Last month I returned from my annual “guys adventure” trip. For 2014 we kept it fairly simple went to Colorado and summited two 14er’s and missed the 3rd 14er, Long’s Peak, because it was still snow packed and more adventure then we were looking for. The participants are a thrown together group linked by two guys who meet via finance jobs a decade ago. Now we have 7 years of trips and solid friendships between the Minneapolis and Chicago bases. It’s a great chance to get away, let the cell phones not work, and go back to the basics well busting each other pretty good.
One of the guys asked me about how he could clean up his diet and I was all set to fire off a fast response with my answer but stopped. What seems so simple turned out to be rather complicated. It can easily snowball into a ‘why do you believe this and that’. For friendly advice I didn’t want to start citing my references and summarizing the past few years of readings, podcasts, and personal experimentation that have combined to formed my personal approach; so I basically stalled out for a month. I’ve never put this into words and expect that the first pass will be rather rough but I plan to return and refine and have this be something I can share to others in the future as they explore their own diet paradigm.
So as a disclaimer – this is my approach. It’s not proven, backed, funded, or gone through peer review. It’s meant to be an exercise in sharing for others to consider when finding their own approach.
I’m going to start big picture with my personal tenets.
Eat real food.
What’s real food? Food that comes from things that were growing, walking, or swimming and minimally processed like veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, & grass-fed meat.
This means watchout for processed foods
What’s processed? Processed foods to me are foods that have been combined, assembled, constructed, or formed at a plant. How do you know? Does it come in a box or a package? Check out the ingredients and let that be your guide. A box of branded crackers will have far different quantity and types of ingredients from a bag of apples. For me this means avoiding tortilla chips (overly processed) and canned salsa (added sugar). The risk with packaged manufactured foods is that they have so many ingredients that are great for making food ‘shelf ready’ and leveraging our countries awesome food scientists but that is a step further from being considered real food. Take a walk at the store and check out the ingredients list on many of packaged foods and just look for the number of foods that have added in wheat, sugar, or corn. Now ask yourself if they need it and consider why it is in there. If you think its to make better quality food or healthier food then know that you and I disagree.
Do I think fasting is for me? Hey, I’m a midwesterner, we don’t starve here! I’ll admit it doesn’t appeal to me on the outset but I’d try it. Being caught in the reasons or expected efficacy of something based on our personal knowledge can limit us from exploring the options out there. Does sugar sap your brain power? Stop consuming it for 30 days and see how you feel. Do you think avoiding processed grains is only for gluten-free wackos? Great, good for you; but what do you have to lose for trying it for 2 weeks? The point is that we don’t know as much about health and the effects of our food as much as we think we do and you are fully empowered to experiment and find the best approach for you. Just don’t start experiments where you digest batteries.
Whenever you experiment do follow Robb Wolf’s advice and ask yourself how you look, feel, and perform.
Be accountable for your health
Don’t look to others for answers on your health. I’m big on self-improvement in every aspect of my life. I don’t need to be the best at anything but I want to be getting better at everything I care about; it’s a core belief in how I live my life. How can we be accountable? For one, be informed, become interested. These topics don’t need to be an area of passion (but then again why not) but at least you can form the basis of understanding so you have an opinion.
Too many want to lean on their doctors for nutritional advice but that’s just not the place to look. Next people may look to the news media for information but there you’ll find news that is more focused on the headline than the research or may have a bad study to share. To solve this I personally find my own sources of wisdom and then always run these sources through my own judging filter. We are responsible for our own health.
My next post will share how I approach diet.