Photo of walrus

This blog caters primarily to readers of speculative fiction, but every now and then I want to share information that is especially valid for other writers. This article is one of those. If you don’t write, you may still find this information useful–especially if your day job requires lots of sitting.

As writers, we spend a huge portion of our waking hours seated firmly on our asses. Because of this, it’s important that we find ways to take care of our bodies. Obviously, our work does little to improve our physical condition (aside from the fact that it may provide monies for food).

“Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” –Ernest Hemingway

Note: I read in one of Dean Wesley Smith‘s writing advice books (maybe it was Writing into the Dark) that Hemingway’s claim to writing standing up was just a story he told novices to mess with them. Either way, at least the first six words of that quote are true.

Diet has become one of the most confusing topics of humanity lately. Typing the term “diet” into Google gets results on topics like “eating less”, “gluten-free”, “Mediterranean”, “South Beach”, and “paleo”. How the heck do we know what we’re supposed to do? No fat? No carbs? No food?

Why don’t we just develop technology to make energy from chlorophyll through direct sunlight? I know I’ve read that idea in a couple of different SF stories. “Karma among the Cloud Kings” by Brian Trent is one of them.

As with oh-so-many other topics, the happy medium usually holds the most practical answer. Despite all the competing diets (yes, they compete for those hard-earned writer monies that you spent months or even years earning by chaining yourself to your chair and gluing your eyelids open), all you really need to do is understand what the macronutrients are and how they work.

Macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Which one is the best? Wrong question! You need all of them, and you need a balance of all of them.

The reason all the low-carb diets seem to make so much sense is because the modern diet is so jam-packed with extra carbohydrates. Part of the reason involves the previous low-fat craze. Less fat in food is usually compensated for with more sugar. Another reason is that cereal grains are so easy to mass-produce and store. After all, when our ancestors needed a crop that allowed them to settle down in one place, grains offered lots of energy (read calories) that they needed to get through a hard work day.

Chances are you—the writer—don’t need so much easily accessible energy to power your own work day. Does that mean you should stop eating carbohydrates, or even all grains? Well, you certainly shouldn’t stop eating all carbohydrates; your body needs those. As for the grains, you’ll have to answer that question for yourself.

But, here’s my easy tip. If you need to cut back on the high energy carbs, quit trying to eat your hamburgers without buns and your burritos without tortillas (unless you prefer it that way). The real culprits are processed snack foods. So, eat your meals the way you’re used to eating. Just stop grazing on chips, crackers, and cookies in between them. While you’re at it, find something better for breakfast than sugary cereal—that stuff is just nasty.

Now, all those diets out there have their reasons for having you eat this food or that, but we’re talking about the writer’s diet here. Why should you be eating real foods instead of processed junk? Because they are higher quality and both taste better and make you feel better.

Let’s put it this way. Part of your job is to put experiences into words. If you are on a restrictive diet with bland foods (whether you’re restricting carbs or fats), that’s not much of an experience. To write about life, you have to experience it.

My eating solution is based on that simple writer precept: write what you know. Your characters are going to eat, right? Give them a menu worth writing about. So, go bold with your own food choices; get out there and taste some of the world’s most delicious foods without worrying about whether it’s too fatty or too starchy. You want to lose weight? Fill your mouth with foods that you love. Stop grazing through the day on low-fat snacks that are unsatisfying and just make you hungrier.

Yes, fat may have more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, but it’s also more satisfying. Start enjoying food again, and you may just find that you don’t need to eat as much. Start concentrating on experiencing your food. Quit hating it. That’s my secret for staying fit while staying on my butt (of course, exercise also fits in somewhere).

The point is balance. The only proven way to improve your health with food is to eat real food and eat fewer calories. Many people think that means eating low-calorie food. But, I find that I actually eat fewer calories when I eat smaller portions of high-calorie food. Truth? You’ll feel a lot better when you get to have what you want and simply practice moderation.