In this ongoing series, LIFE IN FULL, we are writing to Baby Boomers (those of us in our 50s, 60s, and 70s) about how to maximize our Longevity and our Legacy. Find new episodes here every Tuesday and Thursday, and read the overview and catch up on earlier articles in this series by clicking here.
Every New Year, the number one most common New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. Those of us in the Autumn of our lives need to do more than make another resolution along these lines—we need to find a diet that works, really works, for the rest of our lives. And we need to do it not just for ourselves but for our families who depend on us in so many ways and need us to be healthy enough and live long enough to be there for them when they need it.
There are a lot of gifts you can give the one you love most, but perhaps none greater than a better version of yourself. How about giving our families a new, improved, slimmed down version of ourselves in 2016?
You may think that you can’t lose enough weight to matter. But you can—because there is a secret of true love which is also the key to truly effective dieting: The secret is that there are things you lack the discipline to do for yourself that you can find the strength to do for your spouse and for your children.
If you believe that, read on, because we are going to tell you exactly how to do it.
First of all you should know that we have been long-time critics of fad diets—the kind of weight loss programs that come and go like a new style or a new fashion—the kind where you count everything from calories to carbs to proteins and take all the pleasure out of eating—the kind where you lose a few pounds and then promptly gain them back.
What we have always wanted was something more practical than that, and more logical. Finally, when we couldn’t find the diet book we wanted, Richard decided to write it. It is a new book called The Half Diet Diet, but it turned out to be more than just a weight loss program, because we discovered that what really mattered was to truly understand our appetites and our capacity to love.
We have always loved the appetite metaphor in the Book of Mormon of a horse that needs to be controlled with a bridle. Alma calls appetites “passions” and In this view of things, passions or appetites are not inherently bad or ugly; they are not things we want to overcome or get rid of. Rather they are things of great beauty, but so strong that they can hurt us if we do not channel and control their power with a bridle.
You don’t curse the horse or kill it. You appreciate it and control it in a way that it serves you and gives you joy. Appetites are the same.
At its best, your food-appetite, far from being your enemy, can be the sensor that tells you what your body needs. (Your appetite probably isn’t doing that for you right now because you’ve messed it up a bit. But you can fix it to where the things that sound, look, smell, or taste the best to you actually are the best for you.) So the basic beginning premise of this new kind of diet is that our appetites are good, our senses are good, the earth is good; and natural food, in all its variety, is good.
The problem is that appetites don’t know when to quit. They tell us what we want, but they don’t tell us how much of it we need. There’s no overload bell or back-up beeper.
So here’s the basic principle of the Half-Diet Diet: Eat what you want, but only eat half of it (half of your normal portion, half of what your appetite wants). Along with eating only half as much, you eat twice as slow. Take smaller bites, set your fork down in between bites, savor, sip and smell instead of gulping guzzling and gorging. It turns out that eating half as much twice as slow takes the same amount of time, and you end up enjoying it more!
Simple as that sounds, it makes eminent sense. Here’s why:
Our observation is that Americans eat about twice as much as they need. Since the quantity is too high, the quality goes down. (That’s because the body can get the same amount of what it needs out of twice as much bad food as it can out of half as much good food.)
The job of our food appetite is to get enough nutrients into our body and the way it goes about its job is to give you the urge to eat until you consume enough food to give your body adequate nourishment. If you are eating junk food, your appetite doesn’t care as long as it gets you to eat large enough quantities to get the nutrients.
But if you bridle and control the amount you eat, your appetite, seeing that it can’t get quantity, starts going for quality instead. So by controlling the quantity of food we eat, we also begin to control the quality. As we discipline the size of our portions and as the appetite finds that it can’t change those quantities, its only other option for getting the nutrients it needs is to demand higher quality. Thus, if we stick to the half portions, vegetables and fruits and other wholesome foods begin to look better and better to us, while junk food gradually loses its appeal.
There is a little more to it than that, like drinking a tall glass of water before each meal and finding a type of daily exercise that you enjoy, but the basic core of the diet is to simply eat half of three meals a day and to have no snacks in between other than fruit or vegetables.
Now is a great time to begin because the number one New Year’s resolution every year is to lose weight. And if you’ve have tried it before and failed, or if you have lost weight but then gained it back, you may need a new approach—something simpler, and something that you can sustain over weeks, months, even years.
And now we get back to the suggestion of doing it as a gift for your family. It is hard to eat slowly when you feel hungry, and it is very hard to stop when you have eaten half of a meal. But if you remember that you are doing it for the ones you love most, for your spouse and your children and your present and future grandchildren,—you will find that you can do it, and that it gradually becomes a habit—a good habit that can save and preserve your life!