutritional Mistake?
Exploring new diets, even when they turned out to be poor choices, weren’t mistakes. The mistakes for me were always about staying loyal to diets that had stopped working or no longer lined up with my health goals. This isn’t just my mistake, it is extremely common. We treat our diets like religion. Low carb, raw food, Paleo, it doesn’t matter. If the diet stops working, we refuse to change course, because the diet was so effective for us in the beginning. We’ve changed, but our loyalty hasn’t. We blame ourselves and refuse to admit we were wrong.
So my worst nutritional mistakes were staying loyal to diets that had stopped working for me and believing that I was following the optimal diet. I hope that I’ve learned my lesson.
Jul 11, 2012 — 12:31 am
I think the worst mistake you can make is to be too public about your pronouncements. We all naturally want to appear to be consistant (ask any salesman if this is true) so the more public we make our proclamations, the harder it is to walk back. I still have to grit my teeth to tell people who are surprised to see me eating rice that I was wrong about the insulin hypothesis- and really I just told a handful of people who probably didn’t especially care one way or the other. I’d hate to be somebody with a web site named after low carb!
I now make much more of a point to keep my opinions to myself. It makes it a lot easier to drop anything I got wrong and also to try new things.
Jul 11, 2012 — 6:52 am
@Karl – We came to the same conclusion.
Jul 13, 2012 — 1:23 pm
I think my worst mistake was when I found something that worked for me I thought it should work for everyone else too. I also only found out this year through Richard’s Free The Animal site that calories do actually count for me. After being low carb-ish and paleo-ish, this was quite a startling insight to make. Its also taught me not to assume that because I have read it somewhere even though it is written by so-called scientist in the field, this may not be necessarily true for me and my experience. I live and learn.
Jul 13, 2012 — 2:19 pm
@Pauline – I too believe calories count, but not in same way that the “Eat Less, More More” group does. They can explain every success, but they can’t explain the failures. I’ll save that thought for another post.
Jul 14, 2012 — 1:43 am
Looking forward to that post.
Jul 15, 2012 — 7:07 am
Very good summation. As our diets change so do our bodys and nutritional needs. Think of life and eating as an Optimizing Experiment. I have been there & done that too… Presently working at reintroducing goitrogens back into my diet after a 3 month hiatus which actually helped drop the dosage need for thyroid supplementation. Would love to one day not need the Thyroid meds at all.
Oct 10, 2022 — 5:20 pm
I like your prose because it is so direct and easy to understand. I feel as if someone is speaking my language 🙂