Garbage In, Garbage Out…Mastering Diet Part 3

Most people jump into health habits on the extreme, hoping to get instant pay off so that they can move on and return to the old habits they are used to. Hitting the gym or fitness program everyday in January hoping to ‘get in shape’ for summer, only to be sitting in front of the TV by April, looking at the electronic draft payment for the gym they haven’t been to in weeks. No one gets out of shape or unhealthy by the cold turkey method, its gradual changes in lifestyle over time. You won’t get healthy by going cold turkey either, you have to start with balanced, incremental shifts in daily habits. Plus its less painful, psychologically, if you make changes just a little at a time.

You can start by simply cutting back on the excess of certain foods, some of which you probably don’t want to cut out all together because there are still many benefits to eating them. Just eat less! Like the old saying, “Too much of a good thing, can be no good.” Here are six food categories where less can definitely be more;

Red Meat

Red meat is a unique source of protein and an important source of iron, but the simple fact is it takes longer to digest through your body than other foods. In fact, it takes approximately 72 hours to digest. Someone put it to me once like this; “that’s three days with a pile of dead animal flesh sitting in your stomach and basically rotting.” It didn’t sway me from the occasional prime rib or cheese burger, but you can really feel it slowing you down if you have gone without for a while. The medical data is also mounting that too much red meat can be linked with a variety of health issues and diseases. Just remember if you are going to eat red meat every week, its likely to slow you down three days out of seven.

Dairy Products

It’s not a real shocker that so many Americans have discovered that they are Lactose intolerant. Humans are mammals, meaning that they require milk to feed on before maturity. After maturity, however, mammals really don’t require milk in order to thrive. Milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream all have some positive qualities like protein etc, but humans are the only mammals that seem to eat more of the dairy products as adults. Dairy is high in fat and that’s needed for a growing body, but not a matured body whose metabolism has begun to slow down. So ease back on the Ben & Jerrys there turbo! Your waist line will thank you.

Sugar

So mom always taught you that too much refined sugar can rot your teeth, right? What mom probably didn’t tell you was how many foods are laced with some kind of sugar product. If you ever had any special diet needs though or blood glucose issues that put you in danger of pre-diabetic conditions, you quickly come to the conclusion that sugar is the ‘secret crack’ that has made its way into society. Glocuse, Sucrose, Fructose, Malto-Dextrose. All of these are chemical combinations of Hydrogen and Carbon atoms, as is sugar. Product manufacturers will push that fine line of what is ‘sugar’ and what is a Carbohydrate. Complex Carbohydrates are what fuels the body, the ‘carbs’ as they are commonly known…those are good. Refined sugar…bad! At least too much of it is bad. The empty calories, the drastic swings in blood sugar, the water retention that is causes, decay of tooth enamel and the list continues. The solution? Again, just cut back. Some of the killers for sugar content, in order of their addictive ‘crack factor’ are;

  1. Sodas are by far the worst
  2. Candy should be obvious
  3. Processed Fruit Juices can be just as high in sugar content as sodas
  4. Booze…yes we’ll get back to alcohol
  5. The junk sold as ‘natural snacks’
  6. Fruit itself has high levels of naturally occurring sugar

There are plenty of others but the key is to simply start becoming aware of the foods you eat and just learn to cut back and substitute.

Sauces

As in the alfredo, marinara, or the ranch dressing kind. Many prepared foods by themselves are fine, take the salad for example; it’s the smothering of ranch dressing, the pile of extra cheese and the two hands full of croutons that kill it with extra fat and calories. A baked potato is great source of complex carbs, but add a mound of butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, oh and some processed bacon bits then you might as well go straight to the double cheese burger. Let me repeat though, no one is saying to drop everything and live on bird food. Just cut back and find substitutes that you can enjoy in place of them. Herbs, spices, some lemon and balsamic vinegar can make for a much lower calorie salad dressing for example plus the richer flavor does not require as much if it. Be careful of ketchup and mustards as well, they are both high in calories and yes they have plenty of sugar added. Simply look at the ingredients, they are listed in order of highest to lowest content. So if the second ingredient is sugar, there is a lot of it inside. Finally, salt should be a category if its own but it’s still a condiment and gets beat up enough already. Simply put though, too much salt will make you retain water and create other health issues so use it wisely.

Fast Food

One of my favorite lines about fast food comes from the cheesy 80’s movie, Remo Williams, where the sarcastic martial arts master, “Chun” says to Remo Williams during his training; “Do you know why they call it fast food? Because it speeds you on your way to the grave.” Ok, so maybe it’s not that funny but neither is the fact how many athletes, professional martial artists and business people I see, who rely on maximized energy levels, who literally live on fast food. The potent fact about fast food is that it combines almost all of the worst of the worst from just about every category here! High sugar, high salt, high red meat, high in dairy and you have the ketchup packets to smother it all in. All you need to go with it is a shot of Tequila and you’d have it all covered. People talk about how great it all tastes but most things taste great when you are really hungry. Here’s a challenge; Try to go just 30 days without any fast food, then go have a big combo meal from any fast food place and then email me afterwards to tell me how it felt.

Booze

Mankind has had a love/hate relationship with alcohol since the time of ancient Egypt and both the benefits as well as the hazards have been well documented. The moral of the story is once again that of balance and moderation. Hangover, headaches, dehydration are all immediate results of too much booze. Additionally, weight gain, addiction, diabetes and liver disease call all become the consequence of long-term abuse. Substituting that second glass of wine at dinner for tea, black coffee or just water can go a long way in helping you keep the balance not to mention avoiding the cost public embarrassment, a DUI or perhaps your job from puking on the boss!

Are you sensing a pattern here? There is a big difference between a ‘diet’ and mastering your diet. A diet is something that someone tries to sell you on late night tv and they don’t work. There is no such thing as healthy in 10 days or 10 easy lessons or through a pill, a potion, a sweat lodge or a rain dance. Mastering your diet takes incremental choices, small shifts in your lifestyle and some time with commitment. The results, however, can be amazing and I’ll leave you with a personal anecdote; I committed myself to pare down my one big vice, soda. Within 9 months I had dropped almost 30lbs. and reduced my fasting blood glucose level by 16pts. You become what you focus on…To your health!

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