In the U.S., over 34% of adults and 17% of children are obese.1, 2
Clearly, as a society, we are struggling with eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise, aided and abetted by fast food joints, clever advertising, and overly busy schedules.
Besides being good for your personal wellbeing, I believe eating a healthy diet often leads to food and drink choices that are more environmentally friendly. I doubt anyone would disagree that preventing illness, disability, and environmental damage are worthy goals.
I know from first-hand experience how challenging it can be to make the shift to eating a healthier diet and how rewarding it is to actually do it. In hopes of helping others in a similar situation, I’ll share my story in this post and the next.
The Pounds Creep On
I was always one of those lucky people who could eat whatever I wanted and still stay slender, that is, until about ten years ago. Call it middle age, stress, or whatever, but three years ago, I realized my waist had expanded several inches and I was carrying around at least 40 excess pounds; it just crept up on me. My eating habits were okay they just included too many calories from snacks and sweets.
My right foot first alerted me I might have a weight problem. I began having sharp pains in my heel, then the bottom of my foot and then next my knees started hurting sometimes when I sat down or stood up. Instead of facing the issue, I adopted a strategy of doing nothing and hoping the problem would solve itself.
Several months later, with the knee pain on the rise, I remembered something I had read somewhere that said losing one pound reduces four pounds of stress on your knees. I thought, “Maybe I should try to lose weight.” Right on the heels of that thought was “I’ve never been on diet in my life.” and “There is no way I’m going to join a gym.”
Since I am a rather goal-oriented person, I like New Year’s resolutions, often make and sometimes keep them. My 2012 New Year’s resolution was to lose 40 pounds over a 2-year period.
I Have Never Been on a Diet and I Am Not Starting Now
Fortunately, I realized from the outset that to succeed I would need to make changes in my diet that I could live with for the rest of my life so I was expecting a lot of trial and error.
After announcing my intention to my spouse, I dusted off my bathroom scale, unearthed an old fabric tape measure from the back of a drawer, bought a pedometer, downloaded a free food and exercise app on my smartphone, and headed to the library.
Over the course of two years, I probably read at least two dozen books about diet and nutrition, and the environmental and ethical aspects of growing, processing, and selling food (see below for a list of my favorites). The books provided a good foundation about how food interacts with your body and mind and a few good how-to tips on healthy eating.
Armed with information and equipment, I began my quest to eat a healthier diet and become pain-free.
Personal Benefits of Eating a Healthy Diet
As it turned out, after two years, I had lost 25 pounds not 40. All of my foot and a knee pain had disappeared and I felt healthy and well and looked better too. My spouse also lost weight and discovered a taste for kale, which I do not share.
I could have stopped at that point, but as I said earlier, I am a goal-oriented kind of gal so last January I set a new goal to lose the other 15 pounds over two more years.
Environmental Benefits of Eating a Healthy Diet
Below are some of the environmental benefits of our healthier eating habits.
- We eat a lot more locally grown and produced food, which cuts down on the miles our food travels and reduces carbon emissions, besides we like supporting local businesses.
- We use more whole foods and less packaged foods, which reduces energy and water use, generates less waste, and limits the amount of weird synthetic substances in our food.
- We eat more fruits and vegetables and a lot less meat especially beef, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from livestock facilities.
- We buy some organic food, which means no pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. This is better for everyone, farmers, the land, and us.
- We compost our food scraps, which results in less garbage going down the drain or in the trash and nurtures the soil in our yard.
The Bottom Line
The thing is that when it comes to eating healthy you have to actually do it and many of the ideas and strategies suggested by books, websites, and apps just did not work for me.
In the next post, I will share the things that worked for me and the secret I discovered along the way to eating for health and wellbeing.
- 5 Must-See Films about Food, Health, and the Environment
- 5 Reasons to Try Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Bringing Your Own Lunch to School or Work is Green
- Composting Made Easy – Tips from an Unlikely Composter
- Dine In – Cooking and Eating Meals at Home is Green
- Environmental Impact of Eating Meat
- Food Rules – Book Review
- Meatless Monday – More Fruits and Veggies Monday
- Organic Food – USDA National Organic Program
- The Secret to Making Healthy Eating Easy
- The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer – Book Review
- Wheatless Wednesday – Whole Wheat Wednesday
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Adult Obesity Facts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Childhood Obesity Facts
- The Free Dictionary – Obesity Definition
- WebMD – Small Weight Loss Takes Big Pressure Off Knee
- WebMD – What is Obesity?
Top 10 Diet, Nutrition, and Food Industry Book List
Below are ten books on a variety of food-related topics that I found useful during the research phase of my journey to eat a healthier diet.
- Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, by Michele Simon
- Fast food nation: the dark side of the all-American meal, by Eric Schlosser
- Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, by Marion Nestle
- Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink
- Nutrition for Life: The No-Fad, No-Nonsense Approach to Eating Well and Reaching Your Healthy Weight, by Lisa Hark, PhD, RD and Darwin Deen, MD
- The Best Life Diet, by Bob Greene
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan
- The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, by Joel Salatin
- You On a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management, by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD