Put very simply, it's this--we don't eat "health food," we don't eat processed food, we do our best to eat local and/or organic, and we try not to eat a lot of fat or sugar. We've been doing that for six and a half months now, and we've both lost weight. More importantly, though, we have more energy, fewer aches and pains, I sleep better (I used to have terrible problems with insomnia), and we both feel just generally better.
I spent about two hours walking around the grocery store today. It normally only takes me about 30 minutes to get all my shopping done, but Mr. Scrimp was at work, and I didn't have a list with me, so I took the time to browse and really enjoy myself.
Normally I shop with a list, but even when I don't, I try to be guided by a few simple and easy-to-remember rules:
- Don't buy pre-made food. It will almost always be better if you buy the separate ingredients and make it yourself, even though it will be more time consuming. You will also have the benefit of knowing exactly what you're eating, all the time.
- Don't buy food with ingredients you can't pronounce or find at the grocery store. Chemical additives in food are a relatively new addition, and are mainly present (or have been up until recently) in American diets. There aren't enough data yet to solidly lay the blame for the terrible health of Americans on chemical food additives yet, as far as I know, but the circumstantial evidence continues to mount up, especially as highly processed food begins to make its way into Europe and previously healthy countries experience similar spikes in their rates of certain health problems. I am simply tired of putting things into my body that have only been eaten by humans for the last 20-40 years. It strikes me as folly.
- Don't buy foods that are artificially low-fat, fat-free, or "lite". This is especially true of things like "fat free half & half" or "fat free sour cream". Half & half is half milk, half cream. Sour cream is, well, sour cream. By their very nature, those products have fat in them. What that means is that in order to make them fat-free, they have to be so chemically tweaked and altered that what you're really eating or drinking is asoup of seaweed, starches, sugars, thickened skim milk, chemicals, and sugar, sugar, sugar. Fat is one of the things that makes food taste good. Sugars are one of the others. Diet food products might be low in fat, but they almost always have huge amounts of added sugars and sodium to make up for it--otherwise you'd be able to taste all the chemicals you're eating.
- Don't buy imitation foods. This is sort of an addendum to the last rule--margarine, tofurkey, American "cheese product", and all those other bizarre foods are terrible for you. They are unhealthy. They are heavily processed. They are full of sugar and chemicals that are probably someday going to turn out to be toxic. And they don't even taste good.
- Don't buy canned when you can get fresh or dried. There's evidence coming out that food stored long-term in aluminum cans gets chemicals leached into it. I was actually advised away from canned foods and beverages by my doctor a few years ago because most of the cans are lined with soft plastics in order to keep the food from developing a metallic taste, and the plastics can leach into food over time. Instead of canned beans, buy dried. Instead of canned tomatoes, buy fresh. Or at least buy foods canned in glass, or frozen.
During some of my Christmas vacation, we didn't have time to go grocery shopping and so ended up eating a lot of pre-made, restaurant, or even fast-food for a few days. By the end of it, I felt terrible.
"Did I used to feel like this all the time?" I asked Mr. Scrimp, staring in the mirror at my puffy eyes and wan face as I downed a couple of Advil to kill the headache that I couldn't seem to get rid of. "Why did it take me so long to stop?"
He shrugged. "We were just so used to it that we didn't notice anymore, I guess."
You might read this and think, "You know, that's true for you, but I feel fine eating processed food. I don't feel like it's affecting my health or my sense of well-being. I've lost weight on my lite-foods diet and I think it tastes delicious."
I challenge you to cut those foods out completely for two months (it takes about that long to get over the food cravings and feeling constantly hungry), and then tell me you don't feel better.
Maybe you're just so used to it that you just don't notice how you really feel.