What should I eat to lose weight? to feel good? to look good? to perform good?
This is really the million dollar question. Literally.
This question has made people millions of dollars. There are countless diets, books, television shows, documentaries, blogs, seminars, life coaches, and self-proclaimed gurus that all aspire to answer this simple question.
There is a new series that I saw on Hulu called “My Diet is Better Than Yours.” It is absolutely ridiculous and I can’t believe that some of the “experts” on the show actually make money.
For example, one of the methods was called Taskercise. The great idea? Find ways to workout while doing everyday things. Squats in line at the grocery store after lunging the length of the vegetable aisle. The website even advocates the use of a swivel chair to “get great abs.”
I was awestruck. bamboozled. downright disgusted. and just plain baffled. How do these people get other people to give them money? Because they are providing an answer to the million dollar question.
It doesn’t matter how obviously unsophisticated (hokey) that answer is. It is an answer and it is usually comes with some sob story of how that person climbed out of the gutter, created this brand new never-before-seen system and subsequently crafted a life filled with perfect health and happiness. That shit sells.
Rant complete. Moving on.
The best way I found to answer this question is to look for common themes among all of the programs. Regardless of how dumb the entire system is, most usually garnish some success because of a few principles they advocate. This may in fact be my great gift to society.
3 Dietary Habits to lose weight, look good, and perform good
- All programs focus on eliminating bad foods. The definition of “bad” varies from program to program but basically stop eating processed food (ANYTHING that comes in a package or last longer than a week is processed), sugar, and other simple carbohydrates. Sometimes the program won’t outright say “limit your carbohydrates'” because they are probably worried about alienating scores of potential would-be buyers, but the gist of what they are saying usually implies this to be true.
Do this: Avoid processed food & sugars, starches, alcohol, and grains.
- Cut down overall intake of calories. I don’t necessarily agree with the “calories in, calories out” myth but I do agree that total caloric intake is important. I’ve seen firsthand the pitfalls of an uncontrolled Paleo diet where dieters inhaled scores of smoked almonds and rings of bananas, only to later remark that the Paleo diet “doesn’t work” and that modern humans must be biologically different from our paleolithic ancestors.
Do this: Cut down total intake of calories.
- Focus on eating clean. Again, the definition of the word “clean” varies from camp to camp but I like to think this means vegetables of all kinds (lots of colors), lean protein like chicken and fish, good fats like coconut and avocados, and some fruit. There are entire books written about this one bullet point but it is literally that simple.
Do this: Eat vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and some fruit.
Bonus: Pay attention to what you put in your mouth. With every single bite know that you are either helping or hurting yourself. You are either making small, incremental gains or small, incremental losses.
Read more: No Zero Days
You will feel the effects, physically, mentally, and emotionally of a bad meal days after it is eaten. You may decide that it is easier to eat bad all the time so that feeling of guilt will no longer haunt you.
That feeling will just become part of your identity. You will become someone that just eats bad all the time. You will become a naysayer, armed with quick one liners like, “diets don’t work” or “I’ve tried over and over to lose weight but nothing seems to work for me” or my personal favorite, “I’m happy with the way I look, I’ve finally learn to accept myself for who I am.”
That is all nonsense, the rally cry of the mediocre.
The next time you watch another damn Beachbody infomercial (seriously, how do they keep coming out with new ones?), instead of taking out your credit card, reread this post.
Take responsibility for your health. You don’t have to go on a television show to find out which is the best diet for you.
- Eliminate bad foods.
- Cut back overall calories.
- Focus on eating clean.
- Bonus: Take responsibility. Make daily victories, acquire a new identity & sense of purpose.
With today’s massive amounts of pseudo-science, bad information, and Taskercisers in the world, you will need better guideposts. Here are some good starting points.
- Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
- The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet
- Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
- Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
- The Paleo Manifesto
- It Starts With Food
- The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from People Who’ve Lived the Longest
- Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
- Robb Wolf ~ The Paleo Solution
- Mark’s Daily Apple ~ The Primal Blueprint
- Protein Power ~ Dr. Eades, A Critical Look at Nutritional Science
- Hunter Gatherer ~ John Durant, Ancient Lifestyle. Modern Life.
- The Paleo Mom ~ Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD
- Theory of Practice ~ Ancestral Momentum
- Sugar: The Bitter Truth
- Learn the Facts About Sugar
- The Weight of a Nation
- Food, Inc. (Also on Amazon Prime)
- Why Am I Still Fat? (Top Documentary Films)
I also recommend tracking what you eat for a while in order to get a good idea of what you are actually eating everyday. It is common for people to underestimate the amount of calories they are ingesting and to overestimate the amount of nutrition they are getting from that food.
I am known to be anti-fruit. This is for a variety of reasons but I mostly dislike fruit because of the fact that people eat fruit as a way to balance other bad choices. They will eat an apple after eating a bad meal because it is “healthy,” even if they don’t actually want to eat the apple. The apple becomes extra calories, which is mostly sugar, that is not satisfying and not very healthy. Fruit is only healthy when compared to other things like candy bars.
I hate the saying, “an apple a day blah, blah.” It impresses upon people that being healthy is as simple as eating a sugar filled, semi-natural, optimally bred, piece of fruit.
I think there is a bible story about eating an apple and the decline of the human race.
Remember to keep it simple and to focus on small, incremental changes.