I Bet You Think You Eat ‘Pretty Well’ or else you know you really don’t.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine the other day when he was recounting the story of a recent doctor’s visit.
Among the questions his doctor asked him was ‘How’s your diet?’
Before my friend could draw breath to answer his doctor had moved on and was already asking him another question leaving my friend a bit baffled.
My friend actually eats quite well, because I’ve been in his ear for years about all the things that are wrong with our food.
The conversation we ended up having was about how disinterested his doctor seemed but also the possibility that his doctor was disinterested because everyone thinks they eat ‘pretty well’.
What does eating ‘Pretty Well’ actually mean?
Eating well or ‘pretty well’ is a bit of a nebulous thing because it can be different for so many people in so many ways.
It can depend on your heritage. If you are a Pacific Islander then red meat and wheat products may not be all that great for you but fish and fruit may be the things you thrive on.
If you have a Swiss heritage then perhaps you can process dairy better than someone from Alaska.
Your gut biome is different because of your heritage and, although diets all over the world are becoming more similar, your biome may not have caught up yet.
In general, people who are vegetarian or vegan are presumed to eat well, but I have encountered people following these diets who default to large quantities of pasta and wheat products which, for someone who is gluten intolerant, can be difficult to digest.
I believe the best way to eat ‘well’ is to eat a large variety of different foods which have not been heavily processed.
Everyone eats ‘Pretty Well’
The funny thing about this is, that when I first became really interested in the food I was eating, I thought I ate ‘pretty well’ 😊
And, because I was working as a pain relief therapist, when I asked my clients what their diet was like they would tell me that they ate ‘pretty well’ 😊
It wasn’t until I started drilling down into what they thought of as eating ‘pretty well’ that I discovered that, depending on who I was talking to, it could include:
- A glass, or two, of wine every night,
- A takeaway meal on Friday, oh and usually one in the middle of the week as well,
- A steak sandwich at the kid’s sport on Saturday,
- ‘Lunch specials’ from the local shopping centre close to their work,
- Using a preprepared sauce or,
- Weekly after work drinks.
Not everyone would have all these behaviours, of course, but most people had more than one and it is the way that these small things add up which means that , actually, you don’t eat ‘pretty well’.
I didn’t eat as well as I thought I did.
This made me reflect on my own diet because I also thought I ate ‘pretty well’. What I discovered was that I didn’t eat anywhere near as well as I thought I did!
So, I started to do something about it and what I discovered was eye opening indeed!
I started reading the labels of the food I was buying in the supermarket. As I discovered what was in the food I was buying, I started either swapping brands or not buying that thing at all.
A few stand outs were potato chips, breakfast cereal, salad dressing and yoghurt.
I used to buy at least two packs a week and, while I knew they weren’t a ‘health food’, it wasn’t until I read the labels that I discovered they were essentially full of sugar.
I had been buying muesli or a ‘high fibre’ breakfast cereal for years. I alternated because I liked the variety and the muesli was expensive. What I discovered was that almost all breakfast cereals are also essentially sugar! I stopped buying any breakfast cereal and started making my own muesli. The initial cost was high but when I spaced it out over the lifetime of the individual ingredients, I was saving quite a lot of money and I had control of what was in my muesli. Plus, it is really easy to make. Just throw all the ingredients into a big container and shake them.
Oh, my goodness! More sugar! The thing about salad dressing is that it is mostly oil and vinegar and you change the flavour by adding different herbs so why was there all that sugar in there?
I stopped buying salad dressing and started making my own. By making my own salad dressing I was able to use good quality olive oil, different vinegars and various spices and save huge amounts of money.
Olive oil may be an initial expense but it is so much better for you than canola and other vegetable oils that it is definitely worth it. And, you can make the equivalent of at least six store bought bottles of salad dressing from one litre of olive oil. You do the maths.
You probably think of yoghurt as a ‘healthy option’ and natural yoghurt definitely is.
The sad thing is, much of the yoghurt on supermarket shelves is so full of sugar that there is nothing healthy about it.
I swapped the very expensive ‘creamy’ fruit yoghurt, that I loved, for a ‘natural’ version and added my own fruit if I wanted it.
I discovered after a while that I really just liked the plain yoghurt. It did take a bit of adjustment though, because I was used to it being so sweet.
There were many other small changes I made but these were quite dramatic and made a big difference.
They made a difference to how well I ate and they made a difference to how much I was spending on food. Much less!
Suddenly people think I’m a fussy eater.
Over the years an interesting thing has happened. My extended family, and some of my friends, think that I’m a fussy eater because now I am careful about what I put in my mouth.
I’m not really fussy, I just like plain easy to prepare food and I will choose to take my own food rather than eat something that I know will affect my health in the long run.
I do get caught out from time to time and I just figure that, on balance, I am better off because I don’t eat the bought cake most of the time, or I don’t have that store bought biscuit with my cup of tea. I will make a cake or biscuits with great ingredients and share it with my friends instead.
When you don’t eat well.
On the flip side, if you don’t think you eat all that well, then I have found that those people know they don’t.
If this is you, then you probably have at least a million excuses 😉
It costs too much.
It takes too long.
I don’t like vegetables.
I don’t know how…
The list goes on.
What I often discover when I talk to these people it that they are just more honest than the rest of us!
They recognise that they have two or three take away meals a week and a few glasses of wine or beer each night and know that this isn’t the best they could do.
The thing is, if you know you are not eating well, you probably know that sooner or later it will catch up with you…
Improving what you eat can make a big difference
Making small changes can make such a big difference to outcomes and if you just start swapping brands you could really find that you feel better.
Especially if you swap a high sugar product for a lower sugar product just try not to choose something with artificial sugars instead because they have a whole lot of different issues.
So, whether you think you eat well, or you know you don’t there is probably room for improvement. I know there are always some things I could do better.
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