First things first, a little bit of business. Stiiiill no internet at home, going on a month now. It’s finally starting to get to me. Allegedly it’s supposed to be back up by this week, but I’m not holding my breath. Until then (or I cave and start paying for internet again–which probably won’t be soon out of necessity), the posts might be a little erratic for timing. I apologize for that. Someday I’ll get on a regular schedule. Now on with the posting!
I started getting interested in eating healthy around my sophomore or junior year of high school. My chief motivation was to put on muscle for football. It didn’t work very well. Anyways, since then I’ve gone through a lot of different phases in eating healthy and my opinions have changed countless times. And now I can definitively say…that eating healthy is confusing as fuck.
There are a million different voices out their telling you a million different ways to eat healthy and lose weight. Count calories? Low carbs-high fat? Low fat-plenty of carbs? I KNOW, I JUST WON’T EAT ANYMORE! That should solve things, right? All I’m missing is support for a high-calorie, high-sugar, high-fat diet. Actually, I think I found that once but it was for world-class athletes. So I just have to work out 8 hours a day. Got it. I’ll call it the cinnamon-toast-crunch-kill-yourself (working out) cure to obesity. Because cinnamon toast crunch is always good. (No matter how generic, it turns out. True fact. Personally tested).
That was fun. Anyways, I talk about eating healthy a lot. So it’s time to figure out what that means, to me. Like I mentioned before, I’ve adopted and dropped most of the opinions out there. I’ve spent lots of time looking into nutrition. I wrote a painfully long paper on the effects of carbohydrates on obesity comparing different diets. (Holy. Fuck. Was that a pain in the ass). I’ve read Michael Pollan and watched Food Inc. I’ve watched lectures by Gary Taubes, author of “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. I do, in fact, have some degree of expertise on this subject (unlike many other things I talk about) is what I’m trying to get across. DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor (yet), nor am I a professional in the subjects of nutrition.
And you know what? I am sick and tired of trying to figure out what the hell is healthy. So I’m going to boil down eating healthy to common sense (with a little bit of science).
Veggies Equal Healthy
Duh. No arguments anywhere on this one. We can pretty safely assume the produce section of a store is healthy.
Organic/All-Natural is Generally Better
I don’t want to get into all the aspects of this argument (I already had to do that in a med school interview. Because, you know, the yield of organic vs conventional is extremely relevant to my potential as a doctor. Sorry, little bit bitter). But let’s look at this simply. How does conventional agriculture work these days? Maximize yield to maximize profit. Not unreasonable. So most produce has been bred to grow as quickly and largely as possible, while taking up as little space as possible. There’s not much energy left for nutrients. There’s also the risks that pesticides bring.
Now, organic has it’s problems too. Lower yield means more expensive. There is risk of bacteria and other problems without pesticides. And organic agriculture is also concerned with turning a profit; let’s not kid ourselves. But in theory it should be more nutritious. The science is all over the place and oftentimes biased, but I think it makes sense at a basic level. Note of warning–there is zero regulation on claiming to be all-natural, so seeing it on a package means jack shit.
Lots of Sugar Isn’t Great
This seems like another duh but the sugar gets snuck in a lot of different ways. Most people are aware of high fructose corn syrup (or the new corn sugar thing they’ve been pushing). One of the mechanism for fat storage is driven by excess simple carbohydrates (sugar). It tells our body to store fat. (This was a large part of my paper). So excess sugar is bad. And sugars like fructose and high fructose corn syrup are absorbed/broken down more easily. Also, watch King Corn. It’s pretty ridiculous. Which leads me to another rule.
Don’t Eat It If You’re Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognize It
Yes, I borrowed this one from Michael Pollan (along with plenty of other themes in this argument). But it’s a pretty good rule. If the ingredients have a ton of stuff, most of which seems like advanced chemistry, I would distrust it. Now I’m sure plenty of them do useful things, like keep it fresh longer. But why not just eat it fresh. And natural ingredients just seem to work better together (more on this later).
Fats Get A (Somewhat) Bad Rap
Okay, don’t eat a ton of fat. But fat is a better source of energy than sugar (or carbs). If you don’t pair fats with carbs, you’re body doesn’t store the fat and will use it for energy. There is a reason Atkins diets work for weight-loss. But like any diet, it will plateau and can be easily reversed. So maybe this rule should be “Don’t Pair Fats and Sugar”.
I really hate all the calorie counting, figuring out which vitamins I need or don’t need, and all that stuff. Including constantly checking sugar and fat contents. It’s annoying. Yes, there are better calories than others. I’m pretty sure 200 calories of salad are better for me than 200 calories of cake. I’m also pretty confident that taking a vitamin pill with 5000% of my daily value of vitamin X is trying to tell me that it probably doesn’t work as well on it’s own. Certain things work well paired up in ways we haven’t figured out yet. (Some might call this synergistic). So instead of wasting your time taking vitamins, pills, counting calories, get it out of real food and use your head. If you need more of a certain vitamin, find it in a food and figure out a good way to eat it.
Any health claims on food, probably bullshit. Seriously, the food industry pours ridiculous amounts of money into doing studies that find their food healthy. You know, peanut M&Ms? Good source of protein. Because of the peanuts. I’m surprised it’s not on the bag already. I’m not saying be like me (which is paranoid of every box at the store, while also being sucked in to plenty of things based on advertising), but don’t be foolish or naive about it.
I suck at this one. Seriously, I will destroy a pan of brownies on my own. But this is pretty obvious. Stop freaking out about fats and sugars. Stop it! Just don’t pig out on stuff. Try to mix in veggies. And stop worrying about it so much. It’s a waste of time and billions of dollars a year. This is way simpler than it’s made out to be. I don’t think many of us would consider Twinkies to be healthy. But you can still eat one once in awhile. Just make sure that the good foods vastly outweigh the bad ones. Trust your instincts.
Did I just give you a bunch of rules and do all the things I just complained about? Yes. So here’s the one and only rule. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS!! Seriously, all the information out just confuses everything and most of it has a vested interest. So ignore it.