Thursday, September 10, 2009

More to eating healthy than diets, quick fixes

Diet. At one time the word alone was enough to make even the most health-conscious of people cringe. And now? Every magazine is filled with the latest tips. Every morning news show proclaims the best methods. Everyone behind the checkout counter thinks they have the best advice. It is as if, suddenly, there is no “I” in “diet.”

So, what exactly is the problem? Couldn’t it be assumed that the increase in dialogue would lead to more healthful eating habits and, consequentially, bodies?

Au contraire!

Instead of creating a more healthful America, mass dieting has spawned a nation of androids, blindly — or rather, tastelessly — consuming foods based on current fads. It is as if this nationalization of feeding has resulted in widespread distancing from the very best parts of eating: the aromas, the colors, the textures and finally the tastes. And the worst consequence of all, more so than the bizarre willingness to consume cardboard if suddenly deemed healthful, is that Americans are surrendering their abilities to truly enjoy food.

Yet, unlike the latest diet plans that many people are so eager to embrace, there is no quick fix to overcoming contention with culinary mediocrity. Instead, it is necessary to rework the ways in which we associate with food.

First, we have to learn to talk about food not as the inevitable and eternal enemy, but rather as a close friend with whom we share positive experiences and fond memories.

Reworking my own relationship relationship

with food has been a challenge, but the greatest reward of becoming aware of what I really am craving is the deep joy and pleasure I feel in indulgence. I now know that I love a cool ice cream cone on a hot summer day, a steaming cup of aromatic coffee in the early hours of a winter morning and a slice of whole wheat bread topped with peanut butter after an intense workout.

Though I may not be sticking to any strict diet, I have found that acknowledging my hunger allows me to feel easily and completely satisfied. Often a bite of chocolate that I slowly savor fills me up more than a hastily devoured — and later regretted — slice of rich cake.

True, there are some key principles that are important to stick close to. No matter how much they may be craved, a body can only get by for so long on Twinkies or hamburgers.

But beyond a few smart guidelines, eating is more about personal reflection than prescribed diets. This approach may take a bit more time and effort than simply consuming based on fads. However, the results of a healthy, empowered body and truly satisfied appetite are well worth it.

As published in the University Daily Kansan.

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