Like me, you may find losing weight difficult. Even when you are ‘in the zone’ and motivated to do it, you’re then baffled by the enormous amount of conflicting information out there about what you should be doing. Should I eat what I want but just in smaller quantities? Should I be counting calories? Should I be fasting? Is is normal to feel hungry all the time? Do I need to eat more protein? Am I supposed to be cutting out carbs? Should I eat three large meals and not snack in between, or eat more frequently but have tiny portions? Maybe my plate is too big? Perhaps the issue is eating at night? You get the idea. If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve also attempted to answer most, if not all of these questions.
The good news is that Dr Joel Fuhrman answers all of these questions in his book ‘Eat to Live‘, which is designed for ‘fast and sustained weight loss’. There are tons of diet books out there, I only read this one as I found it in a box when I moved; and put it on my bookshelf with a host of other books I had no real intention of reading. I have no idea where it came from or why I was drawn to read it when I did, but I’m glad I was. Let me give you three reasons why I enjoyed it and would recommend it to you:
- It’s not just a ‘get thin quick’ book, the focus is very much about nutritional information, education and promoting long term health
- Fuhrman condemns fad diets and explores a number of popular fads, giving his professional critique of them
- Facts, figures and explanations are provided, which give you the sense that Fuhrman has conducted extensive research before making his conclusions, rather than just presenting theories without the scientific evidence to back them up.
I’d like to think I’m reasonable intelligent, well educated and generally pretty socially aware, so if you’d asked me a month ago about nutrition I would have confidently told you what I ‘knew’. But it turns out there were some pretty significant things that I didn’t know and perhaps you don’t either. For instance:
- Where do we get most of our protein from? Milk, cheese and meat right? Wrong.
- If I need more fibre what should I be eating? Cereal, porridge and bread? Wrong.
- What should my diet mainly consist of? A fairly even balance of carbs (bread/pasta/potatoes/rice), meat, fish and vegetables. Wrong again!
Fuhrman argues that the majority of our diet (yes most of what we eat) should be greens. We need fresh salad, raw vegetables & fruit (whole, not blended) and cooked vegetables, every day – and plenty of them! He suggests we avoid added sugar and salt, cut animal products out completely, or at least cut them down to a couple of servings per week max, and recommends we avoid refined carbohydrates altogether (white bread, pasta, cakes). We should also eat plenty of varieties of beans and a small amount of nuts and seeds daily.
There is so much I could pull from this book to tell you about but instead, I’ll just give you a few snippets and encourage you to get a copy yourself.
Fuhrman uses the equation Health = Nutrients/Calories to summarise how we should be eating, which sounds fancy, but essentially just translates to mean we should ensure everything we eat (all the calories we consume) are nutrient rich. If you’re consuming food with low – or no nutritional value, you’re consuming ’empty calories’. You’ll still be consuming calories, which can be used as energy, but the body is getting little or no benefit from them. Those consuming calories with a high nutrient content will be healthier. Period.
Fuhrman talks about the American diet (which I assume we can now broadly term the ‘Western diet’, as we all eat similarly) and how this is killing us. I mean literally killing us. He believes we need to prioritise prevention of the major diseases, rather than managing them or focusing on trying to cure them; and argues that most diseases like cancer and heart disease can be avoided it our diets are exceptionally good. The nutrients we get from fruits and vegetables keep us healthy. He’s not suggesting scoffing a load of salad is going to cure someone of cancer, but that if, over a long period of time (decades perhaps), you consistently eat healthfully, you can greatly improve your chances of avoiding these diseases (and various other ailments) from developing. Our bodies are clever, if we give them proper fuel they can use it effectively.
This isn’t about cramming in more fruit and veg around what we’re currently eating, or just removing elements of our diet like fried bacon and cakes. This is about replacing the majority of the things we currently eat with raw fruits and vegetables, salads and cooked vegetables. Having a token banana with your breakfast each day or choosing a salad over a pizza once a week is not what he’s recommending; it’s simple not significant enough, please be clear about this.
Twofold approach to sustained health
There are two main elements to consider:
- Understanding the incredible benefits of eating the right things and the dangers of not eating them
- Understanding the significant repercussions of eating the wrong things.
Apparently carcinogenesis (the development of cancer) involves ‘an accumulation of mutations or damage to our DNA‘, which happens over a long period of time. According to Fuhrman plant-derived nutrients can help to prevent (and sometimes even reverse) cell damage. When we’re consistently eating nutrient-rich food, our bodies have the ability to repair cell damage and our immune system is able to fight disease in general. He believes our bodies would do this naturally however they aren’t able to now because as a society, we’re simply not eating enough nutrient-rich food; and in turn we’re all getting increasingly sick as a result.
Assuming he’s right, it’s worrying to think that we all tend to say things like “It’s not that healthy but I’ll just eat one or two” or “It’s probably bad for me but I enjoy it” not really considering what we mean by ‘not that healthy’ or ‘bad’ and failing to truly understand the impact of this. If every time we hear or say ‘not that healthy’ we become accustomed to attributing that statement to a greater risk of cancer, heart attack or premature aging, perhaps it will seem less meaningless and trivial – and may help us change our patterns of behaviour.
If this is all true, why aren’t we told this?
Fuhrman gives some plausible suggestions as to why he believes why the government, health organisations etc. provide us with unhelpful and misleading information, for example the government and our schools promote a wildly inaccurate food pyramid, which encourages a high consumption of processed carbohydrates and animal products. Fuhrman believes the government isn’t truthful with us as it’s under pressure to support the food production industry (e.g. dairy farmers) and that health organisations have the perception that encouraging people to eat significantly more fruit and vegetables and less processed food is unrealistic, it believes the public won’t take on board the recommendations and therefore this is why only very subtle changes are advocated.
I would encourage you to read the book, worse case scenario you’ve just read a book, best case scenario, you may improve your understanding of nutrition, lose weight from his recommendations and transform your health for good.
There are a number recipes in Fuhrman’s book, personally I think you could follow his ‘rules’ for eating and come up with more creative options than he has. I think it would just be a case of taking some time to adjust to the changes and becoming familiar with what you can eat, then finding more inventive combinations to create interesting meals. Even if you don’t follow everything he advocates to the letter, the more you do to improve your diet, the more health benefits you can expect to enjoy. I have already started to implement some significant changes and I feel great.