When it comes to healthy eating; it is time for us to go back to basics. For too long, we have been led astray by overly complicated diet advice and conflicting nutrition science.

Despite being an avid runner and triathlete, more than ten years of poor eating habits caused me to gain nearly 60 lbs after high school. Like most people, as well as skipping several high school and college reunions, I tried every low-calorie fad diet under the sun. They all failed. Fed-up with jumping from one diet to the next; I decided to ignore the fad diets altogether and focus instead on the essentials of healthy living.

With this perspective, I was able to distill the maze of complicated diet advice into five simple rules that everybody should begin with on their road to healthy living. I call them the 5 Rules for Healthy Living. Through this blog, I hope that we will, laugh a lot, learn a little and rediscover just how simple healthy eating is.

Before going any further, I am about to tell you something that may shock you. I hope you are sitting down.

“I believe that YOU already know more than enough to consistently eat healthy.”

Wow, that was sort of a Zen-like Yoda moment. My confidence (and the Force) is with you. This allows me to turn traditional diet advice upside-down. Instead of bombarding you with arduous food rules; the 5 Rules for Healthy Living, provides a strategy to help you stay on track (with what you already know is right), despite the toxic food environment that we live in.

I divided the 5 Rules for Healthy Living into two groups. The first three rules are Life-time Rules and the latter two are 30-Day Pledge Rules.

You should internalize the Life-time Rules to the point that they become first nature.

The 30-Day Pledge Rules address sugary drinks and portion control. Sugary drinks and over-sized portions have become such a major problem, that they deserve special attention.

Life-time Rules:

“Rule #1 NEVER Eat a Meal that Does Not Include at Least Two Vegetables and/or Fruits.”

“Rule #2 SURROUND Yourself with an Abundance of Snacks that You Eat Regularly.”

  • When it comes to making healthy food choices, hunger is undefeated against willpower. NEVER allow yourself to become really hunger! Plan your snacks.

“Rule #3 Get ACTIVE – Take at Least 10,000 Steps or 20 Minutes of Moderate Physical Activity 4 Days per Week.”

  • Start walking today. Begin with an amount that you feel comfortable with and gradually build-up.

30-Day Pledge Rules:

Rule #4 Absolutely NO Sugary Drinks; Including So-Called 100% Fruit Juice and So-Called Sugar-Free Drinks for the Next 30-days.”

  • After 30-days, enjoy them only occasionally. I define sugary drinks as manufactured beverages, with added sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. Coffee, tea, freshly squeezed juice – in which you add sugar to taste; that’s ok. Sound strange? The long-term aim is not 100% elimination of sugar. The goal is to instill moderation by reminding us that manufactured sugary drinks are not healthy functional beverages; instead they are liquid desserts which should be consumed occasionally.

“Rule #5 When Eating Meals Prepared at Home; NEVER Eat More than Ten Ounces Per Serving for the Next 30-days.”

  • Weigh servings made at home for the next 30-days. Eat as many meals as you need but never prepare a single serving larger than ten ounces.  This is not about “eating small meals”; it’s bigger than that (pun intended) – it’s about self-reflection. Weighing food at home for 30-days will give you an opportunity to reflect on the amount and content of what you consume.  By doing this, I promise that you will instinctively make improvements to your diet.

Again, since you already know more than enough to consistently eat healthy; you should not try to follow the 5 Rules for Healthy Living like you would a low-calorie diet plan. Eating healthy is not about maintaining 100% compliance, enduring calorie deficits or eliminating entire food groups.

The 5 Rules summarizes the most fundamental behaviors of healthy people; which should also be incorporated into your normal routine as well.

For example, I am a very punctual person. As a rule, I prepare my clothes the night before and plan to arrive at meetings a little early. I guess you could say, these are the two rules for being on-time.

Like all people however, occasionally I am late. This does not mean that I have fallen off the punctual wagon. It just means that, while I am normally early, this time I arrived late. Next time, I will be back to my punctual self again – preparing my clothes the night before and planning to arrive early.

The same should apply for you and the 5 Rules for Healthy Living. I hate hearing people say stuff like, “Today was my cheat day, or I didn’t stick to my diet plan today.” A cheat day is really saying, “I would normally eat like this everyday, but I am forcing myself to eat healthy.” This mentality will lead to failure.

If you normally eat modestly portioned meals which include no less than two vegetables; you shouldn’t feel bad when you don’t – because you know it is not the norm. The next day, you should look forward to getting back to your normal veggie routine.

The simple nature of the 5 Rules for Healthy Living will make the heads of many nutrition experts explode. They will likely want to add a long series of additional eating rules; which are technically beneficial.  They also probably want to add a million disclaimers (such as nuts are high in calories or while natural, fruit still contains a lot of sugar). Don’t let them distract you!

Remember, 5 Rules for Healthy Living is the first step and foundation of any healthy living plan. Only after internalizing them do I recommend adding more to your plate (pun intended).

In this blog, I look forward to expounding on the rules and offering more health and fitness tips. However, no advice should alter or complicate the foundation – the 5 Rules for Healthy Living.

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and cannot even spell nutritionist or dietitian, which in my opinion makes me overly qualified to share common sense healthy eating tips. However this blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only.  Please consult your doctor for specific medical advice.