A Real Human’s Guide to: Eating

Nothing like making world-changing decisions on a healthy diet of chili dogs

Ah, candidates eating on the campaign trail . Every town has that “we’re famous for it” piece of food that no local’s eaten in decades but a politician needs to wolf down for the photo op. And they visit a lot of towns. The result? A constant battle just to stay steady. Wait a minute, sounds a little like 98% of America’s humans, doesn’t it?

Look, if I gave you 7 months, $6.9 million dollars and nothing else to do, do you think you could look like Chris Evans in Captain America? Teyana Taylor in Kanye’s “Fade”? I think so too. Here’s a slightly different scenario: if you had a full-time job, an apartment that feels a little out of your price range, a couple client dinners a week, the last amounts of student debt to pay down, four weddings in the next two months, and an active social life on the weekend, could you stay healthy? Now that is less certain. The latter is far closer to what we experience day to day.

As GQ interviews the world’s top athletes about diet and chronicles various role-specific meal plans followed by the other three Chris’ — Pratt, Hemsworth, and Pine — we can glean some healthy habits. First though we need to have a solid foundation, not one assembled from random internet factoids and Novak Djokovic’s $70 Manuka honey suggestions. Tell that guy in the office who’s downing his third protein shake that his ass sitting in a chair for 9 hours doesn’t require 240 grams of protein. Let the juice cleanse junkie who keeps talking about “flushing out the toxins” know that real humans eat real food and that his $10.99 green tinted water benefits only the guy he bought it from.

Before looking at the pros, let’s focus on you for a second. Because *you* is the only person to be living exactly *your* life and the only person to have your tendencies and your habits. Now let’s figure out how food fits into that. First and foremost remember what food is: fuel for your body to function. But unlike a car, you absolutely can put too much fuel into the tank. What happens when you overfill? Unless you burn the overflow, short term you’ll face a midnight visit with the toilet, and in the long term, the body says “my god I can’t get rid of all this, let’s find a place to put it.” Michael Phelps ate 15,000 calories a day and looked normal because he used all that fuel every day. He stopped training, continued eating, and yes, even Michael Phelps got a tad tubby for a while.

So the main question to ask yourself is “how do I avoid overfilling the tank?” Your body, if given the chance, does an extraordinary job at telling you you’re full. Eat a whole pizza quickly and for the next 10 minutes you’ll feel like an eating champion, a true man in a man’s world. Give your body a couple minutes to catch up. When it realizes what you’ve done, it drains all excess energy and directs it toward the belly. You’ll be comatose and your stomach will feel like an overstuffed washing machine for the next three hours. Eat that same pizza slowly. Slice, and wait. Slice, and wait. Maybe enjoy each bite because it’s pizza and it’s magical.

As you get to the third slice, you’ll start to feel full, you’ve gotten the magical pizza experience, and you can go on living your life. That last part is crucial — the second eating scenario never holds you back; it only helps give you the energy to move forward.

And THAT is the way to approach food. When hungry, first ask “am I just bored and looking for something to do?” Notice that when you’re truly engaged time flies and you can go for hours without even a thought to eating. If you actually are hungry, then ask “what makes me feel good?” This goes for quality and quantity.

Remember when your parents congratulated you on eating all the food on your plate? The clean plate club was the club you wanted to be in. Now it’s just terrible advice. If you have a 20oz ribeye staring at you, I can guarantee those first 10oz will taste far better than those last 10 as you get more and more full. Don’t feel any obligation; just take the rest to go. All of the sudden you’re walking, not rolling, out of the steakhouse, and you’ll enjoy those last 10oz later when you’re hungry again and can approach it anew.

As for quality, an all burger and pizza diet will taste great but you’ll start slowing down, physically and mentally. Don’t you want to be on the top of your game as often as possible? Eat some of everything in each food group and your engine will be firing on all cylinders. Grab some of those prepackaged carrots to go with your sandwich instead of the potato chips and realize A: carrots can be pretty good and B: you feel far more alert an hour later.

Would you put regular gasoline in a Ferrari? You might drive a Honda Civic but do you compare yourself to one? You’re a high performance machine that’s been holding yourself back by simply eating incorrectly. If you really need one more scenario then fine: you’re single, you’re at a wedding, you just finished dinner and the bridesmaids are doing that circle dancing that girls love doing. Everybody’s liquored up and having fun. But you? No, you opted for a third plate of steak and extra helpings of the chicken kebobs. You can’t get up and dance. You don’t even have the energy to talk to these girls, much less say something clever. What’s your end goal? Is it to be as ready as possible for anything life throws at you, good or bad, or is it always about the next meal and obsessing about food? Make the more fulfilling choice.

Originally published at trumpedupwheaties.com.