This year, why not focus on healthy eating all twelve months? Here’s how to start. To truly begin to change your diet, you have to change your relationship and view of food. So many of us use food as a drug for mitigating emotions or stress, as a necessity, or as a cure to boredom. But food is actually much more black and white. It’s fuel, plain and simple, and the fuel we choose will ultimately determine our health, our mood, and our weight. We balk at the thought of putting low-quality gas in our cars, but then willingly down sugary sodas, fried foods, and striped grains as a fuel option for our precious cells.
This month, begin fueling better by focusing on eating food at least 90% of the time. The best definition I’ve ever heard of food was provided by author Michael Pollan when he stated that food was “something that comes from nature, was fed from nature, and will eventually rot.” That means that strawberries are food (or fuel) but a strawberry energy bar is not. Grass-fed beef is food, but grain fed beef is not. When you begin to define the things that go into your mouth by this criterion, you’ll easily start to filter out food from “food like” products.
Second, stop counting calories. The practice, as tempting as it seems, does not work. If it did, we’d be the healthiest Nation on the globe. A recent study in JAMA comparing a low carbohydrate diet with a low-fat diet found that when it came to weight loss, it ultimately boiled down to consumption of a whole foods and low sugar diet; not specific divisions of macronutrients. It also did not boil down to calorie counting. Individuals in the study that ate food and viewed their choices as fuel were better able to lose weight.
Finally, eat less added sugar. Sugar got a free pass for many years as fat was dragged through the mud as the nutrient that made us sick and obese. A few decades later, studies have revealed that we got it all wrong. Sugar, as it turns out, is the one making us sick, miserable, and fat. It serves no redeeming value in our diet. Not one. I start by telling my patients to knock out all food sources that have sugar listed in the first three ingredients (fruit not included) and to avoid anything that has real (or fake) sugar anywhere in the ingredient list.
It’s never too late to start truly fueling your body. Come April, you may be ready to increase those fruits and vegetables and in May, perhaps you’ll focus on swapping refined grains for whole, intact grains. Baby steps work. Use this month to go further with food!
About the Author
Kristin Kirkpatrick is a diet and nutrition expert and best-selling author of Skinny Liver: A Proven Program to Prevent and Reverse the New Silent Epidemic—Fatty Liver Disease.