Medical Articles

What to Eat, Part One

So, if you're like me, you have decided (again) to get healthy. You're tired of being tired. You're sick of being sick. You know that the last time you started exercising, you felt so much better, had all kinds of energy, and just seemed to have a much better attitude about life in general. Then, for some reason that you cannot recall, you stopped doing what was keeping you so happy and healthy; and slowly but surely, you fell back into the slump you're in now.

You already have good shoes to walk in. You might be able to dig the treadmill or bench and weights out of the garage, storage, or out of that heap of "I don't know what to do with this" area in your bedroom.

Yes, we all know exercise is necessary and it makes us live longer. It's part of the plan, but we have something else that's just as important. It's called diet. Now don't let the word scare you. It doesn't mean that you can only eat carrots and celery. It doesn't mean you can't have bread or potatoes or pasta. It doesn't mean that you can't have food that you enjoy. It also doesn't mean that you have to look at every food label and count or calculate the number of calories in a "single serving".

So here's the rundown on what I've discovered over the past couple weeks; well maybe over the past couple decades. I do ask that you keep a couple things in mind though. I am not a doctor so this is only to be considered advice from a friend with perhaps a little more experience, or just a little extra support in getting you off to a good start. Also, I am not trying to become the next Mr. Universe. That requires too much time and specialized commitment. My goal is simply to get myself (and you) more fit and healthy. Of course, if we happen to turn a couple heads in the meantime, that would be okay, too, but that's not an expectation, it's just a nice side effect if it happens.

First, the latest "expert" advice is to practically ignore every other bit of advice you've heard before. For example, it's not a good idea to eat small portions all day long instead of eating regular full meals. It seems that all that accomplishes is staving off the eventual breakdown to having that large meal that just makes you feel like you've actually eaten something. It's also harder to monitor what your nutritional and caloric intake is if you're just snacking all day long. We do, however, still need to avoid fasting all day and then eating one big meal late in the day. That does terrible things to our sugar/insulin levels, on top of the fact that there's no way our bodies can make appropriate use of proteins, fats, and so on when we're playing the starve and binge game.

Next, we have to enjoy eating. Yes, I know that sounds easy enough but in order to change our lifestyle to a more healthy one, we need to remember that if we don't like the process, we'll stop. No way around that one. It's human nature. How many "revolutionary diets" have we seen that just end up falling by the wayside because they weren't enjoyable? I think any one of us can think of at least two or three. So the answer to this enjoy ability is as follows:

Eat food that looks good. I know this sounds obvious but really think about it for a second. There are specialists in advertising that do nothing but create delicious "looking" plates of food. They are hired because the advertisers know they can make people get up off of the couch, get in their cars, and drive to buy something just by making it look good. "It's all in the presentation." So when you are shopping for food, go for the color. Go for the shape. So many fruits and vegetables are just beautiful and there's no argument that they're good for us.

Many are filled with antioxidants, which are nature's preventative medicine. Unless you have an unusual allergy, you can't go wrong with anything that comes from the produce department at the grocery store or even better, from the local farmer's market. Whenever they are in season, indulge in berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or whatever kind you can find. They are practically irresistible and fit right in with the whole concept of eating what looks good. Vegetables, on the other hand, tend to be a little less attractive, depending on how they are prepared.

If you can get away with eating them raw, go for it. They look better and they are better for you that way. If you have to cook them, and some you don't have much choice on, try to steam them just enough to make them edible but without cooking them until their color is gone. If you must, some frozen vegetables are okay, but if you have ever had a vegetable garden, you know what happens when they freeze, right? Plus, many have been pre-cooked down to negligible levels of nutrition. As a side note, sometimes it's difficult not to wonder how frozen veggies manage to stay bright orange, yellow, and green, no matter what we do to them. Hmmm...

Pre-prepared foods are a no-no. As we've gone over already, someone made a bunch of money creating the perfect picture for the box that holds enough preservatives and who knows what else that our bodies don't know what to do with. Remember, we're trying to be healthy. I don't know about everyone else, but I don't want unpronounceable chemicals wandering about in my body for decades because my body hasn't been able to dispose of them. Nope. No thanks.

The tough part about this one is that packaged meals are fast and easy. We are living in the age of fast and easy. If we have a choice between a lower price or the ease of a drive-through, we'll pick the drive-through. You know it's true. There are only so many hours in the day and eating turns into something we have to shove into ten or fifteen minutes. Let's think about this for a minute. No, really. Think about it. I'll wait for you.

So do you feel the way I do about this? We enjoy eating, right? Cramming a fast food burger or burrito into our mouths while we rush from place to place is not only stressful, it's terrible for us. Stop and smell the strawberries. It's time to make some changes.

We'll talk some more about changes next time, in "What to Eat, Part Two".


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