Ethnic diets aren’t what they used to be |

Ethnic diets aren’t what they used to be

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As a personal trainer I inevitably get asked, “What should I eat?” My response is always “Nobody knows!” We are opportunistic omnivores. This means that like bears, we can survive on garbage, which describes the majority of our collective eating behavior. None of my clients like this response as we start the process of learning to control eating behavior.

Back to ethnic diets. I get a lot of complaints from my clients about how their traditional ethnic way of eating is making them fat. Family get-togethers and holidays cause a lot of stress because of the food and the in-laws. How can you not stress-eat and drink when they’re around?

Usually what makes us fat is over-eating combined with under exercising. But there is quite more to it than that.

There are many hidden substances in our foods that cause fat gain and many other health problems. This is not wacko-conspiracy-theory stuff. There is exponentially more evidence to back up good ol’ common sense than there is for man-made chemical additives, radiation and genetic mutations. All these things are lies designed for one thing, profit. Don’t get me wrong, all business exists to make profits, and I’m OK with that. I’m just trying to get you to avoid ditching your grandparents’ wisdom and falling for the latest “quick and easy” diet program. Getting good results is neither quick nor easy.

The ingredients my grandmother used are not nearly the same as common ingredients of today. Two generations ago, they used minimally processed, locally grown whole foods to make their food. They didn’t have Genetically Modified Organisms. They didn’t have the amounts of pesticides and herbicides that we have in our foods today. They didn’t have drive-thru anything. My grandfather was a butcher and never experienced meat from feed lots loaded with hormones and antibiotics. Everybody had a garden and bought a few groceries to fill in the gaps from their locally owned, independent corner store.

When you attempt to prepare traditional foods with modern science-fiction ingredients, you don’t get grandma’s cooking. You get something that your body can hardly digest. It even tastes different. You can’t get the same ingredients that you could before. Whole, real, unprocessed foods are always the best to cook with, and they are increasingly harder to find. People who actually cook their own food know this.

This phenomenon rolls into the plethora of diet myths that have been circulating for a while. They all collectively say the same thing — foods you ate in the past (especially meats and whole-fat dairy) are bad for you and you should eat a diet based on processed grains. How did past generations thrive on ethnic diets if they were so fattening? They had virtually no cancer or heart disease while eating whole foods like meat, home-made bread and raw cream.

I am truly saddened by the rate of childhood obesity in our nation. This occurs in our most impoverished and ignorant demographics. It also is affecting immigrants, big time. I suspect than when these kids go from an ethnic diet to eating our junk, they get fat and sick. You’ll notice if you travel out of our country how the only obese people you see are Americans. Do you think this is just a coincidence?

Not only is our current ethnic and non-ethnic diet not working, it’s making us sicker and fatter than any other generation in history. You just can’t dismiss a millennium of wisdom to justify a chemical diet that is not working!

Oh wait! Yes we can. It’s called the food pyramid. My grandparents did just fine during the great depression and World War II without the food pyramid. I wonder how?

I recommend that you use the most expensive, organic whole food ingredients for everything you eat. If you can’t afford organic food, cancel your cable bill or stop buying 44-ounce big gulps to save money (but don’t fire your trainer). No, you can’t eliminate all the toxins, and you’re crazy if you think that you can live in a bubble. But you can improve your quality of life while still living in reality by changing the majority of your food’s composition and quality. By getting as close to nature as possible with your ingredients, food will taste better, be more satisfying and much healthier. I can’t help you with the in-laws.

*Disclaimer: The author realizes how racist the term “ethnic foods” is, since all food is ethnic. He admits that the term was plagiarized from an aisle in the supermarket.

Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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