The picture on the left was taken the day I returned from Idaho fighting wildfires with my crew. I had been gone for 3 weeks, trekking up mountains and using chainsaws and tools in arduous conditions. I burned a lot of calories and was constantly moving, so why didn’t I look like Paul the Lumberjack with a fresh coat of sawdust on my flannel?! It definitely wasn’t from a lack of caffeine or enough weight in my line gear. It was my DIET.
I can remember countless times where we could be on a highway en route to a fire and we would make a stop. The captain would blare over the radio, “OK guys, 45 minutes to get some food and fuel up, we will meet up at the Chevron at 1400.” Score! I was usually starving and ready to devour anything after hours on the road. I would take a look around the dusty town and see my two decadent options: Carl’s Jr. and McDonalds. Did I mention that we were in the middle of nowhere? Off a highway that was between “where the fuck are we?” and “Wow, look at that! A bush!”
In addition to fast food stops there were the MRE’s, energy drinks, candy, coffee with creamer, whole wheat sandwiches, cookies, carrots, chocolate chip “health bars”, and trail mix with M&M’s. If everything went well, on the way back from the fires while off duty we would all get some beers together to celebrate. You get the idea.
The picture on the right is 10 days after I got back. I was in hardcore relax mode after working an average of 80+ hours a week for months, so I really didn’t do much. Seriously, I lived an 80 year-old retiree lifestyle for those 10 days. I played golf, went fishing (sitting in a chair of course), and went for a couple walks. What I didn’t do in exercise I made up for with a drastic change in the way I ate. I bought J.J. Virgin’s “Sugar Impact Diet” book and once I got over the lame title, actually learned a lot and followed the guidelines set forth in the book. I had purchased multiple “sugar detox” books but found hers to be the most helpful. I started buying quality food and preparing my meals, and then I would get a strange sensation when I would be cooking…it felt like…damn, could it be? Yes, I seemed to be enjoying it! Once I replaced the garbage with sweet nutrients, my body and mind responded as well.
I had known for a long time that I had taken some addictive personality traits and applied them to junk food, the easiest drug of all. Yet I kept delaying actually doing something about it. There were times when I would think of buying a 6-pack of beer to drown any form of psychic entropy I was experiencing. Sometimes I did, but that left me feeling like I had a serious problem that I would be ashamed to tell people about. The junk food, however, was a beacon of hope. I still knew that it was holding me back from living a full life but I could joke around with people about it. “Dude, I crushed an entire pint of ice cream last night while I waited for my frozen chicken nuggets to defrost!” If I had waited another 10 years, I am sure the picture on the left would be 20 lbs heavier and it would take me a couple months instead of 10 days to slim up again. But the principles remain the same no matter what the age!
Without further ado, from reading numerous insightful books, talking to experts in the field, and self experiments on myself, I present my opinion of the 3 KEY COMPONENTS OF TRUE HEALTH:
WTF? What about sleep? Exercise? My ab-roller and zumba class?! Forget about them. The beautiful part is that when the diet is conquered, everything else falls into place. You will get good sleep. You will want to get outside, even if just for a walk or to check out that new park. And you will feel better while doing it. The birds will be burying their acorns, the squirrels will be singing, and you will think you have partaken in a psychedelic mushroom trip circa 1972 because your perception will be shifted.
What a good diet WON’T DO:
1. make problems go away
2. buy you a new car
3. finally be able to decipher what the man says at 100 mph at the end of commercials
What it WILL DO is give you the motivation and clarity to accomplish whatever goals and aspirations you have for yourself in a focused, deliberate way. It’s like buying running shoes instead of boots to run a marathon. You still have to run the damn thing but at least now you have your best foot forward (puns kill me). Nothing has worked closer to a miracle drug for me then actually cutting out the processed food. Like most things in life, it is so simple yet so difficult in practice.
Their are about a million books to buy to eat this way, eat that way, don’t eat this, eat that. Vegetarian. Gluten-free. Paleo. Intermittent Fasting. My advice for this confusing mess of information overload and grass-is-greener mentality is simple: Keep it simple. Michael Pollan said it best in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” which says
“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Greens.”
I could only do this with a little help from my friends. Book and documentary friends, I don’t have any in real life that would support going off the fun stuff. Make sure and read these books and watch these movies to get inspired and motivated to start eating spinach instead of blueberry muffins: