You will notice that I have titled this entry “Food” and not “Nutrition” or “Diet.” This is because I believe that in the current state of confusion about what we should and shouldn’t be eating, we fail to see the forest through the trees.
Be warned that I am not a nutritionist. I do not have any kind of credentials, stamps, badges, or insignias to justify the broad philosophical guidance I am about to give. However, because this is going to be broad philosophical guidance and not a step-by-step meal plan, I am reasonably certain that you will not be poisoned by following it.
I love food. I love eating. I love cooking. If I had to leave you with only one piece of advice, it would be to become engaged with your food. Cook. Cooking is actually very easy. Good cooking is quite easy. Great cooking is hard, but you’re probably not looking to go pro. The practice of preparing most or all of your meals can have a profound impact on your health. There are countless amazing recipes online waiting to be explored – I will be spotlighting some of them on my blog. If you want to kick it up a notch, I strongly encourage you to become engaged with and mindful of the production of the food you eat. It’s not all created equal and, unfortunately, the majority is produced in an unsustainable manner.
So what should you eat? My advice is to keep it simple. Michael Pollan may have put it best in his book In Defense of Food: Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. The last two are self-explanatory, but what does Eat Food mean? Food, as opposed to Edible Food-like Substances, (another great Pollan term) is characterized by the fact that it doesn’t come out of a package and it quickly rots. If it doesn’t rot, don’t eat it. That’s basically all there is to it…
…but we can go a little deeper. The closest thing to a hard rule I have is this: Don’t drink soda. It is vile, noxious stuff with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
In my opinion, government guidelines (aka the Food Pyramid) go too far with their grain recommendations. I’d recommend cutting down on the wheat and starches and replacing them with fruits and leafy green vegetables. This is in keeping with the Paleo diet, which is catching on fast with athletes. I think Paleo does a lot of great things, but Paleo practitioners can get overly dogmatic in their approach. In my opinion, the Paleo diet should be treated like the Pirate’s Code – more like guidelines than a real code.
In fact, be wary of diets in general. If you are exercising regularly (which you are, right?) then you need to be eating enough to support your athletic development. If you need the structure and discipline of a diet to help meet your weight loss goals, try to choose one that offers broad principles that can be followed indefinitely, rather than a gimmick with a timetable.
I want to leave you with some thoughts that may seem out of place on the website of a health nut. I postulate that chocolate, blueberry pie, and ice cream sundaes are awesome and good for the soul. My friend Frank Forencich brings up the concept of dosage in his amazing book Exuberant Animal. Anything in excess dosage is bad for you but, conversely, nothing can hurt you in moderation. If you are craving chocolate cake, do not suffer through some “health-food” alternative that tastes like cardboard. Go find the biggest, richest, most sinfully decadent piece of chocolate cake and revel in it. Coo over it. Share it with your friends. Exhaust your need for chocolate. Then be done with it for a few weeks. If we reduce food to mere fuel then we have lost a part of what makes us human. Life is for living and good food is for savoring.