Harry’s Top Ten Rules For Eating Well & Living Even Better

~ Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much ~

For my dear sister-in-law who has oh-so-unfairly (but, nonetheless, accurately) accused me of “using too many words”.  She (like my wife) would prefer that I keep stuff simple.  Good enough…although, as with most things, context is everything.  You can bet that whatever is “simple” probably isn’t the whole story.

With all of that in mind, here’s my first stab at an admittedly fairly broad topic…all of which is subject to change as my own understanding of these principles grows.   Still, this is a good start for a new year.

By the way, the above quote (from Bessie Anderson Stanley’s poem “Success”) was popularized during the Arts & Crafts movement early in the 20th century, which – though often silly and counterproductive – reflected a sincere yearning to return to a more natural way of life that was becoming lost to increasing industrialization.  To one extent or another, the following “rules” – presented here a full century later – address the very same problems that have continued to worsen ever since.

“The Rules”

  1. Limit Your Carbs:  Unless you’re a marathon runner try not to eat any more than 40-50 grams of carbohydrates in any single meal or, otherwise in any 3-4 hour period.  That’s roughly equivalent to a cup of pasta, rice, or cereal, or a smallish baked potato.  But, don’t forget to include the fruit and (hopefully, the huge pile of) vegetables that might also be included in the meal.  Mostly, this is as simple as minimizing your starches, taking them off the “main stage” of the meal.  Use whole grains when you do have them, such as adding brown rice or barley to a rich beef & vegetable soup.
  2. Eat Fat To Lose Fat:  Don’t be such a scaredy-cat about fat.  You actually need it, it makes your food taste better, and it satisfies your hunger better than any other food (making it far easier to limit your carbs).  As you’ll discover, limiting your carbs is what will keep you trim.  And, contrary to popular misconception, your diet should include some saturated animal fats, without which (the stuff on your own body, just for instance) you’d surely die.  Unlike carbohydrates, fat is absolutely necessary to good health.  Since protein is similarly necessary, should it really  surprise us that one of the best ways to get both just happens come conveniently packaged together?  I think not.  As Dr. Phil likes to say, “life gives you clues, your job is to pick them up”.
  3. Eat Healthy Whole Foods:  Sounds reasonable enough, but actually finding good food can be a bit harder than you think.  Here’s another clue, though:  if it says “healthy” on the label, it probably isn’t.  Most pre-prepared foods and, sadly, most restaurant foods are, typically, rather unhealthy.   And, no, it’s not just all those additives, but the primary ingredients too, which are typically produced, prepared, and packaged in ways that reduce the value and the “bio-availability” of their nutrients. Eat real food produced by real farmers (or by nature itself) in best possible and most natural ways.
  4. Change Your Mind & Change Your Life:  Give up your dogmas and your prejudices (and your jaded taste buds).  In the end, most of these are just protecting our addictions.  Given half a chance, our bodies really are able to tell us what we need.  When we limit our palates to foods that gratify our simplest “wants”, we  inevitably learn to ignore these vital messages about what we actually “need”.  How else do so many of us develop such deeply seated food phobias?   Sometimes, the real problem is doing the same thing over and over again.  Your body absolutely thrives with variation in your diet and activity levels.  Adjusting to change, to surprise, even to periodic shock, will actually make you stronger.  Doing or eating the same thing over and over will dull your senses and weaken your body over time.    
  5. Learn To Really Cook:  The best food is usually pretty simple.  It is quite possible (even probable) that the foods you currently think that “you don’t like” have always been poorly cooked or prepared with substandard ingredients.  The habitual (or, shall we say, dogmatic) removal of fat and salt (and other seasonings) and always relying on pre-prepared “convenience” ingredients will limit the quality of your meal.  Some foods are best raw, some merely warmed, some slow cooked for hours.  Honor the ingredients.  Your meal should be a celebration of life, not a duty or a penance.  Oh, yeah, share it with someone you love.
  6. Take Your Time & Use A Smaller Spoon:  If you’ve followed the above advice, your food should be a lot more appealing than the average can or bag of dog food.  As a result, you might consider slowing down, savoring the taste, texture, and flavor of each ingredient without simply “wolfing it down”.  This aids meal-time conversation, not to mention digestion. 
  7. Take A Walk:  Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.  Walking is great for your digestion, your metabolism, and your state of mind.  It is a time to enjoy nature, fresh air, to enjoy God’s handiwork, to be contemplative, to be grateful and satisfied with a full belly.  And, by the way, if eating makes you tired – rather than energized – there’s clearly something wrong with what you’re eating, don’t you think?
  8. Indulge Yourself:  Healthy living should never, ever, be about what you “can’t do”.  Rather, it should be all about fully enjoying all of God’s blessings in your life.  We just might hope these blessings include a fit and energetic body, a giddy excitement to experience the trials and triumphs of each new day, and a welcome and rejuvenating rest in a comfortable bed when the day is done.  Feel free to “sprinkle” your day with a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, a foot massage, a hot bath, a really good cup of coffee, an exotic treat, some radical (or soothing) music, a meaningful conversation, a good book, a deep rumbling belly laugh, a moment of intimacy, and a heart-felt prayer of thanks. 
  9. Go Outside & Play: This is more than just “taking a walk”.  Get in touch with your inner 10-year old, put on your favorite jeans and tennis shoes and roll in the grass.  And, yeah, you need those “play clothes” too, don’t you?  When (not if) you start feeling better, you might just remember how much fun “recess” still is.  For a 10-year old, running can be almost like flying, something we all used to know.  Video games, however realistic they might seem, are not an adequate substitute.  And, by the way, we need sunlight too…you may have no idea just how much your body responds to it. 
  10. Sleep Like The Dead:  OK, well, you know what I mean.  If you’ve squeezed everything you can out of the day, this should actually be really easy.  Unfortunately, for many of us, it isn’t.  Most of us sleep too little and too poorly.  Perhaps more than anything else, poor sleeping habits will suck the life out of you.  Losing weight will help, as will exercise, cutting out late night snacking, and – good grief – why does anyone have a TV in the bedroom?  I’m beginning to wonder why we have one in the living room, but – seriously – the bedroom too?

OK, there you go sis.  I really did try to keep that simple and brief.  But, here are a few more “top tens” to help.

Top Ten Superfoods:

  1. Raw, fresh, (and even pickled) vegetables:  brocoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, carrots, peas, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, onion, mushrooms, artichokes, and so much more.
  2. Raw almonds, walnuts & pecans
  3. Olives & olive oil (with or without vinegar)
  4. Wild Salmon, shellfish, sardines, game birds & venison
  5. Grass-fed and/or free range beef, pork, and poultry (plus their eggs), along with their natural fat
  6. Full-fat Greek-style yogurt, raw cream, real butter, and oh-so-many cheeses
  7. Moderate but regular berries & fruit:  blueberries, melons, apples, pears, etc.  Oh, yeah, don’t forget the avocados.
  8. Sparing use of good legumes:  beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  9. Small servings of red wine and dark chocolate or sweet treats made with honey or maple syrup
  10. Indicental or irregular servings of whole grain bread, tortillas, rice, pasta, barley, etc. 

 And, here:  Top Ten  Foods To Avoid:

  1. All man-made, industrially produced, “psuedo fats”:  crisco, canola, margarine and the foods cooked in them (McDonald’s fries, etc.).  Stick with olive oil for low-temperature applications and lard, tallow, or butter for everything else.
  2. Refined sugars and carbohydrates, including anything with corn syrup and most white rice and pasta or white bread.
  3. Any combination of the above:  Can you say “Twinkies” or “Krispy Creme”?
  4. All pre-packaged, pre-prepared, over-processed, dyed, enriched, and genetically modified “industrial” foods.  This includes almost every boxed or canned food on the shelf, excepting some canned vegetables and meats. 
  5. Most every “reduced fat”, “low-fat” or “non-fat” dairy product.  Most of these  do have lactose – a simple carb – and lots of good protein, of course; both of which will be better utilized with all of the original fat content.  Unfortunately, homogenized dairy alters the molecular character of these otherwise good fats and may do more harm than good.  As a result, I tend to stick with raw or fermented dairy, except for the cream in my coffee.
  6. Full sugar soda and, yes, even big doses of fruit juice.  There’s hardly a difference here and it’s quite typical to get 40+ grams of carbs per “serving”.  Try vegetable juices or much smaller serving sizes instead.
  7. Artificial sweeteners – though some are better than others, some studies indicate that they may still affect your metabolic processes, even if they don’t add calories or glucose to your blood.  If you’ve really got a yen for a soda, you might have to go the diet route, just don’t make a habit of it.
  8. Too much fiber – This was a surprise to me, but we may be overworking and “tiring” our perastaltic system, packing too much “bulk” you-know-where.  Fiber is a good thing, but some of us might be over-doing it too.
  9. Almost any food eaten after 7 or 8 PM – Depending on your schedule, you really will benefit from a longish “fast” of 10-12 hours per day.  Good restorative sleep will also depend on the body switching over to a fat-burning mode overnight.  Late night snacking is usually a sign of inadequate (high-carb) eating earlier in the day.  If you’re hungry at bed-time, you probably didn’t get enough fat and protein at dinner-time.  Get enough and your appetite will better accommodate you actual caloric needs.
  10. Skipping meals – Just don’t do it.  Rather, eat a fully balanced meal early in the day and snack as required all day long, so long as you’re getting sufficient protein and fat.  High-carb snacks and skipped meals will put your blood sugar on a roller-coaster ride, lead to afternoon energy deficits, binge eating, and low metabolic function.

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