Obtaining Goals

For most, the term "diet" holds negative connotation of a temporized, restricted lifestyle, where one must be a CPA to keep track of calories. I've never used that word myself, all during my 75+ lb. loss (and still going down), nor have I counted calories. Instead, I use a better term: "lifestyle switch." That's basically all it is, switching one food choice for another and making it a permanent part of your life. This "lifestyle switch" is important, whether a person needs to lose weight or not.

Maybe you personally know people who live and breathe "health food," telling you "you are what you eat." You may recognize benefits of healthier eating, but right now tofu and that other foreign stuff they eat don't sound quite palatable. It may make you feel daunted by the thought of having to live on a "weird" regimen just to live healthier. Especially when your most current meal was a Greaseburger combo. You've grown accustomed to Greaseburger and their 32-galloner of HFCS-flavored soda pop. How can you live without them?

My opinion why so many fail to change bad eating habits is they feel they have to go "cold turkey." Now if you have doctor's advice for a drastic, immediate change, you do have to follow that advice and go "cold turkey." Otherwise, I've found it's best to start gradually. Bad eating habits don't start overnight. It takes a gradual change to that lifestyle. Likewise, good eating habits will feel less a restriction if it's a gradual change to get there.

It's said if a person gets acclimated to a certain level of salt in foods, that person will lose its taste and require more salt to notice it. After each acclimation, the person will keep adding more salt. My opinion is, manufactured sweeteners have the same effect. That's why, when I first began trying certain health cereals, they seemed so bland. I was accustomed to sugary cereals, and at that, HFCS-laden products. HFCS makes foods taste vastly sweeter than regular sugar. So, I switched to the few brands of cereal that had regular sugar in them, not HFCS. Once I got accustomed to that, then I went back to health cereals I'd previously tried. They no longer seemed bland, especially after adding fresh fruit, a healthy sweetener in itself.

These are the steps I took when I started on my way to healthier eating. Since mainstream health guides seem to take a cold turkey approach, I never paid attention to them while starting on my health journey. These gradual steps I discovered on my own.

Step One:

Read labels of foods you have at home. Not just the Nutrition Label, but the Ingredient Label, usually found beneath the Nutrition Label. Be aware of what you're eating, so you know what to avoid on your next shopping trip. Don't be mislead by packaging that reads "all natural ingredients." It's a catch-phrase often used as a marketing ploy to make consumers believe it's safe.

Watch for the main culprits that sabotage good nutrition: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). These have been documented as having contributed to unhealthy weight gain and other problems. Notwithstanding that HFCS and MSG also go by aliases, you can tweak those out later, as you learn more on nutrition.

Rather than HFCS soda pop, buy the kinds (mostly imported from Mexico) that contain real sugar. Real sugar, though still questionable by nutritionists, is much better than HFCS. Yes, it does cost more than the HFCS-laden stuff, but you'll drink less. Sugar won't make you crave more, as HFCS does. I've learned this from personal experience. Other friends who are used to HFCS soda pop have tried the sugar version at my suggestion and told me of similar results. They found themselves drinking less. Instead of the family going through two 2-litre bottles with HFCS, they only drank half of a 2-litre bottle with real sugar.

Get aquainted with what farmers' markets and farmers' market store chains offer. (Farmers' market stores have been the only place where I've found crackers without HFCS.) At least check one of them out by Step Three. Also, read as much as you can from authorities on nutrition, whether you feel you could adhere to their suggestions right now or not.

You should be drinking half your weight (in lbs.) in ounces of water, so be sure you're getting enough water. Not only is water good for you, research has found that drinking pure water (that is, without the fizz) increases metabolism.

And, it goes without saying, throughout these steps, make sure you're getting active. If you're not exercising at least 5-10 minutes per day by at least walking, start now. If you're already beyond that level, increase what you're doing by 5-10 minutes. Before long, you could work up to a marathon.

Step Two:

Eat out less often. I rarely eat out anymore, mainly for economical reasons, but also because I like my own cooking better. (I'm not conceited, just honest! ;-) There do exist good restaurants that serve quality meals. However, by making meals yourself, you have control over the ingredients, not to mention the monetary savings.

Start packing a workday lunch, if you haven't already. Try to avoid pre-packaged meals such as frozen dinners, even if they are advertised as "healthy." Many still contain HFCS and/or MSG. Leftover homemade stir-frys/rice bowls and leftover homemade pizzas are perfect for popping in the workplace microwave. If you're in the mood for sandwiches, a pita pocket with nutritious filling would be a good alternative to sliced bread. The Savory Recipes page has links to sites that give great nutritional lunch ideas. To drink, you might consider bringing lemon slices to add to bottled water as an alternative to sweetened drinks.

If your job allows it, you might consider having a work-through lunch at your desk. That way, while working, you can graze through your meal instead of rushing. When time comes for clocking out for your break, you can spend it walking outside, to add more to your activity level. If you have 10-15 minute breaks, those are useful to spend walking, too.

Step Three:

Make your meals homemade as much as possible. My most-used small appliances are my breadmaker and George Foreman grill, followed by my ice cream machine. Nearly all store breads, with exception of Orowheat, contain HFCS. Fast food restaurant meals, especially meats, are susceptible to MSG. And ice cream from most stores and shops are laden with HFCS!

With a breadmaker, not only can you make loaf breads, but pizza dough, pasta, and jams. Because the mixing blade gets baked into the loaf when using bake settings, I use the dough-only setting for breads. When it's done kneading I can just pop it in a bread pan and into a preheated oven. Once the bread is cooled, you can slice the bread (an electric slicer makes a simple job) and store it in a large zip seal bag. Remember, homemade bread, free from preservatives, can mold faster than those from the store. If you feel you won't be using all the bread in the next few days, you can freeze whatever amount you won't be using, taking out a slice at a time as you need it.

Besides freezing breads, the freezer is good to store other items you can use for home cooking. You'll have plenty of room, now that you won't be stocking it with packages of frozen foods, laden with bad ingredients!!! When fresh strawberries are in season and best priced, I buy extras to freeze. Taking out the hulls, I slice the strawberries and put them in zip seal bags. Later, I can use them for making ice cream, a smoothie, to add to lemon slices in flavoring a glass of water, or for pancake topping in lieu of syrup (real maple, that is, not the HFCS imitation syrup). When I have a surplus of lemons or limes, I can squeeze the juice and freeze in ice trays, to make individual glasses of lemonade/limeade later. Or, slice the lemons/limes and freeze in a zip seal bag, as a lemonade/limeade garnish or for flavoring water. These frozen slices are quite useful for recipes requiring lemon or lime zest, as they're easy to grate.

Some of my stir-frys call for ginger root and julienne strips of jicama. I found ginger root freezes well. And, at least for my recipe, frozen jicama does well, too. Either cut it into strips before freezing, or let it thaw an hour or so before slicing. And, it goes without saying, meats can be frozen. Despite living solo, I usually buy the family-size package of fresh chicken breasts, then freeze each piece in a zip seal bag. That way, I'll always have chicken for stir-frys, chicken wraps, chicken salads, my favorite Chicken Dijone recipe, etc.

A large stir-fry pan is handy to have, as stir-fried meals are quick and easy to make. Watch out for pre-packaged stir-fry meals at the store. They can be laden with HFCS and MSG. Instead, meals can be made from scratch at less than half the cost. For stir-fry ideas, see Savory Recipes page for links to various recipe websites.

As for exercise, keep increasing little by little. From my own experience, once I rid myself of HFCS, I had more energy to do more activity. Talk about a win situation all around!

Step Four:

For me, Step Four is still in progress. I'm learning more about the aliases of HFCS and MSG. I'm trying to eliminate as many processed foods as I can. After watching King Corn and other documentaries on the subject, all that I've read about corn-fed livestock has hit home. With farmers' market store chains offering grass-fed alternative meats, I plan on changing my meat-buying habits. It's true grass-fed costs more than corn-fed, but it needs to be put in perspective.

In the years during the Great Depression and up to the 1970s, meat prices were high, but of good quality. Fast food was rare. Consumers mostly cooked and ate at home. They planned their meals, using meat sparingly. Calculating the price of meat pre-1970s (which, of course, was all grass-fed) and the average worker's wage, I would say it's about equal to the price of buying grass-fed today with what today's average worker earns. 

Beginning in the 1970s, meat became cheaper due to corn-fed livestock production. But with America's—and now the world's—increasing appetite (likely due to these corn by-products!), meat demand has increased. We have multiple fast food joints on every corner that sell cooked meat of corn-fed origin. We have mega grocery stores that supply us with uncooked meat of corn-fed origin. We can have meat like this for every meal, every day. But, hey, it's much cheaper than what was spent on meat pre-1970. Yet, we have to buy at least double to triple what one would during the pre-1970 era to satisfy our "munchies."

Is it really a savings?