Saturday, September 30

The Yum-Factor and Lowcarb Obsession

When you look at humans in tribal environments, you see that aside from sleep, human rituals and care of the young, nearly all their time is spent working on getting food or in some way dealing with food. For eons with humans, in terms of what one's time and mind are focused on, there has been a dominant obsession with food. NOT as a 'concept', outside of Christmas carols, but as a direct relationship to what you were going to put in your body. The two things -- food, and what goes in your body -- were not separate.

Nowdays, it's hard to be bothered with food. We often rush from the moment we get up and get kids to school and get ready for work and work all day and do errands afterwards and outside of our lunch hour or whatever we arrange for dinner, usually we are paying no attention to food. When we do put food in our bodies, it is often based on available time and available energy to prepare, or what is in arm's reach, or what someone else likes (a kid, mate, etc.).

This is no small issue. Looking at the protein requirements for the average person, and at what they actually eat, I'm willing to bet that most people don't eat anywhere near enough protein. So they don't have sufficient energy.

When you have less energy, you get less exercise because you haven't the gumption to get up and go. When you get less exercise and you're lower in energy you're more likely to eat carbs because carbs are energy-in-food. Protein is like power that our body translates into energy internally. Carbs are like external-energy we're pulling into us to help.

Too many carbs, not enough exercise, lead to weight gain and eventually to insulin resistance, which inevitably amplifies things into more weight gain, which leads to vastly less energy for obvious carrying-it-around reasons, so more craving for carbs to support the body and more insulin resistance and more weight gain -- it's the modern insulin-hamster-wheel of obesity.

So if you 'track it back', it seems that a great deal of all the carb-obsessed, nutritionally-deficient, exercise-inhibited problems in our culture, all start at the doorstep of insufficient protein.

Which means if I'm lowcarbing and not getting enough protein, that's a big deal.

Now, not to be obvious, but in order to get protein, ya gotta EAT. Which I at least won't do unless I like the taste of what I'm eating. So lowcarb better be yummy or I'm not lowcarbing, I'm fasting.

I suspect the lean-body-mass starvation that is chronic throughout much of human life in our culture, due to protein deficiency, may well contribute to a whole host of medical (and possibly even mental and social) problems far more extreme than just obesity.

Unlike every "natural" culture of humans, who for survival are forced to put a huge emphasis on the acquisition, preparation and storage of food, many people pay incredibly little attention to the detail of the food we put in our bodies.

But it seems almost inbred to humans since the dawn of time, that food's an obsession with us. And it seems marketing takes advantage of this. You'd never know we weren't obsessed with food to look at any form of marketing! Magazines and stores and TVs are nearly overwhelmed by the obsession with food. Even the obsession with beauty, health and sex fall second to the obsession with food. (Well, the sex obsession may be catching up, particularly as men become a higher % of the population doing even grocery and furniture shopping.)

So, oddly, it's as if we are still obsessed about food as a concept, we're just not really obsessed with the food we put in our bodies.

It's a form of dissociation.

If we asked our body what it wanted to eat, it would probably give us sexy dreams about steak or fish, broccoli and avocados, strawberries and cold clear water. Somehow, I doubt that apple pie, hershey bars and french fries are of any interest to the body -- and to the degree they are chemically bad for the body, even harmful, quite the opposite.

But they're of huge interest to our brain. Why? Because we've been indoctrinated with an obsession about the concept of food, devoid of the context of what we actually put in our mouths.

They're of huge interest to our palate as well. Why? Because we've been eating that way much of our life, in some cases when our parents ate badly all our lives, and we've learned to associate that food with 'getting energy' we lack, with positive reward from our parents, with sex and fun and other abstracted pleasures in a lifetime subjected to marketing.

Some people feel they have emotional reasons for eating. Personally, I think nearly everybody has emotional reasons for eating (or sometimes for not-eating, which is really the same issue just a different reaction), because nobody in our culture who hasn't grown up in the closet could have avoided the pervasive influence, since early childhood, of the many messages about and associations with food.

If Jane is thin and eats when she's upset, nobody even notices. Nobody cares. Jane doesn't care. She's thin, why should she care? But if John is obese and he eats when he's upset, it's considered a major psychological problem.

If this is a problem, I'd suggest it's a problem that the vast majority of our culture has -- it's simply that we only notice it or care about it when the metabolism of the individual fails to "compensate" for that.

Since I went back to a lowcarb way of eating, I've been almost forced to obsess on the food I put in my mouth. I rather have to, because my normal way of eating is completely different.

To start with, prior to lowcarb, I often ate only one meal late in the day, that's been my norm for decades. Secondly, whatever I ate was carb-laden and too much (although almost any mega-carb meal is 'too much' unless you're about to work out hard or run a marathon). My family's idea of food has been fast-food or packaged food with an occasional home cooked meal--rarely. I work and my husband handles the food, animals and garden, and we share the kid duties. He really isn't interested in cooking every night, let alone to deal with daytime food, let alone even more than that, for arranging snacks or whatever.

This makes my getting sufficient protein very difficult -- it's even difficult to get enough calories, unless I eat something massively high in fat. It means I need to take off work (I work from home, more than 8 hours a day) and go do something about my food.

I am pretty stubborn about food. I can be hungry, and standing looking at a refrigerator stuffed with wonderful fresh foods, and if I don't feel like eating those foods, I will go hungry and walk away. I'd rather be hungry than eat what I don't like or don't feel like. Maybe this means that my psychology has more sway with me than my body... I think that would probably be a fair statement.

I have to like the food that I am eating or I'm not going to eat it, period. Maybe if my parents had forced more veggies on me I'd be different, who knows. I'm finicky as hell. I tend to obsess on a certain food and eat it constantly and then am totally sick of it and can't eat it for a long time. I get weary of foods easily and really need variety. I behave similarly with other subjects, like music, and personal interests, so I think some of this is just personality.

And perhaps because of my lifetime of eating, my body-psychology (not function) feels a genuine need for something that at least can function-as breadish foods (tortillas and bread) since a ton of other food options -- variety! -- open up when you have those.

And sometimes, I want sweets. Do I need them? My body doesn't. My mind apparently does. And maybe that will change. But right now, pretending that is not so would only make me feel deprived and result in me eventually eating off-plan carby-crap that would blow it for me.

So staying on lowcarb is profoundly dependent on my ability to make foods that I like, and enough variety of them that I can stand it. Including breadish stuff and sweets.

There is a good chunk of the lowcarb world online that is fiercely dedicated to the meat-eggs obsession. And it works for 'em, I'm telling you, most of these people drop weight the way I can drop money at -- so they've got a lot of leverage for respecting their opinion.

But I can't eat like that. Not sure I can afford it for one. And the "heavy darkness inside me" when I do that is something I really dislike. And I don't have time for the required cooking, for another. And I just flat out can't stand it! Perhaps I will evolve into some kind of paleolithic hunter who really just wants to eat meat and steal eggs from nests and forage for roots and berries, but it certainly isn't that way right now.

Right now, if I'm going to eat twice a day -- let alone more often -- and if I'm going to get anywhere near the protein and calories I'm supposed to have -- I must have good tasting food. Yes! I expect food to be decent tasting! Sue me. Call me a baby. I don't think it's a lot to ask. In today's world of year-round food options at the grocery and online-sales of specialty ingredients, I don't see why this should be such a big thing to ask for.

I think that I am not alone in this. I think this issue is greatly behind why so many people cannot maintain lowcarb in the long run.

People go offplan dominantly because they want to experience a certain taste that is not on plan. They just can't stand it, they have got to have the garlic bread and mashed potatoes at the family barbecue, they've got to have the cranberry sauce and apple pie at thanksgiving. Now, they might have resisted just one or two things. They would have suffered without their favorite yams, for example. But suffering without all of it -- left with plain turkey (gravy is usually made with corn starch) and a few green beans and iced tea, when everyone else is eating richly and drinking eggnog and having warm pies with ice cream -- come on.

Let's get real. This takes monumental willpower on most people's parts. And if the person has not been eating enough protein, and worse if they've been eating stuff like lowcarb bars and other stuff that can spark cravings, their own body is going to be working against them.

If you don't want your employees to steal, your child to do drugs, and you know they are massively exposed to opportunity and encouragement, you wouldn't just shrug it off as their problem if they give in to temptation. You remove temptation, or you do something that helps mitigate that circumstance. Usually both.

So in lowcarb, you arrange it so you don't need to go to the lunch truck for your food. Because let's be honest, even if they offer a couple very simple foods you could eat, the smell of the spicy deepfried burritos and onion rings is going to whack your whole body hard. The olfactory sense is supposed to be the most powerful memory and pleasure stimulating sense there is, and anybody on a diet who ever smelled something they couldn't have will easily vouch for that.

And, when you can't help but be in a situation of massive carby food like family holidays, you provide an alternative: Make your own cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, apple pie, and eggnog. Can you do all that on lowcarb?! Sure. OK, it's true, your "mashers" might be from a different veggie that tastes amazingly like potatoes when done that way; your apple pie might be zucchini pie which also tastes amazingly great in a similar way to apple pie, and there might be a couple specialty ingredients like thickeners and sweeteners to make some of the stuff lowcarb instead of highcarb. So what!

If you eat it all at once, won't you go over your daily carb limit? Yeah, all at once, almost for sure. But you could have some of all of that, and all together still ingest lest carbs than a 'small', one-dish 'cheat' on normal carby food. That much won't toss your ketosis generally, and if it causes a few days of carb-cravings you have to beat with protein until they recede, it still is unlikely to have nearly the effect that falling completely off the wagon would.

Some people's lives depend on staying on lowcarb eating. Going off the wagon (as they say) is not just an issue of blowing a diet. It's an issue leading to horrifying ailments in diabetics, and horrifying health and lifestyle issues in obese people, and death to both. This is not something that flippancy is appropriate for, or casual reference to 'well they oughtta have willpower' or anything like that. That is not a proactive way of approaching the question of how to save lives and pursue health for people. If we want to save the lives of the people, we need to look at the reality of how people do eat, how they need to eat, how they can eat, and do everything we can to work out a plan for ourselves, or our families in need, that lets them have a good food life, while being healthy as well. No eating plan works if they are not on it!

What works for me is food that I want to eat. Sometimes that is steaks and chicken and salad and broccoli and a few berries in a protein shake, perfect for lowcarb. Sometimes, it's waffles, or something on bread, or chocolate.

There's only one solution. I have to do enough cooking, experimenting, and gathering recipes, to make myself familiar with a wide variety of lowcarb food options. So if I really want chocolate or lemon or I really want spanish rice or pancakes or eggnog, I have an option to deal with that need.

That need is probably more emotional than physical. But as noted above, it's likely there are few people who don't have some degree of psychology involved in their eating, we just only notice it with the overly- fat or thin people. It is still just as real and it still needs to be addressed if the goal is to keep a person eating on-plan.

I'm reading recipes endlessly. I'm collecting favorites like a new fevered-hobby. I'm experimenting daily with what might be edible for me. I'm imagining new variants and possibilities. I got "Rye flavor" bakers use to add to the flaxbread with a little caraway seed for better bread to have open-topped sandwiches with. I'm trying to get this "Oatmeal flavor" to add to flaxmeal cereal with a little brown sugar extract for a hot cereal-like option.

My mouth and my psychology want the taste. My body doesn't need to really have oatmeal or brown sugar. If I have some of the taste, while I am chewing and swallowing, I am happy. If I try to build in some protein to that, and if other meals better make up the protein/nutrients I might not be getting from that, what difference does it make?? Maybe eventually I can develop more love for what is yet-better food, and less love for stuff that is carbish. But right now, I need to be on the eating plan.

Just like Richard Atkins was not real worried about whether induction phase of his diet was short on veggies, because there was a vastly greater danger of the patient keeling over from a heart attack long prior to a lack of green beans doing them harm -- in the same vein, I am just not so worried about whether it is better to only eat proteins or avoid all forms of artificial sweeteners. The bottom line is that if I am staying on plan, then every single day, I am one step closer to saving my own life. Isn't that really the first and most important thing?

Maybe if I could just ditch a lifetime of breadish-obsession and sweet-needs and chocoholism, I'd be healthier, I'd lose weight faster. But if I want to lose weight at all I have to stay on-plan right? And 'm not sure that can happen at the moment unless I have more variety in tasty food.

I see a lot of people online when I read various lowcarb forums. A surprising number of the food lists on journals are so dull my entire appetite falls asleep from boredom.

Since I started lowcarb, suddenly, I love food!

I paid almost zero attention to food before this. I ate whatever I felt like that was fast and close at hand. If it wasn't, I didn't eat. I ate while doing programming work, while standing, while in the car, with no attention to the detail. My husband learned that if he brought me food I ate and if he didn't, I didn't eat. If he brought me two of something, I ate that seemingly happily; if he brought me six, I ate that the same way. If it was there at hand I would eat it. I've never really cared much about the detail, except that it has to taste good to me and I can't be sick of it. I am very focused on whatever I am doing, and food usually has to interrupt that.

My best friend recently pointed out that not only had lowcarb not made me restricted but it had blossomed my entire interest in food. It has! I find it so exciting to go through the options!

Now like humans of old, I am being forced to put a lot of time and attention toward acquiring what will enable me to survive. Far more than normal. At least till I get handle on this. Some may think it's unreasonable or obsessive, the amount of time I've spent on it (I've heard this complaint recently). Let 'em!

My food is gonna taste good, and it's going to have variety. I insist! I can do this.

Off to the kitchen to experiment. I hear flax pancakes calling me. Viva la Low Carb!


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