The Food Factor, Part 2: Adjusting Your Diet Mindset

Here’s a familiar adage: “You are what you eat.” It’s been uttered so often that it became a cliché generations ago. Most of us understand its meaning on some scientific level, even those of us who are allergic to science. For those who don’t, I’ve always translated it this way: The foods and drinks you consume are more than just fuel in the form of tasty treats. They literally break down on a catabolic level to become the stuff that you’re made of. If you consume junk foods, for instance, that is what you “are”.

Some of us inherently heed this advice, while others choose to ignore it by compartmentalizing it as an abstraction. I was once in that second camp, until I had a eureka moment, or what I like to call a zoom-out. This enlightened outlook afforded me a broader perspective on diet and its relationship to health and personal resilience. Luckily for me, it didn’t take a catastrophic health scare to set me straight, which is why I recommend to you a diet zoom-out of your own.

In my recent article Your Diet = Your Resilience, I laid out some of my favorite eating approaches for on-the-run professionals looking to keep their energy up while not spending too much time in food-preparation mode. In this installment, let me share with you some more specific diet advice that might surprise you, and inspire you to adjust your eating mindset.

Select Your Starches

Starch often gets a bad rap. It’s a more concentrated form of carbohydrates, which can sometimes lead to unintentional portion abuse. Those extra calories equal a pudgier you. These starch references, however, typically involve starch-based junk foods, ignoring the importance of starch in your diet. For one, starches are your primary fuel source. Paired with a proper exercise regimen, starch will keep you energized, not to mention regular. If you choose your starch wisely, your body can reap the benefits, and your meals can remain delicious. Rice and pasta are certainly in-bounds, particularly if the rice is brown and the pasta is whole wheat (a serving of the latter has 24% of the recommended fiber for a day!). If you’re careful about portioning, these starches won’t increase your weight.

Also consider steel cut oatmeal— a starch that can actually help you lose weight! Swap out your commercial breakfast cereal for oatmeal, and you’ll be dialing up your protein, vitamin and fiber intakes.

Fats Are Our Friends

When we think of fatty food, the animal-derived fats like butter and milk, and actual poultry and red meat, are what come to mind. But it’s a misconception that these cholesterol-laden, saturated fats are the only examples. There are plenty of good fats that the body craves on many levels, which won’t increase your weight, and are also considered brain foods.

When you consume foods with unsaturated fats, particularly vegetarian examples like avocados, nuts, seeds, olives (not to mention extra virgin olive oil), and dark chocolate, you’ll be boosting your metabolism by facilitating the spread of nutrients throughout your body. Additionally, you’ll be loading up on free radical-fighting antioxidants. And finally, you’ll be preventing heart disease while enjoying the most delicious flavors and textures nature has to offer. Talk about a tasty way to keep your energy high! So snack on those cashews, add some pitted olives to that salad or pasta dish, and top that bowl of lentil soup with diced avocados.

There’s more to come! In my followup article, I’ll have even more energetic diet advice, including a huge diet concern that we all need to take more seriously.