Often getting a healthier diet is not just about what you are eating, but how much of it. For example, there is no real reason to stop eating foods like pasta or cheese – but a mound that fills the plate is always going to be unhealthy.
Many of us make the mistake of eating until it is uncomfortable to eat more. This is never going to work out well because we go on eating after we are satisfied and all of a sudden we have overloaded our digestive system. The digestive system is not like a muscle, that will get more powerful with every workout. We need enzymes to digest food, and when they are overworked it causes a deficiency.
In this respect, eating healthily can be as much a matter of making small changes as doing anything radical. Even a seemingly cosmetic change like using smaller plates can be helpful. We are conditioned to think that empty space on a plate is a bad thing. All that really matters is how we feel after eating. If after a meal you don’t feel hungry, then the meal has done its job.
In France, a country with less of an obesity problem with most, the diet is far from boring. The major difference between there and many English-speaking countries is that they eat less food at a sitting. The French do not eat until they can eat no more – rather they eat until they have eaten enough, and enjoy the food for its taste. In this respect, there is a lot we can learn from them.
Although it is generally accepted that the only truly reliable way to avoid weight gain is to eat healthily and exercise, the truth is that for many people, this seems like a hell of a grind. It takes a lot of effort, and it can be a while before you see substantial results from it – so taking a short cut becomes more attractive.
The most disturbing “alternative” to eating healthily is eating disorders. Most commonly, anorexia is chosen by people who feel that healthy eating still has too many calories involved. Although associated primarily with teenage girls and young women, anorexia is not limited to that section of society.
Bulimia, a disorder from the same family as anorexia, is becoming more and more common. Bulimia sufferers will eat where anorexics starve themselves, and will often binge to the point where they are uncomfortably full before inducing vomiting to ensure that food is not digested. While both anorexia and bulimia do allow sufferers to lose weight and keep it off, they carry very real dangers.
Although being slim is considered to be the glittering prize by many, it is at a price. If you are not eating the right nutrients, or are purging them through vomiting, it is impossible to keep clear, healthy skin and hair, and your energy levels will go through the floor. It is also unlikely that anorexics or bulimia sufferers will get to a point where they feel thin enough, and many can go to the point of killing themselves through malnutrition.
Many people feel that the problem with healthy eating is simply that it is not interesting enough – while salads and vegetables are all well and good, there is little sparkle to them. And while this is a view that is easy to sympathize with, the honest truth is that there are plenty of interesting options if you know where to look. Sometimes all you need is something a little bit different.
Geography, weirdly, is something that has a bearing on typical diets. In many western countries, the climate is cold and rainy, and we are conditioned to eat heavier foods that are not so easily digested – we are expected to have a little more “meat on our bones”. And so conversely, trying cuisine from a hotter climate might be the key.
India, for example, is a country where the weather is invariably hot, and spice is a major ingredient in the cuisine of that country. Partly this is because it grows there and is easily affordable, and additionally spice in a diet makes it more readily digestible and doesn’t add fat. Good Indian food is a very worthwhile option in a healthy diet.
Of course, any food if eaten to excess will cause you to gain weight. But mixing up your diet to give it an international flavor will keep things interesting, give you a range of nutrients which will be good to your body and will get you thinking about food in a different way – which will be beneficial in the long run.