Here's my list of 10 Things I Know about Turning Your Health Around, in no particular order of importance:

chef.JPGView full sizeKen Gordon, owner of Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, was diagnosed with diabetes early this year. He will keep a diary of his efforts to help improve his condition with diet and exercise.

Here’s my list of 10 Things I Know about Turning Your Health Around, in no particular order of importance:

1. It takes optimism to turn your health around: Since I’ve never had a pessimistic moment in my life, I’m not really sure it can be done while under a black cloud. But I can’t imagine it. Waking up to a 1-pound gain instead of a loss would probably be shattering if I didn’t just know I’d make it up the next day.

2. The stricter the diet the less likelihood of success: This seems like a no-brainer to me. Yet every day I hear of people who have starved themselves or eaten nothing but grapefruit and chimney soot for three weeks. And it seems that every one of them lost a bunch of weight in the beginning, then gained it all back plus a couple of pounds, leaving them racked with guilt. The diets that truly seem to work in the long run have lots of flexibility, customization and allow a few goodies now and then.

3. Snack often and snack well: Going hungry is counterproductive to maintaining the energy and willpower required to get healthy. I’m always snacking. Not a lot at a time. And all good stuff: pistachios, tangerines, frozen cherries, dark chocolate, almonds. A corn tortilla toasted with a little cheese. A piece of crisp bacon, just one. These things take the edge off between meals and make it easier to pass up that slice with pepperoni on my walk.

4. Eat a good breakfast: I never thought breakfast was all that important. But it provides a good energy boost to get things going and makes it a whole lot easier to resist that double bacon cheeseburger for lunch. Breakfast for me is usually my wife Leslee’s almost unsweetened granola, fruit and yogurt. Or a couple of my chicken’s eggs with a tortilla, avocado and salsa. Or two slices of our whole grain bread with a little schmear and some lox.

5. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do: Advice can be good and should be taken when it is. But you know what you’re capable of, what you should or shouldn’t eat, when the workout is too hard or too easy. You’ve gotten this far in your life, and going further means deciding who’s the boss of you. It’s the only way this will work.

Tofu equals yuck: Unless you deep fry it, douse it with something salty, or stuff it with pork then deep fry it. Just my opinion.

7. A lot of something delicious can be really satisfying; a little of it may be even more so: Besides sounding like something Confucius might say, this is really the crux of how I’m looking at food these days. It’s a bit like the world is your tasting menu, with nibbles of this and dabs of that. It’s the way chefs tend to eat, but just limiting the number of these tastes. A little like a continual cocktail party. Without the cosmos. Or, at least, the second and third ones.

8. Getting fatter creeps up on you, but so can getting thinner: Most people don’t start out obese. It’s a gradual thing. You get a bit older, you sit around more. Your metabolism slows. Busier days might mean more rash and unhealthy meal choices. The pounds glom on, one at a time, year by year. It works in reverse as well. Take baby steps. Start by walking to work one day a week. Then two. Have a salad for dinner tonight. Make it a habit. It’s not about crash dieting or reaching for the finish line. It’s about changing the little things and the daily and automatic habits.

9. See a doctor, then question everything the doctor says: Become an expert in your health and diet. There’s a lot of information online and in the library (walk there!), an astounding wealth of good information that can help you on your journey. Your doctor knows a lot but not everything. And certainly not everything about you. Become your own best advocate.

10. Share your experience: OK, I’m not saying you need to write a column for a major newspaper. That’s probably a little too much sharing for most people. But it has kept me on track. Your family, friends and loved ones can be a wealth of support, good advice, or just a hug when you’re feeling discouraged. Let them in on your journey to good health. We all need all the help we can get.

Any questions for Ken? Email him at [email protected]; you can also find him at