Author Michael Pollan is pretty awesome. I have read a bunch of his books (In Defense of Food, the Omnivore’s Dilemma) and one of my favorites is his super quick and easy read, Food Rules An Eater’s Manual. Pollan has a list of pretty simple and straightforward rules for food, both for choosing what to buy and what to eat/not eat, that he lives by and if you read through this book you would probably agree with most, if not all, of them. They are pretty dang logical, if you ask me. Here are a few of them (sorry for not including the explanation but I think you can understand these ones without one) so you can get an idea of where Pollan is coming from;
- Avoid foods you see advertised on television
- If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t
- Do all your eating at a table
- Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored
I love Michael Pollan’s food rules and have adopted most of them (because they worked for me and what I believe in) as my own. But after a few years on this adventure I have created a bunch of rules of my own, too. Today I thought I would share because when people ask me how I did it, I never have a good answer. I just say I changed how I ate and became more active, which is 100% the truth, but man that does not really even begin to explain how I got here.
Eat real food. I say this to anyone who will listen…I don’t care if you are a vegan or paleo or if you do Weight Watchers or track on MyFitnessPal…if you asked me what you could do to start focusing on your health one of the first things I would say is eat real food. Cut back, as much as you can, on the processed foods and swap in some real, whole foods. In place of boxed mac n’ cheese try a sweet potato, instead of some cocoa puffs try some steel cut oats (not the processed instant, sugar loaded ones the real whole steel cut oats) or maybe instead of some ice cream have some fruit. There are so many cheap and readily available whole foods options out there nowadays (frozen fruit and veggies, no salt added canned veggies and beans, dry beans, bulk grains) that make it so we can more easily incorporate real, whole foods into our diet. BUT if you have to eat processed foods (which most everyone does, myself included, in some form or another) go for the best version of it you can find; sprouted grain bread instead of white, whole grain pasta (or for me, I like quinoa pasta or just plain quinoa) instead of traditional semolina pasta.
Eat raw foods, as much as possible. I love cooked foods a bit too much to ever move to a 100% raw diet but I do think that a lot of the foods I eat, mostly fruits, veggies and nuts, are better for me if I consume them raw. Now, that statement isn’t 100% true, some veggies (like cabbage) are better for you cooked but for the most part eating fruits and veggies in their raw, natural state is the best way to get all of their nutrients. Cooking not only diminishes the nutritional values of the food it also kind of throws your body for a loop when you eat it.
80/20- my whole life is pretty much based around this ideal. 80% of the time I make my own meals and snacks, drink tons of water, keep active, and overall just focus on what I need to do in order to live a healthy lifestyle. The other 20% is allotted to beer, cheeseburgers (even if they’re vegan they are still junk food), TV, dessert, and more beer. I like this mix. A couple meals out, a couple beers one or two nights a week, an occasional cupcake or a Saturday afternoon spent catching up on SOA balanced out with boot camp classes, bringing my lunches to work, making breakfast every day, afternoon walks at work and meal planning has led me to not only lose and subsequently maintain my weight loss but it also has allowed me to keep my sanity and have a pretty well-rounded and happy life.
You know that saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’? Well that cliché is popular for a reason. You didn’t gain all your weight overnight nor will you lose it all overnight. And for me, where I am now is far different from when I started but I didn’t just make a bunch of huge changes overnight. I got here one small change at a time. I started to drink more water and less soda and then one day I was ready to cut out soda completely. Months later I started to change up my diet and even though I became a vegan like 26 months ago I have changed (and still continue to change) how I eat as a vegan. I started out walking and built up, over almost 2 years, to running a half marathon but between walking and running a half there was couch to 5K, running 5Ks, 4 milers, 5 milers/8Ks, 10Ks, 15Ks and 10 milers. It was a slow progression, small mileage increases. For me, and I kind of think this is true for most, big changes are overwhelming and can be really hard to sustain- especially if you make them all at once. Which brings me to my next rule…
Only make changes that are sustainable for YOU! Don’t try to build new habits that you don’t want to keep for life. Some changes are going to be difficult to make and may take time for you to adjust but there is a big difference between making changes you want to make versus changes you feel you need to make but have no desire to sustain. For me, no matter what I was trying to accomplish (lose weight, eat healthier, become more active) I got there and continue to meet these goals by making small, sustainable changes. I am one hundred thousand percent ok with knowing that the life I live today will need to be the life I live thirty years from now in order to keep doing what I want to do. If you are looking to do the same, think of the end result you want and think about little changes you can make to get there. Don’t make any changes you wouldn’t mind doing regularly for a very long time.
Be active and by be active I do not mean go run a marathon. I simply mean stop sitting all day long. That’s what my old life was; 9+ hours at a desk job followed by an evening spent on the couch watching TV. I started off doing the only thing I could, walking, and progressed from there. Now I am back (well, temporarily) to where the only thing I can do is walk and I am ok with that. Our body doesn’t care how we move, it just needs to move so find what you can do and enjoy doing and go do it. And maybe also watch less TV too. It’s a good habit to break, in my opinion.
Variety is the spice of life, why yes, I do love me some clichés. But it’s true- variety is the spice of life. It’s good to try new things (foods, activities, hobbies) and break out of barriers created by fear. It’s good mentally and physically and the reality is you never know what you may fall in love with when you do. When I lived in San Antonio I attended classes at a studio that offered so many different types of activities (almost all of which I tried there for the first time); Nia, Tai Chi, QiGong, Journey Dance, Zumba, Pilates, a whole lot of different types of yoga, and guess what? I loved them all. At 260 pounds I started taking classes there and if I let my fear hold me back I would have missed out on so many life changing experiences. So, try new things, whenever you can. Don’t let fear or that negative monkey mind hold you back.
Ok, so I have 9 more ‘rules’ (ugh, that sounds so serious) left and this post is already super long so I am going to break into two parts. Guess you will have to wait until tomorrow to read the rest.
Until then, take care of you. You are the only you we have!
Love and really warm bear hugs,
P.S. Apparently I like this topic…I wrote a very similar post back in May called The Rules. Feel free to check that one out too. My rules then are still my rules now and between this post and tomorrow's you will have seen all of the one's mentioned in that one so your call. You can totally skip it.
P.P.S. So far I have pulled two items from my 2014 action jar; 'cut your hair' and 'buy something just for me'.
Here's proof of the first one. The dress I ordered, just for me, should be here tomorrow or Thursday (my BIRTHDAY!!!, what a funny coincidence!)