|"Too Many Choices" by Eric Joyner|
Eat less saturated fat! Eat more phytonutrients! Eat less salt! Eat more saturated fat! It seems like every time you turn on the TV, check your tweets, or open the newspaper, someone’s telling you something new to consume or eschew. If you’re in the process of getting healthy, figuring out which advice to take can feel like playing Whack-a-Mole on a football field-sized board.
It doesn’t have to. Here are two facts about all those nutrition plans and diet books out there that should ease your mind:
Fact #1: they’re all wrong. Fact #2: they’re all correct.
The thing is, there’s no single, right way to eat. Our DNA and the way our lives have influenced that DNA give each of us a unique set of dietary and lifestyle needs. The 25¢ term for this is biochemical individuality. So finding the diet that’s right for you is sometimes just a series of educated guesses. (My goal is to help you with the “educated” part.)
Despite this, there are a few universal truths when it comes to healthy eating. When you boil down all the (credible) information out there, you’ll find that most of it features the same, simple guidelines. Let’s start with these seven.
1. Eat fruits and vegetables. Lots of them. “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants,” says Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma (not to mention my personal guru). The man is right. Fresh produce – either raw or healthfully cooked (see guideline #3) – tends to be packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and water. Furthermore, it’s filling and delicious. If you make fresh fruits and veggies the cornerstones of your diet, you’re miles ahead of most of America.
2. Drink water. Lots of it. You’re about 70% water. When you don’t get enough, your body simply doesn’t function as well. Think of it as the motor oil of your personal engine. And we’re talking pure water here - when you look to other sources to hydrate, you tend to load up on chemicals or sugar, neither of which will help you on your quest for wellness. To figure out how much water to drink, divide your weight in pounds by 2. Drink that number in ounces. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of fresh water daily. Not a fan? Squeeze some citrus in there or muddle some mint on the bottom of your glass. Herbal tea works too.
There are a lot of water haters out there who will contest this. It baffles me because, even if I'm 100% wrong, there's nothing bad about drinking this much water, so why fight it? Anyway, I'll address this issue soon in another post.
3. Don’t fry things. There’s just no point. It compromises the nutritional value of your food and adds oxidized fat to your meal, which is either nutritionally void or downright cancerous, depending on who you ask. Steaming, broiling, and baking are all better options.
4. Get more sleep. Not only is sleep the time when your body recovers from the wear and tear of living, but a lack of sleep stimulates production of the hormone ghrelin, which tells you to eat, while decreasing the hormone leptin, which tells you to stop eating. Furthermore, a recent study out of Harvard shows that tired people are less likely to listen to their front-brain when it says, "Put down the cheesecake, wise guy." If you don’t have time for 7-8 hours a night, see if you can find time for a nap.
5. Get more exercise. The list of how exercise benefits your mind, body, and soul is endless. It doesn’t have to be much. Just get off that chair for 30 minutes a day or so. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you need to do a specific workout to get in optimal shape. Said workout won’t do bupkis for ya if you’re not motivated. Pick something you enjoy and you can commit to, be it walking, yoga, basketball, or calisthenics in your living room while watching reruns of The Rockford Files.
6. It’s okay to be naughty sometimes. Planning on competing in the Olympics any time soon? No? Then you certainly don’t need to eat like an Olympian. Relax and enjoy life a little. If about 20% of your diet isn’t perfect, it’ll make the rock solid 80% much easier to tolerate. (Although, in time, that 20% will probably become increasing less appealing. Believe it or not, healthy food can be yummy too.)
7. If you screw up, don’t give up. We all have the occasional nutritional lost weekend. As they say in New York, “cheesecake happens.” It’s okay. Just keep going. If you don’t mind a little tough love, using a mistake as an excuse to quit is just that: an excuse. So get out there and get healthy!