There’s a simple truth about good health. I know it because I’ve lived it. It’s this:
If you eat healthy 80% of the time and are physically active every single day, for your entire life, you’ll feel great, and you’ll look younger than your actual age because activity keeps you beautiful.
This would be my message to young people:
It’s far, far easier to stay in great shape and be healthy if you start these habits at a very young age.
It’s far more difficult to affect change if you’re obese and if you haven’t moved much or eaten well.
My observations and opinion about the obesity epidemic in North America
Health and fitness is a lifestyle choice.
It’s also a right.
You deserve to know how to eat healthy, especially if you don’t know. Major food corporations manipulate and outright lie to you to sell their products, or go to great scientific lengths to find out how to make their foods addictive.
I’m here to tell you that I am one of the honest voices, one in a growing chorus of people, who is willing to cut through the crap and tell you the simple, honest truths about health and wellness.
Reality is Fat
Last August my partner and I went to visit his parents in Myrtle Beach. The number of fat people shocked me. Yes, it would be politically correct and nicer of me to say overweight or obese.
But should I sugarcoat the truth?
I know my choice of words is a terrible irony, but the truth is these people were (and continue to be) fat and they need to be told they are fat and they need help.
They don’t need coddling and they don’t need sympathy.
What they do need is empathy, compassionate understanding, the help to get physically active and an understanding/coaching in what healthy eating is really about.
On our first night there we went out to an all-you-can-eat steak restaurant. I witnessed people that were 350 pounds and well above. What shocked me even more were the number of children under 10 years old who were clearly obese.
I saw one little girl with the plate that was a mountain of food, and mostly deep fried battered items.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to eat like this once in a while, but this was clearly the norm for many of the overweight people in that restaurant.
A visit to one of the large grocery stores nearby was a clear example of what’s wrong with healthy food marketing in the United States.
The produce section was the smallest I’ve ever seen of any grocery store that size. It was also tucked away at the back corner of the store, probably half the size I would normally expect.
Many of the food items I would normally buy at a grocery store in Toronto that would be loose and part of a large display were individually packaged and in coolers.
This type of packaging unconsciously influences the buyer to purchase small amounts.
Instead of seeing large amounts of tomatoes or apples in bins and being able to pick the ripest ones, or whatever size you prefer, you could only buy three tomatoes in a cellophane package.
Packaging also adds to the cost of any food, which makes it look more expensive, which will also result in a smaller amount of fruits and vegetables purchased for that reason.
Beer on shelves, beer in coolers, wine, sodas and pop, and all kinds of fast food, chips and sweets were readily available and stocked in prime locations in the store that you had to pass by with your grocery cart. Might as well get a package of chips…
Generally speaking, there is not much understanding of what’s healthy in the United States, in my opinion. If there is, corporate food giants do their best to brainwash the consumer in every medium possible.
Most forms of advertising are corrupt at best when they promote the health benefits of a food item devoid of nutrients.
For example, Quaker Oats saying their instant oatmeal contains a healthy amount of fibre and vitamins is total rubbish.
Did you ever see the TV commercial for Nutella with the mother of a busy family, preparing breakfast for her kids on ‘whole-grain bread or waffles’?
At one point the actress says,
“Nutella is made with simple, quality ingredients, like hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa.”
Right. Your kids will have energy all right. For an hour after eating all that SUGAR that you failed to mention was part of the ingredients, and then they will crash and then they’re going to want something sweet like a donut, or a candy bar, and they will continue with this insulin spiking and crashing until one day the parents wonder, ‘Why are our kids so fat?’
Nutella Nutrition Facts:
Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Sugars: 21 grams
YIKES! There are three teaspoons in a single tablespoon. This means that in the serving size of two tablespoons there’s the equivalent of four (yes, 4) teaspoons of sugar.
Let’s be realistic. Who used only two tablespoons of Nutella on a slice of ‘whole grain bread’? AS IF that makes this crap-for-breakfast any healthier!
The commerical should really end like this:
“With Nutella, breakfast never tasted this sweet!”
Kellogg’s Special K cereal makes the claim to be healthy. What a joke.
This is what it says on their webpage:
“Special K* lightly toasted rice cereal. With 110 calories and no fat per serving it is a part of a nutritious breakfast or anytime snack.”
This is not part of a nutritious breakfast — I’ll explain below what constitutes a healthy meal.
Yogurts in solid or drinkable forms trying to convince you that 0% fat is better for you is simply not true. We need fats of all types, but the healthy fats. Those yogurts are sweetened to taste good (because of the missing fat which adds to flavour!), so you might as well have a donut because it’s going to affect your blood sugar in the same way.
For example, iögo original yogurt.
Ingredients: Skim milk, sugar (yes, the SECOND ingredient), blueberry, cream, milk and whey proteins, modified corn and rice starch, active bacterial culture, pectin, natural flavours, lemon juice concentrate, Vitamin D3. Gelatine free. No preservatives. Made with Vitamin D fortified milk.
In a 100 gram serving there are 13 grams of sugar, or 2.5 teaspoons. Once again, this is not a balanced meal, and certainly a food guaranteed to spike your insulin and make you fat!
People were not as fat as they are today 50 years ago.
The reason is mass-produced, prepared packaged foods, increasing amounts of sugar in soda pop and food items, more empty refined carbohydrates like breads and cereals, addictive junk foods, and the low-fat revolution craze.
The answer and the solution to healthy bodyweight and healthy eating is this:
- Eat healthy, lean sources of protein like beef, turkey, chicken breast, pork tenderloin, fish, etc.
- Eat any and all vegetables.
- Eat any and all fruit.
- Eat any and all nuts.
- And finally, eat a balanced meal consisting of protein, healthy fats, vegetables and/or fruit, and possibly a starchy carbohydrate.
If you are a follower of the Paleo diet the above may not apply to you. I do not agree wholeheartedly with Paleo because I think it excludes the possibility that some human beings can handle grains, whereas others cannot. Paleo as a diet is a great idea when used in moderation. I would steer clear of the fanatical Paleo enthusiasts.
What about sausages and bacon?
Sausages are a prepared food and have other fillers, most often breadcrumbs and possibly other chemicals. So this could be something to have as a treat or you may choose a quality butcher shop that uses better fillers — if any at all.
When choosing bacon if you can find a non-GMO nitrate free brand that would definitely be a better choice. Yes, it’s a very saturated meat fat so use in moderation.
If you can afford grass-fed, organic and non-GMO, hormone free beef, fowl, free-range organic eggs, and sustainable sourced fish, go for it. Buy the best that you can afford to reduce unnecessary chemical consumption.
Eat the whole egg. Period.
Use organic coconut oil, extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil, pure sesame oil for flavour, grape seed oil for salad dressings, avocado oil, organic grass fed butter, flax oil, and finally fish oil as a health supplement.
Avoid all fruit juice. Drinking a glass of apple juice or orange juice is almost as bad as having the same amount of Coca-Cola or Sprite. It affects the blood sugar in the same way causing a spike in insulin and telling your body to store fat.
If you want juice, eat the entire fruit. You will get the benefit of fibre from the fruit pulp and feel more full.
If you want a juice meal, make a protein shake or a smoothie with additional ingredients to make a balanced meal.
Sodas, Colas, Tonic Water
These are all nutrient-deficient, sugar-based calories that don’t make you feel full.
This means that if you had a couple of glasses of Coca-Cola with your meal you would be adding approximately an additional 400-500 cal that would not make you feel any more full but would certainly make you more fat.
Tea and Coffee
You don’t need anything in your tea but the tea itself. Don’t bother with milk, sugar or honey.
The same is true for coffee. If you can’t drink it black then add a ½-1 teaspoon of table cream, whipping cream, coconut oil, or one to two teaspoons coconut milk.
All of the above are exceptional replacements for sugar or honey. You do not want to use artificial sweeteners of any kind.
I use a lot of coconut oil or coconut milk in my coffee as a way of consuming more of this healthy saturated fat throughout my day.
My final opinion on coffee: drink real coffee. None of this instant coffee garbage.
Oh, and coffee creamers are an edible oil product and an absolute poison for your body.
Some people do not have the genetics to digest milk. Other people are lactose intolerant. There’s a lot of debate about whether you should or shouldn’t drink milk. This is my opinion and personal experience:
I used to be highly allergic to milk as well as many other foods. For some reason I grew out of those allergies when I hit puberty. I have, therefore, never being a milk drinker.
However, since my very early 20s I began eating small amounts of cheese and as long as I didn’t overdo it I found that I had little or no reaction.
When it comes to yogurt and drinking milk I firmly believe that it would be best to drink or consume the whole milk product. Not 1% and not skim milk.
Over the years I’ve read interesting articles that may be more anecdotal than scientific, but they seem to confirm my own experience and observations. If you drink whole milk or eat a whole milk organic yogurt your reaction, if any, will be much less than drinking any other type of milk product.
Eat Healthy, Real Food
Make your meals at home and from scratch 80% of the time and you will notice dramatic health and weight loss improvements.
We are all tempted by something yummy that’s put in front of us. Allow yourself the room to cheat 10-20% of the time.
Enjoy something that’s less healthy or not healthy at all sparingly.
The closer you stay to 10% cheating, the greater your health improvements.
My final recommendation requires an entire article but here’s the short version:
Be physically active every single day. Your options include:
- Lifting weights,
- Going for a run,
- 20 minutes on the stationary bike,
- Attending a fitness or a yoga class,
- Playing a few games of volleyball,
- A game of soccer,
- Going for a 30 to 60 minute walk,
- Having a dog and taking it out for walks 2 to 3 times per day, and;
- Your favourite physical activity: [insert here].
Get up from your desk every 20 to 30 minutes if you work in an office.
Take the stairs if it’s less than three flights.
Stop standing on escalators. It’s annoying for the people behind you. It’s also making you more fat and it’s just lazy.
Eat. Move. Be.
© 2014 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.