by Joshua Danker-Dake
Last time, I talked about making sustainable dietary changes while maintaining a healthy relationship with food. I’d like to discuss that further.
If you’re honest with yourself, you know that if you want to lose weight, you have to change the way you eat. But what’s the goal? To diet down to a certain number on the scale, or to transition to a fitter, healthier lifestyle?
When I got serious about what I ate, my challenge was, How can I fuel my body with good nutrition without eating more than I should and without feeling hungry?
I’ve found some workable answers to that question on my health and fitness journey. Here are three things I’ve learned.
Everything on your plate doesn’t have to be delicious.
For me, making better food choices has involved substituting more fruits and vegetables for other foods. I now make a point of having a big portion of fruit or vegetables with every meal. Not that I have some unusual predilection for the taste of vegetables; it’s just that I’ve become accustomed to eating them. There are plenty I like, but there are also a bunch that I simply don’t dislike. As long as there’s something delicious on my plate, I can put up with quite a large quantity of vegetables.
Start small. You don’t wake up one morning and decide you’re ready to get full on steamed broccoli instead of bread and butter (my particular dinnertime weakness). It’s a transition, a process. Find what works for you and go from there.
It’s better not to drink calories.
Drinking calories is bad news if you’re trying to lose weight, because you can consume a lot of calories without ever assuaging your hunger—plus most drinks contain little that’s nutritionally worthwhile.
Over-sugared chain coffee drinks are a prime culprit—these can run over 500 calories per drink, which is a respectable lunch for most of us. It’s also easy to run up the calorie count with soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages of all kinds. Keep it classy with this quote from Pindar: “Water is best.”
It’s better to decrease consumption of processed shelf-stable food.
I’m talking about food that comes in boxes and cans, food that stays fresh for months at room temperature. You ever look at the super-long lists of ingredients on those things? That food doesn’t stay post-apocalyptically fresh by magic.
It’s not just the cookies and snacks—all sorts of foods have sugar added because sugar in its various forms, including corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, is a humectant: it retains moisture, helping keep food fresh. So it’s in everything, including things you wouldn’t think had any business having sugar in them, like bread, canned soup, and crackers. But don’t take my word for it—take a look around your own pantry.
Am I telling you never to eat that stuff? I am not telling you that. You’re a grown person; you can make your own decisions. I’m merely pointing out that if you eat these sorts of foods, you’re probably consuming quite a bit more sugar than you think, and they tend not to be particularly nutritious. Shelf-stable food is super affordable and super convenient—I understand. But understand also that phasing sugar-added foods out of your diet can be a great way to cut calories and improve nutrition.
Nor am I telling you to junk everything in your cupboard in favor of gluten-free, all-natural, no-GMO, organic, free-range kale salads and whatnot. Let’s not be silly. What are you, rich?
But do be educated—and continue to educate yourself—and then make the best choices you can for yourself and your family.
Joshua Danker-Dake is the author of the acclaimed comic novel The Retail. A writer and editor by trade, he also serves as the Strategy and Tactics Editor for Diplomacy World, the flagship publication of the Diplomacy hobby. Beyond health and fitness, other things he gets rather excited about include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, bombastic European power metal, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
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