When I say to you that eating well is not complicated, I mean it. I don't mean: "If you were a better person--a fascist--, healthy eating would be a no-brainer." I also don't mean: "Look how cool I, Mr. Trainer Man, am." I simply mean: "Nailing your diet is as simple as preparing your own food most of the time."
When I started studying nutrition, I was earnestly in search of the holy grail, or the like. I was sure that with so much built up around the process of feeding oneself, there must be a sacrosanct secret or three that dictated why some people felt like statistics documenting our national obesity epidemic while others were just shrugging, asking, "I have thigh-gap--what's your problem?".
After coaching my first 50 people or so, two things started to dawn very clearly on me:
- Most people struggle with the same core problem: self-worth.
- Most of the fitness industry sells the same thing: tips-and-tricks.
How the industry could have gotten so turned around is a topic for another day, as is what I mean about self-worth. But today, I want to talk about cooking. Because when you cook regularly, you think about the food that is going into your body; you're forced to. And when you think--only a little bit, sure, but for many years-- about something, anything...great things happen.
I like to say that I only have one recipe:
- Take good ingredients.
- Prepare (cut? mix? apply heat? salt to taste?)
Like that? I challenge you to show me one recipe that is not THAT at it's core the above--and no, your sea-cucumber merangue "pearls" don't count, Ms. Chef-y Pants.
Joking aside, I think most people make their mistakes at the two outer edges of the normal daily consumption spectrum: they literally don't think about what is going into their mouth at all, or they think about it WAY TOO MUCH.
On the one hand, there definitely has to be some rules that establish the "floor" as far as eating goes, things like:
- don't eat much refined sugar or drink much alcohol
- don't be stuffed or starving very often
- if it comes out of a factory, don't pretend that it is something you should eat
These rules will be somewhat variable from person to person (what "much" means, for example), but they vary way less than the standard "fitpro" would have you believe. After all, as many other have pointed out, Paleo and Vegan diets are, at their core, pretty similar. In my mind, the basics are pretty universal, and they help us stay "off the WALL-E ship"...
On the other hand, focusing TOO much on what we're eating has some serious issues, in that we all have a pretty limited quantity of will-power to focus hard on things. Simply, if something is a challenge, we have a fixed daily ability to grapple with it. When we run out of that daily will-power, we go into something I call Will-Power Debt. And debt sucks! mostly because it pulls on resources from the future. In the end, you haven't changed much ('cause the going got tough, and you quit), you're bitter that you even focused on that hard thing in the first place ('cause now you're exhausted), and you think you're a failure ('cause a "better" person would have "gotten going", as the saying goes).
Somewhere in the middle of the drawing above, though, higher than brain-dead but not quite all the way to the right (and definitely not OBSESSED), is a path of a little resistance. It's not quite lounge-chair comfortable but it's also not ascetic, and it is where change almost always happens. It's a place where you can handle any obstacle, because you take it day by day. It's a place where you care only a little bit, but for a long time.
And in that place, they only serve simple food, cooked at home.