Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

One of our “Rules for Life” is to take care of your body: develop good habits around eating, exercise, learning, and meditation that will last throughout your life.

One key to living by this rule is being smart about the food we consume for energy. A favorite resource about healthy eating is the 2008 book, In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.

The subtitle of the book summarizes everything you really need to know:

  • Eat food*
  • Not too much
  • Mostly plants

Eat Food*

The asterisk after the word food is important! My favorite definition Pollan gives for food is, “only something your great-grandmother would recognize as food.” In other words, nothing processed and with added ingredients and preservatives.

Pollan feels that much of what we eat now isn’t really food. Pollan notes, “We are eating a lot of edible food-like substances, which is to say highly processed things that might be called yogurt, might be called cereals, whatever, but in fact, are very intricate products of food science that are really imitations of foods.”

Recent science has really exposed the problems caused by eating too much sugar, especially added sugars that are not naturally occurring in the food. Eating food* ensures we avoid these added sugars.

Not too Much

Pollan advises we worry less about low-fat and low-carb diets (or whatever else the current fad might be) and instead just eat less.

Pollan points to tips from the French and Japanese cultures. “The French manage to eat extravagantly rich food, but they don’t get fat, and the reason is that they eat it on small plates, they don’t have seconds, they don’t snack.”

A cultural principle in Japan called “Hara Hachi Bu” has people stop eating when they are 80% full. This is probably better than my current technique of “eating until my plate is empty!”

Mostly Plants

Pollan notes that “most of the things that are killing us these days — whether it’s heart disease, diabetes, obesity, many, many cancers — are directly attributed to the way we’re eating.”

“There is incontrovertible but boring evidence that eating your fruits and vegetables is probably the best thing you can do for preventing cancer, for weight control, for diabetes, for all the different, all the Western diseases that now afflict us,” he says.

Ideas for Action

Based on this book and other research by the Personal Kaizen team, here are a few Personal Kaizen actions you can make today that will improve what we put into our bodies:

  • Shop right: Shop from a list and don’t buy sweet, processed food-like substances
  • If you can’t understand an ingrediant (or the list is more than a few items long) don’t buy the food
  • Serve off of smaller bowls and plates so a full-plate = less food
  • Put more fruits and vegetables on your grocery list, sign-up for a farmshare, or plant a garden!

Please share other tips and principles that help you put the right energy into your body.

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