Sunday, December 11, 2011
This is that holiday time of year. A time when most people forego any kind of sensible habits in favor of enjoying the holidays to their fullest. December into January (in fact 4Q overall is pretty dangerous health-wise) is filled with year-end and New Year's eve parties. On top of that it is a bit chilly for getting outside and exercizing. Many people start the New Year with a few extra pounds to shed, and a fair amount of detox required to get back to the already poor health they were in after Thanksgiving's gorge-fest.
I strongly recommend people try to follow a ration of 95:5 for their diet where 95% of the time they eat meals which are whole-foods plant based. The other 5% of the time eating anything they like. Of course, 100:0 is the best ratio and a great target to have, but unrealistic for most of us. This would mean that for 21 meals a week, only 1 of them would (should) contain processed foods or animal products in it. This is an optimal balance that will yield the best possible health benefits.
There is a famous study done by a nutritionist who lost a lot of weight eating only twinkies. Yes, twinkies. Before I get a lot of fools sending me mails on this, read the article. He is a professor who did the test on himself to research calorie counting (which works). HE DOES NOT recommend it to anyone, and neither do I. People lose weight through meth addiction as well, and I don't suggest that as a successful strategy either.
Even without being mathematical about it, simply trying your best to make every meal healthy whenever possible makes a big difference. I often see people show a lot of restraint when out to dinner with family, friends, co-workers/clients. They make a big deal out of saying "Oh, I am trying to lose weight/eat healthy". In fact, rather than cause discomfort at the table, it would be far better for that person to be very healthy every meal they eat alone or at home. Then, when they go out, they need not stress about eating what they want or what others are having.
Since most of us eat breakfast at home (or should, anyway) , this is a great place to start. Give up bacon/sausage/eggs/milk/coffee. Instead try for 3 months to eat only whole, plant-based foods --- fruits and naturally sweetened fruit juices. If you like yogurt, go Greek/plain unsweetened and top with fruit or fruit puree if desired. For hot breakfasts, try oatmeal with fruit on top. Drink unsweetened Chinese tea/Japanese green tea or water instead of coffee or sweetened drinks. In three months I promise you a huge difference right there.
The next meal to go after is lunch. I typically prepare a nice big salad and take it into work. If it seems not enough, bring a bigger one. For undressed salads, you can eat as much as you want. Choose low calorie dressings and be minimal so you can enjoy the lovely taste of your veggies. I am also a big fan of veggi dips such as hummus, and often pack those with whole grain flatbreads for dipping. The classic Japanese combo of rice, miso soup, pickles/kimchi, tofu always does me right and offers a lot of variety especially if I have a small salad with it.
Try to eat such kinds of healthy lunches whenever you are not obliged to go out with co-workers or clients. After you have conquered breakfast (give yourself 3 months to get the habits set) start working on lunch by picking one day a week (such as Monday) and making that "salad day". After a week or two to adjust, add another day. The another.
In 3 months you should have your routine set to healthy whole foods, plant-based breakfasts and lunches every day. This is already 2/3 or your meal intake and a fantastic adjustment to better health. The last step is preparing quick, healthy dinners at home anytime you are not obliged to eat out.
By following the above, you can get to the proper guideline ratio and greatly improve your health. Not doing so increases your exposure you to the modern killers of our time: heart disease, cancer, diabetes. All of these are directly linked; scientifically linked, to consumption of animal products and processed foods.
One of the most important goals is to get to a ratio that lets you avoid feeling guilt over anything you eat or drink. If 95% of the time you are eating whole foods, plant based meals, the other 5% will not do you any noticeable harm. The counter argument is also true. If 95% of the time you eat highly processed animal products, the 5% of the time you decide to have a Caesar salad will not save you from modern society's lethal diseases or give you greater longevity.