10 Things I Know About Food (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the DDP Yoga Nutrition Guide)

The Short List
1. Measure your food, count your calories.
2. No processed or pre-made foods.
3. Eat organic.
4. Eat at home, make your own food.
5. Drink a large glass of water before eating! Don’t drink anything else.
6. Cut as many animal products out of your diet as possible.
7. Only eat what you can find in nature.
8. Eat more veggies, less fruit, and NO artificial or added sweeteners!
9. No cheat days, no food rewards.
10. Nothing with “Light/lite”, “Reduced”, “Free”, or “No”, on the label.

Around teamDDPyoga.com and in my personal life, I spend a lot of time talking about food and eating. Since I committed to health, I have spent a long time reading about how we eat, how we gain weight, how we lose weight and what does and doesn’t work. I spent 33 years practicing the latter, and during the last 6 months, I have been learning how to eat healthily, how to lose weight, and how to maintain weight. I decided to put what I have learned, and what worked for me into a concise-ish1 list. Yes, a lot of this is going to be from the DDP Yoga guide. DDP Yoga is the only system on the planet that works, so I follow it pretty closely. There are, however, some points on which I differ with the DDP plan. You’ll have to make your mind up on those points2.

1. The First Law of Thermodynamics: Don’t Talk about Thermodynamics.
It’s calories in versus calories out. End of story. In this day and age of fad diets, supplement pills, and shortcuts, it is not fashionable to talk about calories, or suggest someone needs to make that amount of effort to lose weight and keep it off. But calorie counting works, because all diets one way or another end up restricting your calories. Track your calories while you are dieting and also for the first couple of years you are in maintenance mode (at least). There are some great apps/online resources like MyFitnessPal to accomplish this. And make sure you are getting enough calories! If you don’t eat enough calories, you risk making your body think it’s experiencing a famine, which, amongst other serious health issues, will crash your metabolism (making it harder to lose weight), and make it harder to recover from workouts. There are some great calorie calculators online (MyFitnessPal has one built in as you set up your profile). Remember to recalculate your daily calorie allowance with each 10lbs lost, because it will change as your weight changes. And remember to use your heart rate monitor to calculate your calories burned during a workout. This will be added to that day’s calorie allowance (Yum! More food!)

Make sure it’s gluten-free, organic pie

2. Mom’s special ingredient? 1-Methylcyclopropene!
I have a rule of thumb for when I am in the grocery store. If I am contemplating buying something, I read the ingredient list, and if there’s a single thing on the list that I can’t find elsewhere in the store, back onto the shelf it goes. Do they stock sodium benzoate, potassium bromate or sodium nitrate anywhere in your local grocery store? Do you know what those things are? Do you ever need them when you are making things from scratch? If you answered no to even one of those questions, then you should stop buying food-like substance with bizarre chemicals in them.

Just like Mom used to make it

3. Are You Round-up Ready?
I’m not going to get into the science of this one, but one PhD in cell biology under my belt and I do understand why Round-up is said to be the safest pesticide currently in use (email me if you want a semi-lay explanation of this). That said, I do not believe that the long-term studies that demonstrate its safety are unbiased, nor are they remotely applicable to the levels that are used on the GMO “Round-up Ready” crops. I’m not abjectly opposed to GMO crops. I don’t (in my scientific opinion) believe a threat to human health has been demonstrated, nor is one likely, for crops that contain new genes that allow them to be resistant to drought, mould, aphids on their own. I do, however, think genes that allow them to resist pesticides, and therefore to survive having massive amounts of pesticide dumped on them, could pose a threat. It’s not the genes that are the problem. It’s the pesticides they allow. There are crazy levels of 100’s of different pesticides in our food supply now, and virtually no research into how they may effect human heslth. The only way you can avoid them is to buy organic food. To ease the tension on the old purse strings, follow the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen list!

Nothing says safe for human consumption like some breathing apparatus

4. The Bottom Line and your Waistline. 
When you cook at home, you are probably carefully not to use too much oil. You likely find alternatives to salt when you season. You carefully cut the fat off your meat. When you portion out your meal, you probably make a good effort to stick to the serving size. Whatever you make, it’s probably the healthiest version of that meal that it can be. You do this because you know your goals and you have a vested interest in your own health. Do you think that the minimum wage cook at a chain restaurant shares your interest. When he has a shift’s worth of wait staff yelling at them to get their orders out, do you think that he’s carefully measuring out healthy amounts of cooking oils, or do you think he’s sloshing it into the pan as he tries to keep all the things he’s meant to be doing straight? Do you think corporate restaurant chains are using more expensive flavoring ingredients when boatloads of cheap salt and sugar will do? Do you have anyone wandering around your house asking if you “saved room for dessert?” The simple fact is that when you eat out, you eat on average more than half your daily allowance of calories in one meal. Unless you eat two meals a day, that’s bad news for your waistline. Also, eating out costs an extra $35 per week. In other words, only eat food you make yourself!

Save some pounds to lose some pounds… Okay, that pun only works in the UK

5. Hungry, Bored or Thirsty?
There’s a simple test for this. If you think you want to eat something, drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes. If you still want to eat something, go for it. 72% of the time we are hungry, we are actually hungry (nice job, evolution). It’s a hard habit to get into, but once you start trying to satiate thirst before hunger, you’ll drop pounds quickly. And when I say deal with your thirst, I mean with water. Do not drink a single calorie… ever (says the hypocrite who can’t give up decaf). Any calories you consume in liquid form are digested faster, which leaves you hungrier sooner. Your goal is to slow down the absorption of food, and the labour-intensive process of having to actually chew is one way. High fiber foods are another. And wash it all down with a big glass of water to help all that fiber find its way back out, carrying with it absorbed fat and nasty toxins.

“Fullness” by density and stretch receptors, fiber and water will fill you up with the least calories

6. Nothing You’d Serve with Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti.
Okay. Time for a disclaimer. I am a vegan. I was a vegetarian, and then the DDP diet sort of put me in vegan mode. I would like more people to be vegan. It’s healthier than being not vegan, and it would reverse climate change overnight. That said, I am NOT an evangelical vegan, nor am I using this blog to promote my environmental ideals. I only care about your health and your waistline. The simple fact about animal products is that the calories per weight or per volume is significantly higher than you find in non-animal product foods (my beloved PB being an exception to that rule). If you want to lose weight, stay full, and avoid the temptation to snack, fill your tummy with broccoli and cauliflower! And the Hannibal Lecter reference at the top this section? Under a microscope, there is very little difference between animal meat and human flesh. Yuck!

One of these is from a cow, the other from a human

One of these is from a cow, the other from a human

7. What Are You Meant To Eat? 
No, I am not promoting the “Paleo Diet”. I think, while well intentioned, this diet has a wildly misguided perception of how much meat our ancestors had access to. In all reality our diet (depending on geography) was probably closest to that of the Gorilla or the Bonobo. Yes, these animals eat “some” meat, but the majority of it is termites and other insects, and on occasion, some fun bouts of cannibalism, and makes up less than 1% of their diets. In other words, meat is a rare treat rather than a vital brick in their food pyramids. I am not suggesting we start eating carpenter ants or our young. All I am asking is that you take a reasonable approach to considering what is good for us and what isn’t. Setting aside the meat controversy for now, I can tell you very few Bonobos are eating refined oils, sugars, gluten, or the lactational by-products of other species, and you shouldn’t either! Honestly, I don’t care what we are “meant” to eat. I only care about what is healthy for us to eat. If we were meant to eat meat, gluten, dairy, sugar, etc. we wouldn’t have the incidence of cholesterol problems that we as a species experience (ever seen a lion picking up Lipitor prescription at the pharmacy?)

But, he has canines, so obviously he is meant eat meat, right?

But, he has canines, so obviously he is meant eat meat, right?

8. Eat More Kale, Spinach, Peas… Anything That Has a Cell Wall, Really. 
I love sugar. I love things that are sweet. And now that I have started eating healthy, whole foods, I love fruit. I eat pounds upon pounds of fruit. Way too much of it. But it’s so gosh darn yummy. Thanks to the fruit in my diet, I don’t miss chocolate or other erstwhile vices at all. But I am in the process of cutting back on my fruit intake. Anything, whole food or Monsanto-borne, that elevates your blood sugar leads to systemic inflammation. That means you are increasing your cancer risk, aggravating any injuries you may have, and causing an insulin-dump that will cause you to be hungry sooner, lessening your chances of sticking to your diet, and storing all your sugars and carbs as disease-causing midsection fat. Bad, bad, bad. Fruits have a lot of health benefits, but they are mostly redundant with, and dwarfed by the benefits of vegetables. So eat more vegetables and moderate your fruit intake. And while we’re on the topic of your sweet tooth, no more artificial or added sweeteners, I don’t care how natural or healthy they claim to be. If they come in little paper packets, you don’t eat them anymore. All that stuff is junk, and its bad for you. It has been shown that diet sodas are as bad for you as regular soda in terms of your ability to lose weight. “Well, duh!” said my Type 1 Diabetic friend when I told her this. She went on to explain that certain sugar substitutes raise her blood sugar 10-20 times higher than an equivalent amount of sugar!

Please don’t sue me, Chick-Fil-A!

9. Retrain Your Brain. 
I loathe the concept of a “cheat day” in dieting. A lot of diets call for you to allow yourself to splurge on one of your old vices one day a week. In a similar vein, certain diet plans encourage you to reward yourself with an unhealthy food treat when you reach a milestone, like hitting a goal weight. Both of these suggestions reinforce a wildly unhealthy relationship with food, as well as causing you to think about nothing other than the one thing you’re trying to quit. Here’s the best analogy I can come up with. I smoked cigarettes for over a decade, and I have been a non-smoker for 4 years now. When I made it to the one-year-without-smoking3 mark, I didn’t reward myself with a pack of Benson & Hedges! I don’t speak for any [Your favorite addiction] Anonymous organizations, but I would wager that ZERO of them recommend using the thing you’re trying to quit as a reward for quitting. “Six months off heroin? Here’s a tourniquet and a spoon. Go to the back alley and have a blast!” And junk food is the single most addictive thing we encounter thanks to Evolution’s pesky insistence upon keeping us alive. You have maybe heard the idea that 28 days makes a habit? Eating healthy is a habit, and retreating to junk food reinforces your old bad habits. On a recent episode of DDP Radio, Stacey Morris pointed out that after 60 days of doing something new (e.g. eating more vegetables), the connections in your brain are changed. That means after 60 days of eating a healthy, non-sweet diet, you will develop a taste for healthy, non-sweet foods.

Weight Loss Food?

10. Changing Lanes.
This is really a combination of #2 and #9, but they bear repeating. The DDP Yoga page frequently posts a motivator that reads “Whenever you see the words ‘LOW-FAT’ or ‘FAT-FREE’, think of the words ‘Chemical Shit Storm.” True. But this logic really applies to anything that is “FREE” of dairy, sugar, gluten, fat, anything really. The same goes any label with the words “reduced”, “light”, or “natural”4 When you decide to go gluten-free, you will reap infinitely more health benefits if you don’t instantly go and buy gluten-free versions of foods that should have gluten in them. For instance, when you make a lasagne with gluten-free pasta, it’s certainly better for you than one made with regular noodles. But it still has blood-sugar spiking, empty calories in the pasta. How about dumping the pasta altogether and using organic zucchini slices instead? In other words, when you ditch something bad from your diet, replace it with a completely different healthy, whole food instead. 

Your Gluten-Free Supply

A Brief History of Time Food

The food supply is toxic, and while upsetting, the history of how we got there is both interesting, and important to be informed about.

To start, let’s go back a few decades to the Farm Deal. Originally under Roosevelt, and for reasons best left to economists, it was designed to keep production of so called “commodity crops” low and prices high. Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz, reengineered the goal of the subsidies to do the exact opposite: to increase the level of production and drive prices down. The “Big Four” of commodity crops are corn, rice, wheat and soy. Under this policy, these crops alone get 60% of subsidy payments from the government, so the effect of Butz’s policy was to promote massive production of corn, rice, wheat and soy. This left the country with a surplus of these crops, and to some extent a dearth of other crops (it’s not quite that simple, but it effectively works out that way).

Back in the day, most farms were small farms (those at or below $250K per annum revenue). In other words, farming was a good, honest, family business. This type of farm is the one we learn about in our picture books as children. The one where the farmer owns his own land, goes to the supply store to buy some seeds, plants, grows and reaps the crops, and sells them on the market. He is the boss of his small business. But all that money being more-or-less given away by the government caught the attention of big business who came in and reworked agriculture to covert it to a serfdom in which the farmers are financially and legally beholden to these companies, and have no control over their own land. While the farmers were losing control their business, the food supply was unchanged. Sure, the proportions of the Big Four flooding the market were off, but they were the same corn, wheat, rice and soy the nation had been eating all their lives. Until the scientists stepped in5. The government subsidization of the crops produced and economic impetus to increase their production by any means, and one of those means was their genetic modification. The motive here was to prevent loss from plant disease, weeds, etc, and maximize the amount of crops each unit of farmland could produce.

Skipping the science of GMOs and pesticide use that I touched on above, this corporate interest in agriculture lead to a surplus of commodity crops. Yes, we could give them to starving children in war-torn countries. But why do that when you could find a way to drink corn? And we did. Now, thanks to the farm deal, high fructose corn syrup is in almost everything. And contrary to ads funded by the people who stand to gain financially by public acceptance of HFCS, your body most certainly does know the difference. Every single cell in your body can digest glucose. But only your liver can deal with fructose. When you dump large amounts of fructose into your body, your liver gets overwhelmed and kicks any it can’t process in the the triglyceride pathway. This ends up being hormone-producing midsection fat (the stuff that has a lot of negative health implications like cancer), and an overall increase in obesity levels in the US. Yes, we spend less on food, but we spend more on health as a direct result. There are no free lunches in nature!

A more indirect cause of our Violet Beauregard-esque waistlines was the Prohibition Era. When the sale of alcohol became illegal, restaurants had to attract new customers to make up for the loss in profits being unable to sell alcohol caused. That new batch of customers was the family. In other words, they needed to appeal to kids. And kids like high carb, high sugar, high fat foots. The end result over a number of years was a nation full of people with a taste for these kinds of food which are worst kinds of food you can eat.

Finally, and this is a point I wish anyone who was ever tempted to make fun of someone because of their weight could know about. Our environment is conspiring against us. This was shown by scientists who saw that all their lab animals were getting fatter than those grown under the exact same conditions a few decades ago. These are caged animals, so the midnight raids of the refrigerator I was guilty of can be excluded from the list of reasons they are getting fatter. These animals are grown in the exact same way as their leaner predecessors. The only difference is the environment. Thanks to lax environmental regulations and a gutted EPA, our environment has become toxic with hundred of thousands of synthetic chemicals, and we have seen rates of cancer, ADHD, autism, allergies and obesity all soar. Somewhere between 1 and 3 thousand new chemicals have been allowed to contaminate the environment every single year for each of the last three decades, with little to no regulation or studies of their impact on human health. And those chemicals are getting into us, even before we are born. A recent study showed that the average placenta contains up to 200 man-made chemicals. The ways to solve this problem are beyond the scope of this blog, but it is worth considering as organic a diet as you can afford.

Further Reading:

Movies:
Forks Over Knives
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Food, Inc.

Books:
Eating Animals
The China Study
The Omnivore’s Dilemma

1I’m not what you would call short-winded. Of course, having made it to this point, you probably don’t need that pointed out! 
2You’ll have to decide for yourself between the living legend who can do psycho push-ups, and who has single-handedly helped thousands people lose tens of thousands of pounds of combined weight, and the woman who can do one pull-up, and lost about 30 lbs. I know, I know, it’s a toughie! 
3Apart from when I have had a few drinks. But since starting the DDP nutrition program, I have completely quit drinking, so that’s not an issue anymore. </em
4“Natural” is not regulated by the FDA or the USDA, and means nothing! In fact, it usually means they are protesting a little too hard! Also, don’t buy anything from any company that has the word “natural” on any of their labels, because what the hell is in the products they didn’t label “natural”??? 
5As representative of the scientific community, sorry about that! 

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