“You should follow the most restrictive diet you can enjoy, not the most restrictive one you can tolerate.”
As a 50-something, I learned a long time ago the perfect is the enemy of the good. For many years, I didn't want anyone in my house unless it was immaculate. Then I figured out it takes a lot less time to apologize for a messy house than to clean it; so now, as long as my guests have chairs to sit on that are not covered with cat hair, I'm good.
When it comes to diet, I could get equally obsessed with perfection, eating only the cleanest grassiest fed organically raised food from racially mixed family farms within a five mile radius of my house.
I could become so restrictive that one day my inner James Dean would finally rebel and my husband would find me in a carb induced coma outside a pizza joint or doughnut shop.
Fortunately, I am far from perfect.
Since losing 35 pounds two years ago, I have maintained my optimal weight eating foods that have zero or relatively few carbs, such as meat, whole-fat dairy, nuts, avocados and non-starchy vegetables.
Admittedly, I do not always eat foods in their most whole -- or least processed -- form.
When I want my lemon water to be less tart, I use a packaged product called Lakanto, which is a combination of erythritol and luo han guo (monk fruit). For me, this is an acceptable alternative to sugar, Splenda or the myriad other natural and artificial sweeteners that either spike my blood glucose or mess with my microbiome.
I also eat one low-carb Mama Lupe's tortilla every morning as a vehicle for the cheesy and buttery quesadilla I eat for breakfast. Though its macronutrient profile is good, this processed food contains some undesirable ingredients. But I really love starting my day with a quesadilla and think it's better to eat a sub-optimal low-carb tortilla than an inferior grocery store tortilla.
Most days I eat a GNC chocolate chip cookie dough protein bar, which also contains some sketchy ingredients. But eating this bar helps me not crave cookies, brownies, cake, doughnuts, ice cream and the like; so it's a trade off I am willing to make.
And when I eat at restaurants, I can pretty much bet the chicken or cow was not raised in a grassy meadow surrounded by butterflies and rainbows, and my salad greens may have taken a pesticide bath in Mexico. But as a semi-social person, I sometimes dine out with friends and am willing to make some trade offs to partake in this enjoyable ritual.
The bottom line is that most of my diet consists of relatively whole, relatively healthy low-carb high-fat foods. The few imperfect food-like items I allow myself to consume allow me to maintain a healthy diet (by my definition) most of the time.
In other words, I have found the most restrictive diet I can enjoy, not just tolerate; and if I can maintain it for the next few decades, that's pretty good.