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Can non-foodies change their relationship with food?

I'm talking about simply thinking about your food, and thinking about your body, enjoying both a little more, rather than doing everything on autopilot.

The conventional image of a gourmet is that of a big fat happy food lover. Think of the late James Beard, or New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme.

This has begun to change.

Look at Prudhomme's own home page and compare the photo of him on the left side of the page with the image used on his products at the right. (Picture from Serious Eats.)

He's not alone. Foodies dropping pounds are the latest craze.

Atlanta TV cook and producer Alton Brown famously shed 50 pounds in record time last year, then produced a Good Eats episode about it called Live and Let Diet.

Foodies like Brown insist you can lose weight on recipes like the Buff Smoothie, but most agree the key is changing how we relate to food in general.

Some of their rules seem simple and fun. Don't eat alone. Get up before you're full. Emphasize quality over quantity. Try to use fresh ingredients.

The question is, how do non-foodies adapt a new regimen? If you were brought up on snacks and soda, if you live for drive-through windows, if you can't stop at a gas station without coming out with a Big Gulp, how do you get healthier?

The Small Step program of the Department of Health and Human Services emphasizes just that, small steps. If something feels like a diet you're just going to gain the weight back. But many people find all that very Big Brother-ish. So I've compiled my own list of easy-to-do, healthier habits.

  1. Stop vulching for parking -- Don't shoot for the closest parking place in the lot. Take one at the edge of the crowd and walk a little.
  2. Try the stairs -- Simple things like taking the stairs up to your office, instead of racing for the elevator, are not only good exercise, but give you a regular update on your physical condition.
  3. Soup -- There aren't many unhealthy soup recipes around. A little roux and milk can substitute in the cream soups, but tossing beans, chicken, and some veggies in a pot at regular intervals is how most people lived for generations.
  4. Walk to the restaurant -- Now that the weather is warming this is the best weekend advice I can offer. If the restaurant is a mile and a half away, and you walk both ways, at a comfortable pace, you'll get a better workout than your friends did back at the gym.
  5. Better desserts -- Instead of breaking out the chocolate cake after a weekend meal on a warm night, why not walk to your local watering hole and order a chocolate martini instead? Then walk back.

Sacrifice is not what I'm talking about. You don't need to eat a sardicado sandwich (above) every day, just as you don't need to eat a panna cotta brain every day.

I'm talking about simply thinking about your food, and thinking about your body, enjoying both a little more, rather than doing everything on autopilot.

Is that too much to ask?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com