Miss Dropsie's food principles for maintaining a healthy weight

Friday, May 21, 2010

I was chatting with a friend this week, who from what she tells me, is a slave to calorie counting. I told her that since I changed the way I eat, I don't ever worry about calories and fat. Ever.  She seemed surprised. Instead of counting calories, I eat a certain way, and until I'm full. I monitor how my clothes are fitting and if I've had a bad patch of "cheating" I move more, and eat more plants until it settles again. If you catch it when it's a minor slip, it's a lot easier than waiting till you're looking at 10-20lbs.

Just for a little context, since I fully altered my eating habits one year ago, I initially lost and have since maintained my weight. I am lean, have energy, and am finally happy with my body.

Okay, so I've been thinking about this, trying to put into words what my "food rules" or principles are.  Let me try and sum it up:

1- Most of your food should not have an ingredient list.
The majority of what you eat should be plants (vegetable, fruit, whole grains) and should represent all the colours of the rainbow. When you start adding items that have been cooked, baked, etc.—unless in your own kitchen—the chances of it being a nutritious component of your day are slim. Limit your animal consumption to once daily- preferably at dinner.

2- Don't be afraid of fat
North America went through a "low fat" revolution several decades ago. Know what happened? We all got really fat. Know why? Diet products. Low fat products substitute sugar and other simple carbohydrates for fat to make them palatable. What happens then? You eat them, your blood sugar rises, you get an insulin spike, and the glucose surging through your blood stream gets stored as fat. Ta da! Instant spare tire. Love avocado? I eat them by the truckload. Love nuts? I eat LOADS of raw nuts. Not roasted, not salted. Raw. Sure, lots of fat and calories, but trust me, it doesn't matter when you focus on the quality of food in your diet, rather than the quantity (which brings me to my next point...).

3- Focus on the quality, not quantity of your food
Eat food with dense nutritive properties; limit food with neutral nutritive properties; avoid food with nutrient deficiencies. What you eat should contain vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre... I told you that I don't worry about calories and fat- it's true. What I DO worry about, is the nutrient-density of my food. Unless it is a food that follows my first principle, I check to see what's in it.

Here's what I avoid:
  • no significant nutrients listed (2% daily recommended calcium doesn't wow me, yanno?)
  • anything with refined sugar (except dark chocolate... :)
  • anything with strange ingredients I don't recognize and know are at least neutral (this goes back to why you HAVE to read and understand your food labels)
Here's what I limit but still occasionally indulge in:
  • food that provides only a little nutritive value (brown rice pasta is a good example of this- it's not super dense, but it's not horrible either- I eat it in moderation)
  • junk food with short ingredient lists (plain potato chips fall into this category...they are my weakness).
4- All calories are not created equal anyway
If someone asked you whether they should eat 100 calories of crackers made with hydrogenated oils, enriched wheat flour and loaded with salt, or 100 calories of apples and carrots, what would you tell them would be the wiser choice? Enough said.

5- Find acceptable "treats" and eat them every day
There should be some part of your day that involves a lovely little treat for yourself. Whether it's a few medjool dates (which I see as somewhere between nutrient-neutral, and nutrient-dense, but taste like CANDY- especially from the fridge), some dark chocolate (70% cocoa and up), a SMALL container of short-ingredient-list chips, or a treat you discovered and love, have a little each day. Just enough to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It's all about small concessions, not being unnaturally superhero-like. Superheroes have a short life span- we're looking for a way to eat forever not just until you fit into a wedding dress, or a bathing suit.

Note: I also eat organic food whenever possible. I really believe this to be a healthier option, and once you ditch the processed food, not that cost prohibitive. However, I don't think that—in and of itself—helps me maintain my weight. I agree with the health and environmental impacts of organic farming, in the treatment of organically farmed animals, and I believe in the safety of the food. This choice is not for everyone, but it works for us.

There. Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to provide a fulsome response. What are your food rules? Did I miss anything?


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