The reason I have been working on eating better is that all the reading I have been doing has finally sunk into my soul, and I can't just do nothing.
Quite a while ago I read The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. It opened my eyes to how food is raised in the US. Then more recently I watched the DVD and read the book of Food, Inc. That made me decide to never eat a LOT of snack foods I once enjoyed again. Gee whiz, corn, soybeans and that corn syrup are in everything!
Food Rules and In Defense of Food, also by Pollan. These books just make a lot of sense. They don't promote one diet or another, just eating reasonable foods in reasonable proportions. Food Rules isn't very long at all and can be boiled down to:
Eat Good. Mostly Plants. Not too much.
That means to eat things you know what they are (like a carrot versus whatever is in a Twinkie), eat more leaves, fruits and vegetables, and don't over-eat. It doesn't say never have cake. Just don't have cake every day.
I had put on a few pounds, so I started eating this way, and walking more, and it's worked fine--lost about 9 pounds in 3 weeks. I know it will slow down, but that's fine. We are trying to eat more organic stuff, and even have ordered our first batch of organic beef from our friends at Wild Type Ranch (if you live around here, check their website for when they deliver near you). That's one thing these books suggest consumers can do to change how the food industry in the US works: buy locally from people you KNOW.
I have watched a number of my friends change their diets in recent years. Some have become vegetarians. A number of people have gone gluten free, so I have seen how that diet can be quite tasty and varied. We also know people who eat an all raw diet. That sounds awful, doesn't it? But no, I can assure you that some of the most delicious things I have ever eaten have been prepared by my friends who eat raw. My friend Karen gave me a slice of pomegranate pie she had made for a birthday gift. It was wonderful. The crusts she makes from nuts and such are absolutely divine. And the agave nectar sweetener is great!
I might not ever got 100% vegetarian, but I already don't eat a lot of meat. I would like to bring a lot more fish into my diet, though I do worry about contaminants with that. And I don't think I'd ever switch to a raw diet, but I'd be tempted to eat a lot more raw foods if I had the time and money to prepare and purchase the beautiful, healthy and delicious ingredients. (The major flaw of the raw diet is the time and expense--you sure have to own a GOOD juicer and blender thingie, plus the nuts and such can get costly.)
I think we are all aware that food-related conditions are rampant in the US. Most can be prevented by changing eating habits. We don't have to go crazy. I am changing one thing at a time, and gradually switching to a healthier diet. For example, I have not had a diet soda (or regular) in weeks. Go me! I've been drinking water, tea, coffee and red wine, because, hooray, red wine is good for you in moderation if you don't tend to abusing it!
I do recommend the In Defense of Food Book to anyone interested in learning the history of the way westerners eat. It's quite eye opening. Even if you do not change how you eat, you will understand why you are finding the things you find in the grocery store, etc.