Last month I spent three days soaking up the latest research about how to prevent and reverse disease by eating plants. This year’s Plant-Based Prevention of Disease Conference (#PPOD2019) felt more personal and engaged than previous sessions, starting with the opening talk by Matt Ruscigno. He wanted us to know that although a healthy diet can do us a lot of good, the system is often rigged against us. Other speakers talked about how the US government sides with Big Ag, not the populace. But before we could despair, an expert told how she helped even people with food addictions overcome temptation. Some of her ideas may help you overcome the challenges of healthy eating.
Why Is It Hard to Eat Healthy?
- Portion sizes creep up every year.
- The built environment is for cars and not for exercise.
- The US Farm Bill supports unhealthy food. Less than one percent of federal subsidies go to fruit and vegetable farmers, but nearly three quarters support meat and dairy. This is why a salad costs more than a Big Mac.
- “Eating the rainbow” can easily be diverted from bright fruit and vegetables to brightly packaged processed food. Rusigno pointed out that cereals for kids feature cartoon characters with their eyes pointed down to kid-level, building trust and triggering purchases.
- Advertising is everywhere. Kids see thousands of ads, often for fast food, candy, and cereal.
Big Ag vs. Healthy Eating
Another speaker, Susan Levin, talked about how the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines make it hard to eat healthy food. The guidelines influence the menus at schools, hospitals, military bases, retirement homes, and more. The draft of the 2015 guidelines had a strong section on eating a sustainable diet. The final version, massaged by Big Ag lobbyists, dropped the sustainability advice and added that cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern.” The media told the public that eating all the eggs they wanted was just fine, resulting in a spike in egg consumption and no doubt heart disease and deaths.
Fortunately, the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine sued the government, showing that the Egg Board had paid millions to remove the life-saving cholesterol warnings. PCRM won (whoo-hoo!), so the guidelines were updated to say that we should “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible.”
The “10 Commandments” for Overcoming these Challenges
Weight-loss specialist Chef AJ gave us her rules for healthy eating, especially for those who have food addictions. She says:
- Thou shall eat simply. The more choices at every meal, the more you will eat.
- Thou shall not embellish thine food with chemicals: sugar, oil, flour, alcohol, or salt.
- Thou shall not eat at night (see last week’s post for more on when to eat). She suggests three to five hours between your last bite and lying down.
- Thou shall not eat emotionally. Remember that biological hunger can be satisfied by fruit and vegetables, but emotional hunger wants something sweet, salty, or full of fat
- Thou shall exercise. It builds your self-esteem, especially if done in the morning. You’ve started the day doing something good for yourself!
- Thou shall not make excuses or build exceptions. Don’t eat something just because your Aunt Junie baked it for you, you’re at an office party, you need to clean out the container, etc. Once you get started with exceptions, everything is an exception.
- Thou shall not engage with an enabler. If someone keeps bringing you food you shouldn’t eat or encouraging you to act against your best interests, say goodbye. (This rule made the audience gasp.)
- Thou shall not eliminate starch. Starch (complex carbohydrates) fills you up and gives you energy. She eats white potatoes every day, just not ones loaded with items forbidden by rule 2.
- Thou shall eat vegetables for breakfast. Think baked sweet potatoes or the kale in my Strong-Bones Smoothie.She also recommends having half your plate be vegetables for every meal.
- Thou shall sanitize your environment. “If it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth.” She says to purge your cupboards and refrigerator of unhealthy food.
Given the insights from the other two talks above, consider cleaning up your visual environment too. I very rarely watch commercial TV, don’t subscribe to magazines that push consumption, and buy directly from farmers as much as I can. When you go to a grocery store or restaurant, be aware that they are trying to get you to buy more than you need.