Eat To Live or Live to Eat?
If you’ve set your New Year’s resolutions to embrace fat loss, you’re probably asking yourself this question. Or, further, you might be asking yourself what does this question mean? The answer is pretty straight forward. Do you eat food to survive or do you live to eat food? The answer may surprise you, but you have to be willing to take a hard look at yourself to uncover the answer. Let’s explore.
In America, food is very abundant and in a lot of cases, very cheap. From fast food that’s 99 cents for a meal to expensive dine-in meals. It’s your choice how you wish to dine. The main difference between cheap and expensive food is in where the food originated and how or if it’s processed. For example, foods that come from organic farms or from farms that don’t use hormones on their livestock may be better for you than those foods that do use these chemicals (depending on the farm). Foods not refined are also better for you. The one question you need to ask yourself is, “How was the food produced?” The only answer that I can offer here is to tell you to buy foods from sources that you trust.
Can you trust Safeway? Can you trust Lucky or Albertson’s? Can you trust the corner grocer? Can you trust Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s Cornflakes? Only you can determine which stores and which brands you trust.
There are many problems when purchasing from chain grocers. They buy from many farmers and manufacturers in such bulk that it’s difficult for them to always offer you healthy choices in foods. So, you may need to opt for more local grocer choices. If you purchase from local farms, you may find a lot more information on how the food was raised. Once you establish your immediate trusts, you can then find the foods that work for your dietary needs. Note, though, that trusts change over time. Brands get acquired or disappear from the shelves, formulations change, etc. So, even when you’ve had a trust with a specific brand or grocer, you should re-evaluate that trust from time to time to ensure the food is living up to your quality expectations.
Does all of this really matter?
That depends on you. If you think it matters, then it matters. Once it does matter, then you need to seek food choices that fit your needs. The less picky you are, the more choices you have when shopping. But, you may also be compromising your health by being less picky. Also, if you have health issues that must be addressed by using specific foods, food choices do matter.
Five Star Dining
Let’s start by examining the expensive dining options first. If you choose to dine at a 5 star restaurant, along with your excessively large bill, you may find that your food seems more fresh and tasty. You may be correct in that assessment. Generally, 5 star restaurants buy foods from the best quality growers and grocers. In some cases, the chefs may even personally hand pick the meats and produce they want to use. With lesser quality restaurants, the foods may come from a commissary (a centralized store distribution facility for that restaurant chain) or from a food distribution service like Sysco. Where the 5 star restaurant is looking for grade A+ ingredients, lesser star restaurants may opt for grade C or even D foods (because they cost less). Depending on the type of lesser restaurant, they may even serve you pre-prepared canned foods (like Pace Picante sauce). So, what you may be served in a 2 or 3 star restaurant may be no better than what you can buy and serve yourself from Safeway. In some cases, it may be worse.
Secondarily, when you eat at a 5 star restaurant, you should find that each and every food is fresh made from scratch. In fact, most of these level restaurants make your food immediately when you order. So, there’s nothing pre-prepared. It’s all made fresh (other than the prep work to cut up veggies earlier that day). Even the deserts are prepared and baked fresh (or should be). That’s the difference between Chili’s (a 3 star Bistro) and a 5 star restaurant.
Does 5 star dining make the food healthier? Not necessarily. True, the food should be made fresh. True, the food is probably grade A+, but that doesn’t lessen the caloric value of the food. In fact, many 5 star restaurants prefer rich foods with a high fat content (creams, butters and oils) because they make food taste more luxurious. So, even though you may be consuming fresh foods prepared from fresh ingredients, you are not likely eating to lose weight. One thing, though, that you will find in 5 star restaurants are smaller portion sizes. Where Chili’s might overload your plate with a ton of food, you may find a 5 star restaurant serving your dinner in a small portion in the center of a big plate. Yes, it’s very pretty and presentation is a big deal in a 5 star place, but the size doesn’t necessarily lessen the amount of calories in the meal. If you’re concerned with calories, you should always ask before you dine (preferably on the phone before making a reservation).
In order to make fat loss a reality, you have to both want to lose fat and commit yourself to change. Commitment is the key. With so many food choices out there and a lot of pressure to eat tons of food (especially by friends, relatives and co-workers.. not to mention the huge portions in restaurants), you need to distance yourself from that influence. That means you need to consider creating your own foods from scratch in the portions that fit your needs. You can opt to use pre-prepared meals that are frozen or even foods that come from Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine or Nutrisystems. However, you can certainly lose the fat without the need for any specialty meals. Let’s explore fat loss clinics…
Commercial Fat Loss Organizations
Companies like Jenny Craig, NutriSystems and Weight Watchers are good at what they do. The trouble with these organizations isn’t that they help you to lose weight. No. They definitely help you shed the pounds. The trouble is, how do you keep the weight off once you leave their program? None of these organizations offer proper weight management techniques after you depart. They hook you into their ‘system’ using their packaged foods. After you leave, they make it reasonably difficult to use external foods that are not part of their program. This is unfortunate, but it’s also a way for these systems to entice you back only to spend more money. Remember, these are commercial outfits in it to make money. So, their goal is to get you hooked onto their program and then keep you coming back to spend more and more money. As long as you are willing to do this, you can keep the weight off.
When using their food offerings, they use points systems or exchanges. That’s great, as long as you are eating foods where you can easily determine those numbers. If you start eating whole real foods from the store or a restaurant, you may not easily be able to determine points. So, you’re stuck. When you can’t determine the values, you don’t. Because you can’t, you can’t easily determine how much of it you should be eating. You then slip back into eating ‘real food’. So, it ends up in a vicious cycle that leads to fat gain. This is the cycle that you want to avoid. You need to understand foods at a more basic level that can be applied to any meal, not just those meals created by Jenny Craig.
Of course, this is not meant to berate these programs. They are good at what they do. If you have the means and are willing to stick with their programs, then you can lose the weight and keep it off. But, you also need to determine a way to ween yourself from their program and use home made foods as a substitute or even meals at a restaurant and still keep the weight off. How do you do that?
You need to empower yourself by understanding foods, understand how they act on the body and understand how to easily identify healthier foods from unhealthy foods. So, what exactly does ‘healthy food’ mean? That’s a really good question, let’s explore…
What is a healthy food? We hear the term ‘healthy foods’ all the time. As an example, a study has said that drinking Welch’s grape juice is healthy for you because the dark purple juice is now classed as an antioxidant. So, there are now claims you need to drink more. But, is grape juice really that healthy? Antioxidants may be important to help cleanse the body of toxins, but grape juice is also concentrated and processed. Anything that is processed is not as healthy as the whole real thing. For example, eating dark red table grapes provides the same antioxidant properties as drinking concentrated grape juice. Additionally, eating the whole fruit provides you with fiber. Note, however, that fruit is primarily sugar (fructose and sucrose) and fiber. Processed juice is devoid of fiber, so the sugar in juice is digested almost immediately. Eating table grapes requires less immediate insulin release due to the time it takes to process the sugar out of the fiber. Drinking grape juice, on the other hand, is akin to drinking a soft drink. Granted, the soft drink has no antioxidant properties, but the sugar high is the same drinking both drinks.
Secondarily, is all grape juice created equal? This goes back to the issue of trust. Some juices are sweetened only with the juice from the fruit. Others add additional sugars or sweeten with concentrated mixtures of sugars from the fruit. So, they might extract a juice concentrated version and then extract a second version that’s a concentrated sweetener version. They then mix the juice concentrate version with the sugar version to make the whole batch sweeter. They can say it is 100% real grape juice, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play games to get it sweeter. Again, trust. You need to trust how a company processes their foods.
Eating whole grapes does the same trick as drinking the juice. However, when eating the whole fruit, you are less likely to eat as much (the fiber fills you up). Because the fiber fills you, you are also less likely to eat as many calories in one sitting than you would drinking a glass of fiberless juice. Reducing calories below the RMR is the key to losing fat, so that’s the goal here.
So, which is healthy in this example? Clearly, vitamins and minerals are important. You get the most vitamins and minerals by eating the whole fruit rather than concentrated and processed foods. Many vitamins and minerals are destroyed during processing. This is why so many processed foods must be fortified (they add external vitamins) to make up for the destroyed vitamins and minerals. In this case, eating the whole grape is more healthy than drinking heavily concentrated and processed juice. This goes for any foods that are processed.
Steps Removed From Nature
Think of healthy foods in terms of how far they are removed from their natural state. Clearly, a grape is the most natural state of this fruit. Therefore, it is the most healthy form of this fruit. As it is processed, each step away from its most basic natural state makes it one step less healthy for the human body. So, the steps might look something like the following:
grape -> grape juice fresh squeezed -> grape juice boiled down (concentrated) -> grape juice syrup / grape juice sugars -> grape juice powder (dried) or flavoring -> grape jelly fruit snacks or grape popsicles
So, the fruit starts first and everything else is derived from some processing step after the initial fruit. For each step after the initial fruit, that reduces the healthy nature of the food. For each step removed from nature, then, that determines how less healthy it is for the human body.
What exactly is food processing? At home you think of a Cuisinart for food processing. However, processing foods in manufacturing is a way to concentrate the foods into usable constituent components (sugars, starches, salts, flavorings, etc). The idea is to take an initial natural food and distill it down into its constituent components for later reintegration into another food product. For example, Pringles chips are made from potatoes. But, they aren’t whole potatoes. Instead, they are made from ground and processed potatoes (and other ingredients), then they use a special process to form the chip into that familiar Pringles shape and bake it in place. While the potato may have started whole, once it’s in a chip form coated with salt, it is no longer whole and is now removed from nature at least 2, 3 or more times.
(To be continued in Part II: Eat to Live)