How I (Try To) Eat

Back on Sunday, in my previews, I promised recipes on Thursday.

That’s not going to happen today.  Maybe one day I’ll blog some recipes.

People ask – regularly – what sort of plan I’m “on.”  As I’ve mentioned, I’m not really on a “plan.”  I’ve tried to learn over the years (often while I was on one plan or another) ways to eat that make sense.  I think, after years of this-plan-then-that-plan back and forth, I’ve figured out some basic rules for eating that don’t leave me starving and help me move toward a healthier weight.  The fact is that eating along these guidelines has helped me … mostly painlessly … lose ten percent of my starting weight.

If you have a few minutes, I’ll share them with you.

First – and this is no surprise to regular readers – my go-to rules are two from Michael Pollan:

  • “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”
  • “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

I’m not telling you I always stick to those two rules.  I am telling you I aspire to them.  I think about them.  When I buy groceries, when I read a menu, when I get hungry for a snack (which, after a few months following these guidelines, is rare).

If I could give you one piece of advice to prepare for eating healthier, it would be to read Pollan’s Food Rules.  This one’s also worth your time.

Second, some ideas I picked up from Dr. Arthur Agatston’s South Beach Diet.  I tried his diet a couple of times, unsuccessfully, just like every other diet.  But I did learn some great concepts from that program, including the basics of the glycemic index.  Turns out foods work together in strange ways, and lots of them are not good for my body (or yours).  Here are some things I learned from my South Beach Diet experience (not all of which Agatston would agree with) :

  • Think brown.  White food is (not always, but usually) not your friend.  It often indicates heavily engineered, overly processed stuff that verges on fake food.  Sometimes it doesn’t even verge, it leaps right into it.  Brown food – particularly starches – are generally less-processed.  Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta.  The darker and whole-wheatier the bread, the healthier the eater.
  • Potatoes will keep you fat.  French fried potatoes, baked potatoes, etc.  Not helpful if you’re trying to make a healthier you.
  • Cook with butter.  Fat is not the problem.  Olive oil, good butter, maybe even a little bacon drippings … it’s better for you than that fake stuff they try to sell you when you’re “on a diet.”

And here are some rules I can’t really trace back to a particular mentor, just things I picked up along the way that work for me:

  • Lay off the dessert.  As you know, I just don’t eat it.  Not because all sweets are inherently bad, but because I can’t eat just a little of it.  And eating just a little is the key to success.  I don’t think about dessert – no cravings at all – because stay away from it.  There are marvelous recipes for very healthy cakes, pies, cookies, etc. that use whole-food ingredients, and I don’t want you to deprive yourself.  But if you’re like me, one cookie is not enough.  So consider swearing it off for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
  • Read the label.  This really ought to be common sense, but it’s not.  And I’m not telling you to become a food-science expert, just give it some thought.  If the label is ten or fifteen lines long and you can’t pronounce half of what’s on the list, you probably shouldn’t eat it.   Fewer chemicals = healthier eater.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup is of the devil.  Seriously.  Avoid it like the freakin’ plague … if you can.  The problem is you probably can’t avoid it entirely because it’s in soooo much of what’s on the shelves at the grocery and on the table at your favorite restaurant.
  • Speaking of restaurants, back away from the Chili’s.  You know chain restaurants are not healthy.  Don’t try to rationalize.
  • You’re not likely to loose real weight drinking soda – sugared or “diet.”  The sugared sodas, well, those should be obvious – one can of Coca Cola will set you back 140 calories.  And most of us drink more than 12 ounces at a time.  I don’t count calories, but that’s mostly because I’ve eliminated most of the truly empty stuff like sugared soda.  Diet soda is more insidious.  I drank a whole lot of Diet Coke from 1990 to 2010.  And it never helped me lose weight.  Ask yourself how many people you know who drink nothing but Diet soda and talk about not being able to lose weight.
  • I don’t eat fast food.  You shouldn’t either, and much like sit-down chain restaurants, I really should have to explain why.  Just don’t do it.
  • Fried food is not your friend.

I’m not preaching, I’m telling you what works for me.  And yeah, I break some of these rules from time to time.  I eat the occasional bag of french fries.  I eat baked potatoes sometimes.  I can’t always avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I occasionally eat white bread.  I’ve been known to eat at Applebee’s.  I’ve eaten dessert seven or eight times in the past seven or eight months.  But I work hard at these guidelines, and as I said above, I think about them every time I get near food.

I eased these rules into my routine over about a four month period.  I don’t recommend going all-or-nothing overnight – I’ve tried that, never successfully.

If you’re trying to eat healthier, give these a try.  They’ve been helpful for me and they might be for you as well.

Thanks for reading, and as always, click those little buttons below and share this if you like it!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sharon on October 14, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Great post. I aspire to eat less “edible food-like substances”, a term I heard a few months ago and can’t remember where.


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