These days, more and more of us are becoming concerned with our health, and with the impact that our lifestyles will have on our overall well-being.
Part of this concern is driven by the fact that certain public health crises are becoming more prevalent and well-documented. For example, more and more children are now diagnosed with type II diabetes (once thought to only affect adults) and heart disease is massively prevalent.
Another part of the concern is driven by the fact that there is now more information available than ever before on “how to live a healthy life.” Or, at least, there are more ideas, suggestions, and theories out there than ever before about what we should do to maintain peak health.
Perhaps the most common place people turn when trying to overhaul the way they approach their health, is diet routines and plans of different types. And there’s definitely no shortage of diets out there, with new eating plans popping out and taking the world by storm at least once a year or so.
The thing is, there are some real downsides to getting on the fad-diet bandwagon. For one thing, many diets are highly restrictive and will lead to nutrient deficiencies, and other problems of the body, if they’re stuck with for too long. For another thing, diets that are specifically in place for weight loss may help you to shed the pounds, but then, as soon as you go back to your normal way of eating, all that work is undone.
If you want to feel your best, be your healthiest, and maybe lose a bit of weight, too, here are some things that you should consider doing instead of “dieting.”
Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, instead of perpetually starving yourself and calorie counting.
A cornerstone of many diets is to restrict calories, either directly, or incidentally, so that your body is forced to burn through some of its fat stores, thereby getting you to lose some weight.
The thing is, there are downsides to being in a state of constant calorie restriction. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which took place during World War II, for example, found that test subjects who restricted their calories over a prolonged period of time ended up experiencing a serious decline in mental and physical health.
If you’re dieting for better health; meticulously counting your calories and eating less than you feel like you need, may have some benefit as a short-term fix to move you from an unhealthy weight to a healthier one. But, restricting calories over the long term isn’t a good idea.
In fact, high calorie foods can be healthy. After all, your body needs those calories for something, right?
The key is to focus on whole, unprocessed foods, and to avoid the more “artificial” and “processed” stuff.
Generally speaking, when you eat your fill of whole, unprocessed foods, and nutritious home-cooked meals, you’re going to get a good balance of nutrients, fiber, and the right balance of calories to nourish you, without dramatically overdoing it.
Just go easy on the added fats and oils, as they make it easy to ramp up the calories without feeling it.
Follow the ancient wisdom of “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.”
There’s an old saying that goes “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
As it so happens, recent research has found evidence that eating your larger meals earlier in the day, and eating smaller meals (if anything) at night, may be a key to good overall health, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The key here seems to have something to do with your body’s circadian rhythms, and the release of different hormones throughout the day. When you expose yourself to bright light, you signal your body that it’s daytime. Apparently, the same thing is true when you eat a big meal.
Just tried to focus on having a bigger breakfast and lunch, and a much smaller evening meal, and see how it affects you. Likely, you’ll notice some significant benefits after a pretty short while.
Do some occasional fasting.
A lot has been written in recent times about the benefits of occasional fasting. According to research from different labs, going without food every now and again can help you to regulate your insulin levels, improve your blood sugar, help to clear away damaged cellular tissue in your body, and more.
The key is that your fasting should be “occasional” instead of “continual.”
The fitness writer Brad Pilon argues, in his book “Eat, Stop, Eat”, that the best way to approach fasting is to go for one or two separate 24-hour periods per week without eating.
Consider trying it out every so often. But avoid falling into the more extreme sides of the fasting world, that tell you to eat only one meal a day, every day, for the rest of your life.
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
The food writer Michael Pollan is well known for his Netflix documentary “Cooked,” that looks at the traditional role of different types of cooking around the world, among other things.
One of Pollan’s best-known lines is “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” In fact, that’s his anti-diet advice.
By “food” Pollan refers to whole foods, not processed “food-like substances” found in supermarkets. By “not too much” he means that we should finish each meal feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. The “mostly plants” bit is pretty self-explanatory.
A lot of the harm that seems to come with modern eating patterns in the Western world today, has to do with overindulgence, and processed foodstuffs like high fructose corn syrup, that are directly linked to obesity and metabolic problems.
So, Pollan’s advice might be just what the doctor ordered.
Another bit of advice from a contributor to one of Pollan’s documentaries, may also be relevant here: Eat whatever it is you want. Cookies, ice cream, whatever. But the catch is that you have to make it all from scratch, using fresh, raw ingredients. (No pre-prepared cake mix.)
As a rule, this will allow you to enjoy your eating, without feeling overly restricted. But the sheer work involved in making yourself ice cream and cookies from scratch means you probably won’t do it so often.