Sure there are a lot of studies out there professing this diet or that one is the best for health or weight loss. But here’s a little secret: it’s not nearly as complicated as all that.
If I were to condense all the decent advice from nutritional studies of the past 50 years, here would be the take home:
- Eat whole foods, not ultra processed foods.
- Limit intake of all sugars and refined carbohydrates, particularly white flour.
- Eat smaller portions and avoid snacking
- Slow down, sit down, enjoy your food more and obsess less about your diet and weight.
Yup, that about sums it up for most people.
Wait, you knew all that? Well, why aren’t you doing it? No it’s not just you, of course. Why aren’t most of us eating this way when we truly know better?
Here are some reasons we eat the SAD diet (Standard American Diet, I kid you not). I notice these factors in the lives and minds of my clients, friends, and I must admit, some of them in myself:
- Ultra-processed foods are super convenient. They’re shelf stable and ready to eat on the run. And we’re always on the run.
- We fool ourselves with ultra-processed foods’ health claims. Their packages are emblazoned with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and probiotics missing from your diet. (Why are these elements missing? Because they are taken out of ultra-processed foods for palatability and shelf life. And also because you are not eating the whole foods which naturally contain them.) The packages proclaim they are low carb, Paleo, vegan, gluten free and organic, which our brains have been trained to read as “healthy food!”
- We live in an environment of food overabundance. We are constantly bombarded with food and the idea that we should snack our way through work and stress and our whole day. Our bodies and brains, meanwhile evolved in a time of feast and famine. Mostly famine. So our bodies and brains tell us to seek what will make us survive the lean times: safe to eat and high calorie sweet foods to pack on the pounds. And our bodies want to hang onto those pounds–and make metabolic changes to do so–because they still “believe” famine is just around the corner. Especially if you’ve dieted.
- We’ve forgotten that food can be enjoyable and see it as either fuel or the enemy. Or both. So we scarf down foods we know are not possibly good for us, feeling badly about it, and hoping, just hoping we’ll have some more time at some later point in our lives to eat better.
When will the time come, that day we promise ourselves we’ll start to make positive changes our diets? When you are less busy, you say? Perhaps when you fully retire? Or soon–after the stress and planned overeating at the holidays? Maybe as soon as next week? Perhaps the diet starts tomorrow? After this meeting and this jelly donut.
Why not start today? Why not prepare a simple meal from simple ingredients and don’t forget your veggies. Can you have a piece of fruit instead of dessert? If you tried, could you wait for a mealtime to eat instead of snacking? If you made an effort, could you eat together–friends or family–and take it at a slower pace? Too busy? What are you are you rushing towards? Your early grave?
If we don’t make time to eat well (in addition to drinking water, sleeping adequately and exercising regularly), we’ll be forced to make time for illnesses–metabolic as well as a host of other preventable conditions. We’ll be less efficient in everything we do because of other daily effects of our SAD eating habits and lifestyle: depressed immune system, poor decision-making, slow and irrational thinking, anxiety, and depression.
So, yes, the advice is simple. We know that lasting change, however, is not so simple. Many people (most?) need help to successfully make positive, sustainable eating and lifestyle changes. I’m here to help!
I’m taking new clients by appointment via email!