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the diana banana plan

January 10, 2014

It’s been exciting to regain my focus and motivation since the new year began. For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all of the things I’ve learned about healthy living and my body and my psychological needs around these issues, and I realized that I have learned so much but also that I have yet to put everything I’ve learned into action all at once. Maybe I never could before; maybe I had to learn one piece at a time and sometimes the same piece several times until it stuck. I’m not done learning, but I’m done focusing on one piece at a time.

Below I’m detailing the new Diana Banana Food Plan. It is a culmination of life-long learning, from the ShapeDown program I attended when I was a kid to the crash diets I tried in college to the Master Cleanse experience; from reading about Paleo to the China Study to the Glycemic Index. Every experience and every belief system holds pieces of the truth, parts of what is right for me.

The Diana Banana Plan

1) Eat Natural Food

Out of all of the prescribed eating plans out there, the Eating Clean and Paleo diets makes the most sense to me. Eating the foods that our bodies were designed to eat just sounds right and feels good. I’m all for it, though my primary barometer is actually just how I feel after I eat different things. It’s taken years to get in tune with this barometer, but it’s a worthwhile process. Some of my food reactions are more obvious, of course… I have a pretty serious gluten allergy, a natural preference for veggies over fruit, and an early-in-life aversion to meat (which I’ve somewhat overcome).

So here it is– an informed plan that includes the most satisfying and energizing foods that I can eat and takes into consideration all of my personal preferences and peccadilloes:

Here are my staples (meaning they are OK to eat anytime):

  • all organic veggies and fruits are great except starches like potatoes and corn (see below)
  • olive oil & flax seed oil
  • beans, beans, beans! (This includes hummus. Yum.)
  • nuts of any kind
  • seeds of any kind
  • quinoa, brown rice, tapioca, amaranth & gluten-free oats (incl. flour from any of these grains)
  • organic fish & poultry
  • eggs & egg whites
  • spices
  • coffee & tea ❤

Here are my sometimes foods (this means I will have a heightened awareness of how often I’m eating these as compared to the worry-free staples, but they don’t have to be reserved only for free days):

  • dark chocolate (notice this is not a free day only food, or else I’d never be able to sustain this plan ;-))
  • wine (same as above 😉
  • corn (including corn starch & corn meal)
  • low-fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, & lowfat/nonfat milk)
  • oils besides olive or flax seed
  • soy
  • honey

Here’s what I’ll only eat on Free Days (see below for more info re: Free Days):

  • processed sugar (exception: the sugar added to dark chocolate)
  • white rice
  • red meat
  • full-fat cheese
  • potatoes (incl. potato flour & potato starch)
  • gluten-free substitute carbs (gf bread, gf pasta, gf muffins, gf pancakes, etc.); these usually contains other free-day-only ingredients such as potato flour, white rice flour, & processed sugar
  • butter & cream
  • liqueur (my going-out drink is vodka, club soda, and lime)

Here’s what I’ll never eat:

  • gluten
  • corn syrup
  • fast food
  • fake sugar
  • other chemical ingredients (most things in the middle aisles of a grocery store)

2) Never Hungry, Never Full

The plan: eat meals on a salad plate and don’t go for seconds; eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day so that you never go more than a few hours without a re-fuel.

The reason. I learned from one of my diet experiments in college that I lose weight quickly if I eat 100-200 calories every 1-2 waking hours throughout the day rather than eating meals (100 cals/hr). The problem, naturally, was that this is not a sustainable plan. First of all, this is only about 1400 cals a day, which isn’t much. Secondly, it’s never sustainable to create a plan so rigid or extreme that you can’t function in social situations. I couldn’t go out to eat, and I even started to get really awkward around people eating normal-sized meals because my brain suddenly saw everyone’s plates as giant, overflowing platters of food. It got weird. Then, of course, my body freaked out when I started eating meals again and my weight shot up higher than before. Classic. BUT, I learned that my body does like the feeling of a more steady stream of calories. I don’t think I do well with big meals… they just stick with me. So the idea is, basically, portion control… something that most diet plans include and emphasize, but something I had to discover for myself.

3) The {Optional} Free Day

The plan: Stick to the above eating plan six out of seven days of the week; have one designated free day (same day of the week every week!) on which special treats that aren’t typically included in the plan are OK; make it fun (a date night, a baking project, etc.)

The reason: I know myself, and I know that if I’m told I can never eat a certain food ever again, I will (unless I’m allergic to it) just want to rebel and eat that food all the time. The purpose of the free day is to have an outlet for cravings that is not all about instant gratification. If I really want some particularly awesome treat, I will make sure to arrange to have it on my designated free day. If I don’t really want it, I will forget about it by then.

I say “optional” free day because there are some diets that actually make sure that you have one free day per week so that your metabolism doesn’t adjust to the lower calorie intake of the rest of the days of the week. I think this might actually have some validity to it, but I’m all about it happening naturally. I also don’t like the idea of having the free day be a huge shift from the rest of the week. For me, the free day is just a way to not feel deprived. It’s not an excuse to fall into the worst historic eating habits of my life & to fall out of balance. Balance is key, I think, and if done right, the free day can actually bring balance to an otherwise limited diet rather than throw it all off.

4) Love to Cook

The plan: Do things that make cooking more fun: cook with a buddy, host dinner parties, and keep your cooking space clean; shop at farmer’s markets and charming natural food stores; buy beautiful cookbooks & flag the easy/yummy/healthy dishes; allow yourself time to experiment and learn.

The reason: I’ve actually been doing all of these things much better for the past few months, and it has made a world of difference already. Eating out makes it difficult to stick to certain food plans because it is hard to know what is in the food and it is hard to resist certain beautiful, professionally-prepared meals (save these for free days!). Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that cooking draws our attention to our food in a positive way. Like slow eating, cooking helps us value our ingredients and savor the natural flavors in healthy, edible goodness.

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That’s it :0) It may seem like a lot, but I’ve been doing pieces of this on and off for a long time. It will actually be easier to have it clearly defined, I think, and it will become second nature over time. This is not to say that I expect it to be totally easy to do, but it will definitely be easy to keep track of after a while.

I’m going to give this a real shot and see how it works in concert with my new work-out schedule. If it doesn’t seem to be working after doing everything as planned for several (let’s say four) months, I will consider running it by a nutritionist to see what needs tweaking. (If anyone has a lead on a soothing, gf friendly nutritionist in the bay area, let me know!)

I want to encourage each of you to make your own individualized food plan. There probably will never be one perfect diet that works for every individual person. Try strategies, break rules, and remain in touch with yourself throughout it all. Take notes on what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t expect to figure it out overnight, but don’t go so slowly that the momentum stops. (I learned this the hard way.)

These issues relating to the body are emotionally challenging to stay in touch with… we want to either impose external structure or ignore the issue entirely because both of these approaches allow us to keep distance from the internal turmoil. But the best wisdom we have about what our bodies need lies within each of us, cheesy as it sounds. Gain knowledge and support from the outside, but don’t forget yourself.

❤ Diana Banana

image courtesy of this page 

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