#57 Nutrition

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How eating can change your metabolism, or at least keep it working properly

It's starting to become common knowledge that the way our metabolisms work is largely based on how we eat. But the reasons -- and excuses -- for eating poorly are plentiful, especially in today's society. Food is presented as a comfort tool and a means for celebration -- something to shove in our traps at the slightest emotional impulse. We're also told to finish everything on our plate, and in America we're talkin' big plates.

Then there's the constant barrage of marketing from McDonalds, Coca-Cola and a thousand other junk producers. Our worker-bee society wants us to be too busy to eat anything but fast food and "on the go" individually packaged rubbish. Just the other day, I bought a toaster oven, only to discover its temperature knob actually had a special position for toasting Pop Tarts.

When we eat a lot or eat badly, coming to the realization that it's effecting your health can cause panic, leading to quick fix options like designer drugs, herbal cures and fasts guaranteed to "change your body in 48 hours," or some such nonsense. Okay, some of these specific cures do work for people with acute problems, but for the rest of us, they're little more than snake oil sold to us by unscrupulous companies operating on the logic that, "if it works for one person, why not sell it to everyone at $49.95 a pop?"

Ironically, the quickest and easiest way to get your metabolism working properly is something you learned back in grade school. Eat healthy.

But as simple as it sounds, most of us have gone a long way down the wrong path. There's a lot of learning to do and detoxifying can be gnarly. Your body screams for the junk food you're depriving it of. You're constantly hungry because your stretched-out stomach doesn't understand how little your body really needs to function well. In extreme cases, your skin breaks out as long embedded toxins sweat their way out. (This actually happened to me when I cleaned up my dietary act in my early twenties.) But then, one day, it's over. The cravings are gone and you feel better than you've ever felt.

So don't resign yourself to a lifetime of flab and Fritos! Let's go over a few signposts on the path to really eatin' good.

Starting Fast.

Fasting may be second nature to our more religious readers, but to others this practice can seem abhorrent. But when done properly, it's a great start to your new diet. It starts flushing the junk you've been consuming out and it shrinks your stomach.

Choose two dayS when you have nothing to do, typically a weekend. Avoid physical Activit®y. Maybe rent a bunch of movies you've been meaning to watch. What you consume may vary. If you are hardcore, try it with water and lemon. If that unnerves you, do it eating only vegetables. Two more middle-of-the-road approaches are fruit/veggie juice or Fast Start, Beachbody®'s fasting formula.

Unprocessed Makes Perfect.

Despite thousands of years of effort, humankind has yet to improve on the food that was here in the first place. Okay, so maybe cooked meat, tea and yogurt are all pretty neat innovations, but for the most part, the closer food is to its natural state, the better it is for you.

A few cases in point:

White rice versus brown rice. For some reason, we like to "refine" the nutrients out of food, then "enrich" it back to a supposedly health-giving state. It doesn't work. White rice is brown rice with the outer layer removed. It may go better with curry, but it also lacks the nutrients and fiber that aid digestion.

Juice versus fruit. Again with the fiber! You still get the vitamins when you drink juice, but you lose most of the fiber, which is important because it enables the slow release of fructose (fruit sugar) into your system, so that you can digest it better.

Veggies versus Cheetos. It seems like a no-brainer, but, for the record, there's nothing good about eating any kind of chips, even the health food store variety. Eat a carrot instead.

Eat More of Less.

Just as going back for seconds, thirds and fourths should be a non-option; so should skipping meals. Think of your body as a steam train, like the ones in the old westerns. Engineer Ted had to add a small, constant supply of coal to the furnace to keep Old Number 6 chugging away. He couldn't skip half a day and he couldn't overfill. Because your body constantly works, the best way to feed it is with a constant supply of smaller meals. That means three meals a day, plus two snacks, especially if you are on a fitness program.

That doesn't mean three trips daily to Sizzler's All-You-Can-Eat Salad Bar, accompanied by two soda-and-donut stops at the Quicki Mart. It means three balanced, healthy meals and two similarly healthy smaller snacks.

If you feel full after a meal, that's bad. Throw everything your mom said about finishing your dinner out the window. Eat until you are no longer hungry, then stop. Also, it helps to eat slowly. Often, you'll eat all you need and not know it because it takes a few minutes for your stomach to catch up with your mouth. Hang back for 5 minutes before serving up seconds; you probably don't even need it.

Mix It Up.

Your meals should be a balanced combination of foods. Everything you eat is basically made of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Despite what some fad diets pontificate, you need all three. Atkins may help you lose weight by cutting out carbs, but ultimately the body can't maintain itself like that, so you go back to your old eating habits and fatten up again.

Your best bet is a good balance of diary, meats, grains, fruits and veggies. You can learn how to do this by logging on to Fitday.com or following Michi's Ladder, the eating guide that comes with all Beachbody® videos.

Water: Hunger's Placebo.

You're supposed to be drinking 8 cups of water a day. If you need it, drink more. Turkey sandwich not filling enough? Wash it down with a glass of water. Drinking a glass before your meal will fill you up in advance.

And no, Crystal Light is not a substitute. Besides the potentially dangerous aspartame, it's loaded with chemicals and preservatives. It's okay to drink every once in a while, but it shouldn't replace water. If you just can't get past the taste of H2O, try it with a squeeze of lemon.

Frying, Bad! Steaming, Good!

Battered, fried fish just doesn't cut it as a healthy fish dinner. Frying drenches your meat and vegetable with fats and oils. Yes, you need some fat, but a constant stream of fried food will give you more grease than you could ever use. Also, it's all saturated fat, which means your body doesn't know how to process it. Examples of good, polyunsaturated fats that your body is better suited to digest are avocados and uncooked (read: not fried) virgin olive oil.

Be Kind to Yourself.

If you make a mistake and eat something you shouldn't have, well, that's okay. Pick yourself up and start again. Also, don't be a complete fascist. I consider myself a healthy eater and I have a beer or two on the weekends. On my birthday, I always eat a piece of mud pie. The trick is moderation. I don't drink five beers every night. If I eat ice cream, I eat one scoop as opposed to an entire Ben and Jerry's container.

At first glance, eating healthy can seem like an impossible goal. Indeed, making the transition can be tough, but if you're patient and follow a few simple guidelines, you'll find your way. Soon you'll find yourself eating right and feeling great. From there on, the rest is a piece of cake—just make it carrot cake.

Beachbody® RECIPE

Veggie Mix
If you're like many of our members and have trouble getting enough veggies in your diet, here’s an easy recipe to boost your veggie count. This mix can be added to sandwiches, salads, or just about anything.

1 medium zucchini
1 medium cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 orange or red bell pepper
1 cup grated carrots
1-cup broccoli
1-cup mushrooms
1 small red onion
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, pepper, or season to taste

This recipe will make 8 servings, with each serving containing approximately: 50 calories, 3 grams carbs, 2 grams protein, 4 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium

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