It is so easy to become overwhelmed with the very concept of good nutrition.
It seems that ”eating right” is as technically complex as taking a trip to the moon! Eat less fat! Eat more “Omega 3” fat? Eat any kind of fat that you want, as long as you don’t eat carbs! Avoid eating carbs? Eat more whole grains! Wait, whole grains are carbs, right? Eat more protein! Eat less protein! Drink green tea! Take supplements! Don’t take supplements! Get more fiber! Don’t mix your proteins with your fats! Huh? Eat fruit only before 9:30 a.m.! Will I gain weight if I have an apple with lunch? Eat 40% proteins, 30% carbohydrates and 30% fats! Uhhh – does that add up to 100%? Do I lose more weight if it only adds up to 75%? Eat more fish! Don’t eat farmed fish! Fish can grow on a farm? I have never seen a fish tree. Red meat is evil! Evil? Are chicken nuggets OK? How did primitive man ever survive? Want the truth?
The truth is, in our world, eating perfectly is almost impossible. Just attempting to digest the information can make you sick. Eating perfectly may be a great place to end up but it is certainly no place to start. This is especially true when it seems that every time we get new information, it contradicts the information we got just last week. It is not that the information is always wrong, it is just complex and confusing. OK, sometimes it is just wrong.
Let’s introduce a new concept, a new paradigm, a new way of thinking about the nutritional world. This is it: EAT BETTER! For now anyway, forget about “eating right.” I am not even sure I know what “eating right” really is and I am sure I have no idea how to eat “perfectly.” Besides, it's the small changes that you consistently do over time that have the most powerful and LASTING effects on health and weight.
In this post, I will discuss the concept of an eating operating system and how YOU can update yours. As we explore updating your eating operating system, we will make POWERFUL and lasting improvements to the what you eat and how you eat it. Remember, you don't have to be perfect, you just need to be better. Don't worry about becoming a vegetarian health food freak. While I may be a vegetarian now, I lost ALL my weight while still eating meat. All you need to do is accumulate enough better food behaviors to turn the tide. Hey, besides, you may end up actually wanting to be a health food food freak.
Human beings are designed to be omnivores. Omnivore is another word for biological garbage disposal. Throughout the history of humanity, our species has survived quite nicely by eating whatever the earth provided. Interestingly, what the earth provides is actually quite different depending on where you happen to be and when you happen to be there. This is why the if you were an Inuit in Greenland, you eat a lot of seal blubber while if you were an Inca in Mexico, you'd eat a lot of corn, rice and beans. Humans show incredible adaptability when it comes to food. Throughout history, we seemed to stay quite healthy on a wide variety of diets, until now. Now we have a diet that is currently invading the planet and it could be our undoing. The so-called “Western Diet” is so named because it was born in the good 'ol USA although it is no longer confined to our shores.
What is the western diet? And Why does everybody blame it for our nation's failing health?
The Western diet can be recognized by an excess of processed foods and meat. The three key terms being EXCESS, PROCESSED and MEAT. The diet also tends to favor a lot of added fat, sugar and refined ... everything. Especially refined grains. The excess of the diet is also a problem. People who eat a Western Diet seem to eat a lot of everything. Everything, that is, except for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Actually, now that I think about it, people that consume this diet eat a surprisingly small variety of items, most of which look very similar. They generally are found in a box or bag and range in color from white to beige or another shade of brown.
Now, this would not be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that, by no no small coincidence, those that eat the Western Diet suffer. They suffer from much higher rates of obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even acid reflux. They tend to be slower and in more physical pain then your average Inuit or Inca. Virtually all obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as most cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis can be either directly or indirectly linked to this particular diet. These are not guesses. While there seems to be endless debate over what is best for us to eat, no legitimate scientist disputes these facts. While no particular diet in the history of humanity seemed, by it's design to make people sick, the Western Diet is a prescription for disease. In short, we humans can eat a lot of different diets and stay pretty healthy. . . just not the one we are on.
So why are we on this diet? Nobody really knows for sure. The best guess is money. Historically, only royalty ate refined grains and huge amounts of meat and as a result, we have a rather portly image of Henry VIII etched in our brains. Near as anybody can figure, our current problems began with our prosperity.
After WWII, almost every American family could afford meat at every meal. It was actually considered a status symbol to eat a lot of meat and the fattier the better. What most people don't realize is that the prime beef quality rating system is based entirely on fat content. The more fat or “marbling” in the meat, the higher the grade. So, “Prime Beef” is also the fattiest. Go figure.
What happened next is that the country got bigger, wealthier, more mobile and hungrier. Food was now big business. It needed to be produced in mass quantities and stored until it could be sold. In order to produce all this food and keep it fresh, the businesses turned to science. The scientists were happy to hop onto the “better living through chemistry” band wagon. They produced all sorts of ways to make food faster, cheaper, tastier and longer lasting. The problem was, in order to accomplish this they needed to take all of the actual “food” out and replace it with stuff humans were never meant to eat. The result, a world full of pseudo-food that is high in calories, fat, sugar, salt and chemicals and a little shy on nutrition.
This is a huge problem because this pseudo-food is no longer an occasional option it's more the norm. Whereas humans were designed to eat almost anything, we have managed to engineer a environment of eating that is not only slowly killing us, it is virtually unavoidable. Worse yet, we humans are not adapting to this new food environment. We survived quite well before this diet and now we have a literal epidemic that can be traced directly to our food supply. It is literally like putting a salt water fish into fresh water. If you don't know what this does to a fish, it ain't pretty. If that image is not clear to you, put the fish on a city bus. That's one sick fish. The point is, the saltwater fish is perfectly suited to live in the environment of the ocean. Change the salt content of the water or otherwise pollute or radically change the fishes world and the fish is dead.
Good thing we are not fish. We are thinking, conscious beings. . . most of the time. Or are we when it comes to what we eat? The great news is that if your not, you can be. Once you wake up to the fact that your eating behavior is the result of your brain's eating operating system, you can update that operating system.
The sequence for updating your eating operating system goes like this,
- Build the lighthouse.
- At the base of the lighthouse, we have your beliefs. We need to look at your beliefs about food. We need to build beliefs that will serve you and demolish beliefs that are limiting you. We need to look at that special set of beliefs called your identity. We need to open that identity file drawer and find the food folder. Chances are we need to clean up that folder a bit. The great news is, when we do, you will actually be a whole new person.
- The next phase of lighthouse building is the tower. The tower is your vision. Can you visualize yourself eating better? Can you create a picture of what it might feel like to eat better? Together we will explore what eating better looks like and how it will feel. We will also examine how your current eating behavior looks to those around you. Chances are, the reality of your current vision is less than how you really want to be seen.
- Finally we build the light. The light is your purpose. Why are you really embarking on this journey. Why do you want to eat better?
Once we build that lighthouse, you will have a strong beacon that will keep you away from the bacon. Okay, I will admit that wasn't funny but, you get the point. That lighthouse, if well constructed, will help you make the better choices at times when those choices are at their toughest.
- Leave The Shore.
- When I talk about leaving the shore, what I am really asking is, Are you committed? Do want this badly enough to do what it takes to get it done? Are you really ready to forgo dessert or that second glass of wine? Commitment means there is no try, there is only do or not do, to quote Yoda (who was paraphrasing Buddha). Commitment doesn't have to be hard or require massive sacrifice. It means you say what you do and do what what you say. You need to leave the safety of what you know and commit to doing things differently. Doing things differently, is the only way you will ever get different results out of your life.
- Sail The Boat
- Great! You have built your lighthouse. Now you know where to go. You have left the comfort and safety of shore in favor of adventure! Good work. Now we need to sail the boat. We need to actually do something. If we don't sail the boat, we are simply drifting. Sailing the boat is the only way we can insure that we make it to where we want to go safely.
- Step 1: AWARENESS. It all starts here. This step in the system is where you become of what you are eating, how much you are eating, how fast you are eating and with whom. Do you stop eating when you are full? Do you even know when you are full? Are you uncomfortably stuffed after you eat? How does that feel? In this step, we work hard to make your brain see what the problem is and encourage it to find better answers for you.
- Step 2: Action. You knew this day would come. You knew at some point you would actually have to try kale or ditch that CarmaFrapaLatte habit. Or its that a FullaLottaCrappa habit? I'm never really sure.
As we move through this series, I will help you to understand how to explore the best food options for you. Most of you already know at least one thing to do. If you don't ask yourself two questions, “What is the smallest thing I can do to better my eating that will make the biggest impact?” and “What is the smallest thing I can STOP doing to better my eating that will make the biggest impact?”
This system of updating your brain is the road map on how your brain will propel your body toward lasting weight loss and health. It works because you work it. You update the system. You are the software engineer. You own the code and you end up proud of your work. That is why updating your brain's operating system works over the long-term. Because it belongs to you.