Thursday, August 06, 2009

Eating: Add, don't subtract

I stumbled across two great pieces of advice the other day with regards to eating healthy, in a success story on the Calorie Count blog.

Add things to your diet instead of slashing them.
Give your full attention to the food you do eat. Don't disrespect yourself and your food....

This relates to a New York Times article I read recently about how we're spending more time watching people cook than cooking. In it, food marketing researcher Harry Balzer says something interesting:

You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.

These things come together for me and suggest some changes in how I think about food. A beautiful meal, cooked at home, out of delicious healthy ingredients, is much more satisfying and engaging than the best-tasting junk food. My wife and I are talking about trying to approach cooking like a hobby, picking out new recipes and ingredients every few weeks (or once a month even) and trying things out. The feeling of adding to our lives while still managing to eat healthier is something we want to embrace.

I also love the commentary on fully engaging with your food while you're eating it. If I'm going to spend 150 Calories of my budget on a beer, I'm going to make sure I enjoy that beer. Getting a muffin for breakfast instead of a healthy egg-beater omelet is an okay decision, but enjoy that muffin and make it count.

Some people think of food only as fuel. I will never be that person. I love to eat and drink. I love experiencing new foods, and I love revisiting my favorite meals and beverages over and over again. Some people would be happy eating nothing but scientifically perfect nutrition bars and water. But I need my spicy tomato sauces, my sausages on the grill, my sauteed mushrooms, my roasted sweet potatoes, my burritos, my hot sauce, my cilantro and lime juice, my tequila and my cold beer.

So don't fight it. Embrace it. Find ways to fully engage with food and drink while still building healthy habits. Don't slice out a huge part of your life and expect to somehow end up with something sustainable. It won't work.

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