Food, why do you love me so? Sadly, you go right to my heart—and my waistline. It’s not because you taste so good or I’m so hungry for you. No, sad to say, it has more to do with our love-hate, approach-avoidance, feast-or-famine relationship.

Really, I’d rather we were just friends.

Don’t take it personally; it’s as much my fault as yours. I can’t help but love your gloppy cheese pizzas, 16-ounce sugary colas, salt-laden flavored chips and 16% butterfat-saturated ice cream.

I eat you and then lie there, in a stupor, like the boa that swallowed the pig.

It’s not just me, it is a lot of us. Some 38% of U.S. adults are obese, and another 32% are overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worse yet, obesity affects almost one in five children and adolescents, triple the number a generation ago.

A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests obesity accounts for 18% of deaths in the U.S. That’s almost half a million people a year.

It’s all because of you, Food. You got all processed, sugared over and junked up for us. And we just cannot resist, despite the risk of diabetes, heart disease, feelings of failure and anxiety and the necessity of letting out our pants every few months.

OK, so Houston, we have a problem. What to do? Most people have a one-word answer: diet! But that’s a problem too.

Everyone knows what a diet means: rationing calories. And it usually works, for a while, anyway, until the pounds that disappeared start to reappear. That’s because eating bad food is just too good to pass up. And the see-saw effect of losing and gaining weight is a habit too hard to break.

So, how to break up with bad food?

America, you know the answer. Instead of diet, think regimen or, in the current nutrition parlance, eating plan. Instead of temporary, think always or lifetime. Diet suggests one-and-done, but calories are forever.

So here’s today’s lesson. Strip the world diet from your vocabulary. Rethink eating. Good eating isn’t temporary, nor is daily exercise. They are as necessary and regular as breathing.

Stick with science author Michael Pollan’s entirely apt and wonderfully concise recommendation: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And wait until you’re hungry.

Plant food, not processed food, is what Homo sapiens grew up on. It is what our bodies know how to digest and metabolize admirably well. Throw in a daily course of fruit and nuts. Add some lean meats and fish with omega-3 fatty acids. Skinny down the portions and skip pasta, fried foods, bread, all-but-whole grains and anything with added sugar.

OK, that’s tough. But America, if you must splurge, confine it to once a week. Make Saturday your bad-food date night. Sunday morning you’ll hate yourself, but only for a few hours. Then you’re back to your regimen.

Take that, Food!              

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently three consecutive Northern...