Eat Less: My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I used to gorge myself on bread before a meal, eat my whole entree, and somehow make room for dessert when I was already stuffed. Such behavior is typical in our society, but it's also a good recipe for food issues and ill health.
- Don't eat the bread, even if it's free and you're hungry because, in the vast majority of cases, it's made with nutritionally devoid bleached flour. As an appetizer, eat a salad, crudités, or sautéed vegetables.
- Stop when you're full. Well-intentioned mothers actually do their children a disservice when they encourage them to clear their plates before leaving the table. Arbitrary eating, regardless of satiety, needs to stop.
- As a general matter, leaving room for dessert (as opposed to eating it when you're already full) is acceptable on occasion. However, eating dessert every night promotes sugar dependence and emotional eating and should therefore be avoided. Feeling compelled to eat dessert when you are already full, as I once did, is likely a symptom of an existing sugar addiction. Check back later for a post about my sugar struggle.
*Fun Fact: Jiroemon Kimura, the (verified) oldest male in history, attributed his good health and longevity to hara hachi bu, or eating to 80% fullness.
Eat Infrequently: Despite what your personal trainer may have told you, eating 6 meals a day will not necessarily make you healthy or slim. In fact, doing so can cause some individuals, including me, to experience energy-sapping blood sugar spikes and weight gain.
- As I mentioned in Fasting (for Forgiveness), I'm an IF proponent and 8-hour window eater. It works for me. I am not only 15 lbs lighter now than I was when I ate several little meals/snacks throughout the day, I am also more energetic and emotionally stable.
- If eating frequently seems to work for you, then stick with it. If not, try something else. The Warrior Diet recommends 1 big meal at dinner time, but that didn’t work well for me (I got too cranky in the late afternoon). I prefer to eat 2 meals per day. For some people eating 3 square meals works best. If you're not happy with your current diet plan, I would encourage you to self-experiment to see which diet makes you feel the best. Give each diet a 4-6 week trial so that your body can adjust. After a 2-4 week adjustment period, you will be able to accurately assess how you feel on each plan during the remainder of the trial.
- I cannot emphasize enough - eat when you're hungry and never otherwise. Learn to distinguish between physiological hunger (real hunger) and mental/emotional hunger (fake hunger).
Quality Over Quantity: Choose organic whole foods whenever possible. If you have a food budget, allocate accordingly.
- Don't spend $30 at happy hour and then say you can't afford organic spinach. It's called prioritizing. If you get cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and/or another chronic illness, treatments will be EXPENSIVE. In the long run, prevention is a heck of a lot cheaper and less stressful than surgeries and prescription drugs. Don’t be shortsighted about your health and wealth.
- The assertion that diet is not linked to any of these diseases is patently false, and you should not trust the opinions of anyone who makes such an assertion.
- Pick the greatest available option:
Eat Sporadically: Switch up meal times to keep your body on its toes. Complacency isn’t good for your mind or your body.
- Some days I eat lunch at noon and dinner at 6:30PM, while other days I eat lunch at 2PM and dinner at 8PM.
- Think of your body as a bratty child. When you feed it at the same time every day, it will come to expect food at that time. If it doesn’t get food at the expected time, it will throw a tantrum (i.e. make you irritable and give you the mental sensation of hunger). However, when a child throws a tantrum, you shouldn’t give in just to stop the madness. Likewise, you shouldn't give in to fake hunger pangs. Tame your inner brat by eliminating your body’s expectation of food at particular times.
- If you think about it, eating meals at the same time every day is unnatural. This theory is sort of in line with the Paleo and Warrior Diets, which attempt to emulate the way our nomadic ancestors ate thousands of years ago. Before agriculture and permanent settlements, humans were hunter-gatherers and certainly didn’t eat breakfast at 8AM, lunch at noon, and dinner at 7PM every single day.
Diversify Your Diet: Don’t eat the same thing every day. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Diversification can be as easy as:
- Switching up the type of greens in your daily lunch salad (e.g. kale, spinach, arugula, romaine),
- Rotating your snack fruits (e.g. grapefruits, berries, apples, pears, papayas, mangoes, stone fruits) and veggies (e.g. carrots, celery, cucumbers, snap peas),
- Alternating the type of protein (e.g. beans, peas, lentils and/or poultry, red meat, seafood) and veggies (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, red/yellow onions, Swiss chard, collard greens, bok choy, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, miscellaneous gourds) in your nightly stir fry.