a new city, a new bowl

Been quite a while indeed since my last post. And much has transpired: I moved to New York!! As with traveling, moving breaks the routine and destroys the environment I create for myself to make it easier to eat healthy. Add to that the fact that I was a temp-housing/hotel-hopping/couch-surfing transient for over five months, and the fact that I’m a night owl with a penchant for exploration in the city that never sleeps…well, let’s just say sticking to the routine I had in Seattle was an uphill battle.

Now armed with a permanent mailing address and a renewed energy, I have decided to figure out a new strategy that will work in New York. Much of my approach to eating healthy in Seattle was to cook and eat at home. But in New York, I’m more likely to use my oven for storing winter clothes than roasting broccoli.  So to jumpstart the process of figuring out how I’m going to make the healthy eating thing work in my new locale, I am doing a super healthy October. For me, that means this: no meat, no fish, no dairy, no animal-based proteins of any kind, no bread/enriched white flour, no sugar, no soft drinks, no alcohol.

People have been asking “why?” and “isn’t that a bit excessive?” I don’t expect that to stick — it’s just a tactic I use. For me, overcorrecting and then dialing it back is a lot more effective than trying to take small steps in the direction I want to go.

Well, so far, so good. Except for trace amounts I can’t control and one careless dip of a grape tomato into a tiny bit of pesto (I forgot it has parmesan in it!), I’m pitching a perfect game one week into the challenge. And, yes, this does mean a lot of salads. You know what they say: a new city, a new bowl.

A New City, A New Bowl


In our first healthy/nerdy lunch discussion group coined “Leaves for Life,” Lawrence, Craig, and I shared our histories and experiences with eating (healthy and otherwise).  To be sure, my switching to eating healthy demanded significant mind over matter thinking, and the today’s discussion reminded me the mindshift I went through that helped me overcome the hurdle of even beginning to change.  These three (related) realizations may not seem like much, but for me they were literally life-changing and drastically conflicted with my culture and upbringing.  Integrating these statements into my belief system (as opposed to just acknowledging them intellectually) were instrumental in allowing me to drastically and permanently change my eating habits.

  1. If there’s food left on the plate, and I’m not hungry anymore, it’s OK to stop eating.  This may seem obvious, and while I always knew it made sense, I never practiced it.  Culturally, and I’m sure it’s the same for many of you, it was unacceptable to leave anything on the plate.  So, I never did.  But, eating all the food on my plate never did help any hungry kids in Africa – it just made me overeat.
  2. If it’s dinner time, and I’m not hungry, it’s OK to skip that meal altogether.  This is a more extreme version of the statement above, but the thought of skipping a meal (again I think largely because of culture) was impossible for me to comprehend before.  “Well, I should eat now in case I get hungry later,” I would think to myself.  Turns out, your body (when healthy) is pretty darn good telling you when you *really* need something.  I was ignoring my body’s signals and stuffing food in my face just because it was time!  A lot of the time I wasn’t even *really* hungry; it was more like a psychological addiction I had developed to eating at a particular time, like a habit-forming drug.  And even if I was hungry, many times it was just a tinge of hunger, something that would easily pass by focusing on something else if I applied even the slightest bit of willpower.
  3. If there’s no meat in the meal, it’s still a meal, and everything will be OK!  This was probably the hardest one for me to completely believe.  No meat – no meal; that’s just how I was brought up.  I thought I would perish without meat!  “Where will I get protein!?”  (Turns out, there are many other sources of protein.)  I ate meat at pretty much every meal.  And if there was no meat in it, I considered it a snack.  The interesting thing was I didn’t have to believe that not eating meat would improve my health – it was just believing that everything would be OK, that I would not disintegrate, if I didn’t eat meat at *every* meal.  This was the key to feeling safe to try a drastic diet change where I stopped eating meat (and fish and dairy and processed grains and basically just started eating only plants) for a while.  After I did that, I felt so great by eliminating meat, fish, dairy, processed grains, high sugar foods, etc., I decided I would limit my consumption of those things as much as I could tolerate while still being sustainable for the long term.

I think that anyone who goes through as drastic a change as I did cannot sustain it on willpower alone for the long term.  The mindshift is what allows me to keep it going.  Maybe you have struggled with these same hurdles, or maybe you have others that you’ve overcome.  I’d love to hear your experiences.

eat to live

It’s about time I posted about Eat to Live as it was undoubtedly the proverbial straw.  I noticed a friend / colleague from work (Lawrence) eating enormous salads at lunchtime and shedding pounds.  He mentioned Eat to Live as a source of inspiration — the correlations between diet and disease discussed in the book are striking.  After you read it, you too will likely feel compelled to eat comically large salads.

Exactly 1 year ago, Lawrence posted a fantastic write-up on Eat to Live and how he implements the lifestyle on his blog.  A quote:

For me, the main takeaways of Eat to Live are basically this:

  • Good food are foods which have a high nutrient / calorie ratio
  • Eat mostly vegetables. Do not eat a lot grains (even whole grains), not a lot of oils, almost no processed food. Eat vegetables.
  • Minimize almost everything else. Almost no meat, v little dairy (milk, cheese, etc), oils, processed foods, etc.
  • Because you do not get to eat many calorie rich foods, you have to eat an enormous amount of vegetables. This is the virtuous circle. To get 30 – 60% of your calories, be prepared to eat 1lb of salad and 1lb of cooked vegetables per day
  • Because you have to eat such a large amount of vegetables, you rarely feel hungry. Stretch receptors in your stomach trigger whenever you eat a large volume of food which make you feel satiated. Because of this, you rarely feel hungry on the diet

My recommendation: read the book with a positive attitude and an open mind.

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