Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Healthy Eating in 10 Steps

The diet industry is based on a destructive, negative feedback loop. How many people do you know who are on, or have been on a diet? How many people do you know who have been on more than one diet? Do the diets work? Are people on commercial diet programs happy? At what cost do people reach a target weight? Is such a simple measure as weight actually an indication of health?

The diet industry is the closest you can get to the commercialisation of failure. If a diet succeeds and a dieter loses weight, the industry 'wins'. If a dieter does not lose weight, or regains it, the individual is blamed for his/her weakness. The weight industry can point to their successes (regardless of the individual cost of that success), and say "our diet works, our products work, if YOU have not lost weight then YOU must be to blame. YOU have failed". But what is failure and how should it be appropriated?

In truth, there is no failure, only feedback.

Think of your body like a river. It is in a state of flow. You cannot stop this flow, but you can influence the path it takes - principally by diet and exercise. Fat accumulation and loss are however, mainly an issue of diet. Commercial diets tinker around the shores of the river. The following guidelines enable you to bore out a new channel!

My top 10 nutrition guidelines:

1. The food group to draw from is defined by the ability to eat a particular foodstuff raw. If you can eat it raw, you can include it in your diet! (This does not mean you HAVE to eat it raw!) . Viewed another way, if the foodstuff can still hurt you when it is newly killed/freshly dead- DON'T EAT IT!  If the food is marketed aggressively- DON'T EAT IT!  If the food has the same name in several languages - DON'T EAT IT!

2. Eat seasonally and source locally (as much as possible).

3. Eat foods that go rancid quickly, but consume them in as fresh a state as possible.  This tip is to guide you away from food engineered to have a long shelf life.

4. Eat foods in as unprocessed a state as possible (processing includes any form of curing and juicing but excludes simple cooking). If you are thirsty then water is as good as it gets!  As above, this tip is to guide you away from food engineered to have a long shelf life.

5. Let colour and texture be your guide. Aim for around 3-4 different colours and/or textures per meal (emphasis green vegetables but limit peas and artichokes; moderate other coloured vegetables and restrict white vegetables) .  You can eat starches, but the percentage of your diet should be primarily meat and secondarily coloured veg.

6. Relax about eating. Eating is essential and natural and should NOT be a battleground. There should be no room for guilt or war at the dinner table.

7. Emphasise meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, salad and nuts (in that order). Enjoy the fat content that comes with these foodstuffs - do not avoid it as it satiates appetite (a case where literally you are NOT what you eat). Moderate intake of fruit, particularly bananas, melon, pineapples and grapes (keep it seasonal). Enjoy berries seasonally. Moderate consumption of dairy produce - particularly milk, and avoid all grains, refined sugars and seed/plant oils.

8. Once comfortable with this way of eating, do one or two 24 hour fasts a week ideally from supper to supper, one, two or three days apart (intermittent fasting). Eat episodically throughout any given day. Occasionally fast before and/or after a period of exercise. Experiment with 'feeding windows' (such as 8/16). Cyclical Ketogenic Diets are another way of combining elements of overfeeding, underfeeding, fasting and CHO intake.

9. Listen and respond to your hunger. Try to 'tune in' to it and let it guide you. Stop eating when you feel full, but not before - and certainly not after! If you can 'respond to your hunger' amongst periods of intermittent fasting (IF), and occasional, intense exercise, you are home and dry.  Hunger should make you move - so exercise fasted.

10. Ignore dietary advice to persist in a chronic state of hunger. The solution to excessive fat accumulation will not be found by saddling up with one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Famine!). (Chronic calorie restriction is not the same as IF!)

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