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On Refining Diet

I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.

Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:

First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.

Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.

Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.

Junk Food Tastes Good, Eh?

I ate a blueberry scone today. I normally don't eat sweets, but I've been walking about 5 hours a day seeing sights and temples, and I realized I was only eating like 1800 calories. So, that ain't good. The only high calorie item at Starbucks, so I got the scone. It tasted great.

And I thought about it. Why does the scone taste great, when healthier stuff doesn't?

Answer: Because our taste buds don't suit us well in the modern day. The reason junk food tastes good is because it was advantageous in the past. Sweet things, high density carbs, and fats were really efficient for surviving and not poisonous back then.

But now, they're not the best way. The taste buds evolved to help us survive, but now they're kind of not helping. It's like a broken speedometer in a car. Foods are supposed to taste good to let you know that they're safe and beneficial to eat. But now, we don't get poisoned from toxic plants... we get poisoned from too much refined sugar with diabetes and obesity and such.

It'd be like if you were watching the speedometer in the car and it said "65" on the freeway, but you were going 110 in reality. Eating off what your taste buds tell you is bad for your survival now.

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