Let’s be honest – We’re fat.
If you ever need to lose friends, become socially awkward and risk being a social outcast – just start eating a strict healthy diet.
When I was in high school, I was a statistic. I was in the majority group of American teenagers who lived sedentary, overweight lives. You can read more on that here.
At some point, I decided things were going to change. I started eating healthy, doing my homework about how foods affected my body, and I exercised a lot. In just over 3 months I lost just under 70 lbs. Yea, you read that right. I was very serious, and I’ve never looked back.
Explaining my new eating habits and dedication to being active to friends was easy at first because I made such a drastic change. Nobody could argue with the results I had achieved, so everyone listened. Fast forward a decade, and most of my friends didn’t know me back then. They think I’ve always been fit, and have always eaten like a weird hippy.
We live in a culture that is addicted to food. If you think we are in a sex crazed, music icon worshiping, money lusting society, you’re right. But that is nothing compared to the way we lust for food as a society. The numbers are scary.
According to the American Heart Association’s 2013 statistics, anywhere from 60.2 – 81.3% of American adults are overweight, depending on the demographic. My segment of the population (adult white guys) is 79%, ouch!
Want to know something even worse? A study of the trend in teenagers over a 35 year span from 1974-2009 showed the rate of obesity among teens has increased 5 times!
It’s the truth, and we know it.
We can see it all around us, even within our own families. I refused to continue living a life of sickness and limited activity in exchange for eating Doritos and drinking Cokes. As it turns out, the best flavors, foods, recipes and options are actually on the healthy side of the food world– who would have thought?
Today I’m going to share simple things that helped me get my diet and body under control. I’m not a doctor, this is not medical advice and I’m not selling a quick weight loss pill on late-night infomercials. So take this for just what it is, a few simple tips that have helped me keep my body under control for over a decade now.
Establish borders – Define good vs. bad.
I need a playing field, boundaries. I’m the kind of guy who needs to know where the end zone is and how to get there. When it comes to my food and body, there are some simple lines that I can draw to help keep on track.
1) “Good Food” = Anything that had a face/root.
As I’ve said before, real food has to die. I have to take the life of that food, and make it part of my body to sustain my own life. If I can’t look at the “food” in it’s ready-to-cook state and identify what animal or plant it came from, I don’t eat it. That steak I had for dinner last night – it used to have a face. The chicken we roasted last weekend, very easy to identify its face. The tomatoes we strained to make salsa and BBQ sauce – I literally saw their roots. The apples I eat with lunch, they still have a little of the root attached at the stem. That garden carrot in my salad, well it’s actually is a root.
This rule gets tricky on things like dairy – which comes from an animal with a face, but was never part of that animal like its meat. Most grains, which must be processed in order to be used, are questionable too. Grains have to be highly processed in order to be used for cooking, and aren’t easily identified right before eating.
For these kinds of items, I like to think of them the same way I would a nice wine or very sweet desert – to be used sparingly and on occasion, not as a staple of my diet with every meal.
Eggs are accepted in this rule – because eventually, under normal circumstances, they would have had a face. Nuts & Seeds are qualified under this category as well because they could produce roots.
There are sub-categories here, but they don’t matter as much when you’re first getting started. Eventually you can try to exchange starchy, high glycemic index foods for low glycemic index foods. For now, just keep it simple. You see where I’m going with this?
(*Bonus Tip – if your meat has been eating food that is highly processed, that’s bad. Animals are not healthy when they have to live in a pen and eat processed food. Go with grass fed/natural/free range/wild meat whenever possible.)
2) “Bad Food” = Anything that has been processed.
If anything other than a hand, or a blade, has changed the food from its original state (with a face or root) I consider it “processed”. Was it milled, churned, pressed, rendered, powdered, baked, packaged, sealed, boxed, canned, preserved, etc? Then don’t eat it. (*there are some exceptions for canning/preserving your own food in a good way which we talk about here, and we will talk about more later.)
For example, that steak has been cut from the animal – it’s good to go. If those onions have been diced, cook away. Beans that have been pulled, cracked, and split – yum! If you have to open a box, canister, bag, seal, etc to get the item – it’s probably not “food” at that point. If it has an ingredient label with more than 1-2 ingredients (ie – peanuts, salt) be weary. If it comes in patty, paste, or powder form, it has been highly processed and is generally not good.
There are exceptions here as well. If you buy almond meal (finely ground almonds) it will look like a powder, and be sealed in a bag. However it has only one ingredient and a short shelf life (compared). Most frozen veggies are in a bag, and nuts are often in jars. The rule is not as important as the point – don’t eat processed foods. Things like burgers, chips, sodas, nuggets, sticks, links, breads, deli meats, and crackers are all out. i.e. You can’t find an Oreo’s tree in the woods or a fish-patty shaped sea bass in the ocean.
(*Bonus Tip: Real food goes bad – FAST. If something has a shelf life of more than a few days – it’s not food. Real food may last a week or two in a fridge if it’s skinned like apples or oranges. Set a piece of raw meat on the counter and see how bad it goes rank. Lay out your veggies on the table and in a week they’ll start showing signs of mush and rot. Natural food will not last 3-6 months on a shelf. I’m not sure what that is, but it’s not food.)
Take responsibility for your food – Grow, Raise, Hunt.
If you want to get serious about your health, you’re going to have to take responsibility for your own food. Don’t depend on what some agency tells you is healthy, and stop trusting foods labeled as “healthy”. Find out for yourself. Do your homework, and take responsibility for your food. You can read more about our GROW-RAISE-HUNT plan here.
I actually started hunting in my early twenties in connection with food. I don’t know if you’ve bought any grass-fed beef lately, but it ain’t cheap! Wild, free range, organic meat is better and close to FREE if you learn to hunt. I highly recommend it. Along with hunting we maintain a large garden, and raise chickens for eggs/meat.
Part of being responsible is to handle our food from the ground & field, to the table. We spend lots of time weeding and tending to the garden, dragging large game animals a mile through the woods, cleaning up after chickens, and turning our kitchen table into a makeshift butcher shop. It’s not always attractive from the outside, but I’ve come to see it as quite a beautiful way to live.
Not only did I have to learn to handle my own food, I also had to take responsibility for my understanding of what was “healthy”.
As I lost weight, started getting fit, and learning about food and its effect on my body, I knew it had to become personal. Just because something seems “healthy” doesn’t mean it is, or that it is best. To establish a long-term sustainable plan for my family’s diet, I had to learn more about food in general.
All the healthy labels in the grocery store have tolerances. Food labeled “Gluten Free” for example, can contain small amounts of gluten. “Organic” can mean different things from different companies. “All-Natural” meats can contain some pretty un-natural additives.
Not only are food labels and marketing untrustworthy, so is a lot of healthy diet advice. Almost any mass-media healthy eating plan is going to include “whole grains” that have been scientifically proven over and over to cause digestion and intestinal problems.
At the end of the day, it’s your body, and your health. So YOU should be in touch with what it needs. YOU should take this personally, and YOU should take responsibility for the getting your body the quality fuel it needs.
The food pyramid has changed, again. Trendy diets come and go. What’s “healthy” today is a heart-risk food tomorrow. With information that is constantly changing, and advice from every side confusing us all, what is a person to do? Well, I’m glad you asked…
A Simple Strategy – The 1,000 Year Old RUSTIC Test.
After reading all the books and trying to eat healthy for the last dozen years, I know it can get confusing. I’ve tried different plans, and programs over the years all claiming to have the latest “science” about how our body needs food. Some said eat tons of proteins, and no bread. Some said eat more “healthy whole grains” than anything else. I kept track of how each type of food affected my health, energy, performance, etc. Many years, books, and studies later, I’ve boiled it down to a simple little formula.
People are always approaching me about healthy eating and fitness questions. I seem to be the “healthy friend” for most of my friends. When they ask, I give them this simple equation. The ones who have listened, and changed their diets accordingly always see results. Two in particular saw drastic results. One friend lost over 120 lbs, another lost over 60. Are you ready to hear it yet? Ok, here goes…
Only eat foods that you could have easily eaten if
you were living in a very RUSTIC location 1,000 years ago.
A guy living in the remote regions of Montana 1,000 years ago was not eating granulated, bleached sugars. He didn’t have access to white flour. There were no supermarkets filled with shelves of boxes, bags, rolls, and packages. He had to GROW, GATHER, RAISE, and HUNT all his food. If he couldn’t grow it in a garden, find it in the woods, raise it on the back 40, hunt it or trap it – he didn’t eat it.
It’s that simple.
It sounds a lot harder than it is. Most people’s gut reaction to this idea is to think about all the things they can’t eat (loaf bread, donuts, milkshakes, breaded foods, chips, cereal, etc) and forget all the things they CAN eat! Berries, nuts, fruits, vegetables, meats, oils, and fats combine for millions of combinations.
Today, we can eat this way with much less work than it would have required 1,000 years ago. Small gardens, local farmers markets, CSA’s, and open hunting seasons present great opportunities.
You can do this. I did. Several of my friends have. Now is your time, so GO!
More Resources – Where to go from here?
This article is not enough. You are going to need resources. Recipes, encouraging stories, and ideas will help a ton along the way. Below are some of my favorite resources and tools. They can help you get more information and dig a little deeper into the ideas I’ve used over the last decade to get healthy and stay that way.
Gut It, Cut It, Cook It. - A great book on home butchering. A must have for beginners full of pics and instructions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to help. I hope this article has encouraged you towards a more RUSTIC lifestyle, no matter where you are now. Thanks for coming by today! See you next time.
If you like what we’ve got going on here, and want to stay up-to-date on what we’re doing, jump onto our email list below and we’ll let you know when big stuff is coming