Monday, May 07, 2012

Nutrition is the New Religion

It's amazing, actually, how sure of ourselves as a species we can be - and inevitably, no matter what, some of us migrate towards extreme views.

I used to find that politics and religion were two topics that I didn't ever touch on with anyone but my closest friends - and even then, they were subjects to be tread lightly on.  Lately, though, I've found that nutrition has become one of those things as well, with people swearing their eating plan is the only one that works - sometimes in the face of science, evidence and anecdotes.

The problem is - there is no single, simple answer.  Each of us is a complex combination of physiology and psychology - so what works for one person might not work for another.  I also think that we're generally too quick to look for a nice, pre-packaged solution where there is none, and this is what can lead us to the "snake-oil" salesmen pitching all manner of "fad diets" and "eating plans".

At the very least, must of us are trying to jump into the 8th step out of 10, instead of just starting at square one.  So - for those trying to find a place to begin, here are a few guidelines:
  1. Nobody's ever gotten fat eating fresh fruit and vegetables.  This does not mean it's the ONLY thing you need, and some special conditions (ie. diabetes) may limit the choices... however, adding as much fresh produce into your day as possible can't hurt.
  2. Dietary fat does not turn into body fat.  Skip the "low fat" or "no fat" items.  (This is not a greenlight to eat deep fried foods, even those you make yourself).
  3. Eat as close to fresh as possible - the more steps that the food goes through prior to your eating it, the worse (and less like real food) it becomes.  Simple rule of thumb - if you don't need to prepare anything, or "preparation" means opening a box - probably pretty far from good for you.  This includes the so-called "healthy" frozen dinners.
  4. Don't worry about the 5-6 meals a day to begin with - start off simply eating properly portioned servings of breakfast, lunch, and dinner at regular times during the day.  Adding in snacks will come once you've mastered the basics.
There - I'm going to leave it at that.  Four basic ideas to institute - nothing too complex, nor (hopefully) terribly controversial.  John Berardi has said that if you try to adopt one new habit, your chances of success are 85% - but try to make it two new habits and it drops to 35%.  So - focus on one thing above at a time, and make it a habit before trying to move onto the next one.

Good luck - like everything else, remarkably simple... but not easy!


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