This article details my personal philosophy on healthy living.
If I had to boil my personal health philosophy down to a single phrase, it would be some variation of the following:
In moderate amounts, eat a wide variety of natural food. And get off the couch once in a while.
Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.
If you allowed me a few more words, I would probably settle on these three things:
There is no magic food that, by itself, is going to save you from heart disease. There is no one thing that you can add to your diet that will fight off the effects of a lifetime of Big Mac’s. There is no multi-vitamin that will allow you to not eat vegetables.
Second, if your grandparents would not have recognized an item as food, then its not. Try to avoid items that are invented and manufactured by a large corporation.
Third, food, real food like the items listed below, should comprise the bulk of your diet. Not one particular item, but all of them in varying amounts and in various combinations.
Change One Thing
So, ultimately my advice is to change one thing about your diet and do it for two weeks. Pick one item from the list above and add it to your diet. Or pick one thing to remove from your diet. In a few weeks, pick something else. You don’t have to change everything about your diet all at once. But changing one thing is a good start.
There was a time in my life when my diet was very unhealthy. Through college and law school I had acquired the same habits of many of today’s young adults. By my third year of law school, I reached a point where I stopped eating at a McDonald’s that was two blocks away from me so that I could eat at the Burger King that was a block away.
Since I was young, have a fast metabolism and was working out constantly I mostly stayed thin even though I was eating about five whoppers a week.
As I got into my late twenties, my diet improved a little bit. I wasn’t eating “healthy” but at least it was better than it had been. The changes weren’t enough to prevent me from putting on some weight. It wasn’t a lot but it was noticeable.
After spending my early twenties in the low to mid 170’s I ended up in the mid 180’s by the time I was 30. I had also lost muscle mass over those years so my body fat probably went from the low teens to the low twenties.
By no means was I overweight. But by November of 2006 I topped out at 189 pounds. Seeing that 190 was a real threat I decided that I had to do something about it.
Fortunately for my body, what started out as a couple week attempt to lose a few pounds ended up as a drastic alteration of my diet.
Start With Just One Thing
Well, actually two. Eliminate the scourge of the American diet, soda and potato chips, from your diet.
Here’s What I Did:
- I eliminated sauces and dressings (other than olive oil).
- I replaced those sauces and dressings with lots of spices, especially cayenne pepper (great for the heart) and basil (loads of Vitamin K).
- I began eating yogurt (contains healthful bacteria for proper digestion) and Omega-3 enhanced eggs as my primary breakfast foods.
- I made sure to drink my coffee black, eliminating unnecessary sugar and calories.
- I began eating more bananas for the B6 and potassium.
- I bought a rice cooker, which is a very easy way to make whole grain rice. Whole grain rice is much better for you and much better tasting than that Minute Rice crap. Although I probably should be eating brown rice, my preference is for jasmine. ADV: Rice Cookers at Amazon
- I switched entirely to whole grain bread.
- I began drinking more milk.
- I ate more tuna and salmon (preferably in the form of sushi with avocado) for the omega-3 fatty acids.
- I was eating a fair amount of tomato heavy foods, which in turn caused me to become concerned about sodium intake. (Campbell’s must own a salt mine.)
- I started adding honey to my foods.
- I started eating almonds.
- I avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to the extent possible.
- To the extent that I desired sweets, I added dark chocolate and dried plums (yeah, prunes) to my diet.
- I recently began eating beans again, for probably the first time in ten years.
What I Didn’t Do
I did not become a fanatic. I am not advocating that you or I give up everything that we like to eat. There is absolutely no need for that. Our bodies are very adaptable and I think that the American diet has proven that we can eat just about anything and it won’t take that many years off of our life.
In fact, the staples of the American diet, when eaten in some amount, probably won’t have much of an impact on your life at all. What that amount is I don’t even pretend to know. I just try to eat it in as minimal amounts as possible.
But when I do eat it I know it won’t kill me and I enjoy it that much more. There are still days when I eat fast food two meals a day. Whenever I go home for holidays I usually take a vacation from healthy eating and have more soda than I should. A “bad” meal here and an unhealthy treat there is not going to kill us. The fact that I try to eat healthily as much as possible makes the chipotle burrito taste that much better, however.
Ultimately, I lost a large amount of weight very slowly. Between November 2006 and May 2007 (7 months) I went from 189 pounds to 169 pounds. That equates to losing about 0.7 pounds a week. If there are 3500 calories in a pound, then on average I cut about 350 calories a day from my diet. That means that I cut out one of these meals a day. Or about two Coke’s” a day. That’s it.
A healthy diet primarily consists of:
- Eat a wide variety of food
- Eat smaller portions of meat
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables
- Eat nuts and beans
- Get a healthy balance of Omega-3 fats in your diet (olive oil, flax, fish, fortified eggs).
- Replace sauces and dressings with powdered spices
- Eat fermented foods and foods that conain healthful bacteria (yogurt, sauerkraut)
- Consume less processed and manufactured foods
- Treat yourself, from time to time, to just about anything you want. It won’t kill you.