Although it is necessary to eat, it is not necessary to eat well. What I mean is, you can survive on some pretty rubbish food and not drop dead (well, not immediately anyway). Eventually, the salt and the fat and the sugar will kill you. It will be slow, painful and involve lots of medicine. If you like eating 15 pills for breakfast, don't bother to keep reading.
However, if you want health and vigour and long life, some choices should be made. Remember, the idea is to make small, consistent, PERMANENT changes to improve your life and your health.
First of all, choose home made food over 'packaged' food every time. The preservatives, emollients and other chemical garbage in processed foods is not only addictive (driving you to eat more than you need, more often than you need), it also wreaks havoc on your body. Our bodies are run by chemical impulses! If we bog them down with all kinds of chemical preservatives, our bodies won't get the right signals, and hence will not perform at peak levels. This applies to 'fast' food as well as packaged food. Sometimes, I make a second dinner after dinner. I've still got energy and the stove is still hot, so I whip up the next day's meal.
Secondly, learn about the glycemic index, and the GI numbers of foods. This is why you should always choose whole grains over processed grains [brown bread/rice over white bread/rice; al dente pasta (slightly chewy) over mushy pasta]. The more processed food is, the faster your body can turn it into sugar. As the sugar is released into your blood stream, your body will pump out insulin to deal with the sugar. Think of it like a prison riot. When the prisoners go haywire, guards are sent flocking in to control the problem. Same idea, fewer uniforms. This is the main cause for lack of permanent weight loss.
Finally, choose more fruit and vegetables, as close to raw as possible. I know this one can be tricky, but there is now lots of information online to help you create wonderful food that is less cooked. This allows the natural enzymes in the food to help your body get and stay strong and healthy.
This was a mini lesson to get you started. Please understand that I realize everyone is at a different starting point. Some of you eat almost all raw food, some (at the other end of the spectrum) eat boxed mac and cheese everyday and think orange koolaid is a fruit serving. It's okay. The idea is to make small but significant changes, so that every week you are becoming closer to a healthier lifestyle. Maybe the people eating raw need to get more sunshine (15 minutes every day!) and maybe the mac and cheese crowd already go for a walk after lunch.
Aim to add 5 more minutes of exercise to your day every week. This might mean that in Week 1 you will have to do 5 minutes of exercise for the first time in your life. In that case, 5 minutes will be all you can handle. It will be an improvement over the whole lot of nuthin' that you've been doing previously. So do 2 attempts to touch your toes, and 2 side to side bends, and sit in a chair and dance for 3 minutes. It all counts! I promise it will get easier, and you may start to enjoy it. The easiest exercise is just walking; walking with a friend is even more fun, and there's someone with you to call 911 if you overdo it. (just kidding- I hope!).
Exercise increases your metabolism, which causes your body to burn more calories even after you've stopped exercising. It's like a free pass! Strangely, there is a paradox, that if you don't feel like exercising, and you exercise, you will feel more energetic! Weird, I know. But if you feel too tired to exercise, and you take a nap, you will feel more tired. Bizarre but true.
Aim to make 1 food improvement to your diet every week. If you have never eaten healthily before, may I suggest that you spend week 1 trying to reduce/eliminate all TRANS FAT from your groceries. This means reading the labels. If you have weak eyesight, head to the local dollar store and buy one of those little plastic magnifying squares - they are a great help! So, why get rid of Trans Fat? It has a NINJA chemical effect on your body! Seriously. It lowers your good cholesterol, raises your bad cholesterol and tri-glicerides. It does the opposite of what heart medicine does. By the way, BEANS (legumes: white, navy, pinto, fava, kidney, lentil, etc) do the same as heart medicine too. When I first became aware of the effects of trans fat and eliminated them from my groceries, my husband lost 30 pounds in about 2 months. He did not change his serving size or food choices, nor did he increase his exercise. That is how poisonous trans fat is to your body.
If the trans fat is already a non-event in your house, try the '3 section' plate method of eating. With a regular dinner plate, draw an IMAGINARY line down the middle. Now divide one of the sections in half again. This leaves you with 1 half, and 2 quarters. When eating, the HALF should be all VEGETABLES/fruits. One quarter should be your protein choice (meat, cheese, nuts, seeds, quinoa, fish, etc) and the other quarter should be your carbohydrate choice (bread, rice, potatoes, cous cous, bulgur, etc).
Maybe your change would be to try 3 new vegetables this week! There are tons to choose from, depending on the season. The web has a recipe for everything. The rule is to get a rainbow of colours throughout the week, with lots of dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, collards). Choose Romaine and Red Leaf lettuce over Iceburg for the colour.
Another option is to choose all dairy products with a lower fat content. That would mean moving from whole milk to 2%, or 2% to 1%, or 1% to skim, or skim to soy or almond. This would include sour cream, cottage cheese, etc.
Most of this information is from the DOIT (Diabetic Obesity Intervention Trial) which showed fantastic results when participants aimed to lose just 7% of their body weight. The main result I found from this book is that ANYBODY can improve from where they're at now. Even if you do 2 leg lifts from your couch per night, if it's more than you were doing before, then it's an improvement! Hurray!