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Week 2: You Can't Escape the Truth(s)

Since its release in 2010, the book, A Mouthful of Truth, has offered thousands of people a heaping helping of reality about food, eating habits and accountability.

Part how-to and part choose-to, A Mouthful of Truth (Eiler, Albert and Long, Julie: Not Long Books, 2010. Print) is an eater’s manifesto built around 15 simple and sometimes surprising truths. For those individuals who may need a wake-up call about nutrition – or who know what to eat but rationalize poor choices – the book brings on the straightforward truth about food that may be hard to swallow. With our nation’s health and healthcare both in crisis, it’s a truth we can’t afford to ignore.

For this Knowledge-Metrics episode, we’re providing a summary of each of the 15 truths. While we’ve cut down on the text a bit from what is in the book, we’ve not cut down on the message. The truths may seem like a harsh kick-in-the-gut, but they could just be the ticket to set you free of your weight-related burdens.

Truth #1: You didn’t get this way eating broccoli.

If you’re overweight or obese, you think you eat nutritiously, but you don’t. You make smart choices some of the time. Maybe even most of the time. But not enough of the time.

There is a “nutri-mental” threshold you must cross in order to see positive results. And to fall short of that minimum and still expect success is like being dropped in ten feet of water and hoping to survive by swimming up only nine feet. It’s not going to work. You’ve got to swim all the way up. You’ve got to break the surface. Then from there you can decide if you want to keep just your nose above water or try to walk on water. But first, you have to not drown.

In today’s America we’ve become accustomed to being rewarded for any minimal effort. Everyone gets a trophy! But nutrition doesn’t conform to that norm. A slight improvement in your eating habits might bring small improvements in health, such as reducing cholesterol or lowering blood pressure. But it’s unlikely that you’ll experience vast health improvements, nor will you see ample weight loss or a lean body, until you make significant modifications in your eating habits.

It’s not enough to think about it. It’s not enough to try. You must do.

Truth #2: The potato isn’t the problem.

No one gets fat from eating a potato. It doesn’t matter that it’s a starchy carbohydrate. The potato has been part of various diets throughout civilization without anyone getting fat. Until recently. But the potato isn’t the problem. The problem is how you prepare the potato. You take a natural, unprocessed whole food and then you sabotage it with butter, sour cream and bacon bits. Or you let someone else sabotage it by deep frying it in oil (sometimes first breading it), and then you sabotage it some more by drenching it in sugary ketchup or processed cheese sauce that’s been emulsified and stabilized with xanthan gum or carrageenan.

You do the same thing with lettuce. You assault a simple salad with loads of bottled dressing, croutons and cheese topping and then pat yourself on the back for having eaten some greens. Meanwhile, the calories can very easily soar from 300 to 900 with very little added nutritional value.

This is the Western diet: small amounts of produce and whole grains overshadowed by highly processed foods, refined grains, and added fat and sugar. And it’s making us sick: the Western diet has been linked to diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other cultures don’t have these diseases. Even in cases where their diets are high in natural fat or centered around complex carbohydrates (like the potato), Western diseases don’t exist for other cultures. Until, that is, they start eating the Western diet.

When we ruin our food, we ruin our bodies.

Truth #3: If you can’t fish it, grow it or butcher it, don’t eat it.

You don’t have to start your own farm. But almost everything you eat should be able to be found on a farm, either in the ground or grazing on it, or in the woods or the water. This is the test. This is how you’ll know you are eating whole foods and not derivatives or extractions or concoctions manufactured by food scientists.

You won’t find ethoxylated diglycerides on a farm. These and other ingredients are added during processing. The more a food is processed, the more it tends to lose nutrients and in some cases gain toxic chemicals. In addition, processed food becomes more easily absorbed into our bodies, which can cause problems with our insulin and fat metabolism. Processed foods are at the root of our nation’s food issues as a whole. It’s best to simply avoid them.

When shopping for groceries, you’ll have the best luck in avoiding processed foods if you shop on the perimeter of the store. While some processed items do lurk here — bakery goods, lunch meats, sugary yogurts —in general the perimeter is where the whole foods (produce, meat and dairy) are kept because they are perishable and it’s more convenient for the grocer to regularly restock them. A packaged, cream filled snack-cake can sit on a shelf in the middle of the store for ages and not go bad.

In the center aisles of the grocery store, focus your shopping on whole grains, oats, legumes, lentils, etc. And if you can’t always follow the “farm it or forget it” rule, at least choose foods with only a few ingredients instead of a paragraph-long list. The shorter the list, the closer that food is to its original whole-food state and the less it’s been processed into something you’d never be able to fish, grow or butcher.

Truth #4: Savory, salty and sweet are scarce in nature.

(So make them scarce in your diet.)

Fat, salt and sugar are not overly abundant in the wild. But outside of nature, you’ll find fat, salt and sugar everywhere. And with good reason. Food manufacturers rely on the triple-combination to make processed foods highly palatable. If you put enough fat, salt and sugar on it, even a piece of cardboard will taste good.

You know that high amounts of fat, salt and sugar are not good for us. They make us fat and they make us sick. But what you also need to realize is that fat, salt and sugar alter the brain’s chemistry in ways that compel us to overeat. They stimulate dopamine and opioids so that the brain craves more. So even when you’re full, you’re not satisfied. It’s a proven neurological response that the food industry leverages to get you to eat more. Don’t fall for it.

Do yourself a favor and make fat, salt and sugary scarce in your diet. Choose them when they occur naturally, such as fruits for sugar and nuts for fat.

Truth #5: The formula for healthy eating is simple.

Healthy meal = protein + vegetable + starch/grain + fat + dessert (fruit!)

Follow the simple equation above and you can create a nutritious meal with a multitude of food options. Pick a protein such as chicken, fish, meat, eggs or even tofu. Pair it with vegetables — anything from salad greens to a medley of peppers. Add a side of starch or grains. This might be a sweet potato, brown rice, chickpeas or lentils. Accent with a bit of natural fat, such as olive oil, nuts or seeds (think drizzle or sprinkle vs. drench or load). And for your sweet tooth, end the meal with a piece of fruit.

If you wanted, you could save some of the nuts or fruit and eat them as a snack. If snacking leads you down a bumpy road of processed sweets and junk food, then the simple solution is don’t snack. There’s nothing wrong with only eating three square meals a day. Yes, there are metabolic advantages to eating five or six small meals per day. But this idea of frequent snacking has opened up a world of abuse. Instead of naturally nourishing options, people are choosing unfavorable foods and completely overriding any metabolic benefit from eating five or six smaller meals each day. The state of health would not be threatened if everyone went back to consuming three nutrient-rich, non-processed meals per day.

Truth #6: Food is fuel.

You must start eating for fuel, not for fun. We’re not saying you can’t enjoy your food. But you’ve got to start valuing food for how it makes you feel physically instead of emotionally. Taking comfort in crap and joy from junk is not the way to go. The comfort and joy derived from food are all-too-short-lived, and then you’re left with a body that feels (and looks) lousy. There are so many other things in life from which to take comfort and joy. Become a participant in life rather than a spectator! When you start exploring other outlets, you take the focus off food to fill the void.

And here’s another interesting result of eating for fuel: As your body begins to feel better from the higher-quality food you are giving it, you actually start craving the healthy stuff. That’s right!! There will come a time (if you haven’t experienced it already) where you actually prefer the taste of fresh whole foods.

Truth #7: Fast food is no excuse for fat food.

It’s a fact: most of us lead beyond busy lives. And occasionally, a drive thru becomes an easy fix for feeding yourself or your family.

There’s been a big spotlight on fast food merchandisers and the heath horrors of our supersized-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup society. But guess what? We’re not going to tell you not to eat fast food. (Surprised?) We’d be happier if you didn’t, but we know you are going to. So go ahead. But don’t make the trip through the drive thru an excuse to abandon good eating habits. Man up and apply the Fish It, Grow It or Butcher It rule to your order. “Wait,” you argue, “I can’t find healthy food at a fast food joint.” Oh yes you can. Salad. Grilled chicken. Baked potato. Even a plain burger. Steer clear of the cheese, special sauce and high-fat dressings — and of course no fries!!

If you’re whining that we just took all the fun out of fast food, refer back to Truth #6.

Truth #8: You’ve got to eat clean to be lean.

Right about now you may be thinking, “Instead of giving up all the food I love, I’ll just exercise more.” If your only goal is to lose some weight, this might work to an extent. But you could still be open to health risks (we all know slender people who’ve had heart attacks or diabetes). And you definitely won’t become the lean body you’re envisioning. Exercise alone won’t give you six-pack abs.

When it comes to obtaining and maintaining a lean body, exercise matters, to be sure. But food matters more. If you’ve ever wondered why, despite grunting through hundreds of abdominal crunches, you still have those love handles and belly fat, this is why. Yes, you’re building muscles and a strong core — but it’ll remain covered in a layer of fat unless and until you eat nutritiously.

Picture a pie chart divided between exercise, eating clean and rest. For overall health, the pie is divided evenly between these three factors. If you have a greater concern for performance — maybe you’re a professional athlete — then more emphasis must be placed on exercise (conditioning). But if, like most people, you desire a lean body, you must put a greater emphasis on eating right. It’s not enough to head to the gym. You’ve got to head to the grocery store and eat mindfully.

Truth #9: Hunger isn’t the same as desire.

It is humbling how fortunate we are in our country today, particularly compared to societies — both past and present — that have struggled on a daily basis to gather enough food to survive. Compared to them, we are spoiled. Food has become an entitlement rather than a blessing. We live a gluttonous lifestyle that disrespects our ancestors and those currently struggling for sustenance. (Is it really necessary to have a soda and pretzels on an hour flight?)

Why must your taste buds be happy all the time? Why must you eat what you desire instead of what your body truly requires? Many of you reading this post don’t know what true hunger feels like. If you still feel hungry after eating a healthy meal, eat a second helping of vegetables. If you don’t want more broccoli, you’re not hungry. You may be desirous of something, but you sure as heck aren’t hungry.

Truth #10: Special occasions only occur occasionally.

Therefore, so must your special-occasion food choices. By definition that means infrequently. From time to time. Every once in a while. Back in the days when most people prepared their own food, we might have occasionally made fried chicken or potato chips or cake. Now all these special occasion foods come readily available from nearby establishments, regardless if the occasion calls for them. So you must make the call. Does the occasion call for this fattening, health-risk food? If going out to dinner is not a special occasion — and for most of us it usually isn’t — then you can’t rationalize poor choices.

Truth #11: “Full” is a four letter word.

(So shut your mouth.)

You don’t need to walk around hungry. But eating until you are no longer hungry is different than eating until you are full. Full means filled to capacity, unable to hold any more. This would apply if we’re stocking up for a long trek and the nourishment has to last us through a barren dessert. But guess what? Most of us don’t have to worry where our next meal is coming from or when we can eat again. We’ll eat again when we’re hungry again. So once you’ve satisfied your hunger, stop eating. Yes, it’s tasty but come on. We live in a land of plenty. You can find more tasty stuff later. For now, just shut your mouth.

Truth #12: It doesn’t cost more to eat healthy.

(So there goes that excuse.)

There’s a lot of talk that it’s cheaper to order off the value menu than it is to make a meal at home. There is a notion circulating that some people aren’t eating healthy foods simply because they can’t afford them. That’s bull. You’re not eating processed food for economical reasons. You’re eating it because you think it’s tasty and it’s more convenient than making a meal from scratch. You may tell yourself it’s just too expensive to eat nutritiously, but that’s really just an excuse to eat poorly.

Americans spend less than 10% of our incomes on food. That’s less than any other country. The richest country in the world will gladly spend a sizable chunk of money on material goods but we don’t place enough value on sustenance — on our health — to invest in quality food.

Truth #13: You have time to cook.

You can make a bowl of oats in the microwave in under 2 minutes.

Are you one of those people who complain about not having time to cook, and then rush through your take-out dinner so you can sit on the couch watching TV? Yes, cooking takes time. You’ve got to make the grocery list, shop and then prepare the meal. But guess what? Get over it. You can make up the time somewhere else. Do you realize that since the rise of the internet we’ve all somehow found the time to be on our computers on average two hours a day? If we can find time for social media, surfing and games, we can steal half an hour to prepare a meal. Slow down. Stop treating food with disregard. Make a conscious decision about your food. You’ll find the benefits permeate into the rest of your life.

Truth #14: There is no super food to save you.

Instead of facing the truth about what you must do to eat nutritiously, many of you rationalize excuses why it’s not realistic to fit eating well into your lifestyle. Then you seek out some saving grace you can cling to in order to feel like you are doing something positive. You drink the juice of an exotic super-berry but you snack on chips instead of an apple. You spend a fortune on Omega-3 fatty acids in a pill form, when you could just eat salmon and walnuts. You debate over the virtues of cage-free versus pastured, grass-fed versus locally raised, organic versus natural, and all the while you’re sipping artificially sweetened soda.

Why do you have to make things so complicated? If only you could accept the simple truth. There is not one big move or quick fix you can take. There is only ongoing accountability and the daily choices you make. For food to play a prominent role in your health — which it must — you must apply the basic equation of eating naturally on a consistent basis.

Truth #15: It’s not all about you.

The food choices you make day in and day out don’t only affect your health. They impact the health of our food system and the environment. The more a food is processed, the more energy resources it wastes, not to mention wasteful packaging and production waste from the processing itself.

Much of the food we buy gets thrown away. If it is whole and natural it will decay and decompose. But when that food has been processed with chemical additives — like aspartame, MSG, fluoride, etc — it leaches toxins into the underground watercourses, which can eventually spread neurotoxins into ponds, streams and lakes. The food chain then transfers these chemicals from one species to another. Insects also ingest and transfer the chemicals throughout our planet’s biodiversity.

When you choose natural, unprocessed foods, you support healthy biology — in yourself and (if that’s not a good enough reason) on our planet.

Pep Talk

So there you have it. Fifteen food truths. Will you accept them and rethink your approach to eating? Will you take control of your actions and not allow food to dominate you? Will you break out of the prison of engineered, processed foods? Will you own the fact that we’ve become severely disrespectful of our bodies and our food chain?

Change is scary. There will be those who choose to ignore the truth and will continue to live a life of gluttony. But those people must understand that they cannot hide. It’s unfortunately all too clear that some of them may simply lack self-control, and respect for not only themselves but for others, for their actions will cost all of us more in the long run.

When you choose to accept these truths, you may not immediately succeed in living by them. It takes time to modify a lifetime of habits and culture does not shift easily. But you will keep trying, because now you know the path that leads to significant change, the path to a lean, healthy being.

And when you accept the truth, and begin living the truth, the truth shall set you free.


1) The book "A Mouthful of Truth" contains:

a) 15 Gift ideas for your Valentine

b) 15 Poems

c) A & B

d) 15 Truths

2) A White Potato is cooked at its cleanest and most healthy state is:

a) Baked and served with lemon juice

b) Smothered in sour cream

c) Topped with Chili and Cheese

d) None of the above

3) A salad becomes compromised when which items are added:

a) Vinegar

b) French Fries

c) Croutons, cheese, bacon bits and creamy dressing

d) B & C

4) All of the following foods meet the “Fish it, grow it, butcher it’ rule EXCEPT:

a) Salmon

b) Bagels

c) Broccoli

d) Eggs

Once you've taken the quiz, click here to see how you did.


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