Before you start reading, notice that we didn’t title this article “5 Steps to Losing Weight”. That’s because here at BHT, we firmly believe that the healthiest way to live is to be comfortable with your own body, not to strive for a number that has nothing to do with how you yourself feel.
Enough with the feel-good shit. Let’s get with the program.
STEP 1: Stop eating processed shit.
See the below chart. Make a note as to how many of your favorite foods fall into “That crap will kill you”.
Other ways to put it include “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t think was food”. To compensate for age factors, you may add a few more “greats” in there if you’re from the South. Because really, your great-grandmother was probably around when GoGurt came out.
The more processed a food is, the more opportunity it’s had to lose nutritional benefits, and the more likely it is that shit’s been added to that food which A) causes cancer in lab animals, and B) you can only pronounce if you have an expensive piece of paper from MIT.
Also? Think about steering clear of anything that’s labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free.” Fat adds flavor and richness…so, when you get rid of fat, you remove taste, and you’ve got to make up for it somehow, especially with food that’s been processed and is going to be preserved. So ask yourself, what went into this to compensate? Sugar? Artificial sweeteners? Salt? Artificial flavorings? Suddenly, maybe that fat’s not so bad…
STEP 2: Beware of buzz words.
Remember back to Step 1. Commercial processing also comes along with a slick team of marketing analysts whose sole job security is getting you to spend your money on their product. How do they do this? Marketing is all about trends. Think back a few years ago when suddenly the entire country discovered fruit, and the antioxidant craze was born. Suddenly, there was this Really Awesome Thing that would make you healthier and age slower, without you actually having to do anything other than Buy The Awesome Thing. Pretty much a magic pill for 99% of Americans. So then, everything on the grocery shelves, from bread to chips to olive oil, was Antioxidant Rich or had Natural Antioxidants. Remember that? Yep, that’s what we’re talking about. Same thing with words like “All-Natural”, or “Whole Grain”.
The problem with buzz words is that they don’t really tell you anything. Unless you’ve done your homework and figured out what you actually need, and *how* you need it, eating or drinking something with a buzz word on the label won’t do you any good. Which brings us to…
STEP 3: Do your homework.
There are a few things you need to know if you’re going to start making healthier choices. The first thing you need to know is how your body works: because, news flash, every body is different.
So, here’s what you need to find out. What kind of food makes you feel full? How often do you need to eat to feel satisfied? The best way to do this is to keep a food diary over several weeks, and also take notes on your appetite. If you ate a salad for lunch but then ate twelve Oreos at 3 p.m. because you were starving, then the lunch didn’t work for you. Your body and mind need food to work, and when they’re hungry, they crave instant satisfaction: sugars, usually.
Experiment with meal times and frequency, keeping a routine for at least three to five days before you change. And if you change your activity level – if you start exercising frequently, for example – you may need to revise things.
You also need to start looking into nutritional information. And this information changes all the time. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, eggs had a horrible reputation for high cholesterol, but now nutritionists are recognizing the value of the Incredible, Edible Egg. Not only do eggs have a HUGE amount of satisfying protein for the volume (and price), they also contain lots of nutrients, including hard-to-find Vitamin D. So, 20 years later, the conventional wisdom is that one or two eggs a day is generally all right, if your cholesterol is otherwise doing well. And that’s just one example. Salt is currently under the microscope as the latest “Well, maybe this isn’t so bad.”
STEP 4: Don’t diet.
Really. For fuck’s sake, don’t go on a diet. And by that, we mean a Diet: the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Mediterranean Diet…
(yes, we did use the Paleo Diet flowchart above. The Paleo Diet has redeeming qualities, namely “Don’t eat processed shit” and “Fat isn’t so bad.”)
Almost any <insert word> Diet has several things wrong with it. Number one, it was developed with generalities (See step 3). Diets are written as programs that will *probably* work for *most* people. Most Diets aren’t taking into account your metabolism, work schedule, activity level…etc., etc.
Number two, any Diet is probably going to require you to make lots of changes all at once. Changing one habit is hard enough. Changing ten or twenty of them is mind-boggling. You’ll stick to the Diet only so long as the goal (losing weight, fitting into a dress, swimsuit season) is more important to you than what your body wants. Sooner or later, your body is going to win that argument, because you did too much at once. Switching from soda to water? Hard, but much easier if that’s all you’re concentrating on. Switching from soda to water, AND snacking on vegetables instead of chips, AND not eating dessert, AND trying to count all the calories in everything you eat, AND AND AND AND…well, you get the point.
Number three, Diets are marketed as an easy fix. Nothing about getting healthier is going to be particularly easy, depending on the level of unhealthy you currently are. If you want to do a 180 on your eating habits and lose 100 pounds and be able to do an Ironman, it’s going to be HARD. You will get hungry. You will be tired. You will be irritable. You are forcing your body to do things it does not want to do. Take that into account, and be realistic with your planning and your time-frame for what you want to accomplish.
STEP 5: Measure.
It’s our completely non-scientific opinion that a lot of the problem with unhealthy eating in the U.S. has to do with portion sizes. Most folks simply don’t know what a true “serving” of food is. The nutrition info on food labels is also based on serving size. Here’s a handy guide:
Vegetables, fruits and grains: A fistful is one serving.
Meat: A deck of cards. This is about 3 ounces of most meats. So if you get an 18-ounce ribeye, guess what? Six servings. That’s enough meat, for the average person, for two days.
Oil and butter: One tablespoon, or about two cloves of garlic.
It will really, really help you if you sit down with some measuring cups and spoons, and start getting yourself acquainted with what a serving really looks like. A serving of salad dressing is two tablespoons, but are you really getting out the spoon every single time? Of course not. So, you need to have a sense of the quantity, a visual memory, to be able to do it without the tools.
When you’re out to eat, it’s almost a given that you’re being served at least two meals with just the entrée, let alone any extra appetizers, salad, or dessert. Ask for a box right away and split your meal in half – or, share your entrée with a friend.
There! We hope you’ve enjoyed our suggestions and that you’re on your way to a healthier you. Now excuse us…we’ve got a salad to eat.