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The Joy of the "-ISH" Lifestyle

I am one of those people who tends to jump in 100% with gusto and determination. Wading into cold water has never been my style and taking the quick and complete plunge has always been the way it is with me. Over the years this way of thinking has also been very true with me in various areas of life, including about every diet known to mankind. As a naturopathic physician, I like to experiment with diet. Elimination diet (three times!), Blood Type Diet (just for kicks), Atkins, Macrobiotic, Mediterranean, Vegetarian (ok, this lasted 12 yrs but with variations throughout), Raw, Candida Diet, South Beach, Paleo, and several I can't even remember now. Typically my compliance lasted from 2 weeks to 2 months, at which point I would hit a wall and turn 100% in the opposite direction briefly.

Binge. Feel horrible. Move on to next experiment. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Soooo.... in the long run, this didn't really work for me. Big surprise, huh? It took a loooong time, but I became less black and white and learned to find beauty in the color gray. I completely stopped following anything to the letter and instead started listening more to by body and the unique conversation it had with me on a daily basis. I learned to understand what works as a general eating style and, perhaps most importantly, I learned how much I could push my limits and still maintain the same level of health and feel-good-ness. And yes, I'm deciding that is a word, because, well, it just sums it up well.

For me, following a diet that is not completely strict in eliminating anything has worked just fine. I know that cow dairy makes me feel pretty sick with the exception of butter but that I can put a dab of sour cream on my taco salad or have a bite of cheese and no problem. Pizza, no thanks. Gluten is the same way. I don't eat more than a bite or two intentionally but a little but of shoyu/ soy sauce in a dish... meh. No biggie. That pizza... well, still not happening. Not worth waking up looking 5 months pregnant and feeling about as energetic. Gluten free pizza with goat cheese and we might have a go as a rare treat. Grains are minimal because that's what works best for me but oatmeal now and then and occasional rice with some curry happens without regret or symptoms.

Overall, I like to think of it as the "-ISH" diet. I'm dairy-free(ish). Gluten-free(ish). Grain-free(ish). About 95% on all of the above gets me an A+ so I don't worry too much about doing any better and this keeps me healthy and, most importantly, sane! I remember the years of strict vegetarianism and constantly stressing that whatever I was eating might have been cooked in animal fat or might contain gelatin or fish sauce. It was exhausting. While we all have different levels of tolerance with different foods and for some people it's zero with certain things, the -ish way of life is great for so many people and so many reasons.

I think it should be ISH: I STILL HAVE (insert food names here).

I still have a little dairy, a little gluten, a little sugar, a little grains. Last night I enjoyed the first date I've had with my husband in over 6 months. You better believe I had one of the 2" diameter slices of hot fresh bread with herbed butter, but just 1. More than that I would have regreted, but I certainly savored it and took about 6 bites to finish what could easily have been 2. I enjoy those foods that I limit even more because they aren't always around. 2 cups of coffee in a week, 2 glasses of wine- each sip savored! No biggie. I still feel good and am enjoying life. I still have everything but within the limits that I have learned by listening to my body. It took a while to learn the language it speaks but it's become more and more clear over the years and now it's not even something that has to be thought about. Eat whole foods, enjoy local food as much as possible, find your wiggle room, and enjoy life. Food is awesome. Life is awesome. Dig in. Yum.

Hi, I'm Dr Sarah Strong, ND. I live in Hawaii with my husband and two young daughters and we are all big fans of food. We all have different foods that do/don't work for us but find that eating lots of vegetables with fruit and protein works great for all of us. I love finding easy recipes that are healthy and tasty and, most importantly, takes as few dishes as possible. I'd much rather be swimming or gardening than cleaning the kitchen! For simple recipes and other exclusive health tips for yourself and your family please join my newsletter at:

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