Get Fit By Becoming A Food Geek

(e’s note:  Welcome today’s guest writer, Darya Pino, one of my favorite bloggers. Darya is a scientist, San Francisco foodie and advocate of local, seasonal foods. Get more healthy eating tips at her blog Summer Tomato. Follow her on Twitter @summertomato.)

On paper I am a huge nerd.

I’m a scientist for one thing (neuroscience Ph.D.) and I’m also a blogger and tech geek. I have three generations of Nintendo consoles that until very recently were hooked up to my 32” computer monitor. My favorite movie is Ghostbusters and I can recite it beginning to end from memory.

I even have a t-shirt that says I (heart) nerds.

But if you saw me, I doubt you’d peg me as a geek. On the outside I’m a hot chick that is thin and toned, with clear skin and shiny hair.

The irony is I look this way because I’m a geek. That is, a food geek.

Although I was never very heavy, I always struggled with my weight and was rarely happy with my body. I went through a period where I had really bad acne and my hair seemed prematurely thinning. I couldn’t get my nails to grow even a little because they were so brittle.

But all this changed about 5 years ago when I realized I finally had enough scientific training to figure out the weight loss mystery for myself. I began digging through the science literature for information on long-term, permanent weight loss and what I discovered was shocking.

It turns out that the people who are successful at losing and keeping weight off do not do it with strict diets and grueling exercise. Yes they eat well and are active, but mainly they just focus on eating healthfully and the rest takes care of itself.

For a chronic dieter like me, this information was hard to swallow.

First I had to accept the fact that weight was not going to come off quickly. I always envisioned myself finally finding a diet to end all diets, but I just assumed it would involve weird strict eating rules and that was fine with me. But the science says lasting changes are slow and steady, not a quick fix.

Second, I realized that since I didn’t need to go on some bizarre eating regimen I would actually need to change my habits—the things I do day in and day out—to build a healthy life.

Since I can no longer use the word diet, I call this my new healthstyle.

As I changed from processed diet foods and occasional binges to a healthstyle of fresh, whole foods (mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and fish) I did begin to lose weight, even while eating more and cutting back on my cardio workouts. I started a light weight lifting routine and lost even more weight.

After 3 years I had dropped below even my goal weight and now hover 3-4 pounds below it (about one full pant size). I also feel like the shape of my body has changed to a more balanced and fit form.

The craziest thing of all is that I enjoy food far more now than I have at any other time in my life. I have discovered the food scene here in San Francisco and am obsessed with all the wonderful food and talented chefs this amazing city has to offer. I eat virtually anything I want, but have found a way to balance meals and control portions so that weight gain is a secondary thought to health and pleasure.

Cool, huh?

To get started upgrading your healthstyle there are three essential things you must know:

1) What healthy food is

2) Why you want it

3) How to get it

Science has mostly taken care of numbers one and two for us. There are several fantastic resources describing what foods are best for you and what amounts are ideal. Books like In Defense of Food, Eat Drink and Be Healthy and Good Calories, Bad Calories are great places to start.

When you are finished reading you will be 100% convinced why you want to be healthy and what you should be eating to achieve it. The realities about diet and disease are truly remarkable, and once you know the truth and how simple it can be to get on the right path, staying on that path is a heck of a lot easier.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I could never find a good resource for number 3 on my list: how to find and eat healthy foods. Most of the guides I found were obnoxiously impractical and usually incorporate some aspect of a gimmicky diet.

This is the reason I started Summer Tomato, to offer practical tips for incorporating healthy eating into your life without completely changing your identity or sacrificing things you love.

I stay up on the science of nutrition by reading everything I can get my hands on. Anything relevant I pass on to my readers. Mostly I focus on practical advice to get fit and stay that way.

But by no means do I have a monopoly on this information. In my experience, anyone who starts to geek out a little on food and health can never go back. I enjoy the occasional kettle chip, but it’s hard to eat too much of something you know will give you diabetes and cancer—especially once you learn how delicious the foods are that prevent these diseases.

If you have a tendency toward science and nerdiness, food is arguably the most valuable place you could invest some of that geek attention. And if science is any indication, chances are you will drop a few pounds in the process.
What an awesome post for the #Fit4GenCon geeks!  Don’t forget to visit Darya at Summer Tomato, follow her on Twitter, or become her fan on Facebook.  (Or like me, all three!)

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