Food Is Not Your Enemy

Four Steps to a Healthier Year
January 30, 2015, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

There’s no need to avoid all grains. You don’t have to shun beans. Juicing as a lifestyle? Not advisable. Paleo? Meh. Atkins? Why, so you have an excuse to eat a pack of bacon every day?

The diet industry in our country loves to push us to extremes. We’re told at every turn to cut out entire food groups, imbibe crazy quantities of this or that, and to then just sit back and watch the pounds melt off. They might indeed come off, but the chance of those pounds staying off are slim to none if you don’t make real, permanent, and sustainable changes. Ask yourself—can I comfortably eat this way for the next 20 years? If the answer is “no,” then you’ll likely need a different approach.

Begin by getting back to the basics of healthy eating and living. You can’t go wrong if you …

Eat whole foods. This means eating food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables. Raw meat that you prepare yourself (as opposed to pre-cooked breaded chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs). Nuts. Beans. Whole grains. Not Cheetos.

Cook. It’s so easy to eat out, order in, do drive-thru. But food prepared outside the home tends to be high calorie, and restaurants just serve us way too much food. Cooking at home means you know exactly what’s in your food, and we tend to serve ourselves much more reasonable portions than restaurants do.

Ask yourself if you’re hungry. Most of us, at least some of the time, eat when we’re not hungry. We eat because we’re bored, or stressed, or lonely, or because the food is there, right in front of us, tempting us. Always ask yourself if you’re hungry before eating. You’ll be surprised by how often the answer is no.

Exercise. Schedule it in. Treat it like taking a shower—you don’t try to talk yourself out of showering every day, do you? Likely not. You just do it. It’s not negotiable. To be healthy, you need to move. Walk, run, dance, play basketball, ice skate, do yoga, whatever. Just do something that you enjoy–on a regular basis.

There’s nothing faddish about this advice. Which is why I think it’s the best way to go.

How Cooking Protects Us From Disease and Obesity

At the start of the 20th century, eating a meal out was a rare treat–only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside the home, in fact. But now, 50 percent of our meals are eaten away from home. And when we are actually eating at home these days, many of those meals involve peeling a film off a microwave dinner.

It’s not such a mystery why this has happened. We’re busy! Most men and women are working full time, and there’s usually not someone at home cooking up a roast with three sides to have on the table by 6 p.m. Kids have to be shuttled around to sports practices and lessons. And it’s just so easy to not cook.

But not cooking comes with risks. Relying on fast food means high-calorie, low-nutrient meals. Takeout from the local Chinese or Thai or Indian place means huge portions and perhaps a lot of oil and who knows what else in the food. Frozen dinners tend to come with lots and lots of sodium and additives we’d be better off avoiding.

Taking the time to cook a meal with real, fresh, whole foods can make such a difference when it comes to your health and your weight, even if you cook just a few times a week (make extra for leftovers!). You’ll know exactly what’s in your food. You’ll have better control over your portions. And you’re more likely to make vegetables part of the meal.

These benefits will translate to weight loss and the prevention of the kinds of chronic diseases that come from eating too much sugar, fat, salt, and refined carbs (such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease). Isn’t all that worth some of your time? Plus, you won’t believe how much money you’ll save!

Mark Bittman’s Food Manifesto

Nice piece by Mark Bittman in the NY Times–titled “A Food Manifesto for the Future”–succinctly listing some of the major problems with our food/agriculture in the U.S. I particularly love that he called out the issue of home cooking–the fact that so few people cook nowadays is a major contributor to our nation’s obesity and health crisis, in my opinion.