The sequel has arrived!
If every single person who has asked me “What do you think about a) this new diet b) this life-changing multi-level marketing neon drink c) magic pill from that infomercial?” would put HALF as much effort into eating more vegetables and getting up and moving around CONSISTENTLY (not just 1-2 days a week), I feel with some degree of certainty that the rate of obesity/diabetes/fatty liver/etc. in the United States would be reduced by at least 50%.
I had a patient today who told me he bought vitamin-enriched coffee. It was as if he was thinking “screw all that stuff you’ve taught me over the last four months, Casey. I found the answer! I’ll keep eating white bread and hot dogs for lunch, because the secret to health is in vitamin coffee!” WTF? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…
The rules haven’t changed remarkably over the years. Sure we get a little side-tracked by the smoke-and-mirrors discussions about stuff like coconut oil. But I would suspect that a large number of people spending all this time arguing about whether or not coconut oil is good or bad or ugly are not spending time on the things they already know, such as most of us are not eating nearly enough vegetables or fruit nor are we moving around enough. I’m often just as guilty as the next guy.
Does that teensy little energy shot make you feel great? It’s not because high doses of b-vitamins are the latest, greatest thing…unless you’re deficient in them! You see, you feel like a million bucks after downing that stuff if your diet is shitty because now you just got a hefty dose of what you were missing along with a punch in the face of caffeine. Here’s a c-r-a-z-y thought: what if you ate a ton of vegetables, some good quality protein-rich foods, some fruit, some whole grains…and you got vitamins, minerals, and your “macros” there? GASP! Perhaps to top it all off, you got 7-9 hours of sleep and drank mostly water for your daily beverage? Double gasp! Casey, you’re not actually suggesting I get my nutrition from foods when I can just take a shortcut, are you?!
The cold hard truth is that the amount of salt you eat or the type of fat you put on your sammich matters MUCH LESS in the presence of good quality vegetables, fruit, whole grains, unprocessed meat, nuts, and omega-3-rich fish. It is MUCH LESS likely for you to overeat to the point of obesity with an eating style that is 50% produce, a small amount of meat/nuts/fatty fish, lots of water, and plenty of exercise. You would simply be more satisfied on less caloric load with that eating style; and, unless you are a medical marvel who beats the laws of thermodynamics, you could not support obesity with a diet like that. Sorry, you couldn’t.
If you are struggling with your weight, something about your eating isn’t right. If you can’t figure out what, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist for a series of counseling visits. It won’t be free, but I’ll bet you it will be so worth it. Ps – a personal trainer is NOT a nutrition expert. Sorry, not sorry.
So, here are my unsexy, not-breaking-news, undazzling, evidence-based, tried-and-true thoughts on the matter:
- Ideally, your plate should be about 1/4 whole grains or starchy vegetables.
- 100% whole grain, not “made with whole grain,” not “wheat.” Look at the ingredients. Enriched = white flour.
- Some of the most common starchy vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, and corn. There are more, but those are the most frequent flyers.
- WHITE POTATOES ARE NOT BAD FOR YOU. Stop saying it, because it isn’t true. Too many potatoes aren’t too great for you. News flash: too much of anything isn’t good for you. Stop demonizing white potatoes (and corn for that matter)!
- Fun fact: cup for cup, white potatoes have more potassium than bananas. If you’re avoiding potatoes because your sister’s dog walker’s hairdresser’s uncle’s wife told you they are “bad for you,” then this is your lucky day.
- Fill your plate with1/4 protein-rich foods.
- Gold medal: wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, cod, halibut, and sardines. Canned is absolutely fine. Stop obsessing over salt; the latest research has finally admitted that it isn’t as big a deal as the other crap we are eating. Stay tuned for more on salt later…
- Silver medal: plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, and beans. Read more ideas here.
- Bronze medal: meat, poultry, dairy foods (cottage cheese, cheese, milk) and eggs. Better quality exists in those types of animal meats that were fed good things (grass-fed beef for example).
- Fill the rest of your plate (1/2 if you’re keeping tally here) with non-starchy vegetables.
- What vegetables are non-starchy? Well, the simplest way is to scroll back up and look at the list of common starchy vegetables. If it isn’t on that list, then it is non-starchy.
- Examples include, but are not limited to, leafy greens, carrots, peppers, onions, and cucumbers.
- Drink more water than any other beverage.
- The less often you have sugary beverages, the better luck you have with improving your health.
- Add lemon or cucumber or a hunk of orange to your water if you want to flavor things up a bit.
- Drink black coffee or plain tea if you want; just don’t go crazy, and try to have those things between meals rather than with them so they don’t interfere with nutrient absorption.
- Even if you “don’t have time,” move around at the office; move around at home in the kitchen. Sit less, move more. Whatever that means to you is whatever that means to you. The more you sweat and engage your muscles and heart, the better.
This advice is by no means limited solely to those seeking weight loss. ALL of these tips apply to each and every living, breathing human being regardless of age. Granted, age changes things a bit. For example, all of these tips apply to your teensy little kiddos, only they have much smaller plates.
Even if you are a “healthy” weight clinically, it is not a free ticket to eat poorly. Regardless of weight, you can still be at risk to develop a chronic disease or several. Some examples of conditions that can often be prevented include fatty liver, kidney stones, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, periodontal disease, and many others.
There are exceptions to everything. Some people eat terribly and somehow don’t have any health issues (rare). Some people lead a super healthy lifestyle and still have ugly cholesterol. Some people run five miles per day and still have ugly blood sugars. But those situations are less likely than the ones I see on a daily basis. If you are one of the rarities (and I know some of these people personally), I really do get it. But this advice is not geared toward you. You are the exception, not the rule.
Indulge once in a while. Live a little bit. Have a bowl of your favorite ice cream every now and again. The key is that what you are doing MOST of the time makes those little indulgences matter less and less over time. We also have to be real about how often we are finding ourselves indulging, and just how much we are consuming.
Eat. Stop counting stuff. Stop trying to find the next shortcut. Stop obsessing over nutrients and focus on FOODS. Stop dieting. Stop buying packets of crap to put in your water and just drink water. Choose colorful, vibrant plant foods more often. You will feel so good you’ll want to keep doing it.
Until next time…Casey – out.