The Big Fat Surprise

I just completed reading “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz. It is one of many books I have read to understand what a “healthy” diet should be.

Despite almost 100 years of nutrition science, there is still no clear consensus on what a “good and healthy” generic diet would be for humans. This makes sense to me. After all, we are extremely complex organic systems bundled into one organism. Moving the bead on one row of our abacus will affect other rows and their beads in order to maintain homeostasis within our body.

The book discussed more than what type of fat or how much fat I should or should not eat. It revealed a century’s worth of political, governmental, scientific, academic, and financial pressures that came to bear on developing our current American diet.

The book also discussed the affect carbohydrates have on human disease and weight gain. Not just sugar and processed flours but fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!

Another major subject in the book are unsaturated vegetable oils. Since these are not found in large quantities in nature, Big Food created them to replace lard, butter, suet, and tallow. Big Food’s first iteration of these replacement fats involved hydrogenation, which created trans-fats.

When science showed trans-fats created health problems Big Food had to replace them with other chemicals to make the food taste and look the same. This required more processing and usually more added sugar and salt to keep the products palatable. Big Food had to do this with A LOT of their processed foods.

Consequently, since the majority of food in any grocery store is processed that translates to Americans eating A LOT of chemicals, sugar, and salt over the last few decades. Small wonder we are dealing with increasing amounts of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity as compared with our ancestors.

Also, vegetable oils now used by Big Food and restaurants to fry food cannot tolerate repeated use at high temperatures. Vegetable oils break down into toxic compounds like aldehyde and formaldehyde. Yep, the stuff for storing specimens and listed in our MSDS book as a human toxin to be handled with gloves!

The book gave me a good understanding of why we have the American diet and food supply we do today. And it makes me sad. There are so many viewpoints about what we should and should not eat. Many of these viewpoints are maintained for the purpose of generating revenue. Humans for millennia before us did not have this quagmire to slog through. They just ate the food available to them without all this crazy discussion and debate!

The information in the book gives me the confidence to continue eating whole foods (this includes meat) and avoid anything processed or fried whether it is oil, meat, grain, vegetable, or fruit. The fewer middle men and chemicals between me and my food the better for my body.

For my purposes I learned saturated animal fats (full fat dairy, cheese, meat, butter, etc.) are not going to affect my cholesterol levels and can help me lose weight by providing satiety and lower insulin levels. So, I will be gradually adding these foods back into my diet while monitoring how they make me feel.

Lucky for me I can purchase food that is sustainably sourced, humanely handled, free of antibiotics and hormones, and fed a healthy and organic diet. My ancestors would never have had to consider all this!

This week’s topic ended up being an intensive book review.  I don’t find it useful to glom onto someone else’s ideas because they sound new and exciting. After gaining information from the book I had to recognize what it meant and how it affected all the other beliefs I had about my diet. In fact, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, you can see how difficult it is to learn from a book and synthesize the information!

However, I did the best I could and am passing it on to you this week.

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring our Progress

A common hubris (rule of thumb) for measuring success in weight loss is a scale.

But measuring our progress on losing weight with one number makes very little sense.

Because our bodies are so complex, we need to look at more than one data point to understand how to gauge our progress.

Here are other important measuring sticks that give us data points on our weight loss progress:

  • Body measurements.
  • How our clothes fit.
  • What kind of food we buy at the grocery store.
  • What kind of food we eat at a restaurant.
  • The amount of food we eat at each meal.
  • The number of times we eat each day.
  • How much sleep we get each night.
  • How much energy we have each day.
  • How we respond emotionally to stress.
  • How much activity we do.
  • How much our joints ache.
  • How much constipation or diarrhea we have.
  • How frequently we buffer with food, alcohol, or shopping.

Our weight loss progress can be measured in how we answer each of these data points. Remember the abacus picture last week? Each of these data points would be on it’s own row and you are the one moving the beads towards or away from the direction you desire to go.

I have worked out where all the above data points are for me. So this next 6 months I am focusing on making progress on decreasing my body measurements and body fat composition. I measured my neck, upper arms, thighs and trunk (that’s my bust, natural waist, belly button waist, and hips) to get my starting measurements along with my starting weight and body fat percentage (I get this number from my home Tantita scale). My current body fat percentage is 32% and it should to be about <25% for my age and height!

After 6 months of experimenting with fasting I am tuning my protocol to whole foods (nothing processed) with a 42-hour fasting schedule 3 days a week. This means I fast Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and eat two meals a day on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. This pattern fits my lifestyle.

Also, as a postmenopausal woman the 42-hour fasting protocol is supposed to keep my REE guessing AND get my body to use the fat I have stored for energy.

Because of my age, gender and past history of yoyo dieting it will be a slow but steady fat weight loss so I need to stick with it for 6 months, giving my body the time it needs to become fat adapted again.

Because I am now more interested in losing the fat padding my body than losing weight I will keep track of my measurements and how my clothes fit.

Since fasting preserves lean muscle I may actually gain weight as my body composition changes from less fat to more muscle and bone weight. We shall see how my experiment comes out. I will share the results with you in December!

Normal is a Myth

Every person is unique. There are no two identical fingerprints, palm prints, retinas, heights, weights, shapes, gut biomes, neurological pathways, etc. As organic beings there are so many differences between each of us.

It is a myth that there is a normal out there, in anything.

Normal is an idea built and perpetuated by our fears.

We think of normal as comforting, something to attain.

What happens to us if we feel we are not measuring up to normal? We live in a space of self-doubt. We identify with something else, established by other people. We don’t know how to be comfortable in our own skin.

I choose to think we are all our own version of normal.

Imagine we are built like an abacus with lots of rows and beads on each row. The beads shift from right to left or from more to less. Each row and each side represents a different attribute or trait unique to us.

Say the circumstance is we arrive late to work because of an accident. The red row of beads represents our feeling of anxiety about this circumstance. Some people have low anxiety (the two beads to the left) and some people respond with high anxiety (the eight beads to the right).  The two different anxiety levels are normal for each person!

Now say the blue row toward the bottom represents what is normal for the people in the above circumstance to do when they see doughnuts in the lounge when arriving late.

  • A person with low anxiety doesn’t eat a doughnut (no beads to the left).
  • A person with high anxiety eats a doughnut because the sugar, fat content, and taste “comforts” them by giving them a dopamine hit to counteract the anxiety (10 beads to the right).

We are very interactive beings. Our brains have evolved to unconsciously filter information and quickly make sense of things to get things done. Our primitive brain is also constantly on the hunt for low effort sources of pleasure to counteract our pain in life. This is why we respond to circumstances the same consistent way each time. I have a “tough” drive to work so I deserve a doughnut!

However, if we want the beads to move in the direction we WANT we have to take a stand with our neo-cortex against our unconscious brain!

If I want my anxiety less I need to think a different thoughts about getting late to work. If I want my eating food to comfort my anxiety less I need to plan ahead and give my unconscious mind a counter direction to go, opposite from the usual direction of just being anxious and mindlessly eating food.

I want to organize my beads on purpose! I don’t want doughnuts, people, things, or places pushing my weight loss beads around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress and Negative Emotions

Here we are into July already.

It is summer and everyone is taking a turn at enjoying a little time off for vacation. We are also “enjoying” shorter staffing at work as a result. This can mean more stress at work. Or rather, using the MODEL, there may be more circumstances at work that produce negative thoughts that we may want to buffer away with some comfort food.

It is OK to feel angry, frustrated, tired, slighted, ignored, anxious, or any other negative emotion. After all, they are 50% of the human experience. By experiencing them we are experiencing our humanness.

But negative emotions don’t feel good you say!

Nope, they don’t.

That is normal.

Does eating a doughnut make it feel better?

Yep, but only in the VERY short term.

By eating doughnuts to buffer negative emotion we create MORE negative emotion because our actions are at odds with what our neocortex brain REALLY wants – to lose weight. So eating doughnuts ultimately produces more negative emotions like shame and guilt, disappointment and strong feelings of failure.

We can experience the negative emotions now or later.

It is our CHOICE to buffer over them in the short term with food and experience an avalanche of negative emotions later

OR

Let the current negative emotion just pass through us and be gone.

I tend to avoid negative emotions around the end of my meal when I need to find my “satisfied” or +2 and stop eating.

I get upset over wasting the food on my plate. I feel “entitled” to clean my plate past my “satisfied” feeling in the stomach because the food is healthy, tastes good, is a reward for a busy day at work, or cost me money.

Here is the unintentional MODEL for this repeating behavior of mine:

CIRCUMSTANCE: FOOD ON A PLATE

THOUGHT: I can eat everything on my plate.

EMOTION: Entitled

ACTION: Eat all the food no matter what or how much is on my plate. Eat beyond my satisfied.

RESULT: A clean plate. Overeat beyond satisfied. Gain weight.

My feeling of being ENTITLED is a subtly negative emotion. It doesn’t seem like it would be bad to feel but it is. Feeling entitled means I am telling myself I have “earned” something, that I am “owed” something and I can eat all I want as a reward.

My actions have me actively ignoring what my body is clearly telling me: “I’m satisfied and you don’t need to give me more food!”

Clearly this unintentional model is not going to help me leave food behind on my plate so I am going to follow this INTENTIONAL model to redirect my thoughts.

CIRCUMSTANCE: FOOD ON A PLATE

THOUGHT: I stop eating when my body says it is satisfied.

EMOTION: Mindful

ACTION: Eat to my satisfied. Think about why my mind is not satisfied but my body is. Allow the urge to clean my plate to run through my body and dissipate while I look at the leftover food on my plate. Throw away leftover food or save it in the refrigerator.

RESULT: Listen to my body. Feel confident I can leave food behind.

The emotion of being MINDFUL is not a strong one but is subtly powerful. It forces my brain to pause and redirect my thinking. It redirects my mind from the primitive brain emotion of ENTITLED toward an emotion I choose. It gives me back control to think about the food in front of me and if my body really needs it.

It gives me a chance to be mindfully thinking instead of mindless eating!