America, Healthy living, Lifestyle, Science behind weightloss

How to eat healthy, imho

As promised, today’s post will be dedicated to eating healthy.  It seems to me that no one really knows what this means.  No carbs? Low fat? No fat?  Organic?  Non-GMO?  Vegetarian?  Vegan?  …you get the picture.  Thus, our first order of business is defining “healthy.”  I’m a big believer in keeping things simple and “how they’ve always been.”  French cooking fits with my mantra because it’s all about real ingredients, simple recipes, and the ritual of mealtime.  I have enough to worry about without being neurotic about what I eat.  Thus, I have two simple principles: everything in moderation and focus on real foods. I’ve read quite a few books and articles along the way that have eventually led me to these beliefs.

Check out an article and these blogs to find out why I don’t sweat my red meat, full fat dairy, and lots of butter consumption: A Lifelong Battle Against Trans-Fats, Mark’s Daily Apple, and Chris Kresser: Health for the 21st Century.  Two follow-up points:

1.  If you were following “conventional wisdom” and/or were alive in the 90s, you might think saturated fat is the enemy of all enemies, but look at the science!  This drives me insane beyond belief.  There is no proof that red meat consumption is linked to increase in heart disease.  The results of the famous study that proliferated this idea were MADE UP!

2.  Like I said before, I don’t follow the primal diet per se, but I do enjoy reading Mark’s Daily Apple when I’m trying to get a good hard look at the science behind health and food.  This is where moderation comes into my thinking.  I take ideas away from the blog, like working out to Look Good Naked and to be able to PLAY (ie being in shape to do fun sports).  Same thing goes for Chris Kresser blog.  So I didn’t drive myself up a wall worrying about mercury in fish, I listened to Kresser’s podcast on the matter.

For more eye-opening and informative reading and to see just how much information in the media is plain WRONG!, check out Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It (I wish he chose a different title as I find this off-putting), Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin, and David Kessler’s The End of Overeating.

Hard look at which diets science (not anecdotes) support. The conventional wisdom --what you hear-- about weight loss isn't true.

Hard look at which diets science (not anecdotes) support. The conventional wisdom –what you hear– about weight loss isn’t true.

Fact I found most interesting in this book: mentally, a former obese person who is now thin is in same “starvation mode” as thin person who has dieted to unhealthily low weight physiologically. I really like that this author doesn’t take a “blame the victim” approach but rather explains how complex the issue is

Wonderfully practical book: even people who don't struggle with their weight may struggle with food

Wonderfully practical book: even people who don’t struggle with their weight may struggle with food

One more aside:  I took a single nutrition class in college, and I worked a little bit with a nutritionist for about a year or so ongoing.  With that, I conclude the section on my background and where my opinions are coming from.

Now, we can get into what my husband and I have been doing for the past 9 months…although I think I’m going to save that for tomorrow’s post.  I have a feeling my husband is about to decide it’s bedtime…

Healthy living

Back to Basics in the Kitchen

This is one of the top articles being emailed on NYTimes.  Now, usually I cringe at mainstream “diet” books, and even though this article’s title, “Learning to cut the sugar,” is a slight misnomer, the article’s message is right on the mark for me.  Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of The Fat Chance Cookbook, is known for his viral lecture, “Sugar: the Bitter Truth.”  I guess it is for this title that the NY Times article is called “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  However, Dr. Ludwig “says that ‘anti-processed food guy’ would be a more appropriate nickname” (O’Connor).  YES!  I wholeheartedly agree, and I wonder how much of this wisdom came from not only his experience running a childhood weight management clinic but also from his Norwegian wife.

I spent about seven months in France last year teaching English to a group of high school students and I was blown away by the food at the school’s cafeteria.  We’re talking beef roast (some variety of main dish protein), two extremely generous servings of vegetables, a baguette, a piece of cheese, fruit choice, and a dessert.

The French really know how to do lunch.  Thus, I was struck by Dr. Ludwig’s corroboration of my observation.  He said, “The bottom line is every country has its cuisine, and every cuisine works for that country. But there’s one thing that doesn’t work for any country: processed food” (O’Connor).  In France, and I realize things are changing but for the most part, people still cook.  People know how to prepare simple meals at home.  I am just starting a new job and every day at work I am confounded by the number of young people who have absolutely no idea of how to make anything for dinner…to the point that they are only eating 1. out, 2. pasta, or 3. the breakfast route: yogurt or cereal.  WHAT?!  Aren’t you hungry, tired of eating the same things, and sick of restaurant meals???  And, for the record, even the people of my parents’ generation are eating microwaveable meals…yugh.  Have I mentioned I am a food snob?

I had a German roommate, Alina, in France and she unknowingly taught me the most important thing to do in the kitchen: sauté with garlic.  My mom definitely cooked for my family growing up; however, she is not a great cook (her words, not mine).  That is, it’s not something she’s fond of doing, and she doesn’t naturally know how to do it without following a recipe.  [She once told me to bake plain skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes…Yes, that cooks them but OMG are they bland.]  Alina was the one that introduced me to real garlic gloves and the ease of heating up olive oil, tossing in garlic for the most amazing aroma, and then cooking vegetables, meat, or whatever on the stove top from there.  My favorite Christmas gift I got this year was an OXO garlic mincer, so my hands don’t get sticky (see below).

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My mom never learned to really cook because her mom never learned (my great-grandmother died of tuberculosis when my grandmother was only 9).  The art of cooking was lost.  And I believe that holds true for the vast majority of Americans, while our European counterparts, whose appetites for convenience and fast food are definitely catching up to ours (the French are the #2 consumers of fast-food in the world behind Americans), tend to actually cook from scratch, rather than starting with a packaged food product.

I truly believe Dr. Lustig is on to something though.  Being healthy is far easier in some ways than what most Americans imagine.  It doesn’t mean you can’t eat cookies, but I strongly believe it does mean that you will spend solid chunks of time (for my husband and I on the weekends) preparing your own food.

In my next post, I will continue this conversation with my husband’s personal experience losing 30 lbs. eating my homecooked meals!

Sources:  O’Conoor, Anahad.  “Learning to Cut the Sugar.”  February 19, 2014.  Accessed on February 22, 2014.