Good fat vs. bad fat

youconfusemeDr.  Katz wrote a low-bravado sensible piece on the “good fat vs. bad fat” debate, and anyone else who has been confused on this subject really ought to read it.

Ending the Big, Fat Debate | David Katz, M.D..

Writing on the Huffington Post Blog, Dr. Katz covers the history of the “fat” debate and the obsession we have had with individual nutrients — get more fish oil, eat fewer carbs, eat more protein, drink dairy, don’t eat glutens, blah, blah, blah.

Instead of this ever-evolving checklist of nutrients about which we obsess, Dr. Katz says, “Let’s talk less about nutrients, and more about foods. If we get the foods right, the nutrients will take care of themselves!”  YESSS!

I’m picturing a hunter-gatherer in a prehistoric setting, scratching in the dirt in his cave:

2 fish daily for protein
No corn, feed to animals, too many glutens
More berries for antioxidants
Potatoes bad, unless they’re orange-colored
Olives okay, oils from olive limited
…and the list goes on and on, right?!

Some research needs to be done by anyone trying to simplify his diet to find out what foods to focus on, but it’s not nearly as complicated as it might seem at first.  I like Dr. Fuhrman’s GBOMBS formula for this (see printable checklist):

  • G – greens
  • B – beans (legumes)
  • O – onions
  • M – mushrooms
  • B – berries (and fruits)
  • S – seeds and nuts

Listen to your body? Hogwash!

A piece of advice that should be removed from the lexicon of the self-help world is, “just listen to your body.”

Body out of control

If your problem, like mine, is fighting personal obesity, and the chronic killer diseases that arise from it, your body is the last thing you want to listen to!  It’s what I’ve done wrong for decades, and it’s the thing that put me in this situation in the first place!

I listened to my body when my taste buds were screaming for a hamburger, or a beer, or a pizza…omigod pizza!  I listened to my body when I gave up on numerous efforts to correct bad habits, like smoking tobacco, taking sleep aids to get a good night’s sleep, and vegging out on the couch every evening instead of doing things around the house, like food prep and cooking.

liarOur bodies, deceitful liars

The truth is, my body is what I made it — a very deceitful liar!

Way back when I was a child, some 50 years ago, my body had already begun its deceitful ways. By convincing me that sugary soft drinks would quench my thirst better than water, that my mom’s chocolate pie was better for my body than an apple or a handful of grapes, my body was in early training to become the liar that it is today!

I have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of people say that they gave up on healthy eating, usually specific diet plans, because their bodies were rejecting these plans by giving them headaches, a feeling of energy depletion, or some other variety of temporary discomfort.

Unhealthy food is an ADDICTION, pure and simple!  And, these temporary conditions of discomfort are simply withdrawal symptoms that all addicts must go through in order to free themselves from the addiction’s chains.

Changing the paradigm

We need a different paradigm for dealing with our unhealthy habits. Instead of listening to our bodies, we need them to shut up, and we need to listen to the science of good nutrition, and by this, I mean honest nutrition!  We need to know what’s really going on when we eat unhealthy foods.

What we find in nutritional resources is that when our bodies are calling strongly for something, chances are that it is a craving.  It is no different from greed, lust, or any of the other biggies which want to seize control of our more sound and rational decision-making processes.  They demoralize us, shame us, and harm us physically, shortening our lives and robbing us of the quality of life we want.

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live books and papers is what he calls “toxic hunger.”  It’s what drives these unhealthy appetites and causes many of our problems associated with eating unhealthily.  Addictions to food are dangerously real, and our bodies are great deceivers.

A new paradigm, when trying to relearn what to eat, is to be very suspicious of anything our bodies are telling us to do. Until we can identify the difference between a real need and a raging craving, we should depend on what our heads tell us rather than upon our stomachs.  A new paradigm requires us to embrace discipline, not an easy out, or an alibi when things get tough.

Our bodies are what we make them. Responsibly managing our impulses and discomforts is the biggest, and most difficult, step in defeating a food addiction.

Lentils, black wild rice, and mustard greens soup

lentilsoupSunday is soup-making day!  I make a big pot of bean soup so I can have enough to take with me to work during the week.  Usually, I use whatever veggies I have that are “near death” in the fridge, but this week I harvested some mustard greens and some yellow chard from my garden to put in a soup with some dried lentils.  It is quite tasty.  Here’s the recipe:

One cup of dried lentils
One cup of black wild rice
2 cups of fresh mustard greens, roughly cut
1 cup of yellow swiss chard, or use something else if you don’t have any
1 can of organic, no salt added, tomato sauce
one-half cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
two stalks fresh celery (sliced thin)
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper

Bring lentils and rice to boil for about five minutes.  Lower heat, then add all other ingredients.  Bring to simmer for about forty minutes, or until rice is tender.  Slightly cool, and serve.

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Healthy eating and going it alone…it’s not that bad!

When I decided to change my eating habits and to limit my diet to whole foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, I knew it would impact others besides myself.  I also know from past experience that it’s easy to become an evangelist about a new diet, and evangelists can be downright annoying.  I didn’t want this to happen.

Your dietary impact upon others

  • When you eat a meal that is not the SAD (standard American diet) type, you call attention to the habits of others.  Without intending any negative consequences, there can be some sharp things said about your diet choices as others become more self-conscious of their own eating decisions.
  • Dining out can be tricky as your friends and family will either want to accommodate you in choosing a place to eat, or they will simply expect you to conform to them.
  • If you are the primary food prep person in your home, your cooking methods, as well as food choices, will impact those of your family.  The problem is the potential for massive household rebellion, and this can lead to giving up the healthy diet in order to conform to the others in the household.

Some basic rules for controlling the hidden messages in your diet

  • Let it be as private as possible.  In other words, after you’ve informed those closest to you that you intend to eat a different diet, and you have satisfied their curiosity about your reasons for doing so, just move on and do it.  It doesn’t have to be explained, and it doesn’t have to be understood by anyone but YOU!  Don’t preach it, just do it!
  • Have a plan in mind for how you can handle dining out at various restaurants where your friends and family like to spend time.  Almost any place will at least serve a salad, so it’s not a lost cause.  If you’re like me, these have always been the most sociable times with my wife.  We like to catch up on the day, listen to one another’s stories, and we genuinely enjoy our time together while others wait on us at the table.  Being a native resident of Texas, Tex-Mex food has been our favorite for many years.  I have a couple of things I know I can get in any Tex-Mex place.  The ingredients may not be quite as healthy as my do-it-yourself version, but as long as it’s within the general bounds of my diet plan, I can survive Tex-Mex places by eating a guacamole salad, salsa, and a couple of corn tortillas, especially if the tortillas are steamed, instead of cooked in oil.  Having something in mind ahead of time helps with the stress, for both you and your significant other(s).
  • When people ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and they will, tell them in the simplest terms possible, without using “should’s” and “must’s” and “always.”  Try not to elaborate unless they continue to ask for more and more details.  Limit your responses to their questions, and don’t go off on the research, the poor quality of other diet programs, etc.  Just chill…answer the questions, thank them for complimenting your weight loss, and just move on.
  • If you are the primary cook in your home, as I am, you must be willing to make one huge sacrifice to keep the peace, that is, be willing to continue serving up their favorites while preparing, and eating, the food that is preferable for your own diet.  It may mean twice the cooking, twice the dishes afterwards, and twice the time, but your willingness to do this, without complaint, will put an end to any conflict with the family regarding your new eating regimen.

Some interesting results

By using the strategies above, I have found that my friends and family have adapted a lot!  My wife now wants a salad in her lunch box every day…no problem, it makes me smile!

I found out by eavesdropping that a lot of people at work are making some healthier choices after some of them have asked me a barrage of questions.

The general consciousness of good health and nutrition in our household and in my place of business has been raised.  There is no doubt that my 60+ pound weight loss (to date) has made an impact, and I swear, I’ve only talked about it when asked a question.

Living a healthy life does indeed impact the world around you positively, though it may not appear this way at first.  Just follow the rules above, and hopefully, it will make a difference for you.

Vegan cooking…simplicity is key

Vegan cooking is a challenge when one first starts a vegan diet, but keeping it simple is the key.  It’s great fun to try out new recipes as I mentioned in my post about reducing stress.  But, simplicity will help you be successful when you make the commitment to go without eating any animal products.

Simplicity is a good thing!  The things we add to nature’s food to make it tasty are some of the very things that get us into trouble with high blood pressure…like salt.  I prepare my foods without adding salt or oils.  I’ve learned how to use other spices that are salt-free, and I use cooking methods that retain the taste of the foods, most of their textures, and most importantly, the powerful, healing nutrients.

Two sources for vegan recipes

There are sources online, including, one of my favorites because of the participation of trained chefs and DIY’ers alike.  The recipes can be elaborate or simple.  You know my choice…simplicity is key!

One bargain I have found are the free vegan cookbooks at Vitalia.Com.  They are in a downloadable, pdf format, and you don’t have to leave an email address or any information to get them.  In other words, totally free!

Let me know of other resources you have!  It’s important to help each other be successful in transitioning to an animal-free diet and greater health!

One habit to relieve stress

In the past few weeks I’ve been so focused on living a healthy life by eating a nutrient-rich diet and beginning a yoga practice at Bikram Yoga that the new regimen itself can, at times, threaten to encroach upon the peace and happiness of any success that I might enjoy.  How does one relieve the stress of a health transformation?

The Key Questions

Here are the questions that run through my mind when dealing with this kind of stress:

Should I cheat on my diet?

Rationalization: “I can get right back on track tomorrow, and, surely, one meal won’t make much difference.”

The problem with cheating on a nutrient-dense diet, or most any diet, I presume, is that we give up way too much real estate in our advance against bad health habits.  Unhealthy eating habits are so difficult to break that the risks of losing a lot of ground in one’s dietary journey very quickly are way, way too high when cheating is a planned dietary excursion.  It’s not worth it.

Diets fail in the mind more than in the body.  What I mean is that the rationalization may seem…well…entirely rational — that’s why they call it “rationalization.”  Recognizing that the power of the mind to influence our dietary behavior is greater than we are aware can bolster us to resist the risky behaviors that can ultimately defeat us.  This is no way to reduce stress; indeed, it multiplies it.  Surrendering to a temptation may relieve stress momentarily, but when it leads one back to the old ways of thinking and eating, stress is heaped up higher and higher.  Also, see my blog entry, “Cheat Meals Work Against Us“, for some more thoughts on this.

Should I take a day off from my workouts?

Rationalization: “I’m tired and really need to chill for a day.”

There are certainly some physiological reasons that give weight to this rationalization.  Fitness trainers will tell you that the body needs time to repair itself, and I would not dispute this.  It makes sense.

However, if one is coming out of a sedentary life, or even the life of a slug (as I have), taking a day off poses some of the same dangers of cheating on a diet.  If it means you are going to lie down on the couch all day and watch the television, avoiding any physical strain whatsoever, it won’t take long before you think being a slug sounds like a good plan, especially because you’ve worked so hard to get there, and you “deserve” it.

This kind of thought process is poison to one who is still in the process of transformation.

Since I’ve reached my goals, can I just call the whole thing off now — I mean, I never intended it to be a life sentence!

Rationalization: “I’m healthy, happy, and looking good.  I’m calling it a success and moving on with my life.”

Yikes!  How many times has this tape played in my mind the past few weeks!

The biggest problem with this rationalization is that it denies the tremendous and healthful paradigm shift in one’s thinking about the purpose of the diet and exercise program.  When we started it, we knew we were trying to make a life change — it’s what it was all about!  We changed our diet, our activity, our whole way of thinking about health!  To engage in a recessive paradigm shift in which we think of life change as a temporary means to accomplish a short term goal — weight loss — is to say the whole journey was based on false premises and is a farce!  If it is indeed a life change, then it’s not temporary — it’s a complete and permanent transformation.

Oh, how the mind is tricky!  Rationalizations are super strong.  And, they are killers…literally!  Don’t use them!

How does one relieve stress from the process of transformation?

Stress is caused by repetition and getting caught up in the whirlwind of demands that mount up over time, with no end in sight.

Knowing this, we can disrupt the repetition in other ways besides the unhealthy ones.  Instead of doing the same kind of workout every day, take a day off from it, and do something different.  Instead of going to the gym, take an hour-long walk with the dog…be active in a different way.

Instead of preparing the safe foods the same way over and over again, prepare the safe foods a different way.  I never use recipes word for word, for instance.  I usually change them to the way they sound good to me.  But, on occasion I will relieve the ordinariness of my diet by getting a really fancy recipe that calls for ingredients I do not have.  I make my shopping list, go to my favorite grocery store, and come home and prepare the food exactly the way the recipe calls for.  It’s a lot of fun, especially if you’re stuck in a rut.  It also contributes to your own creativity and imagination about the foods you prepare and eat.

Choose one or two things you can do to get out of the ordinary, repetitive mindset, and stress relief will come.  We can’t let ourselves be distracted by the chirping of others around us or the thrill of our own successes that we would risk cashing it all in for a temporary payday of bad health habits.

Me and my big fat butt

Diet coaches normally caution people to be aware of their self-talk.  It’s understandable.  Most obese people have gone through years of being depressed about their condition, and self-talk can actually make things more depressing, that is, if all you give yourself are negative messages.

But, there is something akin to dishonesty when we do not take a serious look in the mirror and come to terms with our obesity.  If we have people telling us that we look just fine, and that so-and-so is much heavier than we are, it has a way of making us think that we’re not in quite the poor shape we actually are.  This helps us postpone doing something about improving our health, namely, taking diet seriously.

Doctors, too, are reticent.  Once known for their brutal honesty when it came to speaking the truth about a person’s health, today, it seems, they are less apt to bring up unpleasant subjects that might upset us.  My doctor of almost 20 years has never told me I am overweight, though I am (or was) about 80 pounds too fat.  Instead, year after year, he just prescribed my blood pressure medicine, sent me to a sleep clinic to get treated for sleep apnea, told me I could use certain over-the-counter drugs to help me sleep better, and had me check my blood sugar regularly and send him my reports.  Nothing has ever been said or done to help me eliminate the problem at the core…to lose weight by eating healthy.

Like alcoholics, obese people are willing to surround themselves with sympathetic others.  We create a network of codependents that feed off one another’s self-congratulations and shallow encouragements.

I do not believe that withholding the truth from ourselves is ever a good idea.  If we can deceive ourselves, we simply forget what the truth is…and the truth is that we are eating ourselves into an early grave or a quality of life that really sucks.  I know, I’ve been living there for years.

As people have started complimenting me every day on my weight loss — people who never spoke to me much before — it is easy to pat myself on the back and think the journey is over.  In the past, this is always the time I stopped being careful…I felt good, looked good, and I was wearing nicer clothes.

But, this time, I can’t let that happen.  When I look at myself naked, in the mirror, I still see sagging pockets of fat around my arms, my man-boobs, and my sagging, big fat butt.  It’s much smaller than it was, but I have a long way to go.

The difference between honest self-talk and self-denigration is that honest self-talk can lead to honest action to alleviate the problem, while self-denigration mires itself in self-pity, listening to the network of codependents chirp about how we look “just fine.”

I say, to hell with looks!  Looks will come on their own time.  Give me better health!  I want to live a long life, a happy one, one in which I can still bend over and put on my boots without having to hold my breath in.  I want to live!  I want life!

Follow me on Twitter, too, @toddwrite.