It’s a Lifestyle Not a Diet
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” —Virginia Woolf
Hey, hey! Welcome to Lesson 4!
The term “diet” means different things. Many people associate it with a calorie-restricted, un-fun way to eat, but a diet can also refer to the general way in which a certain group of people eat, that is, a diet can be a lifestyle. In this section we’ll talk about different aspects of diet as a lifestyle.
The Plant-Based Diet
The plant-based diet is a whole food diet that features vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts and excludes or minimizes meat, dairy products, eggs as well as refined foods like bleached flour and refined sugar. This diet stresses whole foods over processed foods, and is healthy because it includes a lot of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits.
It is not the same as vegan or vegetarian as those diets are typically linked to religious and ethical beliefs and completely exclude animal products, although vegan and vegetarian diets are certainly plant-based, but a plant-based diet is not necessarily vegan or vegetarian.
The study “Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets” found that, “The major benefits for patients who decide to start a plant-based diet are the possibility of reducing the number of medications taken to treating a variety of chronic conditions, lowering body weight, decreasing risk of cancer, and reducing the risk of death from ischemic heart disease.”
The Mediterranean Diet
Eating Well calls the Mediterranean Diet, “perhaps the world’s healthiest.” That’s because this diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, more poultry and fish (over fatty red meat), olive oil and yes, red wine in moderation.
One study notes that, “Growing evidence indicates that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial to human health. Recent studies reveal that the cardioprotective effects of the Mediterranean diet are effective through various mechanisms.” The researchers suggest that the limited amount of animal fats in this diet leads to lower blood pressure.
This diet is heavily plant-based and is characterized by the use of olive oil and for its inclusion of red wine in moderation.
Hara Hachi Bu
Hara Hachi Bu is a Confucian teaching that involves eating until you are 80% full. A type of calorie control, it is spoken prior to a meal, like a prayer of grace and thanksgiving and teaches people to simply stop eating when they are satisfied, rather than continuing until they are uncomfortably satisfied. It usually takes 15-20 minutes after eating for the brain to get the message of satiety. So eating until you are 80% full insures that the body has had enough and not overeaten in those last 20 minutes.
The well-known “Okinawan Centenarian Study” mentions that the practice of hara hachi bu contributes to the lean nature of the Okinawan centenarians and that this calorie restriction might suggest less free radical damage from eating and metabolizing less.
Breaking Bread with Friends and Family
For the most part, the diets and lifestyles mentioned in this section stress eating whole foods, mostly plants and lean proteins, which is a concept found in Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules. It is also important to slow down and connect with family and friends at the end of the day over a meal. The healthiest meals are those cooked from whole food plant-based ingredients at home.
Make cooking and dining with family and friends an event. Not everyone enjoys cooking and entertaining at home and this might intimidate some, but I encourage baby steps like putting some flowers on the table (per Pollan) and certainly putting the devices away to minimize distractions and interruptions.
Start with small goals like aiming to cook one or two meals a week. Encourage family and friends to help and cook beside you and embrace the social aspect of connecting with loved ones after a long day.
Tomorrow: Get those sneakers on because tomorrow we launch into exercise!
Eating More — Or Less — Of 10 Foods May Cut Risk Of Early Death
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