“Positive Eating” Takes the Nation By Storm!

by | Sep 17, 2008

Apparently the philosophy I subscribe to is called “positive eating” and today it is the subject of a New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope. If you read the article you will probably recognize more than a little similarity between her talking points and many of the posts here on Thought for Food. In other words, Team, it looks like we’re on to something!

Parker-Pope defines the term positive eating as “shunning deprivation diets and instead focusing on adding seasonal vegetables, nuts, berries and other healthful foods” to your plate. Indeed the term seems appropriate, since it highlights the necessity of focusing on adding foods to your diet rather than cutting foods out. Also, the word “positive” implies a healthy, happy relationship with food rather than a negative one where food is the enemy. Thus positive eating means you can both enjoy food and be healthy without sacrificing quality of life. The sad part is that this is news to so many of us.

There are several reasons I think positive eating is more effective (for both health and weight loss) than diets that require a strict adherence to acceptable and unacceptable foods and practices. First, although less healthy foods are not explicitly restricted in a positive eating model, your stomach can only fit so much food (you may snicker at this, but it is true), and if you are filling up with more vegetables and other foods with low energy-density then you will end up eating fewer calories. This principle is called Volumetrics, and it is a very effective means of weight loss.

Second, eating seasonal vegetables, whole grains and a variety of proteins and healthy fats is incredibly nourishing to your body. Subsequently you feel satisfied with less food and are unlikely to have as many cravings later. Deprivation diets, on the other hand, starve you of certain nutrients. Not only does this make your body and your metabolism work less efficiently, it is also a major cause of binging and overindulgence. This is why going on a diet is one of the best predictors of future weight gain: your metabolism slows down and you eat more once you go off the diet. Deprivation is a recipe for dieting disaster, save yourself the suffering and go to the farmers’ market instead.

Third, fresh and healthy food prepared simply tastes absolutely amazing. Most people would be astounded by how delicious a 10 minute meal can be if high-quality seasonal ingredients are the centerpiece. After learning just a few simple cooking tricks, the thought of eating cheap, processed, tasteless food is appalling. It just stops making sense to subject yourself to unhealthy food when it no longer tastes good to you.

Positive eating also offers a lot more flexibility than any specific diet. If you have a healthy relationship with food, you can skip the broccoli if you don’t like it and you can have your favorite indulgence without feeling guilty. For this reason, people are far more likely to adopt positive eating as a way of life rather than a temporary fix to meet some specific fitness goal. This is incredibly important because time and again research has shown that overall dietary pattern is a far better predictor of your long-term health than any single food or nutrient.

Finally, if you are practicing positive eating it is difficult not to get more involved in the food culture of your own community. Going to the farmers’ market puts you in direct contact with the farmers who grow the best food, and there is no better way to feel connected to your personal food chain (to borrow Michael Pollan’s term) and support your local economy. Feelings of community and being a part of something bigger will elevate the importance of food in your life (in the good way, to where it should be), ultimately making you even more committed to following the most healthy (and moral) way of eating.

Positive eating may seem like a foreign concept to many of you, but I suspect it is easier and more attainable than you might think. This blog is specifically designed to simplify and demystify healthy cooking and eating. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

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2 Responses to ““Positive Eating” Takes the Nation By Storm!”

  1. Jed Wolpaw says:

    The NYTimes did a child wellness section last week and one of the articles talked about “forbidden foods”. Evidently studies have been done proving that kids will eat WAY more of a food that is locked away in a jar on top of the fridge than if that same food is readily available. Maybe we create the craving for junk food because we make it special.

  2. doug says:

    As you say, I’ve found that the more halthy food I try to include in my diet, the less hungry I am for unhealthy food. It’s getting to the point that my nightly pre-bed Big Mac is almost more of a chore than a treat.

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