Welcome back to the End Average Fundamentals series! If you are new to this, please begin reading the series from the beginning by clicking HERE. Although the messages work on their own, there will be more context for you if you follow them in sequence. Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter and I’ll send these directly to you so that you never miss a new post. You can sign up right on the EndAverage.com homepage. Now let’s get right to it.
The next topic we are going to be diving into is health. Now, you might be asking yourself why we are looking at physical health when the blog is intended to bring clarity about our faith walk. I have two main reasons that health is one of the four categories. First, health issues like physical and mental fatigue or preventable chronic ailments distract us from achieving who we are supposed to be and they degrade motivation. Second, in all things we are to bring glory to God – all things includes your God-made body! There are more reasons than that, of course, but those are the main ones. I want to be able to pick up my great-grandchildren when that time comes, and I want my mental clarity to be sharp as I age as well. I enjoy life and I enjoy the people around me. I also enjoy mentoring and discipling, and starting with physical health is a key to make that possible.
Food is one of my favorite conversation topics. Food and drink has such a personal connection to everyone because it’s in front of us every day, and can evoke memories and trigger emotional responses. Ultimately, it’s essential to stay alive! Of course food can also have a dark side that can damage the very life it should be supporting. You know this already, though. We all do. I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor, so what I’m going to talk about here is a mindset and an approach to food that my wife and I have decided to adopt and pass onto our kids. This approach is helping us get into the shape we want to have and maintain. Our approach provides us with energy to keep up with four kids and busy lives, but most of all it allows us to absolutely enjoy wonderful food with a clean conscience! We call it the “80%” approach. Let me tell you about it.
Let’s define a few things real quick.
First, I’ve gone full swing on the spectrum of food, eating everything from funnel cakes at the fair to strict paleo diets so I don’t want you to think that the way we eat is restrictive. It’s not. We will be quick to order pizza when our friends are over, we have nine kids to feed all together, and we’d rather watch baseball than cook. The 80% rule means that the vast majority of the time (80% or more) we are making meals with real food. We don’t log it or keep exact track, but overall we know when we’ve slipped below the line and need to stay away from junk for awhile. When I eat at a restaurant or have meals with friends, I don’t worry about it because I know that overall I am a healthy eater.
Second, when I say real food I mean food that is as close to the way God created it as possible. We do our best to create meals from real ingredients instead of processed boxed foods that are more chemical than nutritional. This is a topic for another time, but it’s common sense to see that chemical processing and non-food additives (food coloring or preservatives) aren’t as healthy as their natural counterparts. By choosing the ingredients you can ensure that you know exactly what is in your meals. Also, if you chose delicious ingredients every step of the way it’s tough to mess up a recipe! It’s also not hard to do some reading to educate yourself on the varying kinds of alterations on foods you will run into these days, things ranging from pesticides to genetic modification are an example of human intervention that you should read up on. Again, I am not a nutritionist or scientist so please do your own research – as far as me and my family goes, we stick to as much organic produce as we can. A rule of thumb my wife taught me is that if you’re spending the majority of your shopping around the outside edge of a grocery store, where vegetables and perishable stuff is stocked, you’re probably doing good.
The fundamental principles on food:
Garbage in, garbage out – what you stick in your pie-hole matters! You absolutely cannot complain about your weight or energy level if you live off of diet coke instead of water. You cannot expect your body to work well if you’re dumping sugar in the gas tank. Pay attention to this one – you cannot expect your kids to develop healthy eating habits if you are a crappy role model. In a recent Freakonomics podcast on the science of food the host said “food is the single most important input that we control in terms of helping our bodies and minds function properly”.
Moderation – every time you make a food decision you get closer to, or further away from, overall health. Portion control and the self control to just put the fork down are habits that can be developed just like a muscle. The more you exercise this willpower the easier it becomes. I’ve never met anyone who could reverse a poor diet overnight and stick to it from then on. What I don’t want you to face is a medical condition that forces your diet to change as a reaction. Take action now so you can prevent the medical issues like obesity or heart problems.
Basic habits that will help you:
Label reading and paying attention to quality – Our food consumption in the US has strayed into the realm of devastating amounts of sugars and salt. Restaurant food and pre-packaged meals have declined into quantity vs. quality. Fortunately, we also have a new wave of awareness on this trend so the food we buy at the store and restaurants have to disclose what they contain on the food labels.
Portion control – There’s a bad habit that has developed that originally stems from good intent in times of scarcity, and that habit is to feel like you have to eat everything on your plate. Combine this “finish it” mentality with enormous portions and you’re set up for failure every time you sit down at the table. Your body has physical limits that allow your brain to synch with your stomach, and for many people this connection has been thrown off balance. Eating more than you burn means weight gain and stress on the digestive system. Too much of anything has bad consequences, so put the fork down. When I’m at the table with my wife and kids we make it a point to have conversation. Our conversations not only help us become closer, but it also slows down our eating and allows our brains to connect to our body as we fill up, which makes it easier to put the fork down when enough is enough.
Stick to it longterm
When it comes to eating the right food in correct portions you won’t get immediate results. This is frustrating when starting out. You may still feel hungry even though you’ve had enough, and real food takes a while to get used to when you’re used to your pleasure receptors getting bombarded by salts, fats, and sugars. It took us some time but now if I eat a fast-food chicken nugget I can literally taste a chemical aftertaste. Retraining your body and tastes takes time, but stick with it. As little as one month of doing it right will get you over the physical reaction your body has to go through while detoxing from habitual unhealthy eating. Once things settle, you’ll discover more energy, stamina, and enjoyment with life. How do I know? Because I’ve done it! And I’m never going back to the old way.
Like I said before, I want to be healthy and sharp as I age. I want to pick up my grandchildren and play with them without gasping for breath. I want to be a role model for the next generations and pass on any wisdom I have to them with a sharp mind. Health starts in the kitchen and grocery store, so it’s time we start being intentional about our food choices. Once you make it a habit to eat healthy, you can stop overthinking it and it just becomes a normal way of doing things. So start making changes right now!
I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite books, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. He writes that “the healthier you are, the more life you experience. Better health not only lets you live all the days of a longer life, it also lets you live more life in each and every one of those days”.
Average food choices have gotten us the title of one of the most obese and sickly nations in the world.
Let’s end average together.