Staying True To Your Beliefs

I spent last week hiking in the Adirondacks!

We skied White Face last March, but hiked to the summit on this trip!
This hike took us to the top of Cascade Mountain.

I seem to have the hands on hips pose down quite well, don’t you think?


My husband and I dropped our girls off at school in New York, and then ventured north to visit my son, who spent his summer as a camp counselor near Lake Placid. We really were looking forward to his day off, so we could spend the day hiking with him and his girlfriend, but the weather did not cooperate!

So on to Plan B. We browsed through the city of Lake Placid, enjoying each other’s company, and the locally grown food, while trying to avoid the rain! (If you ever find yourself in Lake Placid, you must stop at Liquids and Solids, and The Scape Cafe.) One of our non-food stops was the local bookstore. I  enjoy small town bookstores. The selection is smaller, so I am not as overwhelmed as I am while at Barnes and Noble. Plus, it forces me away from my “main stream” reads. I was not disappointed. Neither was my son. I came away three books:

Eat, Shoots, and Leaves, an entertaining book about punctuation, and a must read for all Language Arts teachers, written by Lynne Truss

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (Just started this one.)

Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald, a certified sports nutritionist

I started reading Diet Cults on our way back home, and I finished the book before we even got through Pennsylvania! I would say it was a quiet ride for my husband, but that would be very inaccurate. Remember how I like to spew info to anyone willing to listen? You can read about that here .

Diet Cults was one of those books that you choose because you believe you know what the content will be and you totally agree…and then BAM! The author puts a spin on it that makes you reevaluate your beliefs. I DO NOT believe in diets. I even wrote a post about that precise subject. So I felt this book would give credence to my cause.

In his book, Fitzgerald debunks many of the popular diets out there…Paleo, gluten-free, Super Foods, Weight Watchers,  raw food…no diet escapes his scrutiny. He begins each chapter by giving an anecdote of a person who has found success on each particular diet. And then he goes on to address the diet’s fallacies. I was feeling pretty good about myself, even nodding my head in agreement and parroting Fitzgerald’s words to my attentive hubby! But then, he touched on the Vegan Diet. I felt myself getting defensive.

Fitzgerald encourages people to steer away from the belief that there is only “One True Way” to eat. And I totally agree. He encourage you to play his “Agnostic Healthy Eating Game” as a means to promote healthy eating. The game classifies food into a Diet Quality Hierarchy. Vegetables and fruits are  ESSENTIAL foods. Nuts, seeds, and healthy oils, high-quality meats and seafood, whole grains, and dairy compose RECOMMENDED foods. Refined grains, low quality meats and seafood, sweets, and fried foods are ACCEPTABLE foods. And the good news? There aren’t any FORBIDDEN FOODS.

For those of you visual learners, the hierarchy looks like this:



nuts, seeds, and healthy oils

high-quality meat and seafood

whole grains


refined grains

low-quality meat and seafood


fried foods

Ideally, you should be eating foods in the essential group most frequently. Recommended  foods don’t need to be eaten, but he highly recommends them unless you have a compelling reason not to, such as allergies or ethics. Acceptable foods should be eaten in small amounts. Basically, (and I am simplifying) you play the game by keeping track of the food you eat throughout a day, or week, by putting a tally mark next to the group you have just eaten a food from.

Now…back to the whole vegan thing. Once again, I was forced to come to terms with my “diet” (and I mean that in the most basic meaning of the word). Fitzgerald recommends high quality meat in your diet, saying that moderate consumption is healthy.  I first decided to eliminate meat from my diet for health reasons. But now, I know way too much about the care and processing of animals in the meat industry. It disgusts me. Then I think about the environment and the effects the meat industry is having on our world. So, eating meat? Not going to happen. But that’s me. If you do choose to eat meat, however, make sure it is of high quality and humanely raised.

Dairy is also placed in the recommended group, yet Fitzgerald states, “Anyone can get by without dairy…” . He refers to a “major review of past research” that reports that “subjects who consumed the most dairy products had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes…than those who ate the least dairy.”  This contradicts everything I have ever read. What I have learned is that research can be, and frequently is, manipulated by the people funding the research. For example, the only reason there is a glass of milk on “My Plate” is because the dairy industry helps fund it.

The elimination of dairy was more complicated for me. I enjoyed an icy glass of skim milk with my meals, and ice cream or fro-yo was a weekly occurrence. And fresh mozzarella on pizza??? Yum. Plus, dairy is always IN things…pancakes, bread, cookies! But, I learned there are better (and healthier…think less processed, and more nutrient dense) options. I make my own almond milk and it is to die for! Same with cookies, and pancakes, and other baked goods. Cheese? Trickier, but doable. Cashew cream makes a great substitute! And again, I know way too much about the production of milk, and the treatment of cows. So, despite living in the Dairy State…I just can’t do it. There are better options for me.

All in all, I loved the book. I believe Fitzgerald has the right idea by showing us that there is not “One True Way” to eat. Listen to your body! I appreciated having my beliefs challenged, as it only solidified my beliefs. So…thank you Matt Fitzgerald! I can’t wait to play your game!

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