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Instead of Paleo/Primal I think I shall eat the 1890s diet!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

In browsing through the many blogs written by the maintenance team, which I like to think of as the "we changed something and we succeeded in losing weight team", I see many eating styles represented. Some just plain ate less but didn't change what they ate. Some exercised more and ate mostly the same. Some ate an incarnation of low-carb. Some ate "clean". Some ate Paleo/primal. I was reading today a particularly detailed description of what primal eating was and as the article went down I was thinking to myself,
"Lots of vegetables, yes!"
"A goodly portion of meat, yes!"
" Moderate amounts of food, yes!"
"Maybe even milk, ummm, ok"
"Grains and legumes are like poison, hmmm, not in my experience"
The whole theory behind that food movement is that if we go back to where humans in general were healthy and eat what they ate, we will be healthy too. The thing I have never been able to embrace about the theory is that really, when you take out the people who died of violence, accident, viruses and bacteria(and other creepy microscopic organisms), people were generally pretty healthy until the 1920s or 1930s. My mother was born in 1924. She is 88.5 and of sound mind and 90% sound body(just a little wear and tear). My grandmother was born in 1884 and lived to be 91. She was only in poor health the last couple years of her life. All my mother's siblings who survived to adulthood, lived into their late 80s except the one who was killed at 20 by a drunk driver. My father's side looks about the same but with less people. That's a pretty good track record! So if I want to live into my 90s in good health, I could eat like they did according to the ancestral theory of diet. Now my mom's family was poor and so they ate more like people of the previous generation, thus I call my diet the 1890s diet.
They ate meat and eggs for breakfast with a small side of whole grain based carbs. This happened to be cornbread in their case because of where they lived and their ethnicity. They ate eggs, cheese, vegetables and fruits for lunch again with a small amount of grain carbs. This might be leftover cornbread from breakfast or wheat bread baked at home if they had flour. Dinner was meat, vegetables, potatoes, bread, fruit and maybe a small sweet. They had a cow, drank milk and made cheese and butter. At this time, white sugar and white flour were comparatively expensive because they had to be bought from a store while meat, vegetables and fruit were raised at home and canned or dried for off season use. Candy was only available once a month because they got it as a freebie for paying off the grocery bill at the general store and in a family of 8, likely not even every child got one piece. Exercise for its own sake would have been silly. Children ran for fun and adults ran if something was after them. There was plenty of useful physical labor to be done, so people stayed fit. The family didn't have a car so everyone walked everywhere. They might borrow a truck to move something big but they walked several miles per day in the course of life.
So how does this look in a 21st century setting? I eat meat, eggs and whole grain breads for breakfast. I eat leftovers or homemade soups for lunch. I eat meat, cheese, lots of vegetables, especially seasonal ones, and some rice, potatoes or homemade bread or noodle for supper. I eat dessert after lunch and supper, a small portion. That dessert is always baked from scratch with butter and 30% less sugar than the recipe calls for. I work hard around the yard and house, spading, hoeing, mowing, mucking the henhouse, hefting 50lb feed bags and working on the cars. I take long walks several times per week.
So what are my results? Well, 5 years ago I ate like most Americans. I ate processed food, tons of sweets and sat in front of my computer all day. I couldn't walk the 1/4 mile to the end of my road with thinking I would die. My blood pressure was becoming borderline, my cholesterol was borderline high, I was on Zoloft for anxiety and I was at the doctor every month or so for chronic sinus infections requiring steroids and multiple courses of antibiotics. I weighed 60 pounds more than I do now. Now I can walk 3-4 miles briskly without feeling tired, I enjoy hard physical work, my blood pressure is normal, my cholesterol is normal(yeah, while eating butter and never margarine, imagine that), I have been OFF Zoloft for over a year and I only see the doctor for physicals.
We are all individuals in the biochemical sense. So while this works for me, and low calorie, low carb and low fat just made me mean, tired and still fat, you may need something different. I see so many people on Spark who get so discouraged because tracking calories and exercising themselves to misery isn't giving them results. I have even seen other sparkers claim people who don't lose weight are lying about how much they eat. The point is, don't give up! Try different styles, there is one out there that will help you be an appropriate weight, stay healthy and feel wonderful.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This is great and makes so much sense. Congratulations on finding your way and thanks for sharing!
    1387 days ago
  • SAMI199

    I'm in-you could replace all of the ones out there with -the "1890".

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1954 days ago
    Wonderful blog post! Although a "low calorie, low carb and low fat" would make anyone grumpy ;) I do a low carb, or as I like to say, "normal carb" diet but it took me awhile to realize I needed more fat to even things out. It has been ingrained for so long since childhoold to eat non-fat or low-fat foods that the transition to low-carb, moderately high fat was a bumpy transition.

    I think an 1890s diet is a splendid idea. One caveat: the pervasive use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) make it tough to eat the same foods as our grandparents and great-grandparents. For instance, 93% of soy and 86% of corn in the US is genetically modified. Not to mention it was easier and cheaper for our grandparents to obtain local, grass-fed meats and dairy...

    Keep up with great blog posts! emoticon
    1956 days ago
    all so true
    1956 days ago
    Fun blog! You could right a book, "How I lost 60 pounds on the 1890s Diet!"
    1956 days ago
    We can definitely learn a lot from our ancestors lifestyles, thanks for sharing. What works for some doesnt work for others, we have to find what works well for us, so true. great blog.
    1956 days ago
    I so agree with you and so glad you are feeling great. emoticon emoticon
    1956 days ago
    Coming from good old peasant stock, I try to eat like them too.
    They didn't have all that much meat (usually chicken), but noodles, bread, potatoes and piroghi were quite filling.

    1957 days ago
    Good post, Becky! emoticon
    1957 days ago
  • SHADOW38
    Just wanted to say that I enjoyed this blog. Well said.
    1957 days ago
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