A Proper Diet…Where to Start?

One of the questions I get hit with quite often pertains to people wondering what the heck they should eat. It’s totally understandable that confusion exists around this subject due to the constant bombardment of commercials making claims, the always enlarging pools of trendy diets on the table (i.e. Paleo, Mediterranean, Vegetarian or Vegan, etc.), and ever emerging contradicting research.

On top of all that, acknowledgment must be paid to the fact that while most of us share the same basic internal blueprint, we are all unique in that what your body may thrive off or tolerate well, may be harmful to me. A very basic way to find out what may not be working for you is to engage in an elimination diet for 3-4 weeks and then individually introduce potentially offending foods, monitoring how it makes you feel. We are not just talking about nausea or constipation, but any type of change. Things such as fatigue, joint pains, headaches, inability to sleep, runny nose can all be ways of your body telling you it doesn’t like what you’re shoving down your pie hole. We can journey even deeper down the rabbit hole if we start to get into glycemic indices, organics, ideal amount and source of protein, acidity vs. alkalinity, cooking methods etc.

So where the hell do you even begin before saying screw it and getting more comfortable with that meat lovers pizza with extra cheese? Well, after much personal investigation into this diet or that diet, supported by this theory or that theory, there does appear to be one solid consistency across the board and it comes in the form of fresh, whole vegetables and fruits. As stated, finding that optimal diet can be quite complicated and inundating you with too many details and changes at once tends to be overwhelming. Simply adding more fruits and vegetables is a sure fire, simple way to start your momentum in the proper direction.

The dreaded food type of kids across the world: The Vegetable. These are the most nutrient dense real foods out there and should be consumed on an approximate 2:1 ratio with fruit. Fruits pack a nutritious punch as well, but there’s a reason they generally taste so much better than your vegetables; they are loaded with nature’s sugars: glucose and fructose. Fruits are without a doubt beneficial and a smart addition to any diet, especially if you are an active person, but due to the high sugar aka carb load, veggies out numbering fruits at the party is a solid way to keep that blood sugar and insulin level in check.

You can implement this by beginning to switch some of your nutritionally void, processed foods for vegetables and fruits. Start spending the majority of your time and money at the grocery store in the produce section. Buy less of things that possess the miraculous ability to sit in a dark box for months, and more colorful things that actually have life like you. Start filling up the fridge or produce baskets, and emptying out that pantry full of processed, preservative packed “food.” Try new things. Give that colorful, funny looking object with a name you can’t pronounce a whirl, it may just be delicious. In particular, include those dark green leaved (spinach and kale), and cruciferous (broccoli and cauliflower) veggies to your daily regimen instead of that granola bar or chips.

I know what you’re thinking, vegetables in the place of chips, sounds delicious. But here in lies the second issue when it comes to changing your eating habits. An overhaul needs to be done on the way we look at and think about food. A mental transition needs to take place from constantly feeding to satisfy for your taste buds, to eating in order to feel good, look better, and thrive. It comes down to whether you truly want it. Do you really want to live more healthy or do you just talk about it and are unwilling to put in any sacrifice? Do you want to take the steps to tilt the playing field in your favor or are you happy constantly satisfying your every craving and rolling the dice with the rest of your life? If you have the discipline and desire to give it a shot, you will find you can fill up on that asparagus and kiwi, and curb your appetite the same way you would from devouring that sandwich. Only difference is you will feel and perform better mentally and physically by consuming the former. If you begin to make this transition and stick to it, the times that you do indulge on that Monte Cristo or dessert will be that much more gratifying and less guilt ridden. Trust me on this one. It will also be less taxing on virtually all of your internal organs, which sounds like a plus to me.

An aspect of this initiation of movement towards wellness that cannot be overlooked is the necessity to plan ahead. In order to change your eating habits you need to make sure you have the intended food items conveniently at your fingertips. This starts with the purchase and goes to the next level with prep work at your house. Unfortunately most fruits and veggies don’t come packaged in a wrapper that you can just grab and go. If you are serious about this, quality prep time is required to wash, cut and bag your veggies or fruits, pre-cook your meats or veggies, whatever it is that makes the food accessible to you during your busy week. Bringing your snacks and lunch in a cooler to work will not only ensure you stick to your plan, but will also save you money. When you come home spent from the day and don’t feel like cooking, you need to have that already prepped food that you can heat up or eat raw, otherwise that microwave Tombstone is the easy way out. Again, it all comes down to your level of desire and commitment. If you really want this, taking a couple hours out of your Sunday to prep some food is not only doable, but a must.

Depending on what level of healthy eating you currently dwell at, the type of improvement will be specific to your starting point. As with any change, don’t be afraid to start small. Shoot for eating 2 out of 3 meals a day consisting of fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meats, etc. Build on that and only allow yourself to indulge on the weekend. Switch to organic. Alter your cooking methods or consume more raw food. Success in attainment and long lasting implantation of lifestyle changes are usually achieved by making small changes that do not seem too overwhelming. Over time these small changes will eventually add up to a big change in the way you feel, look and perform. The momentum gained from the success of smaller goals tends to snowball and create a wave for you to continue to ride. No one expects you to run a marathon without starting small and putting in the training with shorter distances. So start that diet training today, no matter where you are starting or how big or small the change may be. The goal here is to do all you can do to make your life a marathon, rather than a sprint.

The topic of nutrition and diet is one with a massive number of details that can be elaborated on to no end. I glazed over a few within this article, but if you would like me to go deeper into any particular issue mentioned or otherwise, feel free to comment, suggest, or enlighten. It should be understood that within this post we are referring to “diet” as what you consume, not necessarily the more traditional tie in with weight loss. However, CONSISTENT adherence to a proper diet and exercise will usually accompany a healthy weight.

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4 responses to “A Proper Diet…Where to Start?

  1. Good advice. I keep saying I wanna eat healthier (amongst other stuff) but when it comes down to it I don’t do the planning or make the necessary mental adjustment you talk about to be successful.

    One question I have is about substance. It seems very difficult to fill up on veggies, like they don’t have enough filling to satisfy being hungry. Is that because the body is conditioned to meats and preservatives and so will feel empty for a while without them? It’s a challenge to overcome and so easy to ignore. I’m really into this stuff lately because we’re all gonna have to pay the pied piper someday if we keep eating like this so either take the time and make the effort to be healthy now or get the time to be very sick later. Another great topic. Thx for the info and advice.

    • Thanks for your comment and interest Mr. Wilson. You can tackle the issue of being satisfied a couple of ways. The feeling of being well fed or satiety is both mental and physiological. Depending on the type of macronutrient (protein, carb, fat) you consume, the feeling of satiety varies. This feeling of satiety is actually a chemical message sent to your brain prompted by the release of hormones, two of which are leptin and peptide yy. Protein causes the greatest release of these two, followed by fat and then your carbs. When consuming a meal, start with your protein source, whether it be some grass fed beef, lean anti-biotic and hormone free chicken or wild fish, OR some beans, nuts (also high in fat so you get more bang for your buck as far as satiety), etc. if you’d prefer to go the vegetarian route. Vegetables that are highest in protein include brussel sprouts, asparagus, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes. This will promote the greatest release of your satisfaction hormones. On the flip side, too many carbs (the weakest satiety signaler) can actually lead to your brain becoming desensitized to these satiety signaling hormones, meaning you have that sweet tooth and eat and eat and eat and…

      Eat slower, and enjoy your food. This will give you more time to allow the feeling of fullness to kick in. Also try drinking more filtered water (always a good suggestion). Drinking water will actually cause your stomach to expand, another signal to your brain that you are full. Just be careful about drinking too much water immediately before, during or after eating as it has the potential to dilute your stomach acid which is necessary for proper digestion.

      On the mental side, it is indeed somewhat in your head. You need to have the discipline to chomp that asparagus and carrots instead of that sandwich. I promise you, if you eat enough of anything, including vegetables, you will become full. You never want to overeat to begin with, but you can curb your hunger with veggies and fruits…trust me. Also, throw some raw nuts in there too to promote that satiety.

      I like the way you are thinking. Start making some changes and you’ll be on your way.

  2. Rich, you and Ashley are both great writers. I recommend you co author a book in the future. I have thanks to you both changed the way I few food. I believe what you are sharing is the best way to live a healthier life. I look at the population and clearly there is something wrong with the way we are eating and so many auto immune disease’s popping up everyday, doctors can’t keep up with. Now, with my own health issues I am considering the cleanse and starting a new. Thanks for caring about the rest of us and sharing your blogs!

  3. Claire Clarke

    excellent…very DO-able…and honest!! a good reminder that you do have to want it, to make it work. thank you, Dr. Clarke….you are the best!

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