Switching Food Gears

Making changes in your lifestyle can be difficult, even if they're good for you. The other day I was at a health conference where a doc explained how frustrating it is when she has a diabetic patient who fully comprehends that he or she needs to change eating habits and exercise, but won't. She observed that intellectually understanding something doesn't mean you will act on it.

Old habits die hard, including doing stuff that really isn't good for your health. In the last few years, I've made big changes in the types of food I eat. I followed the food evolution described in three blogs last year called "How to Become a Lean, Mean, Eating Machine," from the conventional American diet to more veggies, lean meats, and raw food.

The major reason I altered what I ate wasn't because of a pressing food-related health issue, but because my wife became a vegan. She became focused on how food affected her, while I was focused on exercise. As part of her food quest, she learned a great deal about nutrition, which periodically she would share with me.

At she started to make food changes in her diet, of course she would offer me some of it, and at first I would decline or make a snide remark like, "Are you eating tree bark or pine needles?" Her food changes at first caused some friction. When you have been sharing meals with someone for years, and their tastes change and yours haven't, a source of conflict arises. For instance, you sit down to a meal and winter squash with a little cinnamon has been substituted for a white potato with butter.

However, as she explained what made the food nutritious and even tasty, I started to sample it and found that I liked it and felt satisfied after eating it. Meantime, I was studying up on nutrition, and experts confirmed what she had been saying all along (she studied the same experts before I did). Now the only differences in our diets are that I do eat some meat and dairy a few times a week because I have muscle to feed.

There's been some interesting research on the negative role of social contagion in the spread of obesity. To cut to the quick, some studies show that people who are fat usually live and hang out with other fat people and share eating habits, especially married couples and close friends. When they get together, the cake and cookies are around, and the bag of fried potato chips and sour cream dip on the table in front of the TV.

Of course, this social contagion is reinforced by millions of dollars of advertising. Food choices are reinforced by social and cultural norms. When you watch the Super Bowl, the ads will show happy friends stuffing their faces with fried chips high in fat, salt, and carbs.

But social contagion can play a positive role as well. This TOJ is proof. Thanks to my wife, I eat and enjoy foods I never would have dreamt possible, like spinach and avocado smoothies, flax crackers, and "cheese" made of nuts. I'm leaner, stronger, and more energetic than I've been in a long time. It's probably not just the food because I've also changed my exercise pattern from mostly running combined with a little weight work to mostly high intensity resistance exercises and some running.

Right food and right exercises are good habits to catch.

No comments: