Renew Yourself: The First-Steps Diet Makeover

Students at my martial arts school often ask for advice on losing weight or eating healthier.  Nutrition is a big topic, and can be intimidating, particularly with all the conflicting information out there.  I have another blog entry that gives an overview of my nutritional philosophy.  The important thing is to take one step at a time, slowly and methodically bringing your diet into balance.

Here are my core recommendations for moving toward a more healthy diet.  You can progress one step at a time.  Inform yourself about the issues by researching on the internet and by reading books about natural health.  That will help motivate you to continue to improve your diet and learn to cook easy, delicious, quality meals.

1. No more soda.
This includes ANY sweetened drinks, including artificially sweetened “diet” drinks.  There is no “something for nothing” in nature, so if you get sweetness with zero calories, you’re paying for it somewhere else, even if science hasn’t yet identified what that cost is.  Sweet drinks over-stimulate your taste buds and make it harder for you to enjoy the natural, subtle sweetness of whole, natural foods.  They also create a pendulum effect of making you crave very salty, greasy foods, which in turn cause you to crave sweet foods again.

The worst health culprit is high fructose corn syrup which is used in so-called “juice drinks” like many cranberry juice mixes.  Even reconstituted juices from concentrate should be avoided, if possible, as the natural enzymes of fresh juice are missing or deactivated.  Reconstituted juice is like a weak sugar solution.  The only thing I use if for, for convenience sake, is mixing a green superfood powder into cheap organic apple juice when my diet has been lacking in green veggies (which it is more often than I’d like to admit).

I recommend that you drink lots and lots of water for hydration, and drink green or herbal teas (unsweetened, or lightly sweetened with honey) with meals or for a little stimulation in the morning and afternoon.  Fresh-squeezed or pressed fruit and vegetable juices are a nice dietary supplement between meals or in place of meals, maybe with a small salad.  Make them yourself at home with a juicer.  The Odwalla juices and other commercially available fresh juices are good, but they’ve been pasteurized, which destroys many of the healthful enzymes.

2. No trans fats
Trans fats are the hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils invented in the early 20th century to make soap and candles more cheaply.  Hydrogen gas is pumped into vegetable oils to give them the consistency of lard or tallow, solid at room temperature.  When the candle market died out due to electricity, the manufacturers of these modern processed fats decided to try selling them as food.

The rise in cardiovascular disease in the U.S. coincided with the popularization of hydrogenated oils.  Animal fats have gotten a bad rap in this regard, peaking with the cholesterol hysteria of the 1980s.  The science & medical establishment have slowly begun sorting out the confusion over the last 10 years or so, but misperceptions about natural, healthy fats still persist in the overall culture.

With growing awareness about the health dangers of trans fats, the junk food manufacturers are slowly phasing them out and seeking alternatives.  They’ll probably come up with new, untested technologies that will be just as bad or worse.  As I said before, there is no “free lunch” in nature.  Stick with the natural fats our ancestors ate.  Real food is perishable.  Generally speaking, if it comes ready-to eat in a wrapper, isn’t traditionally preserved through drying or fermentation, and doesn’t go bad within a week, it’s not really food.

3. No deep-fried food

When you heat oils to the boiling point, you change their chemistry, making them rancid and practically indigestible to your body.  These rancid oils create “free radicals” in your body chemistry, extremely reactive molecules that try to bond with your body tissues, creating small lesions in your blood vessels that lead to scarring and arterial sclerosis.  Deep-fried foods also create sluggishness and inhibited digestion and elimination, making you reluctant to exercise and burn the many calories they carry.

Be aware that deep-fried foods include not only the obvious batter-fried foods (shrimp, chicken, fish, etc.), but common snack foods like french fries, hashbrowns, most snack chips, and desserts like beignets, funnel cakes and donuts.  Even those snack chips and crackers that aren’t fried often contain trans fats.

4. No white sugar, white flour, white rice or potatoes

There’s something to the low-carb diets that have been popular in recent years.  Some have not put proper emphasis on the quality of fats you are consuming, but they are right in singling out sugars as the major health threat in our modern American diets.

When you eliminate trans fats, fried foods and white flour from your diets, you’ll find that there’s practically nothing at gas stations and convenience stores that you can eat, and that’s a good thing.  Snack on fresh and dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and treats that you prepare at home with whole, natural ingredients.

Coming soon, I’ll post an essay listing some recipes for some easy, nourishing meals.


~ by nolashaolin on August 8, 2007.

One Response to “Renew Yourself: The First-Steps Diet Makeover”

  1. […] Dietary Makeover The most important element of a weight loss plan is diet.  Take a look at my “First-Steps Diet Makeover.”  If your dietary habits are pretty entrenched, go step by step through the program and be patient […]

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