Intuitive Eating

Tired of having to follow some strict dietary regimen?  Tired of having to weigh your food, or buy weird special foods because your dietary plan says you must do so?  Tired of weighing yourself constantly and feeling disappointed because you’re not meeting your weight-loss goals?

10-principles-ofMeet “intuitive eating.”

It seems to be the latest “new” approach to eating.  As a recent article about the concept in The Atlantic puts it, the idea is to “encourage followers to work on their relationship with food without worrying about their weight, and to reject the notions of virtue and sin that have underpinned cultural ideas about eating since time immemorial.”  Intuitive eating teaches that weight loss isn’t the top priority, and the cycle of losing weight and gaining it back is harmful.  And here’s the key point:  “Eat what you want, with no rules about what to eat, how much of it, or when. Intuitive eating has 10 tenets, but the most well-known one is that no foods are off limits, and that there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food.”

So how is that supposed to work, exactly?  One underlying theory of intuitive eating is that there is a strong psychological component to eating.  The notion is that people are attracted to the forbidden fruit — or in this case, perhaps, the forbidden ice cream — so saying that something is off limits just makes it seem all that more irresistible.  People who switch to intuitive eating sometimes binge on their favorite guilty pleasure that had been strictly outlawed, but advocates of the approach say they ultimately strike a balance with food that is healthy and sustainable.  With all of the mystique and the calorie-counting and guilt stripped away, the intuitive eaters do what people traditionally used to do:  they eat when they’re hungry, and don’t eat when they aren’t.  And they spend a lot less on diet books, and scales, and special foods that strict diets require.

Does intuitive eating make sense?  I don’t know, honestly — but I do think that our notions of food seem to have gotten out of whack.  There are so many health issues associated with obesity that avoiding obesity obviously should be a lifelong goal, and if you are looking to lose a few pounds — or more than a few — a diet can help to kick start the cycle of loss that gets you to your desired range.  In my case, going low-carb for a few months a few years ago was an important step toward feeling healthier.  But you can’t stay on diets forever, and at some point cycling over to a more sustainable approach to food and eating has to happen.

Who’d have thought that, with all of the diets and food advice out there, human beings might get back to the simple concept of eating when you’re hungry?

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Politicized Diets

Recently I ran across an interesting article dealing with governmental diet instructions.  It noted that much of the nutrition advice that Americans have received from their government over recent decades has turned out to be dead wrong — and in fact may have contributed to the obesity epidemic that you see whenever you go out in public.

The article focuses on the national dietary guidelines released in 1980 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the forerunner to the current Department of Health and Human Services.  The guidelines targeted fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol as villainous substances to be avoided and drummed into American heads that low-cholesterol, low-fat foods were better for your heart and your health generally.  As a result, the article posits, food manufacturers started churning out “low-fat” and low-calorie offerings that Americans bought, thinking they were eating healthy.

dfe6c7a7569e69d9568a402ff1a01e74But the government’s conclusions about our eating habits and their effect on health turned out to be erroneous. Research has determined that fat and cholesterol are not, in fact, harmful, and the “low-fat,” high in carbohydrates foods that Americans have been munching on may instead have helped to produce vast problems with obesity and diabetes — problems that did not exist in 1980, when the government report that triggered it all was released.  One British cardiologist contends:  “The change in dietary advice to promote low-fat foods is perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history.”  And other results have indicated that diets that go in the opposite direction from the government’s instruction, with dieters looking to eat meats and eggs and limit carbs instead, are effective in reducing weight.

How did the government turn out to be so wrong?  Some researchers believe that it was because, back in the ’60s, sugar industry lobbyists funded dubious research that linked fat and cholesterol to heart disease and downplayed the adverse health effects of sugar and carbohydrates.  With the nudging from the lobbyists, the government bought the sketchy results, issued its report, and started the country on the road to flabbiness.  In short, politics helped to put us on the wrong dietary road.

If you’ve lived long enough, you begin to reach a critical mass of alarming governmental declarations that have turned out to be wrong.  It’s one of the reasons why the credibility of our governmental institutions among the American public has dropped to an all-time low.  The conclusion that modern America’s obesity epidemic is a self-inflicted problem caused in part by really bad governmental advice isn’t going to help.

The Airline Diet

In my lifetime, there have been many diet fads.  Scarsdale.  Atkins.  The Caveman Diet.

But what about the Airline Diet?  That’s the diet in which you would do nothing except eat and drink what you get for free on an airplane trip.  Diet Coke or water for refreshment.  Peanuts and maybe some crackers for sustenance.  All served by a hurried attendant rolling a cart down a narrow aisle, and consumed on a plastic tray that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned as you sit bumping elbows with complete strangers.

Sure, your sodium content probably would go through the roof, but you’d soon lose any interest in food — which seems to be the goal of many diets, anyway.  When you see people eating on an airplane, it’s a purely mechanical exercise.  You munch on the food because it’s been given to you and it’s something to do while you’re up in the air.  No one is really paying much attention, much less savoring the experience.  Of course, with a steady diet of Diet Coke, peanuts, and Cheese Nips, who would?

Cereal Dreams

Last night I had one of those vivid dreams where every element and action seems to be etched in exceptional clarity.  It was so realistic that I woke up feeling guilty and shaken about my dreamland activities.

In1422355043742-1776787770 the dream, I was eating a gigantic, heaping bowl of Froot Loops.  I was relishing each sweet, crunchy mouthful of the multicolored morsels, but was wracked with regret at the same time.  I recognized with horror that, on a low-carb diet, a colossal serving of Froot Loops and milk was absolutely verboten.  And yet, confronted with a bowlful of diet-destroying deliciousness, my dream self could not resist temptation and dug in anyway.

So, I’ve  reached the point where my anxiety dreams no longer are about the young me being chased by monsters, or the teenage me being exposed to terrible humiliation, or the young adult me forgetting about a crucial law school test until the very day of the exam.  Now my subconscious has exposed a new vein of concerns that, having lost some weight, I’ll promptly backslide and end up right back where I started.

It’s kind of pathetic that Froot Loops would be my forbidden fruit, but I think my subconscious got this one right.  Ever since my grandparents took UJ and me to Battle Creek, Michigan for a tour of the Kellogg’s factory that ended with a Froot Loops sundae, I’ve been a fan of Toucan Sam.  We haven’t had a box of any breakfast cereal — much less Froot Loops or, even worse, Frosted Flakes — in our house since I started a low-carb regimen in August precisely because I don’t think I can trust myself around it.

I have to say, though — that big bowl of Froot Loops sure looked good.

Shrink To Greatness

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about a novel technique that Ohio State coaches used to prepare their defense for the game against Oregon.

The coaches recognized that Oregon was a fast finesse team that specializes in up-tempo offense that sprints to the line of scrimmage and runs plays faster than anybody else.  So, how to go about mentally and physically preparing your defense for that challenge?  The Ohio State coaches decided to approach the game by asking their defensive linemen to go on diets — reasoning that, by shedding a few pounds, the big boys on the defense would feel lighter and faster, and therefore better prepared mentally for the game.  The rest is history, as the Ohio State defense held the fast-paced, high-powered Oregon offense far below its normal point output.

So, should we all go on The Ohio State Football Team diet?  Will the Silver Bullet Regimen replace the Beverly Hills Diet as the weight-loss approach of choice?  Probably not, because it likely wouldn’t work for most of us.  As the Buckeye players learned, when you’re a 6′ 5″ 300-pound athlete who is running sprints and practicing every day, you can lose five pounds in 10 days just by cutting out honey buns and candy bars.

What We Don’t Know

The Friendly Doc Next Door, who knows I’ve been following a low-carb regimen, sent along an email that he received from the American Medical Association this week.  It was a news summary called AMA Morning Rounds, and the lead story was about a new study that showed that low-carb diets are better than low-fat diets for reducing the risk of heart disease.

It’s 20140905-062424-23064638.jpggreat to have a thoughtful doctor in the neighborhood — especially one who keeps his yard in tip-top shape — to keep us abreast of the latest health news.  And the study mentioned in the AMA email, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, is significant.  It concludes that people who follow a low-carb diet lose more weight and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diets doctors have been recommending for decades.

Whoo-hoo!  I win!  Of course, not really.  What this new study really tells us is that there is an awful lot we don’t know — but we don’t really want to acknowledge that fact.  For decades doctors were confidently telling patients that the low-fat diet was the way to go, and the patients accepted that.  Now a new study says something different.  What’s a dutiful patient supposed to do?

I like the low-carb approach because it’s easy to remember when mealtime comes and I like meat and cheeses, anyway.  I feel like it’s working for me.  But I also can see that people who don’t really like eating meat will groan if low-carb now becomes the new low-fat and is prescribed for everyone who wants to lose weight.

My guess is that there are many ways to lose weight, provided you reduce your intake and make sure you get exercise.  What this latest study really tells us is that confident conclusions about health — like the decades of focus on low-fat diets — are often wrong.  That is useful information to remember.

My Low-Carb Lunch (II)

IMG_2898Today I was up in Cleveland, and when lunchtime rolled around there was nary a food truck in sight.  So, regrettably, there was no apparent way to continue the celebration of Food Truck Summer today.  Fortunately, the Fast Talker consulted some kind of map app on her smartphone and rattled off a list of options.  The only one I was able to hear clearly in the rapid-fire torrent of words was Urban Farmer, which sounded intriguing — so that’s where we went.

Urban Farmer is a steakhouse, at bottom, but it looks like it’s a strong proponent of local sourcing, organic options, and a lot more.  It’s been open for three months, in a part of Cleveland that is being rejuvenated by the opening of the Convention Center on St. Clair Avenue.  It’s got a quirky interior, with mismatched chairs and unusual lighting fixtures and an outdoor eating area — which you don’t often see in a steakhouse.  It looks like a place that would be fun to frequent for an after-work drink.

It also offered just what the doctor ordered for my low-carb diet:  a lunch special today that consisted of a 6 ounce New York cut steak (which looked like a lot more than 6 ounces) and creamed spinach.  I scraped the bread crumbs off the top of the creamed spinach in a nod to low-carb sensibilities, then alternated forkfuls of the succulent, almost buttery steak with the creamed spinach.  Normally I wouldn’t eat creamed spinach under any circumstances — it’s one reason why, as a kid, I preferred Bugs Bunny to Popeye — but I was desperately hungry, and the combination of the rich steak with the creamed spinach was satisfying and made me feel good about my adherence to my new eating regimen.  The Fast Talker, who is normally not a big eater, got a good-sized, rich-looking pork sandwich and ate every bit of it, which tells you something.

I hope Urban Farmer hangs around.