With the ever increasing number of diets with contradictory principles surrounding us, be it low carb, high carb, Paleo, raw vegan, or something completely different, there is also an increasing need to clarify and emphasize what is really important. Let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
In all this diet-noise that is bombarded upon us, the focus often seems to be on the details, quick-fixes and unrealistic promises. The result? We lose track of the whole, the things that we really should care about. This inevitably leads to people getting confused, discouraged and reverting back to old habits, helplessly thinking that they have no control over their health.
This article is intended to outline the general principles that will help you take back that control. Get this part down first, then worry about the details later.
Set Your Priorities Straight
First we need to ask ourselves; what is truly important, what are we striving for with our diet? If you think long and hard enough, chances are your answer is health. Without your health, your waist size will probably not make you feel as good as you were hoping. Hence, short-term weight loss should be of secondary concern when it comes to a healthy and sustainable diet. We need to realize that there is no shortcut, and if you feel truly healthy, the numbers on the scale will be just that, numbers.
Define the Big Picture
So what should we focus on? There are two main points that have always been accepted and true when it comes to our food; these things make up most of the puzzle, but it can sometimes be hard to see the forest for the trees. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the talk about calories, carbs, gluten, glycemic index, just relax and take a deep breath. Start with the basics and go from there. What we should strive for is the following:
- Eat whole Foods - If you have ever been in a grocery store, you know just how much of the food we eat that is processed and packaged, yet most people don't even read the labels. Choose a random item, and chances are it contains ingredients you can barely pronounce. In fact, it has been estimated that the average American's diet consists of more than 70 percent processed food. This is not how it should be. Try to only buy foods with as natural and as few ingredients as possible, and you have come a long way already.
- Eat more vegetables - This one should go without saying, we all know they're good for us. Studies have shown over and over that increased intake of fruit and vegetables results in lower risk for many of today's biggest killers, such as Heart Disease and Stroke. Everyone could benefit from more vegetables in their diet.
That's all. Isn't it simple? Depending on the degree of which you follow these two principles, the healthier you are likely to be, and the more you will prevent the diseases that are caused by all of the modern, nutritionless foods. You can worry about the details later.
Be Aware of Red Flags
Unfortunately, the fact that the diet and health scene is so scattered with different opinions makes it a perfect platform for marketers to exploit peoples confusion by promoting new diets that will somehow make them lose X number of pounds in Y weeks with some "secret trick". It simply adds another layer to the noise, and further blocks the things that are truly important. It's a never ending cycle.
Add to this that the food manufacturers are picking up on the trend, and are constantly trying to convince you that their products are healthy because the contain this or that, but fail to mention all the things that are bad for you.
As people get more health concious, even media sees the oppurtunity to report anything that will catch your attention. Most of the time their stories are centered around sensational and contradictory studies that go against the current understanding of what is healthy. By now you understand this won't do much good, right?
What You Can Do Now
Now that we have established the situation, let's take a look at what actions you can take to improve your diet today:
- Stock up on fresh, healthy foods. Naturally, the less unhealthy food you have at home, the less you will eat.
- Substitute unhealthy foods for healthy alternatives, processed foods for whole. The more whole foods you eat, the more you will learn to appreciate the natural flavours. Over time your microbiome will shift, and you will start craving the healthy foods instead.
- If you have cravings for something processed and unhealthy, commit yourself to eating healthier foods first and you might find that you don't even want the thing you craved. If you do, at least you will probably not eat as much of it.
- Think of your food as fuel and nutrition, not pleasure. This may seem like a big sacrifice at first, but trust me, you will enjoy healthy foods eventually. Ask yourself, does anything taste better than the feeling of being healthy?
I hope this article has helped to shift your perspective to the bigger picture, and that you feel encouraged to make some changes in your daily life. The next time you go to the grocery store, take the time to read the labels and see what you are really putting in your mouth. What you do thereafter is up to you, just don't give up on the big picture, because that is what really matters. Your health is in your hands.
"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand"
- Benjamin Franklin