Having kept off the 25 pounds I lost in 2009, it’s weird to look back and see a “beefier” version of myself.
That picture you see is from September 2008; just a few months after Mommy and I got married; back in the days before I had to change my lifestyle to combat and eventually get rid of my dyshidrotic eczema.
Those were the days before I ate actual fruit; instead I was drinking fruit juice, which increased my intake of processed sugar and stripped the fruit of its crucial fiber content.
Those were the days I was still drinking low-fat milk, which actually promotes weight gain; instead of exclusively drinking whole milk like our family does now. (I tested this out on myself and documented it online for any doubting Thomases.)
I wasn’t drinking 3 liters of water a day to help wash out the toxins I’m exposed to on a daily basis.
Only a few people said anything about it to me, back in 2009: “Hey, you’ve gained some weight since getting married, haven’t you?”
But as a guy, I wasn’t really concerned about gaining weight. Honestly, I wouldn’t have changed anything if it weren’t for the constant headaches, digestion problems, rashes all over my body, noticeable acne, and blistered, swollen hands.
It wasn’t until I lost 25 pounds and got down to the proper weight, that my health problems seemed to just magically disappear.
If I could narrow it down to one main thing I started doing differently that made the biggest difference in improving my health, and as a side effect, losing excess weight, it was that I started doing everything I could to avoid processed foods.
In other words, I stopped counting calories and started reading ingredients.
Most popular diet programs seem to be based on the idea that once you run out of your calories for the day, you have to stop eating. That means that it’s okay to eat a fast food burger, fries, and a soda for lunch, but you may not be able to “afford” a healthy banana with dinner.
Interestingly, our family never counts calories, nor do we refrain from eating when we’re hungry. The secret is, there are a lot of ingredients we won’t eat.
When we’re buying groceries, the first thing we look for on the front of the package is “No artificial flavors, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or high fructose corn syrup.”
All of those ingredients make the product a red flag for it being a highly processed food.
That would explain why finding a good yogurt brand for you is a bit problematic. I’ll be writing to you about that tomorrow…
We also check out the daily percentage for the sugar content and sodium content, which explains why we avoid granola bars and soup.
Another red flag is any food that has the word “diet” or “light” in it. We just say no to mysterious chemicals.
While a diet soda doesn’t contain the sugar content a normal soda does, if nothing else, it distracts us from the drinking enough water for the day.
Why are we not constantly craving foods full of fat and sugar? Why are we not constantly hungry?
Here’s the secret: We capitalize on the good fats, good proteins, and good sugars.
Good fats and proteins include nuts, avocados, seeds and minimally processed dairy products; as opposed to consuming more than 4 to 6 ounces of meat per day, depending on body weight.
Good sugars include whole fruits and whole grains; as opposed to sweet tea, soft drinks, sugary coffees, cake, candy, and white bread.
Because we build our snacks and meals around the good foods, not their evil counterparts, we are able to give our bodies the natural nutrients they need and crave.
This is the life you were born into, Jack. You have Mommy and I as parents. As you get older, it may seem we are depriving you of the good stuff.
Just remember, we learned when you were an infant that you have inherited the eczema from me. So if we don’t keep you on the straight and narrow, it will lead to a life of pain, discomfort, and frustration for you.
We live this way because we care about you.
P.S. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, nor do I have a product or program to sell here. I am just a dad who happened to learn this stuff through trial and error; using myself as a Guinea pig.
Everything I have shared with you today was simply what I taught myself from the process of trying to figure out the cure to eczema.
Again, I have been eczema-free since 2009. I am very eager and willing to respond with any other readers of this letter who have more questions about anything I have mentioned here today or want to learn about more additional ways to cure eczema.
As you are well aware by now, you have a health-obsessed, mountain-bike-riding-during-his-lunch-break vegetarian for a dad, who is attempting to make it taboo for food and drug companies to be shy about what they generically list as “natural” and/or “artificial” ingredients.
I’m still trying to figure out what in this world is not either natural or artificial…
Pretty sneaky, right? Well, the FDA approves this ridiculous behavior in regards to companies listing their products’ “ingredients of ingredients.”
So while I am so “one with nature” that I chose the wooded outdoors as the location for my head shot for The Dadabase, I also want our family to be aware of other subtle “health landmines” we encounter everyday without realizing it.
Today I want to focus on microwaves; as they are machines that convert even the healthiest foods into processed foods.
Neither Mommy nor I trust them. Yes, we have one at our house, but it’s something we subconsciously feel shameful about.
Fortunately, because we are so serious about avoiding processed foods, that prevents us from eating anything that would require its sole preparation in a microwave; like a frozen snack or meal, for example.
For the frozen vegetables we sometimes eat, like broccoli and okra, we heat them up in a pan on the stove, with olive oil.
As explained in this 2 minute video by Organic Liaison Health Director Deborah Klein, MS, RD, microwaving creates radiolytic compounds in food (not naturally produced in the body) that could be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing:
In other words, no matter how healthy or organic a food is before it enters a microwave, it always becomes a processed food by the time it leaves the microwave.
I wish I could say we never use microwave. It’s something to aspire towards. As for now, we only use our microwave to reheat leftovers, which unfortunately for me, is about once a daily since I eat leftovers basically everyday for lunch.
Something I do to reduce the amount of time my food goes in the microwave is I set it out on the counter for a while, so it’s not as cold.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll get so serious about this “Microwaves Are A Dangerous Science Experiment On Our Bodies” campaign that I will find a way to start using a toaster oven, despite our time-starved family schedule. Don’t put it past me.
My conscience really bothers me about our family using a microwave. It can’t be good for any of us; especially not you.
By now, I’ve well established myself as “that dad” who is a health nut vegetarian who won’t allow his son to eatprocessed foods; that includes fruit juice.
I’ve been very clear that I deem the FDA as illegitimate. Why?
Because if they were doing their job, I wouldn’t have to ask the question I did in the title of this article. Well, now Snopes.om verifies Jamie Oliver’s claim as as accurate; that vanilla and strawberry flavoring is made from castoreum, which is derived from the anal glad of beavers.
Wikipedia confirms this absurd concept:
“In the United States, Castoreum has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive, often referenced simply as a ‘natural flavoring’ in the product’s list of ingredients. It is commonly used in both food and beverages, especially as vanilla and raspberry flavoring.”
Again, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation. We shouldn’t have to guess whether or not our children’s animal crackers really are made from beavers’ anal glands.
It’s reasons like this that I make such a deliberate effort to avoid processed foods as much as possible. But see how tricky it is?
Food companies are able to get away with calling beaver anal glands “natural flavoring” while the FDA gives the thumb up.
Castoreum is just a little too natural for me.
Sorry son, but you’re not old enough to know where vanilla ice cream comes from…
What does this mean? It means we as Americans, and we as parents of children, are officially questioning where our food comes from. We care now. The Eighties are over, sadly.
But it’s not just about questioning where our meat and food dye comes from. It’s about where all of our food comes from. And the real reason we’re having to ask this question to begin with is because, according to the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, over 60% of the average American’s diet consists of processed foods.
In other words, the majority of the food we eat has been… messed with. And it only makes sense that the more processed a food becomes, the less nutritional value it can have.
So while it’s important to ask what’s in our food, it’s even more crucial to find out how to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
Fortunately, this “food prophet” is willing to part the red sea of processed foods (receiving its color thanks to Red 40 and Crimson Lake) which maintains its perfect consistency thanks to sodium lauryl sulfate.
Today I bring to you the 5 commandments of avoiding processed foods:
1. Nix fast food. Fast food is nothing but processed food. From mysterious meats to white bread buns to soda to wash it down, fast food restaurants are the epitome of what processed food is.
2. Only eat foods with 7 ingredients or less. The higher the number of ingredients it takes to make a food, the better chance you’re going to see ingredients you can’t pronounce; meaning you have no idea what they are. Should we really be eating something with mysterious ingredients? The FDA doesn’t care, but I do.
3. Recognize high fructose corn syrup as the most obvious dead-giveaway. When genetically modified corn is turned into sweetener for ketchup, hot dogs, and the buns we put them on, we begin to question whether or not our meal really needs to be that sweet and so likely to give us Diabetes.
4. Avoid buying any food that comes with “microwave instructions.” I think subconsciously, we realize that cooking food alongside radiation is something we should avoid. So what does it say about a food that was designed to be prepared this way? Probably not something to make a habit of.
5. Prepare as much of each meal as possible yourself. The idea is to use the freshest ingredients possible. After all, the healthiest foods you can eat don’t even have a nutritional label on them at all; nor are they as convenient as the canned, microwavable version.
Back in August, in the midst of a Facebook message conversation, a friend I have known since Kindergarten described her perception of my wife and me:
“I think of you both as health conscious people….but I can’t picture either of you working out in a gym. I picture you as people who hike on the weekends or bike to dinner.”
Little did she know that I was already mapping out this post, explaining why I passionately oppose going to the gym, yet passionately promote daily exercise in other ways. It’s true, the last time I went to a gym, they had just discovered the hatch on Lost.
My friend was right. I am a biker; mountain biker, that is. At all times, my bike is stored in my Honda Element with me. Every day during my lunch break, I bike to Starbucks to read a book, or to the bank to deposit some cash, or to Whole Foods to pick up some Christmas presents for people.
I pretend that I live in a Mediterranean village in the year 1533, where I would literally have to travel miles at a time in order to get everything done that day. If I want to read a chapter in the current book I’m reading, I have to earn it by biking a mile and a half to get to a place to read it.
If it rains or is too cold, I have a heavy raincoat and “outside workout” clothes to change into. Even when it snows, I’ll still at least walk a few miles outside.
The point is to find someway to get daily exercise (at least 25 minutes) without having to depend on paying someone to use their facility. It doesn’t have to include a mountain bike, but it’s a matter of finding a creative way to get out of the office; even it’s just walking with a friend during designated breaks during work.
I say fresh air (even when it’s cold and wet) is still better than stagnant air inside an office. So let me go ahead and get into it, here are 6 reasons I don’t go to the gym:
1. Joining a gym often promotes an “all or nothing” mentality in which one’s diet follows. ”I was just too stressed to go to the gym for the past two days” often means a backslide into fast food lunches and potato chips as snacks.
2. Gyms promote a perfectly sculpted body as the goal, instead of a realistic, healthy one. We’re not movie stars; we don’t need six pack abs. The focus should be on being healthy, not losing weight. Weight loss is a side effect of active habits, not a target itself.
3. Gyms cost money. I’m not going to pay for what I can get for free.
4. There is a pressure to commit to a gym. Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler tries to quit the gym, recruiting Ross to help him, but then Ross gets suckered in to joining the gym too?
5. Working out puts too much focus on calories. For me, it’s about the the right food choices to begin with. I bet my daily calorie intake is slightly high, because I eat plenty of whole fruits (which are already naturally loaded with sugar) as well as avocados, nuts, and whole milk (full of good fats), but I weigh 20-something pounds less now than I did in these featured pictures of me from 2008 on my honeymoon in New England, before I had made my lifestyle changes- like biking and cutting out processed foods.
6. People size you up at a gym. Plus, it’s easier to do the same to other people; focusing too much on bodybuilders who basically live there.
So I say, liberate yourself from the gym. Despite all the rage, you don’t have to be a rat in a cage.