…yet food is so easy to over-complicate. With conflicting evidence abound, it is easy to grow overwhelmed and throw your hands up in the air. But in doing so, we consciously neglect our bodies. Instead of sorting through information to find the truths, we deem all information as useless and revert to whatever feels right. We give up on ourselves.
The trouble is that without rules or principles for our diets, we often revert back to doing things which hurt us — the same actions which led us here in the first place. As such, when we aren’t sure of which diet is right for us (when we have no decision-making criteria), it is easier to justify eating more sugary treats. When we do not limit any liquids (or their quantities) it becomes much easier to binge drink. When we don’t know what to eat, we don’t know what not to eat. It is hard to define “good” without defining “bad”.
The simplest of actions can provide the most substantial impact. Yet even the most timeless of advice (invest early and often, brush your teeth daily, call your mom more often) is forgotten or ignored without principles to fall back on. We need principles, simple rules that guide our behaviour, that help us remember what we need to do, and remind of us how important it is that we live in accordance with them.
Our bodies are the only way in which we can experience life. With one shot at life, it makes sense for us to take care of our physical selves; a healthier physical body grants more time for our consciousness to appreciate life itself. Not only will we live longer, but we will live with fewer aches, pains, and illnesses. Overall, we will experience (and appreciate) more in our daily lives; by serving ourselves, life better serves us.
We’ve all heard “Food is Fuel” and the essence of that idea is true: what you put into your body is what allows it to run. While there is great debate over the perfect diet, the best times of day to eat, and more, it is better to focus our attention elsewhere. By examining the ideas consistent across all of the recommended diets, we can understand what is universally agreed to be “true”, the simple ideas that have a big impact on our health. Doing so allows us to develop dietary principles to fall back on in moments of temptation, principles which better serve us.
Let’s examine 2 dietary principles that will allow us to enjoy greater health.
Principle #1: Liquids = Simple & Water-based
90% of what we drink should be water-based, and contain only 1 or 2 ingredients.
The primary liquid every human should consume is water. Our bodies are 60% water and most adults require ~a gallon of water each and every day. Drinking water improves our brain function, gives us healthier skin, and lets all other bodily processes run more smoothly.
Two other drinks that provide tremendous benefit to us are tea and coffee. Both tea and coffee have 2 ingredients (water + tea bag or coffee grounds) and offer both a boost in energy, as well as tremendous health benefits. In tea’s case, we receive antioxidants (namely ECGC) which help free radicals combat cancer and heart disease, while coffee boosts mental and physical performance, including mental focus and fat loss, as well as reduces our risk of diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. As with most things, moderation is key. 1–2 cups of coffee a day is beneficial, while 4–5 is likely detrimental.
The 1–2 ingredients rule applies to coffee and tea: do not destroy your drink by loading it up with sugar and cream. Those are ingredients. As a rule, it is best to take both of these drinks black (one popular exception is MCT oil, a la “bulletproof coffee”, but this comes with a more stringent diet as well).
Diets and principles are useful in what they eliminate. In this case, it is excess sugar and cream. These two ingredients translate to an insulin bump, and priming ourselves for storing fat, instead of burning off our excess energy (fat) stores. Is this really how we want to start our days?
Our simple & water-based principle gives a simple heuristic for deciding what to drink: do we take the glass of water in the morning, or the glass of orange juice? Take our coffee black or double-double? Have a shot of vodka, or abstain?
Water is vital to optimal organ function, which last time I checked, was important. Make 90% of the drinks you consume water-based, namely water, coffee, and tea, and your hydrated body will reward you with benefits across your every organ.
Remember, simple liquids.
Principle #2: Food — Our Own Hands
Food: from the earth, gathered by our own hand, or made by our own hands
Food is one of the most controversial subjects we have. Food needs to be controversial and confusing, or else we will all stop buying magazines that have the “magic diet”, cookbooks tailored to the diet, and supplements that are fundamental to the diet. By creating confusion, we are left searching for the answers, rather than remembering them and living more healthier lives as a result. While food production is obviously a business (farmers are vitally important), we do not need to succumb to the business of confusing us all on what is healthiest to eat. Let’s cut through the dietary dogma and focus on the one idea that transcends them all.
Our Food should be from the earth, able to be caught/picked with our own hands, or made by our own hands if we possessed super strength.
Immediately you are thinking “what the hell is going on about ‘if we were super strong?’ piece?”. I’ll tell you.
Most foods that fall into this category are a no-brainer. We could catch fish by standing in a river, pick any fruit on a bush or a tree, pull vegetables from the ground, hunt any animal that walks the earth alongside us. But adherently sticking to this idea leaves out a few great additions to the mix, like healthy oils, tofu and nut butters.
Healthy oils are an obvious choice. Six tablespoons of olive oil daily halved the risk of dying in blue zone cultures, alongside anti-inflammatory benefits and decreased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, nut butters provide another source of healthy protein & fat perfect for lunches at work/school, decrease bad LDL cholesterol, provide beneficial omega-3’s, and are a liquified version of the nuts themselves, which could be picked from the ground. Finally, tofu helps keep meat consumption in moderation whilst providing the protein needed for muscle growth & repair (also important: blue zone diets are 95% plant-based).
If we were super strong, we could press the olives with our own hands, squish soybeans down into blocks of tofu, or pulverize our almonds/peanuts/etc into a paste — this is why this idea is included.
Again, dietary principles are useful for what they exclude: highly processed grains, the sugary monstrosities of aisle 7, and obvious no’s like ice cream … remember, no sane diet advocates for us to eat more ice cream.
Food needs to be simple. Stick to what you could find outside, what you could pick/catch yourself, and what you could make with super strong hands.
Stick to what you could find and make with your own (strong) hands.
The final lesson to remember is that everyone is human. We have needs, cravings, impulses, desires. So don’t beat yourself up for having them — you are only human, after all.
We often hear “We are what we repeatedly do” and this couldn’t be more applicable to diet. If we routinely follow the simple & water-based and our own hands principles to food and drink, we will have a solid foundation of health to operate from. If we make simple liquids and foods 90% of our diet, then the other 10% matters a lot less; by sticking to our principles the majority of the time, it makes the occasional dessert much less significant.
Both of these principles are meant to be applied in a human way: adhere to them the majority of the time (85–90%) and give yourself the freedom to enjoy a dessert or a drink on special occasions. By the nature of this, 90% of the time we will be making dietary decisions that improve ourselves.
So stick to simple: simple liquids, and what you could eat with your own hands. In turn, you will live a longer, and more enjoyable, life.
Originally published at kyletymo.com.