Towards Better Eating

When I left Apple I was a mess, and so was my diet — it was pretty literally burgers and fries six days a week. Since then it has been that long, slow trudge towards a healthy diet, one salad or turkey sandwich at a time.

You don’t just wake up one morning and eat a healthy diet. You can try, but you’re fighting lots of ingrained habits, and breaking bad habits and rebuilding new better ones is stressful and hard. It takes a solid six weeks for a new habit to become something you’re really comfortable with — where you stop having to think your way through the behavior — and even longer before it becomes fully automatic. There are biological aspects to this as well; your stomach gets used to a certain amount of food in a meal, and your digestive system (and it’s inhabitants) get used to the type of foods you eat. Suddenly cut your meal portion by half and guess what? Your body keeps telling you its hungry, because it’s not getting what it’s gotten habituated to.

When I first started down this path I did some research and talked to my doctor, and the advice he gave me was pretty simple:

  • Make changes in manageable pieces.
  • It takes six weeks for you to get comfortable with the change, longer for it to become automatic.
  • The first few successes make future ones easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a step back, but step forward again as soon as you can.
  • STOP DRINKING SUGARED SODA.

One of the  tricks I taught myself along the way was if I knew I needed to cut portion sizes or remove a set of things out of my diet, to do it in pieces. Let your stomach adjust to the smaller meal incrementally. Another thing I found works for me: don’t get too tied to an eating schedule; if you always eat at 8AM, noon and 6PM, your body will anticipate that and you’ll get hungry as it approaches, even if you snacked at 4:30. Varying meal times within a range is a way to learn how to eat when you’re hungry, and not when the clock says its time to eat, and that was a big win for me.

It is a process, and you need to think of it as a series of changes that restructures how you interact with food. Imagine if you woke up and someone ordered you to become left handed (unless you’re already left-handed. If you are, your job is to become right-handed). If you try to do everything left-handed starting day one it’s going to get ugly fast. If you start doing some tasks and practicing and trying things out, over time you’ll find you can make the transition reasonably well. Any other set of body preferences/habits are going to act the same way. As long as you don’t have someone pointing a gun at you and saying “now. or else”, incremental changes over time is what seems to be the way to minimize risk of failure and regression. At least, it’s worked for me. (and yes, I’m fortunate. I had no health crisis pointing that gun at me and giving me no choice in the matter; then again, that’s a reason to start now, and not when the heart attack hits…)

Along the way I’ve run into a few things that have really been nice additions to life as I’ve searched for healthier options. I thought I’d pass along a few to you.

First is the CSA — Community supported agriculture. Laurie and I have tried a couple of “box of organic stuff on your porch every week” companies over the years, and generally let them lapse after a while because in the middle of winter, they ended up looking like the Kale of the Month club. But a friend of mine recommended one to us, and we’ve been using them now for a couple of years and we’re extremely happy with them.

Full Circle

Full Circle is more than a CSA, it’s sort of a delivery-service artisan grocery. They cover much of the west coast: Washington, California, Idaho and Alaska. They not only source organic fruits and veggies from small farms in the area, they also carry a nice supply of artisan items in all grocery categories. Some are better values than others: we’ve found that the meats and fish they sell are good quality, but priced such that they aren’t really a great value, so we rarely use them (but then, over at Stanford mall is Schaub’s butcher, so we have access to alternatives).

On the other hand, we now buy all our dairy and eggs through them, as well as various breads. A significant portion of what we used to go to the grocery to get is now delivered once a week to our porch, at a competitive price, and incredibly fresh. Their service has been incredibly reliable and the occasion we’ve had a problem (usually an item that didn’t get into the box), they’ve fixed the bill immediately without question. Very impressive customer service.

So if you’re tired of picking through the produce at Safeway for something you’re willing to eat (and you should be tired of that), they’re worth a try. Want a deal? Check to see if you’re in a delivery area. If you are, just follow these steps to get your first box:

  1. Go to www.FullCircle.com and click the ‘Join Now’ button
  2. Enter promo code REFERFC2013 and “Chuq Von Rospach” as ‘Referred by’ in step 2
  3. Enjoy your discount

That’s it. You’ll get 40% off your first order. I’ll get a $10 credit on mine. And you’ll eat better and support the smaller, local farmers and food-artisans and keep those dollars in the local economy. In various ways, we all win.

Naturebox

I want to eat healthy, but I don’t intend on eating like a hermit. I’m always looking for good and interesting things to add to the mix and that will discourage me from considering eating the bad stuff. Given that I am both diabetic and have various food allergies, finding useful and good tasting stuff to snack on that aren’t carb-bombs and which don’t have ingredient lists that sound like they belong in a meth lab is tough.

So I heard an ad for Naturebox on a podcast and I was intrigued. I checked out the web site, and I was impressed, so I signed up for a sample box. And the snacks rocked. I’ve since signed up for a regular delivery, and the biggest problem I’ve had so far is that last month’s box lasted two weeks. That is, as they say, a good problem to have.

Their snacks are healthy and look like the kind of things that would come out of your kitchen if you had a personal chef cooking snacks for you. The ingredient list is things that came off farms, not laboratories. For instance, they do various dried fruits, and the dried granny smith apple slices (which are amazing) has “Apples” as the ingredient list.

They are constantly changing the mix of snacks and cycling them in and out of the menu. My next box includes things like “Maple Habanero Pretzel Pops”, “Dutch Cocoa Sun-Crunch”, “Sea Salt Sun-Crunch” and “Sourdough Cheddar Pretzels”. They make it very easy to search their pantry for compatible snacks: I can set “no nuts” and only see things that are safe for me, you can also go for low-carb, no sugar, vegan, soy free, and other filters.

So far everything I’ve tried has been tasty. All have been well prepared. A typical snack bag is usually good for 2-3 grazings, and they have enough flavor and texture that I don’t find myself eating simply eating until the bag’s empty. This stuff isn’t loaded with salt or sugar or other stuff that tends to encourage binge eating, and I find I’m eating slower and enjoying more. I’ve only been on the service a few months, but it’s impressed me a lot.

And it all tastes good and is nice to eat. Far from the “celery and cheeze whiz” days, folks.

So if this intrigues you, give it a shot. If you use this link, they’ll give you $10 off your first box. On top of that, I have three special invites I can use that will give you a free box. If you want one, send me an email and ask.

My one wish is that I could set up the box delivery permanently into “surprise me” mode with a “no nuts” option, but right now, I have to remember to go in and select the box items every month. I don’t mind, since I’m still exploring all of the options…

And there you are — two interesting alternatives to the local supermarket overly processed crap that will help you eat smarter, eat better and enjoy it more. Both are worth checking out.