About Diets and Eating Healthy – Is Dieting The Key to Happiness?

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We all know the drill: what we eat has a massive effect on how we feel both physically as well as mentally. But it’s hard to know what it is exactly that our bodies require to stay healthy when magazines are screaming about another phenomenal diet on the grocery store shelf, and authorities publish the “plate models” each year ordering you to eat 50% greens, 25% protein and 25% carbon hydrates at every meal.

What most of us are also aware of, is the fact that diets are pretty much never the answer on the quest to finding happiness; the word ‘diet’ itself means a habit that lasts a life-time, not a detox that you keep up for a week, lose a lot of weight and then gain it all back within 2 days after finishing it. And has anyone actually fool-proven that the plate model suits every single person? I know for sure that if I ate exactly like the plate model suggests, I would probably gain at least 5 kilos in a month’s time. At the same time there are plenty of people for whom this sort of diet would work perfectly.

I recently discovered that my hemoglobin is quite low, which means that I could do with some more meat. Meat’s expensive, though, and since the doctor said I don’t need to worry one bit unless I start feeling like fainting, I think I will stick to my lentils and falafel for now (I am obsessed with them!).

Organic and locally produced food is gaining more and more market share everywhere anyway, which I see as a very positive trend. Vegetarians have become a natural part of society and even I recently realized that I have, without noticing, become a vegetarian myself. Although, I do most often choose a meat option in a restaurant or when I’m visiting home.

These days some of the vegetarian dishes in restaurants are actually better than the meat options. There is so much you can get wrong when cooking meat, whereas vegetables are easier to control (this was a heart-felt confession by a kitchen disaster but I’m fully aware that most of you are able to cook meat just fine). And with spices you can disguise any good vegetarian dish to perfectly match a meaty equivalent. If you don’t believe me, try a vegetarian curry next time you go to an Indian restaurant.

After the swine flu and bird flu epidemics I became more interested in where my food was coming from and how clean it might or might not be. In addition I am interested in what sort of conditions farm animals are kept in, and even though I’m not a big fan of the scandalous documentaries displaying the horrid circumstances some farm animals are kept in, I have pretty much stopped eating chicken for good. I can’t even remember the last time I had chicken… Could be years.

This is actually a hot topic at this very moment after Bill Gates warned the world of the risks of another pandemic that might be upon us sooner than we understand. Many of the pandemics that have been enormously fatal for humankind have started from animals. Even though improvements have been made here and there, farm animal safety and health are still not high enough on the priorities lists of many big farms. And that puts each and every one of us at risk, even the ones who do not consume meat products.

Sometimes it’s not possible to figure out where your food has come from, though. Especially when traveling. But it was particularly upsetting to find out that even in Finland the truth behind products marked with the “Made in Finland” stamp wasn’t quite as pure as we had liked to believe; for example pigs that had been grown in Finland were then shipped to Poland to be slaughtered (you can probably imagine how gentle their methods must be) and from there to Lithuania or Latvia to be packaged before being shipped back and onto Finnish grocery store shelves.

Doesn’t sound like a hygiene, safe, environmental or in any way ethical a way to get meat on the table. Thankfully there are still those old-fashioned butcher shops in existence all over Europe so that locals can get their meat from familiar sources. These shops have even started to appear in Finland, which I find delightful! Another age-old tradition is making a welcome return (I sound like such a hipster…)

But no matter how organic and local your food is, if you over-consume it, it won’t do you any favors. I believe in keeping the portion sizes in check and eating max. 3 meals per day. OK, 4 if I did breakfast, which I don’t (excluding the occasional croissant). When you keep portion sizes in check you can eat pretty much whatever you like.

I do recognize that I have been blessed with an excellent digestion, which gives me quite an advantage for leading a more hedonistic lifestyle, whereas for a lot of people my way of consuming food would be close to fatal. The fact is, we all have bodies that function differently and I do not believe that there can ever be an all inclusive solution to how we should eat to stay healthy and in shape.

BUT! No need to despair, for there is a centuries old method with which each of us can boost our metabolism! And like most brilliant things in life, this trick is so obvious that most of us don’t even consider it.

Eating slowly, aka chewing your food properly helps your digestion to work more smoothly and what’s even better, burns calories! 

And as always our bodies will tell each of us what it requires as long as we have the capability to listen to it. You know when you are hungry and you know when you are full. Respect these signs and don’t over-eat or fast any more than is absolutely necessary.

In my world food is an indulgence, something worth gathering around with people I like and enjoying whole-heartedly. Not everyone sees food that way, though, but even for those who think of food only as fuel, the fact is that it is a big part of our everyday life. It can be a curse and a blessing depending on how you relate to it, but as the Ancient Greeks already knew; a hedonistic viewpoint towards food can already take you a step closer to happiness.

 

 

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