2009 has been an interesting year for me. While I could go on and on about all the lifestyle changes I’ve made, I want to talk specifically about how my current philosophy on food began to take shape.
In January, some time after stepping on a scale and seeing it hit 260 pounds, I made a firm decision to change my life. While always an active person, I simply overate during every meal (big lunches, big dinners, snacks in between) to the tune of 3500-4000 calories per day. My body was used to this, and my metabolism has operated at high efficiency to compensate. All I had to do to lose weight was retain my activeness and substantially reduce my caloric intake. So I did, by having small meals, abstaining from snacks and eating “light” everything. The weight came off fast and three months later was sitting at 215 pounds.
It was around the same time, in mid-April, that I began to question whether the “healthy” food I was eating really was just that—healthy. Americans are nuts about food fads (and have been for sometime), riding the latest wave of recommendations from “nutrition scientists” and finding a new one to jump on after it crests. The latest change in wind direction is the backlash against trans fats, which were created not too long ago and hailed as a health miracle at the time (research has shown that it is nothing of the sort). Our next fad, which you already see evidence of in the supermarket, is Omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 3s are valuable because our industrial food production system has provided food rich in Omega 6, throwing off the ratio between the two.
So I wondered if the low-fat and fat-free products I consumed were in my long-term interest. A friend of mine told me an anecdotal story about an aunt of her, a nurse, who has eaten fat-free and sugar-free products for years yet has had to battle some serious health issues. The more I looked into the supposed health benefits of these kinds of foods, the more I heard stories like these. We eat these processed, artificial, and unnatural “foods” to avoid problems like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes—yet, we soon discover that consumption of these products does not necessarily make us healthier or leave us in better shape.
The same friend introduced me to some of the concepts behind natural and unprocessed eating. I followed up by reading several books on the topic, notably In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (both written by Michael Pollan).
My philosophy on eating draws heavily from the thinking of Pollan, and as such I highly recommend both (plus, they are only $10 each). Without giving away too much, I can say that his idea to better masticating is, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These words have been crucial in my personal lifestyle change.
Since starting down this road, I’ve been going to farmer’s markets and shopping at food cooperatives which have a variety of organic (and delicious!) products. I’ve tried to avoid heavily-processed foods and anything artificial, taking my time while evaluating ingredients lists. My weight has continued to decrease and now hovers around 195 pounds (a drop of about 65 since January 2009). Although living in an apartment right now, I have dreams of purchasing a small farm and growing my own solar-powered food. I still make regular visits to the supermarket; however, most of those visits are spent in the produce section.
I’ve also found it difficult not to feel a twinge of contempt anytime I see a line of cars waiting in the drive-thru at fast food joints, or someone tossing a box of Pop Tarts into their grocery cart. My pained expression is an unavoidable byproduct of changing my own life for the better and wishing that other people would do the same. Consequently, my contributions to this blog may be a subconscious attempt to change the world (at least the American part of it).