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Monday
Dec312012

Do You Eat Food or "Food"?

The latest CDC statistics suggest that more than 1 in 3 adult Americans are obese.  With more information and resources available now than ever before, why does the nation continue to slip down this perilous slope?  The reasons may be as widespread as the epidemic itself.  No two bodies are exactly the same and our metabolisms are influenced by countless factors every day. 

The prevalence and complexity of the issue fuels hype over weight loss trends that come and go over time. In fact, one could try a new diet every week for life without repetition. There is an over-saturation of dietary advice from friends, media personalities, and trainers that can lead to paralysis by analysis.  Without adding to the confusion, keep this fundamental in mind - eat food. 

While this may sound ridiculous, consider that many items found in a typical grocery store are not food.  Food is the natural manifestation of the components we need to live - or nutrients.  “Food” however is an artificial, man-made product.  Hundreds of boxes and bags line the aisles with catchy names yet unpronounceable ingredients.  These chemically-laden items quickly fill up our grocery carts and give the illusion of a well balanced diet. 

Most of us intrinsically know what we should eat.  Things get complicated when our cravings come out in full force.  All the body needs is energy and the brain knows where to get plenty of it.  Will we choose the apple or the milkshake?  The more we consume sugary, processed “foods,” the harder it is to resist those temptations next time.  This downward spiral is further perpetuated by the “food” manufacturers trying to convince you their concoctions are healthy. Do not be fooled. 

“Food” packaging can be confusing and purposely misleading.  First of all, most foods don’t need much or any packaging in the first place - bananas, oranges, avocados and other fruits grow in their own wrappers, and chicken, fish and other meats should be clearly visible.  Look past the cartoon characters and buzzwords to the one place they can’t lie - the nutrition label.  Count ingredients, not calories.  Yes, calories and macronutrients are important, but only when you know what you’re eating. 

Following a few basic rules will help you establish new healthy eating habits and maybe even change your paradigm of what it means to enjoy real nutrition.  Employ these 3 simple steps today and you’ll be well on your way.

1. Drink water.  Have a water bottle close by at all times and take frequent sips.  Dehydration is at the root of many common ailments.  Challenge yourself to replace one soda/juice/coffee a day with a tall glass of water until it’s the only thing you drink. 

2. Eat food.  Being able to name every ingredient on your plate is a huge step in the right direction.  If your great-grandparents didn’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t.

3. Enjoy.  Meals should be an experience.  Slow down, chew, and take the time to actually taste your food.  Take a sip of water after each bite.  These ideas are easy to forget if you’re eating out of a bag inside a car.  This is the simple measure of meal quality - how does it make you feel afterwards?  Food is energy; therefore, it should be energizing!

“Tell me what kind of food you eat, and I’ll tell you what kind of man you are.”  These words, written by the French author Brillat-Savarin almost 200 years ago, have been distilled down to an idea we all know today - you are what you eat.  Hundreds of new “food” products come out every year. Not surprisingly, the rise in consumption of processed foods correlates to a decline in overall quality of health.  America’s growing waistline aside, we are experiencing a myriad of other consequences linked to poor nutrition.  The CDC reports food allergies among children has risen 18% between 1997 and 2007 and more than 100 million Americans suffered with diabetes or prediabetes in 2011. 

Make a simple commitment - eat food.  No matter what your fitness goals are, natural foods will help you get there.  

Special guest post written by Zack Henderson, Personal Trainer, Life Time Fitness Univeristy Club

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

References:

Fisher, M. F. K., trans. M. F. K. Fisher's Translation of Brillat- Savarin's The Physiology of Taste.New York: Knopf, 1971

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db10.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0126_diabetes.html

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