A reader’s question on food, eating, and exercise

October 16, 2015 by Joshua
in Fitness, Habits, Nature

A reader asked the following:

Regarding exercise, I have been able to start with my running and I still have some questions around managing what i eat when.. evening times seem a kind of “let it all go” time.. any suggestions you have towards that would be great.

She suggested adding that she’s “of Asian origin.”

I’ll share what worked for me. Since there are a million books on diet and exercise, I’m not sure what I share will be new, but I can say it worked for me, and I think what works is more valuable than novelty.

First, I’ll note I used to let things go when I was home alone. I remember in graduate school I would always have ice cream in the freezer and would eat it almost every night. Until a few years ago I always had chips and pretzels at home, which I would eat almost every night.

I always ate more than I wanted but I think exercising regularly and living actively, with sports and marathons, disciplined me to eat not that much more than I wanted. Even staying generally healthy, feeling out of control troubled me a lot. Mentally feeling out of control troubled me as much as the physical results of putting on fat.

I enjoy my eating now more than ever. I eat a lot of food—mostly healthy, nutritious, flavorful, cheap food that doesn’t pollute that much.

The Key: Gradual Permanent Change

Over the years I changed small things, always moving toward more healthy eating. I would only change when I felt like changing based on learning, never because someone told me to. Some examples:

  • I made rules for myself on how much chips or pretzels to eat, so it became like a game—never letting myself eat a big bag in under three days.
  • When I learned about hydrogenated oils and corn syrup I decided I couldn’t do business with companies that sold it to me.
  • Replacing chips and pretzels with carrots, string beans, nuts, and fruit.
  • Filling my fridge with vegetables. I don’t have it in me to let them go bad, so I eat them.
  • Avoiding buying food with packaging. This is a big one. Bigger than I expected. Food without packaging tends to be close to what came out of the ground. It knocks out most of the super market but opens you up to worlds of fruits, legumes, vegetables, and so on. Plus you pollute a lot less.
  • Avoiding eating food with fiber removed. This is another big one. It’s hard to eat a lot of food that’s full of fiber.
  • Avoiding restaurants. The more I replace pasta, rice, and bread where fiber has been removed, with vegetables, legumes, and fruit, the more I look at restaurants as trying to profit at the expense of my health. They hardly give me vegetables.
  • Always having spices, olive oil, soaking beans, and other habits that mean it’s easy to cook healthy food with less time, effort, or money than going out.
  • Buying a pressure cooker. I love that thing. Plus the rice cooker / vegetable steamer / miracle appliance.

Months or years passed between different steps. I didn’t plan. I just made each a habit, then kept learning about food.

The result is that I’m

  • Eating as much volume of food as ever
  • Saving money
  • Saving time
  • Enjoying more flavor
  • Getting more definition on my abs

and other benefits.

Also: Exercise

Exercise doesn’t burn that many calories, so I don’t find it helps lose weight that much, but it builds discipline, which makes creating habits easier. Plus you don’t want to fill yourself up when you know you’re going to do burpees soon after. After I exercise I don’t feel like eating unhealthy foods.

Obvious things, just in case

Soda, fruit juice, ice cream, candy bars, and other sugar and chemical monstrosities don’t feel like food any more to me, so much as entertainment for my mouth that gives me fat, disease, tooth decay, and so on.

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