After all my years of pontificating about cutting back your meat intake and embracing part-time vegetarianism, after all of my posts about leafy green vegetables and how good they are for you, and after all of the other discussion of healthy eating here at Casual Kitchen, I have a terrible confession to make:
For the past few weeks, every single morning, I've been having a truly unhealthy breakfast: two eggs, sunnyside, and four or five good sized slabs of high-fat, high-protein, artery-obstructing, Portuguese sausage.
(The fact that this sausage is made in Hawaii--the one state where SPAM is considered a delicacy--tells you all you need to know about its fat content.)
I'll happily admit that this kind of food will kill you if you eat it to excess. But there are instances where this kind of diet actually serves your body's purposes. And in my particular case, I'm in recovery mode from being seriously ill. I need to rebuild muscle, increase my weight (yes, I know, a perfect problem to have...) and try to increase my strength and endurance.
So I've been starting off each day with a breakfast just like this, combined with a pretty aggressive exercise schedule. And since I've applied this diet, I've had deeper energy reserves, I've returned to my normal fighting weight and I've been able to do increasingly difficult workouts from week to week.
So, what, you ask, is my point? My point is that too often we think of our diets as fixed and rigid things. They shouldn't be. Instead, I want you to think of your diet as a flexible and powerful tool.
There are times in your life that you might need to bias your diet towards healthy, cleaner foods, and there are times when you might need to bias your diet towards more energy-dense foods. You change it up as your body requires it.
Let's say you have your annual physical, and your bloodwork tests show that your cholesterol levels are running a bit high. Well, then bias your diet to oatmeal, fresh fruits and veggies, and cut back on, uh, exactly the kind of food I've been eating lately. You might be surprised by the results. And, of course, results achieved this way are certainly preferable to the expense and potential long-term side effects of taking Pravachol or Lipitor.
Let's say your blood pressure is on the high side. You can choose to relentlessly remove salt from your diet and start up an exercise program. If you're on blood pressure meds, perhaps this can lessen--or even eliminate--your reliance on them.
If you're trying to improve your fitness and lose some weight, you can increase your intake of lean protein (chicken breasts, turkey breasts, lean beef, etc) and antioxidants (kale, swiss chard and other leafy greens). You'll replenish your body and fend off potential free radical damage.
Don't think of your diet as a rigid set of rules that can never be broken. Think of it as a license to experiment--with different foods, different components, different routines. You can tweak things here and there, or you can make aggressive wholesale changes. You'll find that your diet can help you achieve a wide range of goals, and it can be as powerful a tool as any pharmacological solution.
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