Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Over the course of the past few years, I have learned quite a lot about how people keep their body in whatever shape they happen to keep it in. Moving from Seattle to Worcester highlights this: in Seattle, the majority of people are reasonably trim and generally healthy-looking. In Worcester, the majority of the population is fat and splotchy-skinned.

Looking healthy is critical to social interactions. Have you ever heard, "You're so pale - you need some sun"? Well, it's not the lack of sun they were commenting on. It was your poor skin quality, caused by your inadequate diet. Even pale people can have a healthy glow if they treat themselves right. And that glow gives a massive boost to your social capabilities, helping you to keep friends, get jobs, and maybe even find that special someone who somehow can put up with you.

There two elements - just two - to keeping yourself reasonably healthy. Diet and exersize.

Exersize is tough. It requires an active expenditure of time and will. So I won't cover it here, except to say that it's easier to exersize in packs.

Diet used to be tough. Diet used to mean cooking, used to mean buying expensive foods. These days, it's actually cheaper to eat healthy, if you don't mind the space-age diet.

The two things that people eat that they shouldn't are heavily processed foods and white-bread-like products. The first includes soda (functionally, all soda), fast food, snacks, donuts, and anything that says "partially hydrogenated" anywhere in the ingredients list. The second includes bagels, pasta, rice, potatos, and that kind of thing.

Now, there are healthy alternatives to all of those things, but most people can't summon the energy to get them. So I'm going to show you the easiest way to stay healthy:

Don't eat any food.

No, this isn't some weird cult thing. Simply put, these days there are alternatives to food. I have several friends who eat maybe one meal a day - if that - and the rest of the time they eat food bars and sometimes drink food drinks.

Replacing your donut breakfast with a food bar will improve your health noticeably in just a few weeks. Even if you eat cereal, the right food bar is still going to be healthier.

Replacing two of your meals with food bars generally means you eat three food bars over the course of the day and have one meal. It's best if that meal is something healthy but solid, like a chicken salad or stir fry. But even if you eat a microwave dinner for dinner, your health will improve radically.

If you are eating a microwave dinner for dinner, you might want to think about the all-food-bar diet. Without added suppliments from either food drinks or relatively healthy snacks, you'll definitely lose weight, so be careful.

Now, I've got several friends who are on or have been on or are about to be on these diets again. Most of them do the one-meal-three-bars method, with or without a supplimentary shake and snacking. I have scaled up and down the ladder from one end to the other, and I can say that the closer I came to all food bars and drinks, the better I felt. However, unlike some of my friends, I've never gone on an all food-substitute diet.

Apparently, you'll start to itch to eat something. One of my friends itched to eat really bizarre stuff. Another one wanted pie. This is probably because food bars don't provide quite the right nutritional value, but it's also probably because people like to eat food.

The "food substitute" diet isn't perfect, I'm sure. Chances are, someone will post horror stories or scientific surveys about how it doesn't do good things to you. But it's better for you than the crap most of us eat these days. It's also really easy to suppliment, so if you feel a craving, you can satisfy it - in moderation - without killing yourself.

As for which food bar to choose, the two people with the most experience seem to choose "Balance" bars, supplimented with whatever food drinks they happen to stumble across. The reason they choose "Balance" bars is because they depend on these food bars for their vitamins. "Breakfast" bars are therefore worthless. Unless it has a giant list of vitamins and percentages on the back, it's not providing anywhere near enough to base a diet around.

Generally, these bars are between a buck and a buck fifty each, making them cheaper than most crappy diets! Win-win.

As I mentioned, I'm not a doctor, and the idea is not a complete diet. But it is healthier than what most people eat, and you'll be getting all your vitamins.


Patrick Dugan said...

I hear the importance of good diet. Since I've been coming into a bit of extra cash from my Escapist column I've been trying to eat more organic vegetables, grains, ect. I think the whole food approach is more nutritious than the food bar approach, which is still processed, even if its processed nutrients.

Craig Perko said...

Probably, but it takes money and effort. Food bars don't, so most people who couldn't stick to a "real" diet could probably stick to this one.

As a side note, "processing" isn't really what's bad. It's a few particular kinds of processing.