Okay, enough of these diet and nutritional generalizations. You’re reading this blog because you have no idea where to begin or how to start losing weight, not because you want to hear me wax poetic about how strong you are for really deciding to change your life, or how you’re really worth the time and effort, and how you’re not alone and blah blah blah. All of those things are true, but it’s time we start getting serious and serious means DETAILS.
From an early age we’re taught that food is just something we’re supposed to eat three times a day, but no one ever gets around to teaching you what food actually does for you. Sure, those elementary and middle school teachers attempt to teach you the basics of nutrition, but in my opinion they are hitting way off of the mark with that one. When you’re in middle school you’re just starting to learn about and enter into social circles, just beginning to form your own opinions about the world around you, so you couldn’t care less about what Mr. Run-N-Jump has to say about diet. Besides, when you’re in middle school you could eat a bus and still be okay because your body is just that strong.
Words like “calories”, “protein”, “carbohydrates”, “cholesterol”, don’t mean that much to you and so they don’t sink in. What you’re left with is an image of food that you’re taught in the second grade and that will remain food-gospel to you well into your adult life. An image of food, by the way, that is wrong.
You see that? Everyone recognizes that. The Infamous Food Groups. Grains, Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Dairy and Fat, all with the number of servings you should be having each day. It’s pretty, it’s traditional, it’s standard. It’s also complete bullshit. If you’re trying to lose weight and you follow this stupid triangle, you will end up either maintaining your current weight or even gaining weight. Anything that tells you that you should be eating more bread than all the other groups combined is pure crap. It’s also horrible at portion control. How much is a serving of grains? Does it count as two servings of fruit if I eat eight grapes instead of seven? What the fuck does “alternative group” mean?
But this pyramid betrays you even further than that because it doesn’t give you any kind of sense of what these foods do for you. There is no evidence of actual science in that pyramid, just a taught willingness to eat whatever people tell you to. It teaches you that food is cute pictures of bread, carrots and chicken drumsticks. So it’s time to deconstruct that pyramid; to take it down, brick by brick, and start realizing what food actually is: Unprocessed, raw ENERGY. And we will begin by learning the real food groups.
For the purposes of weight loss, you can not categorize food by what section of the store you buy it in, but instead you need to categorize food by what it’s made of. You need to start thinking of the different foods you need to consume to survive. And what are those?
Protein, Carbohydrates, Fiber and Fat. As long as you are eating these things, you will stay alive. And unlike the shitty pyramid that we’re doing away with, what these foods do for your body can be easily explained through analogy using inanimate objects. Because I started off this post with a couple of pictures of automobiles, I’ll use that.
So you’ve just bought your new car/body and are ready to take it out for a spin, but before you do, let’s take a look under the hood. You see that engine? That engine represents the inside of your body; all of the organs and tissue. And why that blood of yours is nothing more than transmission fluid. It is a well-honed machine, resilient, strong and pliable, and it’s very good at keeping itself healthy . . . as long as you treat it with care and don’t pour sugar in your gas tank. It truly is a miracle in and of itself. Pretty, isn’t it?
Let’s see what things you’ll need to put in it to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Protein is what the car of you is made of, and I mean everything. Other than water and some other chemicals, you are pure protein. Skin, organs, hair, teeth, bones, everything. You are a walking piece of protein. But unlike the metal of a car which more or less stays the same shape and size without a lot of degradation, your body is constantly shedding its protein away, protein that you have to replace. Seeing as buying slabs of beef and taping it to your body doesn’t count (I know from experience), the only way you can replace what you lose is to eat more protein. Chicken, eggs, fish, beef, nuts, seeds, beans; there are many sources of protein, and you must consume them. It’s not just “You are what you eat,” but also, “You must eat what you are.” But no cannibalism, please.
Forget all the negative things you have heard about carbs, because you need them, especially if you are going to be exercising more. Carbs are the gas of your body, they are the fuel on which your body runs. Put gas in your body, and you’ll be able to run a marathon. But unlike an actual car where if you don’t put gas in it you’ll suddenly have a very heavy tent, if you don’t put fuel into your body it will begin to eat itself. Yes, you will start to burn fat, but you will also start to burn away protein, the thing your BODY IS MADE OF! Grains, cereals, roots, sugars; all cheaper than actual gas, so go ahead and fill your tank up.
Look, I never said fat was bad. Fat is great. In the car of you, fat is the oil that helps your engine run, that insulates the wires to the battery and all the electronics, and they are the air bags that protect the occupants in case of a crash. In a more real, less analogical sense, it promotes healthy skin, processes and distributes vitamins, protects your organs and nerves and maintains your body temperature. All from a little butter. That’s what I call a gift from God.
Fiber keeps your insides clean. In the car of you, fiber isn’t so much a thing you put in your car but more the act of cleaning it. It’s an oil change, changing your filters or flushing the transmission system. It regulates insulin levels, helps prevent cardiovascular disease, balances intestinal pH levels and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids. I don’t really understand that last one, but fuck me if it doesn’t sound important. This is the group of fruits and vegetables. It keeps you regular (a phrase I have always found disturbing in this context) and makes sure that you don’t keep gunk in your system. In other words, fiber is car maintenance.
There are other things that you need to be healthy (like vitamins or, I don’t know, water or whatever), but as far as things you have to chew, these four groups are what you should be focusing on. In the weeks to follow, I’ll be going over each one in more detail, but for now just start looking at your meals through this lens. Every time you sit down to eat, look at your plate and see the parts that help make and run The Car of You.