Earlier this week, I weighed 151 pounds. I stand 6-foot, 1-inch tall, which means that I am thin. I happen to think this is a really good weight for me. Part of my success at being a good weight is that I am active. In addition to my work as a photographer and the necessities of taking care of a five-acre patch of land, my adventures walking our Irish Wolfhound are a real plus. Winter or summer, come rain or come shine, the 160-pound Hawken needs to be walked, and we try to walk a mile every day.
Another real plus for my health has, for a long time, been my devotion to eating a plant-based diet. For 10 years before I was married, I was a practicing dietary vegan (I didn’t eat any animal products at all), but after I got married, I found I could fold dairy and eggs back into my diet in moderation so Abby and I could share more meals.
A diet like this might seem alien to a lot of my readers, but when I look around, I see a lot of unhealthy people, who are often unhealthy because of the foods they eat. I’m not a doctor, but I like to think of myself as well-read and as a success.
Here are my thoughts about diet in 2019...
• Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Carbs get a bad reputation because people diagnosed with type II diabetes are told not to consume very many, but this is a consequence, not a plan. Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient, and your body needs them. Their bad reputation comes from foods like white bread and powdered sugar doughnuts. Think real whole grains; problem solved.
• It’s not gluten. In recent years, gluten, the protein in wheat, has been vilified. I think this perception persists because people associate gluten with white bread, which isn’t a good dietary choice, and when they give up white bread, they think it was the gluten that was the source of the problem. Unless a doctor diagnoses you with celiac disease, gluten probably isn’t an issue. I also recently watched a man-on-the-street video on the web in which almost no one interviewed who said they were on a gluten-free diet could actually identify what gluten is.
• You get enough protein. It’s almost too easy to dispel the myths surrounding protein. Look around. Do you see anyone who is protein deficient? If you are getting enough calories to maintain your weight, you’re getting enough protein.
• The trouble with cheese. If you enjoy cheese, keep in mind that it is one of the most calorie-dense foods in the human diet. A little cheese goes a long way.
• Drinking is eating. The most important nutrient in the human diet is water, and the fastest way to ruin water is to add a huge sugar load to it. Soft drinks are, in my opinion, one of the least healthy substances we can consume, and I don’t. I haven’t had a soda in years.
• The garden. Not only does a vegetable garden provide an excellent source of fruits and vegetables, tending it is a productive outdoor activity.
• Healthy snacks in the house. This is the real trick: if you don’t want to consume unhealthy foods, especially sugary snacks, don’t buy them and bring them into your home. If your pantry is full of Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes, you’ll snack on Snickers bars and Frosted Flakes. If your pantry is full of apples and hummus, you’ll snack on apples and hummus.
• But I need meat. Before you tell me you need meat to be big and strong, answer this: What do horses and cows eat?
• What’s good for the environment? It’s worth noting that production of meat, dairy and eggs is one of the most resource-intensive operations in America. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are fed to livestock.
• Come up with a plan. Plans like “keto” and “paleo” won’t work in the long run because they are unsustainable and don’t represent the kind of balance your body needs for the rest of your life. These diets might create weight loss in the short term, but...
• The only diet. The only dietary choice that will work in the long run is one you can adopt for the rest of your life.
One thing that frustrates me is that the Ada area seems to get new restaurants featuring old foods, like fried chicken or Tex-Mex. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a Thai or Indian place?
An enduring myth about vegetarians is that they don’t enjoy delicious foods, either because they can’t or they don’t want to. But in all honesty, I think I get more enjoyment out of foods because they are naturally complex and fulfilling. How much more appealing is a Stratford peach, for example, than a doughnut?
I know this is a lot to take in for our community, who were mostly raised on white bread, ribs and fried foods. But take it from me, if you so desire, the best foods for you are plant-based foods — beautiful fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. I’m 55 and an active, long-time vegetarian, and I feel great.