Green Dieting

Green Dieting

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I hear you asking yourself, “What is green dieting? Is it simply eating more vegetables?”

Well, yes and no, because I’m not proposing a specific diet (i.e., Atkins, the Paleo Diet, the Grapefruit Diet). Instead I’m focusing on the frame of mind you will have to adopt in order to be successful at any diet. So eating more veggies is just a small part of that.

First, apply my favorite rule: baby steps. It seems overwhelmingly impossible to build a house from scratch unless you are a carpenter. But if you reduce the project to incremental goals – today I will frame the bathroom doors, tomorrow I will run hot and cold water lines to the laundry room – the impossible becomes not only possible but an exciting adventure in DIY (unless you are looking down the barrel of winter; then it’s more likely to be exhilarating, and not in a nice way).

Every big challenge in life can be reduced to this formula, whether it’s planning a wedding or planning for that first baby. As the people from AA know, one day at a time keeps the megrims away: try to bite off more than you can chew and you are likely to choke yourself before you even hit your stride. Every good marathon runner knows about keeping something in reserve with which to cross that finish line.

Enough with the analogies and metaphors. What does this philosophy look like in action? One example would be eating soup with a teaspoon and waiting three seconds between sips. Yes, it will take you forever and you will start feeling full well before you’re done because the brain counts bites and sips before calories. Really! You will also look very elegant, both because you’re not wolfing your food and because it won’t take long for the thinner you to emerge from a lifetime of bad eating habits.

Correcting those habits includes meals during which you are seated, at a table, with a full complement of tableware and place settings. Modern eating habits, which range from grab-and-run to fast food in the car, fail to satisfy that portion of the brain which likes its meal times delineated by a bit of polish and ceremony. If you eat while doing something else, your poor brain loses the mealtime message in the chaos and remains perpetually hungry.

What else might you do? It’s my personal belief that tap water in most of the U.S. is unfit for human (or animal) consumption, partly as a result of additives like fluoride, partly because of unintentional (we hope) releases of toxic chemicals and prescription drugs. This is unfortunate in that drinking lots of water helps dieters feel fuller and quit eating sooner. But 16 ounces of toxic tap water on top of dinner may actually make you sick if you are already overweight and suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), obesity, or smoking – or if you habitually eat more than you need to feel full, forcing food to stay near the esophagus and causing all kinds of icky problems.

You may opt for faucet water filters, or under-sink filters to improve your water. I subscribe to a water service which delivers 40 gallons a month for the very reasonable rate of $30. However you choose to source your water (hopefully not in those almost-generic BPA plastic squeeze bottles, eek!), be sure to drink plenty. At meals however, try to take a sip of water with each mouthful of soup or other food, and trick your brain into thinking you are actually consuming twice as much as you are.

Other tricks to soothe the hungry part of your brain include making a whole sandwich, then cutting it in half and putting each half on a separate plate. I know it sounds weird, but your brain visually interprets this move as having two sandwiches.

There are other ways to trick your already tricky mind: make one layer of that sandwich from something sinfully delicious (smoked salmon, Brie cheese, thinly sliced prime rib). Eat each half slowly, savoring every bite – and this, slowing down our consumption of food, is one of the facets of the Slow Food movement. Or, as one contributor calls it, eating “deliberately”, as though each bite was the result of conscious choice.

If you weigh yourself during a diet, do use a digital scale. The needle on a regular (counterweighted) scale jumps around so wildly, and takes so long to settle, it gives dieters an opportunity to fudge their weight by a few (but perhaps critical) pounds. Remember, you’re only cheating yourself.

If you’re young and relatively fit, vow to get more exercise. You don’t have to join a gym and pay for the pleasure with an arm and a leg (and your firstborn). You can use the stairs one day, and the elevator the next. You may not be able to walk to work, but you can use your lunch hour to walk around and shop if you work downtown or near a shopping center. You can also elect to park farther and farther away each month and walk to and from your car. Your body will thank you; so will your budget, since close-in city parking is ridiculously expensive anywhere you go in every major city in the U.S.

Don’t try to become Super Dieter, though, and don’t beat yourself up if you fail once in a while. This is simply setting yourself up for failure. Instead, allow yourself to indulge (mildly) on weekends. A restaurant meal of some rich soup and a crisp salad with real Roquefort dressing will make it seem like you just got out of food jail! Eat with a friend so you’re not tempted to go overboard.

For those tempted by the raw food diet, I suggest don’t. Given the level of contamination in fruits and vegetables in recent years, it might be better to have some cooked veggies. The Paleo Diet, which initially seems very restrictive and highly unsavory to those of us who don’t like meat, is actually very sensible, and is based upon eating wholesome, contemporary foods from the food groups our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have thrived on during the Paleolithic era.

And yes, add that extra helping of vegetables. Green, yellow, orange, red or even purple, vegetables provide some rare and very essential vitamins and minerals. Just don’t start carrying a stone axe!

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