People love to tell me about their diet plans. Not that I blame them. After all, I made some “significant life changes” not too long ago, so people often look to me as some sort of example of “how to do it.” As if there were some magic methodology I had to losing weight which I have kept secret.
I just work out a lot (4-5 times a week) and try to eat healthy most of the time. Sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes, there’s drunken pizza devouring. Or Mamoun’s (bless their hearts). Sometimes it’s even worse.
But if you can forgive yourself some mistakes along the way, and you’re good most of the time, you manage okay.
Simple Solutions to Complex Problems
Every time I hear someone say they’re going on a low-carb diet or they’re gonna go on a juice cleanse to clean out the “toxins” (the fuck?) I die inside a little.
I’m sorry, but your body can’t sustain itself on lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Yeah, sure, you’ll drop 8 lbs., and then what? What’s your plan? You’re gonna just eat healthy all the time as soon as you drop those 8 lbs.? Is that what you think is actually gonna happen? Because if you could sustain that lifestyle, you’d probably be doing it now.
Also, what’s with these “toxins”? You realize your body has kidneys for this kind of thing, right?
Your body reflects your lifestyle. If you’re Michael Phelps, you can eat eight cheeseburgers a day because you burn approximately 40,000 calories. If you don’t exercise and eat like shit, your body is gonna show it, regardless of your cleanses.
(Note: I have met people who clearly defy this. And good for them. But we can’t all win the genetic lottery.)
The truth is, nutrition is complex. A carb is not a carb is not a carb. Whole wheat is not the same as sugar. And even sugar is different depending on the source. The sugar found in an apple ain’t the same as the refined sugar you get in a pastry. The fat in peanut butter isn’t the same fat in ground beef.
We all need carbohydrates and fats and proteins. Some of us need more. Some of us need less.
But do you know how many people I know who have managed long-term, sustainable change through low-carb or South Beach diets or juice cleanses?
Fine, so I can’t cleanse myself thing. Now what?
You want to get fit? Try eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Nobody get overweight by eating way too much asparagus. Well, not that I know of, anyway.
If you really want to eat healthier, you’re probably going to have to cook. Yep. Your own food. I know, I know. It’s a terrible burden.
But the first part of knowing what you’re eating is knowing what went into the food. It’s a lot easier to keep track of what you’re shoveling into your mouth hole when you’re the one actually doing it and not someone in the back room getting paid minimum wage.
“Well, who made you the expert, Josh?”
Nobody, actually. I barely know what I’m talking about. If you knew how much hummus I ate, we probably wouldn’t even be friends anymore. Oh man. That sweet, sweet hummus.
Heck, there are certain foods I won’t even keep in the house. Like peanut butter. And that shit is good for you. You can put it on apples or celery.
Me? I’ll just eat the whole jar like some kind of tuned-up crackhead just living in the moment. I’ll start thinking to myself, “Hey, it’s fine, people eat entire jars of peanut butter all the time, you’ll work out tomorrow.” Or tortilla chips.
In fact, if you were like, “Hey, man, I am gonna give you 10,000 bucks, but you gotta hold onto this bag of unopened Tortilla chips and salsa for a month,” I’d be out a solid 10K.
You gotta know your weakness. For me, it’s peanut butter, tortilla chips, cheese (oh man oh man do I love cheese), crackers. Just to name a few.
So what can I do? (Besides not eating jars of peanut butter.)
If you want to create sustainable change, I’d recommend starting small. Real small.
In fact, for me, it all started with cheese. Or lack thereof. I was eating a turkey sandwich every day. So I decided, hey, you know what, I’m gonna stop putting cheese on those turkey sandwiches. I’m already getting enough protein, right? So let’s give it a shot.
So I did. And it wasn’t that bad. I got used to it. And then you start to think, you know what, that wasn’t that bad, maybe I can replace my hamburger with a turkey burger. Or I can replace enriched flour pasta with whole wheat pasta. Or you can eat sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.
Or diet soda instead of regular soda. And even that may not help.
Try running. If you don’t like running, try biking. If you don’t like biking, try swimming. If you don’t like swimming, well then what the fuck is wrong with you?
The truth is complex. Society tries to sell us simple answers. They bombard us with ads saying if you know this one secret, you can have six pack abs.
Please. You want six pack abs? Get in line.
You better be willing to hit the gym 5-6 times a week and eat the leanest fucking diet ever. Oh, and beer? Yeah, forget beer, that’s part of your past now.
Me? I’ll take the beer. At some point, you have to weigh your goals and decide how badly you want them. It turns out that when it comes to staying sober on a Friday night, the answer is, “Not that badly.”
But you can start by eating more fruits and vegetables. “But Josh, apples don’t fill me up.” Well fine, just give up, then. I don’t care what you do. I’m not your Dad and none of your fancy blood tests can prove otherwise.
Listen. You’re a grown up (sort of). You have to take responsibility of yourself and the things you put into your body. If you want to eat healthy, you’re going to have to think long and hard about the choices you make and pick your battles. There isn’t some easy solution out there. There’s no pill or magic to it.
You wake up every day and you make a choice. You can eat something decent (I choose raisin bran and skim milk, for instance) or you can choose an Egg McMuffin. And every choice counts. Every bite you take is another decision about who you want to be and what matters to you.
But it’s not simple. And it’s not easy. Not for you, and not for me. There are a lot of people selling you answers out there. Selling you easy solutions. Telling you how easy it’ll be if you just buy their book in three easy installments.
It isn’t easy, though, and you should know that. And you shouldn’t listen to anybody who says it is.