Early in 2010, a few events changed my dietary habits drastically. In 2009, I lost 66 pounds by limiting my caloric intake and exercising. But I had not paid much attention to what I was eating, only how much. I had some vague notions about keeping down the fat and I leaned toward low fat products.
Then one evening early last year, my boyfriend and I watched Food Inc on Netflix streaming. I had seen Food Inc before, but for some reason it really impacted me this time. As a teenager I had been a vegetarian and this had continued until I was in my mid twenties. Then gradually, I stopped caring and I started eating meat. Without the vegetarian barrier, I also started eating fast food like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
What was I doing? It hit me all at once. I was taking all these steps to improve my health, but I was still feeding my body the same types of processed foods that had contributed to my weight gain in the first place. I was still doing the same thing: willfully ignoring what I deep down knew about my food- that in general, it probably wasn’t very good for me.
The next day I stopped eating meat and coincidentally went on a business trip to San Antonio, TX. Texas is probably not the first choice for vegetarian cuisine, but when I decide to do something, I do it now. In the airport, I purchased a copy of In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. I read the whole book over 2 days and it sparked the change to the way I eat now.
You do not have to be a vegetarian or eat a clean diet to lose weight. But I think a lot of us come to the realization somewhere along the way, that we want more than just weight loss. We want the foods we eat to be as beneficial and pleasurable as possible. The way I see it, if I’m eating a lot less food, the food better be damned good!
Throughout the year, I have photographed many of the meals I have prepared. My intent is to share the joy I have found in the way I eat now. This can be summed up by a few simple rules*
- If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it- so packaged foods with long lists of ingredients are out. Keep it short, simple and plain real food.
- Cooking it yourself is always the best option.
- No artificial sweeteners, no sweeteners in products where they do not belong (HFCS in bread, for example
- Buy the plain version and add flavor yourself (add fruit and nuts to yogurt, for example)
- Eat a variety of different foods. Try not to get stuck in a rut. Experiment.
- No meat unless I know where it came from. No factory farmed meat. Since generally I cannot afford the type of meat I am comfortable eating, and because it suits my personal tastes to do so, I rarely eat meat. Three time total in the past year.
I do think this way of eating has helped me lose weight, because it has made me really enjoy the whole process from shopping to cooking. Sometimes I see dieters taking the attitude that food is only fuel. I held that point of view for a bit myself. But I think it isn’t quite right. We shouldn’t deny that food is many things to us as human beings besides fuel. It’s pleasure and social celebration and ritual and culture. All valuable ways to enjoy food. And I have found that I can enjoy food in all these ways, while losing or maintaining my weight, as long as I remember the key: moderation.
Cheers to 2011! I hope to share many more recipes and food ideas this year as I continue to experiment with ways to enjoy healthy, beautiful, fresh and delicious meals.