17 January, 2015

Food matters

I now weigh 30-40 pounds more than when I left the Army. And I live in America. It's impossible that I should not know this is an issue. For years I've said I would never diet, but in all those years my weight was never an issue. My words were empty. Well, now the rubber hits the road, and I have to decide what to do. And now I'm a few decades better informed. The science has advanced.

Nothing's going to change.

I have friends who battle anorexia, friends who've given up trying to eat better, friends who never realized there was anything to learn about food. Frankly, though, there are several ways eating well is part of living better, so I'm going to try to capture a few thoughts about it in a post. From the perspective of living better, where living better means trying to make the relationships in my life more alive, here's why I care.
  • Dying of an eating-related disease wouldn't make my relationships any more alive
  • Making myself weak and sick to look stunningly thin wouldn't make my relationships more alive
  • Being weak and overweight wouldn't make my relationships more alive, either
  • Refusing to eat what everyone else at dinner is eating, without a real reason, strains relationships
  • Being strong empowers me to do all the other things I need to do in those relationships
It matters to me to eat relationally.

Here's my diet. I've kept this up for twenty years, and I've enjoyed it.
  • Every meal I eat is pleasurable to me
  • If mankind's been eating a food for the last 6000 years, I'll eat it every time no matter what the FDA says
    • Salt, milk, wheat, butter, eggs, beef - I'm in
    • High carb and low carb have both been part of mankind's diet, and I eat both
  • If mankind invented it in the Industrial Age, I'll avoid it when I can
    • White anything (sugar, bread, rice, caffeine) provides energy, but none of the fiber, enzymes, and vitamins needed to repair the normal damage of life
    • !!! Any sugar substitute !!!
      • I'd eat a meal of white sugar with a spoon before I'd drink a diet soda
    • Except dessert. I think humans were made to enjoy dessert, and several times a week I enjoy me some industrial age dessert.
  • I try to get as much real food into me as I can
    • I don't go for the whole raw thing, but I eat a little raw food
    • Real food, not stripped, shaped, flavored, and repackaged, contains all that stuff I mentioned above.
    • That's the stuff that enables our bodies (when mixed with adequate sleep) to self-heal so many of the leading causes of untimely death
    • Seriously. Given only empty nutrition, our bodies lack the resources they need to heal
  • I try to eat/drink something fermented three times a day
    • The intestinal biome is critically important and enables us to digest milk, wheat, and other good stuff
    • Kombucha, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut
  • I take supplements
    • They're of debatable value, but when I quit taking each I suffer symptoms
    • I buy the expensive, food-based supplements - very few grocery vitamins do anything
  • I never count calories

Diet is critical, but in America it's about body shape - thinness - and thinness is about diet. When people talk about food, they're talking about calories. Low fat and low carb are both all about body fat. That's a deception. Diet should be about life, and life is many-dimensional.

You need to know heavy dieting combined with heavy exercise, the formula recommended by all and followed to extremes by some, is a leading cause of hypothyroidism - which is a leading cause of weight gain. Yes, you read that right. Weight loss is a leading cause of weight gain and heavy exercise is a leading cause of low energy.

I'm suffering with hypothyroidism (in my case, not due to dieting but to poor stress management.) I'm advised to eat less and take thyroid meds, but I'm resisting that advice. So far I'm six months into my resistance, and I'm happy with my progress. My plan does not include intentionally reducing my caloric intake. Time will tell which set of experts is right, but I'm currently going with the ones who say some thyroid deficiencies can be addressed with diet, proper exercise, and rest.

I'm never going to have the ripped beach physique, but that doesn't mean food doesn't matter to me. I just care about it differently than most of the books I read. I care about eating food rich in nutrition, and even at my current weight I'm enjoying good food and good strength. I have the energy to spend time and energy with friends, and worrying about the food that might be served doesn't interfere with our plans (except for that tree-nut allergy in our family.)

I live better when I enjoy food and to profit from it.


Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

I actually had something of a similar path. I had one of those lucky-fast metabolisms as a teenager/twentysomething. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and it didn't show. Also, I generally kept (and still keep) to the same basic dietary rules you listed ... a couple small variations like I'm less likely to eat dessert but man I love my white rice with butter and salt. Anyway ...

So my metabolism changed and I found my life-long eating habits were now getting different results at this stage of my life. I made a couple of small changes that saw me get back to my original high school weight and shape. It really was small changes.

1) I set aside one of my rules just long enough to do the math: I found out what my calorie intake was supposed to be, and figured out how close I was and how I normally split it out between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Based on doing the math, I decided to cut out my morning snack, and to avoid like just 2 or 3 of the things on my old "usuals" list for breakfast and lunch (not a big sacrifice, I had a ton of things on my favorites list, and I only nixed a couple of them). I also did the math for my usual meals at my favorite restaurants. Had a nice surprise or two along the way, as things I'd expected to be problems really weren't. Though at one restaurant, I did switch which sides I order with dinner.

2) After I'd done the math and put together my plan on those small changes, otherwise I went back to the usual rules. And over the months, I went back to my preferred size. Feeling better too.

Don't know if that's any help, but that's how it went for me.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Kevin Knox said...

Good ideas all, WF. Thank you! When I get past this thyroid issue, I may decide to adjust some of my eating in the same way. We'll see.