— on a normal day
After doing MillionFriends, what did you change? This is a question I am getting from time to time. Here are some key takeaways that I turned into habits.
1. Doing what works in the long run
Obviously, it depends a bit on what your goals are. As an End-30s individual, I optimize less for a beach body but for overall sustainable health. I am not looking for short-time performance boosts, but something that keeps me healthy and truly has the potential to become a habit so that it works in the long run. This is, why I don’t worry too much about healthy eating anymore as I used to. The world wide web is full of content about superfoods and new diets and what not. And, before founding MillionFriends, I probably tried all of them. Today, I am following a few rules that I got out of my MillionFriends analysis and combine them with a bit of mindfulness and activity.
2. Avoid false friends
The most important take-away from MillionFriends was that there are meals that are supposed to be healthy, but actually cause severe glucose variation in my individual case. For me this was Musli, a German kind of oatmeal. I used to eat it every day for breakfast at work. I used to buy the high-end stuff that was supposed to be particularly healthy, and it was even more puzzling to me, how this dish can trigger high glucose responses. Back then, about 90 minutes after I had the oatmeal, I ate a banana. Again, a snack that gives me strong glucose spikes and a dish I am supposed to eat often, as nutritional guidelines recommend 5x fruit or vegetable a day, so this might as well include 2 bananas. My MillionFriends analysis revealed a couple of such false friends that I have not been eating for four years now. And there are many I would have never thought of, such as oatmeal, banana, freshly pressed juice, diet soda, green smoothies or even chewing gum. Today, I avoid them.
3. Don’t think in days, but weeks
I have been educated in thinking in “daily doses”. I am not sure why actually. German nutrition societies, such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung, recommend eating 5x fruits and vegetables per day. Advertisers state the percentage of daily dose of vitamins on food products. When thinking about healthy eating, I used to think in days and was trying to make sure, I get my “daily doses”. Today, I believe this is not only unrealistic, but also completely wrong and this is why: First, I have never gotten any health problems from eating or drinking unhealthy on a single day (besides drinking too much, but luckily those lasted only a day). Leaving out fruits and vegetables for a day or even a couple of days didn’t make me gain weight, sleep worse, get sick, be less driven or any symptoms of malnutrition. Second, it stresses me way too much and this stress is what actually does give me a bad sleep, makes me less focused and the like. So, I think there is no point in planning your nutrition daily. Today, I try to think in weeks. If I have a couple of drinks on the weekend with heavy meals and little sport, I make sure that on two or three days, I have mainly vegetables, salads, or bowls. You could say that I try to balance. And balancing needs a bit of space.
4. Simple rules
MillionFriends showed me that I should combine carbohydrates with fat, but not with proteins. Oddly enough, a protein bar gives me a severe glucose spike and so does pasta with tomato sauce and seafood. Pasta with cream sauce and seafood however doesn’t. Marzipan or chocolate neither. Nor if I add avocado to sushi. In Italian restaurants, I always add some olive oil to whatever I am eating (besides the desert 😉). I also tend to avoid cuisines that have almost no fat, which is sad as I really like Asian food, but nowadays try to avoid it. This doesn’t mean I won’t ever have Asian food. It’s just that whereas I had a strong bias towards Asian food, I now view it as a treat. When going to a restaurant, I always pick food that has a substantial fat component and try to avoid a bias towards a high load of proteins. With this simple rule, I am basically able to personalize my diet in any setting and it has been a great help for me at home, at work, when travelling or eating out.
5. Informed decisions for treating myself
It’s not bad to occasionally treat yourself and you should do it from time to time. I am. With MillionFriends I learned when I am treating myself. I did know that having a beer or a piece of cake is something I shouldn’t do every day. What I did not know however is that also many fruits, juices or drinks give me severe glucose variation. It may sound odd, but I used to think that a freshly pressed orange juice is substantially better than a regular coke. I know now, it’s not. At least not for me. Both are bad. I am still having a regular coke twice or three times a week and I cut on the “healthy” juice. It’s because I just like the coke better and when I am having it, I know that I am treating myself and should only do it once in a while, just like when I am having a beer. What I learned from MillionFriends gives me a good feeling about taking the right food decisions. I stress less, I treat myself and I stay healthy at the same time. This gives me an amazing level in quality of life.