Healthy nutrition requires planning and effort
Use portions and timelines to your benefit
September 1, 2022 | View PDF
There are many health benefits to getting leaner, going well beyond fitting more comfortably in your clothes. It is important to savor food, take time to cook nice meals and especially take time to chew and enjoy every mouthful. Food is so yummy, and relatively abundant compared to early days in Alaska where most pioneers, including the ones from 10,000 years ago, lived by subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering. The so-called “Green Revolution” in the 1970s (which began the widespread use of GMO seeds and chemical fertilizers) massively increased production of mostly cereal grains, and this led to a big uptick in processed carbs such as cookies, chips, crackers and baked goods, as well as the “all you can eat” phenomenon, which thankfully is no longer widely promoted. Sure, our stomachs are stretchy. This design feature allows for actual periods of feast or famine, which were more common before we got our food at the grocery store. If the stomach is chronically stretched out, however, our sense of fullness after a satisfying meal requires more food. So we inevitably gain weight.
Ideally food will bring you great pleasure, but it shouldn’t be a form of entertainment. Food is necessary, thus it is much trickier to figure out when we are overdoing it. With other intoxicants, there is a clear bright line — hopefully we are choosing to live with zero cigarettes or heroin, as examples. Food can also be deployed as a drug, with bad outcomes. But in the case of food, correct choices are absolutely vital to a healthy, vibrant life.
Do your best to not eat on the run. Real food takes time. Plan ahead. Make sure you buy vegetables twice a week and eat them up first. Vegetables are the single most nutrient-dense category of food. I love to roast a big tray of cut up, robust, marinated veggies every weekend and put them up in glass Tupperware for lunch (often with a tin of sardines or a little smoked salmon) during the week. Choose four or five of the following: mushrooms, celery, zucchini, onions, garlic, carrots, asparagus, beets, cauliflower. Easy, nutritious and delicious!
Digestion is an enormously expensive process and takes a good deal of enzymes, energy and life force. As mature adults we really only need two meals daily, plus one or two fruits and/or a half cup of nuts for a snack. After an adjustment period, most folks will feel they have eaten “enough” every day with this plan, and thus can avoid packing on extra calories.
The fasting effect
In order to shrink our stomachs to a more normal physiologic size, periodic fasting is one of the most useful tools available. No gizmos or bizarre diets, just eating less. Caveat: When you are eating less, which is the single most-researched concept for improving healthy longevity, you need to choose food wisely. It seems like a big lift, but ideally you would contemplate every mouthful that goes “down the pike”. Fasting isn’t just a scientifically proven way to manage your weight. Fasting can also help remove cellular waste and even improve mood.
I enjoy engaging semi-regularly — up to once a month, certainly once a quarter — with a five-day modified fast, eating about 500 calories daily of high quality food. The developer, Dr. Valter Longo, has been a nutrition researcher for 35 years and his “Fasting Mimicking Diet” is now being studied at numerous cancer centers around the country, including MD Anderson and Mayo Clinic. Other good programs include “ReSet” by Jenny Craig, who has won many awards for her food kits. You can also check out http://www.golo.com, which is mostly directed at averting diabetes.
A well-known semi-fasting concept is called “OMAD”, which stands for “one meal a day.” Everyone should employ some degree of intermittent fasting, meaning no food for 12 hours a day, overnight. It’s great if you can prolong the fasting period to 14 or even 16 hours a day. Some folks prefer the “5 plus 2” program, in which two days a week you choose to fast or eat low calorie (500) and the other five days don’t “diet” per se, but choose vegetable-dense, health-promoting menus.
Set yourself up for success: Don’t plan your first fast over the Thanksgiving or July Fourth weekend.
Fasting is known to benefit cancer patients in many ways because healthy cells actually do well with periodic fasting, whereas cancer cells are always greedy for fuel and will die readily in low fuel settings. Cancer cells are also known to feed at night, so rearranging your food to eat earlier in the day and firmly avoiding “bedtime snacks” is an important strategy for protecting your healthy longevity.
Since we all have circulating cancer cells at all times, which hopefully our immune system picks off daily, I encourage periodic supported fasting as a cancer-preventive strategy as well as for over-all health.
Emily Kane is a naturopathic doctor based in Juneau. Contact her online at http://www.dremilykane.com.