The Newest Fad Diet VS. The Vegetable Volunteers

Well, WOW. I would not have guessed that yesterday’s post about a wacky fad diet would’ve garnered so many page views. But it did, and I can’t help but wonder why. I rather hope it is because people are looking for a reason not to follow the latest “should & ought” from the newest guru. Nearly every day, it seems, someone tells me of some new approach to eating or not-eating or exercising or not-exercising and all I can say is this:

If I were still in the grip of disordered thinking and behavior surrounding food and body, the Internet would be a living hell. HCG diet! “The Plan”! “Paleo”! The Primal Urge Diet! HELP!

And yet? And yet–there is this:

My compost pile. An occasionally smelly, sometimes-ugly, always buggy home to the biggest, juiciest worms on the North Fork. The place where the scraps from our table become the food for next year’s food. Nothing goes to waste here. It takes care of two big problems:

What to do with trash?

and

How to fertilize the garden?

in one easy move. In this pile go the eggshells, coffee grounds, burned slices of toast, and forgotten leftovers. Here’s where I put the custard that didn’t come together quite right, the bread that went stale, and the yogurt that got moldy.

Here, everything, even the most putrid, vile stuff, is reborn into something new: dark, rich soil that feeds the garden and brings forth new life. And so it goes on.

And sometimes, there are unexpected graces:

This pretty little butternut squash grew from a forgotten seed discarded in the compost pile last autumn. There that little seed rested all winter until, come spring, it grew into a plant that bore another beautiful fruit.

In this ugly, forgotten corner of the garden (where the compost pile was located previously) a number of vegetables “volunteered”–they sprang forth from scattered seeds and persevered to bring something beautiful and edible and life-giving.

Oh, these little events–“random” butternut squashes, potatoes, and tomatoes growing from compost piles–don’t get much press, I know. But to me, they point beyond themselves to a story that’s much, much greater: it’s the story of beauty from ashes, a promise that somehow, the crazy, smelly, wasted and mixed-up bits and pieces of this world can be transformed, redeemed, into something that’s at once totally different from and organically connected to what’s come before.

Yes, indeed. There are glimpses of grace within and among and emerging from the confusing bits and pieces of this life, and they are worth holding onto.

America’s Newest Diet Guru?

…or America’s latest “health” sanctioned eating disorder in the guise of a fad diet?

Some weeks ago, my friend Ellen sent me a link to this story in More magazine, which bills itself as a publication “for women of style and substance.” Ellen and I were both shocked and distressed by the “substance” of this one:

The article sings the praises of Lyn-Genet Recitas, the owner of Neighborhood Holistic in New York City. Lyn-Genet is “certified” in Chinese food theory and holistic nutrition. Tellingly, neither the article nor Lyn-Genet’s website says who issued these certifications, except to note that Lyn-Genet has a master’s degree from Clayton College of Natural Health (a now-defunct non-accredited distance-learning institution.) The basis of her diet program (“The Plan”) is the theory that different foods can cause chronic low-grade inflammation which contributes both to weight gain and to various ailments.

(According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there is no evidence that food allergies contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation.)

Nevertheless, Lyn-Genet has had “thousands” of clients lose weight and feel that their health has improved as a result of “The Plan.” Some of the foods that she believes cause problems for a lot of people include:

shellfish (with the exception of scallops), turkey, pork, eggs, Greek yogurt, roasted nuts, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, oatmeal, salmonthe list goes on.

Each person is “chemically unique,” says Recitas. Therefore, according to her, scientific research can’t tell you what foods are healthy for you or not–but her cobbled-together anecdotal evidence can:

“I’d estimate that 95 percent of the people I work with can’t eat oatmeal without gaining a substantial amount of weight. It can cause two days’ worth of constipation and particularly affects my migraine sufferers.

So people going on the plan go through a three-day “cleanse,” and then through an elimination diet rotation, weighing themselves daily and taking detailed notes on how they’re feeling. Lyn-Genet claims that participants should be losing a half pound daily.

There are so many things that are distressing about this article and this “Plan.” For the sake of clarity, I’m going to tackle them bullet-point style:

1. Focus on Weight Loss/Thinness

The article notes that Lyn-Genet, who is 46 years old, has 11% body fat. That is shockingly underfat. 11% body fat would be considered “underfat” for a man of her age–let alone a woman. Being that underfat is associated with its own risks, not least osteoporosis.

Any diet that involves daily weigh-ins encourages obsession with the scale–which is not where the focus need be. Responsible nutritionists recommend weekly weigh-ins and emphasize that results cannot be judged by the scale alone.

2. Tons of Introspection: e.g. “How am I feeling after this meal?”

I think we can all benefit from paying attention to what’s going into our mouths. But this? This is a recipe for an eating disorder. Remember my gluten-free confession? Based on the same kind of thing. This is not to say that if, you know, jalapenos make you sick every time you eat them, that you shouldn’t avoid them. Of course you should. But eliminating whole swaths of foods because of perceived “intolerance” within your body? Bad idea.

3. (related to point #2) Hyper-individualistic

Lyn-Genet seems to think that the most “revolutionary” part of her diet plan is the fact that it encourages YOU YOU YOU to figure out what’s good for you based on your own reactions to everything that goes in your mouth. But really, this is just Burger King philosophy (“have it your way”) with a health-and-weight conscious twist. This is an eating plan that cuts people off from one another and makes communal eating a real pain in the, well, you know. To my mind, that’s never a good thing.

4. (in case it wasn’t clear from above) JUNK “science”

Piecing together anecdotal evidence from clients in a neighborhood practice is NOT research, and calling it “research” is irresponsible.

Shame on More magazine for giving these quack theories a voice and using a specter of extreme, unhealthy thinness to help advertise yet another fad diet masquerading as an approach to health!