The No-Duh Diet Plan
Oprah viewers are known to sometimes experience “ah-ha” moments, little flashes of enlightenment that are triggered by an event, a phrase, or a bit of wisdom expressed by one of her guests. When I watch the news lately and hear an anchor rattling off that latest findings of a million-dollar study on health or diet or fitness in America, I experience something a little less illuminating that an “ah-ha” moment. I call these moments of frustration my “no duh” moments.
Let me give you a couple examples. Exercise makes you feel good. No duh. Eating processed foods will make you fat. No duh. And now, with the release of a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that predicts that 75 percent of Americans (the fattest people on the planet) will be overweight or obese by 2020, I have to wonder if I’m all alone in my “no duh” moments. Maybe what I thought was common sense about health, diet, and exercise isn’t so common at all.
How many warning labels do we need plastered over something before we stop and think about putting it into our mouths? How many billions need to be spent on the same redundant studies before we realize that there’s really only one way to get and stay healthy? But there I go again, assuming that everyone knows the same big secret: that eating real food in moderate amounts and making exercise part of your everyday routine will help you become and stay fit and healthy. Ah ha!
So what is the driving force behind our collective rejection of common sense? Some may argue that the government, food producers, and restaurants just make it too hard to afford real food. Others say we don’t have time to exercise or prepare real meals. I’m a big fan of the position that it’s simply a combination of lack of education and good old-fashioned laziness.
Let me set the record straight by outing myself as a born-and-raised South Jersey girl who has been known to partake in the occasional hoagie or Philadelphia cheesecake. There is absolutely no shame in my game when it comes to my indulgence in local favorites. But when I gained nearly 25 pounds a couple years back making these wonderful treats part of my everyday, I didn’t blame my (crazy) busy schedule or my lack of access to a salad. It was all about my poor choices and my enthusiasm for pretty lame excuses.
The truth is that most food in the grocery store is complete garbage and hardly qualifies as something that should be consumed by humans, but no one is forcing you to buy it. I’m almost positive that it takes a lot longer to cook up a box of processed macaroni and cheese than to slice up some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese – a little fattening, but also real and easier for your body to recognize and digest. Some days a meal for me may be a half of a watermelon or asparagus with olive oil and steak seasoning. Simple, easy, cheap, and prepared in no time at all. I also did a little research on the cost of fast food, and I know I can make a meal of the SAME foods at home for my family for half the cost.
The bigger truth is that we haven’t become a nation of people with too little time; we’ve become a nation of people with too much time spent on things that won’t make us happier or healthier. Our priorities are out of skew and are choices cater to the lazy in us. Exercise isn’t about hitting the gym for two hours everyday. It’s about parking further from the mall instead of circling for ten minutes looking for a spot, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and using the playground equipment WITH your kids instead of sitting on the bench and watching them have all the fun. If I told you that I have time to fit an entire workout into my day everyday, I would be a huge liar. With three kids (and one on the way), two businesses, 17 million on-going personal and professional projects, and all my volunteer obligations, I hardly have time to shower – a sometimes gross but true fact. However, I ALWAYS have time to fit in an extra minute to jog up three flights of stairs than wait for an elevator to carry me to where I need to go. There’s NO excuse for me to drive the kids to the park for a round of basketball and not join in. When I wanted an easy way to burn a couple calories after having each baby, I opted to carry the baby in a sling or backpack carrier instead of pushing a stroller. For Michelle Obama arms, I leave the grocery cart in the store and carry my load of bags to the car fitting in a couple bicep curls along the way. Simple.
There are a lot of factors that have gone into making us fatter than ever and that have the potential to make 75% of us fat in less than 8 short years in the future, but there’s one big word that can prevent that from happening: Choices. When it all comes down to it, it’s our choice to maintain our own health. We can blame the government, McDonald’s, or our busy schedules all we want, but if we don’t take this very simple matter into our own hands, we’ll be the only ones suffering. Move around. Eat real food. And when you treat yourself (occasionally), make it with something good. It’s that easy.
Rebekah “Bex” Borucki is a mother-of-three, a personal trainer, and an urban farming hobbyist raising backyard chickens and growing her own organic garden in a small urban space in Burlington County, New Jersey. You can find out more about Bex’ work and family on her website, BexLife.com.