There are lots of methods that folks evangelize about in terms of eating better. I don’t like to listen to evangelists, I learn from modeling and mentors. I learned some good things this summer that have helped me eat better and they’re pretty basic, so I wanted to share. Not evangelize. I don’t expect these things to work for everyone, but some of the ways of thinking about food may help change habits.
My family is all in Indiana. They eat like basic Hoosiers. Lots of meat and carbs. Basically everything from this cookbook would be right at home at one of my family’s dinners. The only vegetables likely to appear are a salad and green beans. But the salad is a seven layer salad drenched in ranch and cheese, and the green beans are in a casserole. I started making fruit salads to bring to meals a few years ago. I can tell whether my friends or my family posted something on Pinterest based on a glance at the photo. If it’s super unhealthy it was posted by my family.
When I moved to Cleveland, I took a fancy to cooking. I enjoy it. But for years all I knew how to make was Hoosier home cooking. I slowly grew fatter. This year, after topping out at 205, I decided to lose some weight. I’m down to 185 now, and here’s how I did it.
- Portion control. I put my meals on salad plates and only fed myself as much as I fed my son.
- Tactical willpower. Instead of having to exercise willpower at home all the time by avoiding junk food, I just used that willpower at the grocery. Don’t buy it there, you won’t have to resist it at home.
- Easing into better choices. I didn’t just go all veggies all the time. I started buying avocados, and eating half of one with a meal. I’d roast carrots and broccoli. I’d make the easiest salad imaginable: a handful of spinach, a small splash of balsamic vinegar, a dash of Parmesan. All easy, tasty, and un-intimidating.
- Learning by example. I learned a great many easy things to do with rice and vegetables in a very short time by being in the kitchen with someone who knew how to do things I didn’t. Finding a friend or making a new friend with someone who is handy in the kitchen in ways that you aren’t is great!
That’s basically it. After awhile I started craving my now daily salad. I look forward to making an avocado, beet and goat cheese sandwich. Hell, you just have to steam, peel, and slice the beet. It’s not hard. The flavors take care of themselves. And because my portion sizes are smaller, and vegetables slowly increased in percentage, I’m eating significantly less carbs and meat. I’m not becoming vegetarian, but my diet is much closer to a vegetarian diet than it was. I don’t disdain junk food, the Pop Tarts I just had are proof against that. But the four little changes I made have added up to a big difference.
Food evangelists demanding a sea change in eating habits did not affect me. Being around people who were good dietary models but not preachy about it and making my own small choices has made much more of an impact.