Things that make you go “Hmmm…”

I’m reading yet another weight loss/nutrition book, and I won’t bore you with the details, but here’s a little something to think about.

Obesity specialist Dr. Gus Prosch says there are seven truths about obesity:

  1. If you’re obese, you have a lifetime disease.
  2. Your metabolic processes will always tend to be abnormal.
  3. You cannot eat what others eat and stay thin.
  4. Anyone can lose weight and stay slim provided the causes of weight gain are determined, addressed, and corrected.
  5. Understanding insulin metabolism is the key to losing weight intelligently.
  6. There is absolutely no physiological requirement for sugar or processed foods in your diet.
  7. You must address the contributing factors causing obesity (Rubin, 22).

And there it is.

Work Cited:

Rubin, Jordan. Perfect Weight. Strang: Lake Mary, FL 2008.

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In Defense of Food

Yesterday, I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and it rocked my world. Pollan’s more famous for his previous books on the industrial food chain, but this one focuses on the Western diet and its ailments: obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.

By studying indigenous groups around the world with their own particular diets, we know that a great many diets work: Japanese diets with all that fish, Mediterranean diets with all those leaves, and French diets with all that pasta and wine.

Humans can live on a great many different diets. But not the Western one, which Pollan reveals as mostly corn and soy based and way, way too over-processed.

We’ve heard all that before. So what do we do? Grow our own vegetables? Buy a farm and slaughter our own meat? Not gonna happen.

So this book is less about the principles of healthy eating, and more about how to do it in the midst of the super-industrialized food chain of the modern West. The mantra? “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

The simple instruction to “eat food” is broken down in a way that truly changed how I think about food. Pollan teaches readers to differentiate between true food and “foodlike substances.” Natural plain yogurt is food. Go-gurt Berrylicious flavor is a foodlike substance, but it is not food.

Sadly? My protein bars and protein drinks? Foodlike substances. Not food. The ingredients are somewhat frightening. That sugar-free jello I mixed this morning? Not food. Splenda-sweetened anything? Not food.

I totally get where this argument comes from, and I’d love to eat more natural, whole foods. I’ll start small. I can’t give up protein bars just yet, but even as a WLS patient, I know I could get my protein from more natural sources.

Anyhow, a rundown of Pollan’s guidelines for eating healthy:

  • Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Bye, bye protein bars.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, C) more than five in number, or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup. (goodbye, any bread on the shelf)
  • Avoid food products that make health claims. (goodbye, whole grain cocoa krispies)
  • Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. (You don’t want anything in your body that could last months on a supermarket shelf)
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. (Buy locally grown produce at farmer’s markets)
  • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  • You are what you eat eats too. (Buy grass-fed beef. Otherwise we’re just eating MORE corn).
  • Eat like an omnivore. (Variety. Just do it.)
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils. (Locally grown trumps organic. Buy local.)
  • Eat wild foods when you can. (um, never.)
  • Be the kind of person who takes supplements. (They don’t work, but the KIND of person who takes them… affluent, educated, active… is generally more healthy than the average joe. Be that kind of person.)
  • Pay more, eat less.
  • Eat meals. (Snacking is the devil.)
  • Do all your eating at a table.
  • Don’t get full from the same place your car does. (Do not, do not, do not buy food from a convenience store).
  • Do not eat alone. (Eating is as much about culture and tradition as nutrition. Eat with people).
  • Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

That’s a lot of rules. But they make sense, right? To me, they represent an entirely different paradigm of eating. Pollan differentiates too between eating whole foods and eating “nutrients.” We’re taught to eat this for calcium, that for iron, something else for protein. His philosophy? Modern science knows SO little about food, you can forget all that nonsense. Just eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Of all the books I’ve read and blogged about, this one is by far my favorite. It’s sensible, it’s funny, it resonates. Three thumbs up.

I heart Frances Kuffel

I’ve been working seriously on weight loss for a little over a year now. There was the big build up to surgery (doctors, scheduling, insurance approval…). Then there was Surgery Day, adjusting to life, learning how this works, starting to exercise.

I feel like I’m in some weird no man’s land phase now. This isn’t new any more, it’s my life. There’s nothing unusual or weird about it, nothing out of the ordinary.

I’ve adjusted.

So now what? What do I do about the fact that while I’ve lost 127 pounds, I still have this overwhelming urge to eat that is not associated with physical hunger. What do I do about the fact that it takes just ONE wrong meal, and I’m on a cycle of de-carbing for the next 3 days? These problems haven’t gone anywhere. Not with surgery, not with counseling, not with exercise. I’m aware of them, and that’s important. Being aware means not letting the urge to eat control my eating behavior. But it’s still there.

A good book arrived just in time to help me deal with that funk I was getting into. Frances Kuffel’s Passing for Thin was delivered by my county’s Books by Mail system. In 3 hours, I’d nearly finished the book.

I related to young Frances. Losing weight Frances. But somewhere in those last 50 pages, I’ve lost my connection with the character. Maybe because I’m not thin yet. Maybe because I’m still halfway through the process.

Even so, the beginnings of Passing for Thin reminded me of some things I’ve known but neglected. Losing weight requires connecting to people. It cannot be done in a vacuum. It means asking for help. Support groups, meetings, whatever.

Frances used a 12-step program to lose weight. I’ve been to OA meetings before, and I’ve been very uncomfortable with the program, the precepts, the meeting format, everything.

First, I do not feel powerless over food. Maybe I am. But I have the power to make decisions for change. I chose surgery. I choose the gym. No, that doesn’t solve everything, but dammit, I am not powerless. (Or am I?)

Second, I don’t want a sponsor and all that crap. I don’t want to call somebody about my food every day. I don’t want to have to keep that kind of contact with anybody. I’m busy. In fact, I’m too busy for meetings period!

See the resistance?

I’ve submitted to everything else in this journey: the doctors. the surgery. the message boards. the vitamins. the blog. the therapist. the protein. the water. why not this?

why not add one more tool? Can OA hurt?

Who knows. I feel off track. After reading Frances’ story, I feel like I should give it a shot. Maybe I’d meet someone I could actually enjoy talking to. Maybe I’d meet people that don’t scare me off. Maybe it will be one more building block for this process. Or maybe it would be one more exercise in futility.

I won’t commit to anything now. Except that I might try another meeting some time if Lee’s working late. We’ll see.

Food Junkie

I was reading over at Elastic Waist today, and learned of Allen Zadoff’s new weight loss memoir, Hungry. You all know I love books. (And by the way, I plan on buying this one too. From blogger to book writer, yo!).

Anyhow, Allen’s blog gets into the difference between a normal eater and a Food Junkie. I can assure that as I got up to 364 pounds, I was a food junkie. Eating as anesthesia, he’d say.

Anyhow, this one nugget of truth is worth shouting from the rooftops. It may be my new mantra. Allen says, “If I have a problem and I eat over it, then I have two problems.”

YES! Exactly! So simple and SO VERY TRUE. That ought to be enough right there to stop me from ever stress eating again.

Edited to add: I want to buy Half-Assed, another weight loss memoir by a blogger turned author too!

The Flowering of Megameggs’ Consciousness

I’ll try to take this seriously. I’ve finished the first chapter of A New Earth and I’m about to watch lesson one on Oprah.com.

While many of the passages seem ultra-hokey, I think there is a strand of truth that runs throughout the text, and that’s simply that we’re all sort of existing in our lives, not really awake to ourselves or to each other.

Eckhart writes, “This book is about you. It will change your state of consciousness or it will be meaningless” (7). Well now, I couldn’t agree more! We shall see which way it goes.

Now here’s a silly one: “You cannot fight against the ego and win, just as you cannot fight against the darkness. The light of consciousness is all that is necessary. You are that light” (8). Am I? Really? I know someone else who says He’s the light, and I’m more inclined to believe that. But whatever… this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine… this is so silly!!

But then there are gems that resonate: “The first part of truth is the realization that the ‘normal’ state of mind of most human beings contains a strong element of what we might call dysfunction or even madness” (8). Word, yo! So very true. Normal is overrated. This madness is later referred to as a “veil of delusion” (9).

And then Eckhart touches on the concept of sin. He points out that “to sin mean to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly, and thus to suffer and cause suffering” (9). Um, yeah. I can dig it.

More on madness:  “If the history of humanity were the clinical case history of one single human being, the diagnosis would have to be: chronic paranoid delusions, a pathological propensity to commit murder and acts of extreme violence and cruelty…. Criminally insane, with a few brief lucid intervals” (12). Again, I’m down with that. Truer words, right?

So what’s the point of spirituality?  How does it work? Eckhart says, “You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding goodness that is already within you, and allowing that goodness to emerge” (13). Yes, I have goodness in me, but I believe it’s because I’m made in God’s image and perfected through Jesus.

And we see more of Jesus here: “out of this insight into the nature of the human condition–we may call it the bad news–arises a second insight: the goods news of the possibility of a radical transformation of human consciousness. …In the teachings of Jesus, it is salvation” (13).

Here’s my favorite line from the chapter: “To recognize one’s own insanity is, of course, the arising of sanity, the beginning of healing and transcendance” (14). I believe it. We have to acknowledge where we’re deficient to ever overcome.

Okay, nevermind, this is my favorite line: “What a liberation to realize the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that” (22). That’s powerful stuff right there.

So I’ll keep reading. And making fun of it. And liking it.

Attitude Issue?

Ok, I don’t think I’m doing this A New Earth thing properly. I’m on page two and read, “Any life-form in any realm–mineral, vegetable, animal, or human–can be said to undergo ‘enlightenment.'”

Now that’s a deep thought. But all I can think of is “Maybe I ate an enlightened potato Saturday night!”

Maybe I’m supposed to smoke a little something first?!?

Okay, breathe. Concentrate. Be open to the Universe….

SUCKER

I gave in. I finally bought Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth today. I swear, Oprah has mind-control powers.

I’m going to try to start reading today while I’m on a conference call, and I’ll let you know if it’s “oh my gosh life-shattering I’m a much better person” or “holy crap this is some stupid shit.” I don’t think it will be anywhere in between.

Cheerio!