“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.”
— François de La Rochefoucauld

I have spent many years being overweight and sluggish. I look in the mirror, wondering who the fat kid looking back at me is. Somehow, though, I feel that I am internally skinny and would like to let that person out for the world. I am making some headway in this area, but I still have a long way to go.

I’ll make this as brief as possible; there are plenty of books on the subject and my views are not going to make any difference.

As Americans, we need to change the way we think about food and health. As Michael Pollan points out in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it should be the most natural thing for us to know what to eat. Sadly, though, it is difficult for people to decide what they are going to eat, and often the wrong choices are made. Until very recently, I happily consumed sythetic foods & caged animals, not wanting to know much more about it — especially that what I was eating could potentially harm me. I was blissfully unaware of the problems I was causing for myself.

I hope I am starting to change that about myself. Although I don’t feel it is right for everyone, vegetarianism has changed my perception of almost everything. A common reason among vegetarians and vegans for not eating meat/using animal products is to reduce suffering. By cutting down on those things that cause great suffering, the world is a better place. I appreciate those individuals, but the issue is deeper for me. I simply don’t want to consume thinking beings. It is that shift in mindset that has forced me to read the label of everything I purchase, from tortilla chips to vitamins (many multivitamins contain fish), seeking out the hidden animal products in seemingly benign products. Who knew I would be giving up Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (it contains lard) or canned black-eyed peas (most are canned with pork products).

It is this label reading that has forced me to deal with something else. Artifice in my food. Primarily, I don’t have the energy to read through long lists of ingredients. I’d rather put the item back than sort through everything. But I also find that I can reduce the amount of other items too. HFCS generally keeps a food item from coming home with me. As does anything claiming to be “enriched” or “whitened.”

I don’t think a little knowledge about what you are chosing to put in your body is a bad thing. And that isn’t to say I don’t still have the occasional orange soda (loaded with lots of yummy HFCS) or buy some fresh bread, even though I know it is made of white flour. Sometimes the moment dictates that you throw these convictions out. But I am able to make more informed decisions about what I eat on a regular basis.

I’m shrinking. Without exercise, I have been losing weight quickly. I have tons of energy and feel mentally more alert than I have in a long time. I can really only attribute this change in myself to the change in my eating habits. I am just generally eating a more healthy diet than I used to. Now, I will be adding exercise to the mix. I hope I only continue to get healthier. I need to.

Life is sometimes all about the small victories. I recently found myself not out of breath after walking up the stairs at work. It has only happened a few times, but it is something!

Suggested reading:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma : Michael Pollan
Plenty : Alisa Smith & JB Mackinnon
Becoming Vegetarian : Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis
Fast Food Nation : Eric Schlosser

Featured Image Art: Andrea Landini, The Pie

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