It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Dear young self

If I could go back in time and tell my young self one thing, it would be to not diet, no matter how many people told me “If you just…” and other annoying untruths. Because the science is clear now. While short term a diet can and often does improve some health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, over the long term what repeat dieting is mostly likely to do is make sure you stay fat.

And if you think about it, really, would dieting be a multi-gazillion dollar industry if it actually worked long term? Of course not. If it worked, you’d do it once, the weight would stay off, and that would be it. They make all that money because you have to keep going back and doing it again longer and harder.

I found this article written by a neuroscientist to have some interesting things to say.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

Evolution designed us around periodic famine. If too many died too quickly, then we’re a failed experiment. So those who had some way to slow their metabolism when necessary are the ones who didn’t starve to death. Fat is important for survival, if you don’t live in a world with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner. Your basic functions do not believe that a size 2 is more desirable than a size 22, and every time you ‘starve’ (ie Diet) it is more convinced that you need all the help you can get to survive.

On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

The author’s own story mirrors mine. There was a joyful time when I quickly and fairly easily (if you consider involuntary vomiting easy) lost 100 lbs in just a few months. I was on a strict low carb diet, and I was being introduced to my soy allergy. Soy is in everything, so every salad with soybean oil dressing, every handful of snack nuts roasted in soy bean oil…a huge list of common every day foods caused me to be violently sick almost every day. It took me quite a while to figure out why. It wasn’t intentional, but I took the weight loss gratefully. But then I got down to a certain point and that was it. Nothing else I did over a several years following ever took me down below that point. No matter how dramatic.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity. Yet a 2006 study found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

I find this particularly interesting. Devoted athletes, no genetic predispositions, and yet repeated dieting seems to cause overall weight gain over time.

But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 studyshowed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

And here’s the real winner. Despite the media telling us what a horrible drain on the system fat people are, the data actually shows that it’s being sedentary and out of shape that is the issue. Sure, those often go together, but our sedentary life style is the real problem.

So if I could go back an talk to my young self, I’d ask her to take another dance class. To ride her bike every day. To ignore how she thought she looked in sweats and go to the gym anyway.

So this January, don’t start another diet. Find something physical that you enjoy, and put your time and attention to that instead.

 

 

 

What do you get out of it?

Your food, I mean.

We’ve been told over and over that if we eat a healthy diet, then we’ll be healthy. I think most of the people who read this know it’s completely untrue, but it persists as a lie. Of course the average person doesn’t do it anyway, so does it really matter?

One idea is that we don’t need to take vitamins if we eat a healthy diet. Hence the war on vitamins and supplements. I’m not sure I really understand the government’s constant attempts to over regulate them. Someone is making money off them right?

Despite my new-found soup way of life I still came down with some severe low iron symptoms. I went through a period where I ate red meat twice a day because I craved it. How much of that was me not absorbing the iron present in the food? Thyroid can cause low stomach acid, as can age, and that would interfere with absorbing the nutrients.

It’s a little gross to discuss, but many people don’t chew nearly enough. Part of that is because our food is more highly processed. It’s also because we rush everything in the US so we’re eating in a hurry. It’s a problem. A friend who had bypass surgery told me that chewing was the number one instruction her doctor gave her as she recovered to make sure she didn’t have problems with regain. I constantly have to remind myself to slow down.

Then of course, there’s the idea that there is no food in our food. That the soils in the US are very depleted by modern farming methods so the trace minerals that we should be getting out of our healthy eating aren’t there to begin with and no amount of chewing and stomach acid will pry them out of food they aren’t in.

Even though I eat mostly organic, with healthy choices, my kitchen table is still covered with various supplements and I can tell you that I notice if I miss even one for more than a day.  Some times I wonder if buying the good stuff in the first place even matters, but then I remember the chemical taste of commercial fruit and remember that it might not be what I do get out of it, it might be what I don’t.

Ironing out a few things.

I always associate canker sores with stress. When my mouth was suddenly covered in them even though nothing really exciting was going on, I turned to Dr. Google. Where I discovered that nutritional deficiencies can cause them. Particularly iron and B12.

Well, B12 should have been fine because I’d recently had a conversation with a friend who mentioned that metformin causes B12 malabsorption. Really? ‘Cause I’ve been on metformin over a year and I don’t recall anyone mentioning it to me. I did my research and have both a liquid and a spray. I think it helped my energy levels some.

Iron though. I’ve never had any trouble giving blood and I’ve always eaten plenty of red meat, so my iron levels were probably fine. Right? Not so much.Iron can also be a cause of peeling flaking nails, which I’d suddenly come down with too. Hmm. My favorite thyroid site has a lot to say about iron. Specifically ferritin vs serum iron. I talked with my usual group of fellow sufferers and got myself an iron supplement.

Wow.

Talk about flipping a switch. Nothing has made that big a difference since I found selenium. Which, by the way, is also much discussed by my favorite thyroid site.

Before selenium, I just hurt, everywhere, all the time. Life was a lot better once I started supplementing. I’ve leveled off at about once per week. But I was still pretty limp and my default state was something I call ‘couch zombie’. A state where I had things to do, and I’d sort of like to do them, but it just isn’t possible to find forward motion, or even to sustain it once moving. It was fairly horrible. Iron is the key to defeating the couch zombie. Who knew? It isn’t in the apocalyptical literature. But it’s helped me a lot. My canker sores went away almost immediately. My nails have stopped shredding. But moving past couch zombie has been huge.

If nothing else, I’m certainly blogging more regularly!

I’m not where I’d like to be, but I no longer feeling like I’m traveling the road of life on a cart with square wheels. Time to work on picking up some speed!

Getting some perspective

I recently had a great visit with one of my dearest and oldest friends. She’s recently been having fun and excitement with her own health and we’ve been sharing stories and resources. With her encouragement, I’m doing a few new things.

One that I really should have thought of is a new approach to veggies. See, I don’t like them. I’ve never liked them, and I promise you I have tried whole websites full of different ideas on how to make them fun and interesting. Sorry, still don’t like them. I tried requiring myself to just eat them along with the rest of my meal. Nope, I’d rather skip eating than eat them. Not a good solution. My new approach is called soup. Very innovative, I know. Bone broth is an amazing food and I’ve certainly made my fair share. But I don’t care for brothy soup. There are only so many flavors that meld well with coconut milk for a creamy soup, and thickening with flour isn’t really the best for me. My friend’s solution? The food processor.

Oh. How obvious. I’ve never thought to put the meat from soup into the food processor, but why not? It works beautifully. Cauliflower bacon soup in a chicken base was excellent and on the menu for tomorrow probably. Home made duck stock with leftover duck, zucchini, spaghetti squash and a few potatoes was legendary and required a sincere discussion about the inadvisability of a 3rd bowl in the first seating. Ground beef and broccoli has been less successful, but still fine. So now I’m aggressively buying my favorite Kitchen Basics stock in a box, and saving my rotisserie chicken bones, and I found my beef bone options at the market last visit for future reference. So as long as the cool weather holds out, I can go forward with more veggies.

My friend also found a traditional Chinese Medicine doctor when her western doctor couldn’t help her. I’ve shied away from this simply because of the expense, but in her experience it isn’t as expensive as I thought, and well, I’ve certainly tried everything else. I’ve put out some feelers locally to see if I know anyone with a personal recommendation. Their approach is all about balance after all, and I already know my body is horribly out of balance. It can’t hurt.

I think the most important thing was to have some reinforcement. She does not find me lazy, or less determined, or any other thing. She believes I have attempted to work my behind off, but it is just stuck. And that might be the most important thing from the whole visit. Someone who knows me well. Someone who has watched my endless struggle, and finds me admirable, instead of lacking. That is truly hard to find.

So, a nice soppy song in honor of the people who really know us.

When food can’t be trusted

With a title like that, the first thought might be dieting and weight loss. I’ve certainly felt like that many, many, oh so very many times in my life. But this is worse than that.

Let’s talk about food allergies.

Food allergies are exhausting.

Have you ever gone to a scrumptious buffet, and left hungry, not because of any will power or intentional self sacrifice, but because there was nothing you could safely eat?

How long does it take you to figure out a restaurant to stop at after a busy day?

Once upon a time, when I was young and callous, I knew a woman who ‘claimed’ to have food allergies, and she was allergic to a great many basic staples. And I thought she was making it up. Or at least fussing over No Big Deal. We took to calling her “one of those people who doesn’t eat food.”

And now, of course, I am one of those people, and I want to go back and give my young self a talking too. She didn’t mean to be unkind, exactly, but it was so far outside her experience that it didn’t seem real.

Perhaps you are one of those people. If you are, please give me a minute to explain.

Have you ever traveled to a place where it wasn’t safe to drink the water? And you not only had to find bottled water everywhere, you had to remember to always have a bottle in your hotel room so you could brush your teeth? And you had to remember to only eat vegetables that had a peel, because greens and things like that are washed in the local unsafe water?

It’s a little like that.

Any time you eat out, especially at a new place, it’s like spinning a roulette wheel. Especially when your allergy is something ubiquitous like gluten, or something deadly, like shellfish or peanuts. You can order carefully. You can tell the server to ask the kitchen. You can hope that the server will actually ask, and the kitchen will both know and answer honestly. And it’s still giving the wheel a big old spin.

The more allergies you have, the likelier you are to have a problem with something.

I have a lot. My options are limited. I have a very short list of local restaurants that I’ve vetted, taking the risk of feeling awful for a full week to see if it’s safe. My poor husband supports me in my quest for safe food, but I know he loves business trips where he can just go eat without having to study the menu, call the manager, and pray.

I usually just eat at home from my short list of reliable, sensible food. Which means an awful lot of cooking from scratch. No convenience foods.

I’m a better than average cook, but there are so many times when I really, really can’t face my own cooking, but there aren’t really any better options either.

I suppose this can be classed as a first world problem. Much like dieting, it’s about being faced with food you can’t eat, instead of the much harsher problem of there being actually no food. I’m not confused about that.

But since we (I at least) live in first world environments with computers and internet and ridiculous amounts of food, it’s a very real problem.

It makes me tired.

It isn’t just french fries.

I am really conflicted about this ad:

On the one hand, I am utterly appalled at what passes for healthy eating in this country. Our food supply is a nightmare. Refined, mutated, depleted, it can be difficult to get adequate nutrition. It genuinely astonishes me how many adults don’t know how to cook. Not even anything fancy, but how to make a meal out of basic ingredients. Add in a low-fat bias and we’re pretty much doomed. Teaching kids how to make a healthy meal and how to enjoy one is an important parenting step that isn’t always getting the attention it deserves, for many reasons, some unavoidable like economic inaccessibility of quality ingredients, and sometimes just because.

So yes, teaching our kids about healthy nutrition is really important.

But this PSA? It’s all about fear tactics, and it leaves out so much.

The blame for weight issues is always assumed to be food choices and nothing else. And that tunnel vision makes me so angry!

Sure, many people eat badly. Plenty of them are thin too, and no one feels it necessary to emotionally manipulate them into self loathing.

Wait,what?

That’s right. In my experience (personal and direct from friends) every time a fat person fails at a diet program, they hate themselves. Because ‘everyone’ knows that if you just stick to your diet, you’ll lose weight. So if you don’t lose weight on your diet, it’s a personal failing. The medical profession really compounds this by being condescending and skeptical. Because even though I’m a well educated, intelligent adult, I can’t be trusted to watch my own calorie count. If the diet doesn’t work, I must be lying to myself about what I’m really eating.

I could go on about this for quite a while. I have a lot of hostility on this subject saved up.

But back to that ad.

It shows that poor guy who has been overweight his entire life, and pretty much suggests that he’s fat because his mom fed him fries as a kid. Because it’s the only thing that makes him stop crying.

You know what I’d ask a parent if they said only one food would make their kid stop crying?

“Have you checked in to food allergies?”

The problem with reducing everything to the calories in/calories out model is that there can be a LOT more going on, and it makes life very unpleasant for those who can’t figure out why, and don’t have the time and energy to chase after possibilities. We need society to be a little more open minded about causes and a little less judgmental.

Ok, and feed our kids fewer french fries, that’s true enough.

It just takes one thing

I was incredibly inspired by this video I found this morning:

 

 

It’s absolutely fascinating how removing one ‘dangerous’ element for the ‘benefit of everyone’ completely changed everything and started a downward spiral of issues that no one even knew were caused by a completely unlikely catalyst (or lack of.)

In this case, the wolves change the behavior of the deer, which changed the grass, which changed the health and behavior of pretty much all the other animals.

To me, it points out how very little we know about how Mother Nature’s systems really work.

Now let’s apply that to things like GMO food, and artificial sweeteners, and chemical flavor enhancers.

I already know one. Soy. Traditional soy foods are made by slow fermentation. Natto, soy sauce, miso, and tofu. Edamame is the one exception that I know of. The slow processing breaks down the potentially damaging phytochemicals in soy, makes it more digestible and the nutrition more accessible. The way soy is processed in the US is, as with everything, the fastest, cheapest possible processing to achieve a food-like substance.

How about grain? We’ve gone from cultivating many different types of grains (because they each require slightly different growing conditions so some were bound to make it even in a too hot or too wet year) to being extremely wheat focused. Then we take that wheat and process it until it is unrecognizable. How about the fact that we’ve reduced the variety of foods that we eat to only a few dozen out of the many hundreds humans used to eat.

What would we find about our health and well being if we went back to eating wide varieties of plants and animals that haven’t been so  heavily modified?

There’s no chance to find out really. Everything has been changed and there are entirely too many humans to be fed for everyone to forage.

But it is a question I think about.