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What The Rest of the World Can Teach Us About Healthy Eating

I don’t know about you, but I love to travel.

Some of my most-cherished life memories are set in far-away places. Costa Rica is a personal favorite of mine.

There is something about stepping away from the daily routines of life and experiencing something fresh and new that excites me. It’s easy to lose yourself and your creative spark when you look at the same walls day after day after day. Don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about what I do and the patients I serve, but sometimes I need to step away.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who feels this way.

One of the best things about traveling to foreign countries is the food. It would be easy to assume that, because I’m a health and wellness coach, I live on celery and protein powder.

Not a chance. I love to eat.

The difference is that I have learned how to eat in a way that satisfies my body and my soul. I can activate my palette and keep my body operating at optimal performance. The Mediterranean Diet is one of my favorites.

The World Eats Better Than You

One of the difficulties of living in the United States (if you can truthfully say that there are any) is that we have conditioned ourselves to love eating garbage. I don’t say that to be crude, but when you stop and look objectively at the things we call “food” in this country, compared to the rest of the world, you have to scratch your head.

I love Publix as much as the next guy, but let’s be honest: most of the stuff on the shelves in the middle of the store came from a test tube. If you ever read the labels on the back of the packaged dry foods, you’ll find ten-syllable words that most humans can’t pronounce. Those are chemical names. You can make chemicals taste good, but you can’t make them nourishing. Your body knows the difference between nourishing food and processed food-like substances, even if your tongue can’t tell them apart.

Many of those ingredients listed on the back of the packages are not food at all, but preservatives meant to keep the food from rotting while it sits on the shelf. They are not food, so the cells of your body can’t process them. It’s no different from eating automotive paint (OK, automotive paint will kill you in minutes if you eat it, so there is a slight difference).

If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat It

A good rule of thumb is, “if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t eat it.”

Additives like maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, sodium sulfate, and butylated hydroxyanisole won’t kill you immediately, but they will gradually make you wish you had avoided them. Some of them coagulate and form masses in your fatty tissue, some form a paste along the insides of your blood vessels, and others interfere with your nervous system. Aspartame (usually known as the sweetener, Nutrasweet) has been demonstrated to cause nerve damage, especially the optic nerve. Others are linked to brain damage, eating away the myelin coating of nerve endings, and causing intense joint pain.

Do you remember the times we’ve talked about the various forms of inflammation (arthritis, asthma, Chron’s disease, Irritable Bowel Disease, psoriasis, etc.)? Almost all of them link back to “food.”

Visitors from other countries are often fascinated by the bizarre things we call food here (although many of the brands that promote America’s most toxic foods are quickly establishing markets around the world). Even people who grew up in America just two generations ago marvel at how much the food has changed since they were young. Ask your grandmother sometime how tomatoes used to taste, and you’ll likely get an earful. Some of that has to do with the way farming has changed over the years, and how our topsoil has been depleted of nutrients like magnesium. It makes a difference in the taste.

The American Diet Is Failing

I got off on this rant for a reason.

The problems with the Standard American Diet (SAD) are numerous and severe. They are also deeply entrenched in our culture. Think about how sugary cereals are marketed to children and greasy fast food is marketed to adults.

And the results are hard to ignore:

  • rampant obesity
  • a spike in cases of diabetes and heart disease
  • increases in dementia and behavioral disorders
  • the explosion of food allergies
  • loss of energy and libido
  • spikes in prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds
  • increases in cancer

These are all happening in America, which is supposed to be the world leader in healthcare. We rank at the bottom among industrialized nations in healthcare outcomes. Do you know where else these problems are starting to emerge? In nations where American food is becoming popular.

The food is the problem, but there are alternatives. I want to show you that there is a better way to eat than what we sell ourselves here in the United States.

There Is A Better Way To Eat

Over the next few weeks, I want to spend some time looking at a way of eating that has kept people healthy for over 5,000 years. One of the guiding principles of my practice is that we need to get back to living the way God designed our bodies to operate:

  • We weren’t designed to live in closed boxes, breathing recycled air (caveat: I enjoy air conditioning as much as you do).
  • We weren’t designed to eat and drink chemicals.
  • We weren’t designed to stay awake 20 hours a day, flooding our brains with lights.

The more we can get back in touch with our original design, the healthier we will be.

Ancient Eating Secrets Revealed

When Alexander the Great ruled the known world from Macedonia to India, he didn’t eat cookies. He enjoyed sweet snacks like the rest of us, but he got them from the earth: honey, berries, and coconuts.

When Aristotle was teaching us how to ask questions and think about the answers, he was cooking with olive oil. He ate a lot of beans and vegetables. His meat was mostly fish and a little lamb (little lamb, little lamb). He drank wine with his dinner.

How do we know this? Because their descendants are still eating that way, and still enjoying good health well into their nineties (and, in places like Ikaria, Greece, over 100). They don’t experience dementia or debilitating arthritis.

Researchers and chefs have been calling it the Mediterranean Diet, and by and large, it works. It’s not perfect, but it’s much healthier than the Standard American Diet (I have another word for that, but my mother reads this blog, so I’ll refrain).

Why The Mediterranean Diet Works

Next week, I’ll get into the specifics of why it works, but here’s a sneak peak on some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Healthy fats that satisfy and energize the body without gumming up the plumbing.
  • An emphasis on plant-based foods.
  • Very low carbs, and almost no sugars.
  • Lots of fresh produce.
  • Low-stress quality of life.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out what that last item has to do with a diet, you’ll have to read next week. I can tell you that one of the keys to the Mediterranean Diet has nothing to do with food.

You Can Change Your Future With A Small Adjustment

One of the big differences between my patients in their 30s and my patients in their 60s is that my older patients take longevity seriously. That’s understandable; when I was 30, I didn’t give much thought to what my life would be like when I was in my 90s. But here in my 50s, I take it very seriously.

No matter what age you are today, it’s crucial to understand that the choices you make with your body today will significantly impact how well it will work when you are 90. In fact, the choices you are making today play an important role in deciding whether you will still be on this side of the grass when you turn 90. I’m trying to give you a toolkit for longevity.

Of course, what you do with it is up to you.

One of my good friends heard Dave Ramsey teach on the importance of investing part of his income when he was in his 20s so that compound interest could build him a good retirement. But he didn’t listen, so he didn’t benefit from that information. Today, he is racing toward his 60s with compound interest working against him.

Don’t be that guy with your finances OR your health. Meet me here next week and let me walk you through a food lifestyle (not a diet) that will give you a better shot at a long, healthy life.

Join Me For (An Amazing!) Dinner

Then, join me for our next Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner with my good friend, Juliana Sagitta of Mediterranean Meals on Thursday, March 8. If you’ve been to our Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinners before and thought we enjoyed some great dining, wait until the March dinner! Ms. Saitta will change the way you think about food!

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a rice-cake nightmare. As we get into our discussion of the Mediterranean Diet, you will find a new love for flavorful food. And the best part is, it’s good for you! I can’t wait to share it with you.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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