The Only Food Rule That Really Matters

Food is a fascination of mine. The pursuit, preparation, and consumption of it brings me pleasure. Yet my love affair with it hasn't always been quite so... enlightened.

Food is a reflection of our society and its self-esteem. Take, for example, my walking past the Vice President of Human Resources the other day in the break room at my day job. His eyes were fixed on the Maury show (another paternity testing episode), and spread out before him was his Jack in the Box, burger, fries, and diet soda lunch. Our eyes met, he shrugged knowingly, then returned to his lunch as his time was short and I'm sure he needed to devour his "meal" quickly and return to his busy day.

I can't judge him. No matter how much I wish I could say the right thing — that perfectly constructed series of words that could convince him and others to make a change — I simply haven't found them. I can't seem to convey to others what I learned while losing 90 lbs.

In 2005 my size 38/32 pants were getting to be a tad bit snug. My body, designed by the industrial and political masterminds behind the American nutrition guidelines, had ballooned to my peak of 270 lbs. of something opposing the image of health and fitness. With my self-esteem now under constant assault, even by friends who'd begun to affectionately call me "lunch box," I knew I wanted a change. I just doubted the possibility of it. I'd become convinced that the guy looking back at me from the mirror was the person I'd remain for the rest of my life.

It was a perfect storm that inspired me to finally make a change. Event after degrading event took place in short order, but it wasn't the constant onslaught of jokes about my body that pushed me beyond my tipping point. No, it was my wife calling to inform me she'd been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. In the moments after hanging up I found myself developing resolve. Change had to happen. NOW!

This was almost seven years ago. After a year in which my wife was treated for and recovered from cancer, I'd lost the 90 lbs. My methods were not all that complicated. All I needed to do was stop eating crap and start moving my body.

My weight loss journey made me even more fascinated by food. I'd begun reading cookbooks, watching cooking shows, reading cooking magazines, preparing more and more elaborate meals, and learning not just how to eat, but to really appreciate what passed through my body. I was becoming a bit of a food adventurer. NOW I want both myself and you to become food snobs.

Look, I could offer up five tips for how I lost weight, share with you my 10 philosophies on eating, or 20 things you might not know about your food. Yeah, those could be interesting, but it all really boils down to one tip/hint/rule:

SET. YOUR. PERSONAL. STANDARDS. HIGHER!

It's not so hard, but we complicate it. Our culture has decided that cheap and convenient is fine when it comes to food, but unacceptable when it comes to the cars we buy or the shoes we wear. We try our best to recycle our soda cans and be conscious of our environment, but forsake our bodies.

When it comes to what we eat, the first thing read is the price, next is the calories, and, finally, microwave heating instructions. But how often do any of us look at the ingredients, research the sources, and really make ourselves fully informed on where the food comes from and how it's raised or grown? And while we're bragging about the vegan or paleo or whatever lifestyle we've chosen, have we considered the cultural histories that allowed peoples past (you know, those who would find our debates about things like Obamacare strange signs of an unhealthy time?) to be healthier than our modern civilization is proving to be?

The solution is simple: decide you deserve better and eat accordingly. Invest in your food, both in time and in money. Decide for yourself what your standards are, then eat that way, choosing a variety of real, nutrient-rich food, and keeping a strong focus on really, REALLY enjoying it.

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