Sunday, April 9, 2017

Virtue Signaling Through Food



The tired adage “calories in, calories out” appears on countless online message boards and is almost universally echoed by nutritionists. But is it true? Not quite. I followed this advice two years ago, and I didn't lose an ounce. Turns out, when it comes to both jeans and lifestyle modification, one size does not fit all. Merely restricting caloric intake may actually result in your body hanging on to your extra fat because it has entered “starvation mode.” Also, what kinds of calories are you eating? If you continue to eat processed foods, refined sugars, and refined carbohydrates, you are probably not going to lose weight.

This never gets old.
In 1993, researchers conducted the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial for eight years to confirm the widely held belief that a low-fat diet would help the nearly 50,000 female participants aged 50 to 79 lose weight and reduce their risk for heart disease. The ladies were divided into two groups: one followed a low-fat diet, and the other followed their usual diets and received relevant educational materials. JAMA published the results of the study, which proved that…low-fat diets do not work. The scientists assessed many health measurements, such as the manifestations of heart disease (e.g., heart attack, stroke); the incidences of breast and colon cancer; and lipid (i.e., triglycerides, cholesterol) levels. The weight loss in the low-fat group was statistically insignificant. That is, it was approximately the same as the other group, which ate its usual diet.

Today, the consensus is growing that low-fat diets do not work and may even do harm. Why? First, low-fat foods tend to be heavily processed. Their emergence in the 1990s prompted the food industry to make all sorts of false promises to consumers that eating these products would result in weight loss. They contain more sugar and artificial sweeteners as well as fillers and chemicals to render them texturally appealing. Yuck! They also do not make you feel full, so you are more likely to eat that two-month old bag of cheese popcorn buried in the back of your office drawer and the gross-tasting celebrity-endorsed protein bar in the side pocket of your purse. Finally, many of these culinary impostors contain harmful oils such as palm, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola. It's not the source of these oils that's the problem; the act of processing them into oils is what makes them unhealthy.

Why are these bad for you? Trans fats! ‘Member when the government banned trans fats? I ‘member. It ruined Cheeze-Its for me forever. However, lots of products still contain these oils, so I’m not sure if the ban has remained in effect, or if the food industry has found a way to circumvent said prohibition.

 Please do not despair and resign yourself to gnawing on fibrous cardboard boxes like my Jack Russell terrier Oscar. There are delicious alternatives that will not only help you to lose weight, but also increase your mental and physical energy. I have tested a few of these options and have also been exploring the available evidence for reducing (or eliminating) grain and sugar consumption.

Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame (plain and spicy wasabi). These nutty tasting dried soybeans (Sounds appetizing, no?) are a filling snack. One-third of a cup is 130 calories and contains only 10 g of carbohydrates. Make sure you have plenty of water on hand, because they are super dry. My tongue cleaved to my palate the first time I tried them, but as a bonus I had to drink 12 oz of water to clear my esophagus. Where to buy: Whole Foods, Walgreens, online.

Beef and chicken bone broth. Okay, if you are vegetarian or vegan, this will skeeve you out a little. But if you crave gelatin, a bit of healthy fat, collagen, glucosamine, and other good stuff, 8 oz is approximately 40 calories, contains virtually no carbohydrates, and is sodium free. People who intermittently fast often drink a few cups in between meals, and they report it is both filling and tasty.

You can make it yourself in a slow cooker, but this requires hanging around the house for most of the day as you press on the bones and stir it up. You also need to skim the fat after it’s done. This is too high maintenance for me, so I order my supply from Green Grocer Dallas. Do NOT substitute bouillon cubes for bone broth; they are loaded with salt and lack bone broth’s nutrients. My dog Oscar loved the bone broth I mixed in with his water.

Air-dried kale chips (Brad’s Kale Crunch). If I assured you that these taste better than Doritos, would you believe me? The Nacho variety is available at many health convenience stores and major outlets like Target. It is slightly spicy and made with vegan cheese, but do not hold this fact against these yummy green desiccated chips.

One half of a 2-oz bag is only 132 calories. Be warned that when you get close to the bottom of the bag you’re essentially dealing with pulverized chips; there is no elegant way to eat these except to pour the remaining contents into your mouth whilst your coworkers aren’t looking.

Homemade energy bites. My husband came home hungry one night from a business trip and was rooting around in the fridge when he came upon my date and walnut energy bites in a Tupperware container. “Can I eat these meatballs?” he asked. I should have just let this unfold naturally, but I laughed and set him straight. To his credit, these balls do look like meatballs. They also could be mistaken for the droppings of a mid-size marsupial.

I tried one last week before my 5:30 AM workout, thinking I needed to raise my blood sugar (126) to prevent a low from happening during exercise. After exercise, my BS was 226! In the comments section of the online recipe for the balls, one woman exclaimed: “I love how there’s no added sugar!” Wut? Dates ARE sugar. Your body tends to metabolize all sugars in the same way. That is, unless you are running a 5K, one date ball equals a lot of extra sugar. Some of it will be used for energy, but the rest will make your blood sugar rise. I suppose eating a date nut ball is healthier than glugging a sugary soda, but the net effect is the same. It also took me forever to blend the dates, walnuts, shredded coconut, and almond butter and then fashion them into little balls, not to mention the oily stickiness that got all over the kitchen. Verdict: Diabetics, don’t eat unless you’re training hard; may be okay for people with a functioning pancreas.

Bulletproof Coffee. I do not drink coffee, so I cannot attest to bulletproof's health benefits. Many swear that it is a good substitute for breakfast. Blend one cup of black coffee; 1 tbsp of MCT oil; 1 tsp heavy cream; 1 tsp grassland butter; and 1 tsp cocoa powder.

Snap Kitchen. When you don't have the time or energy to prepare healthy meals, Snap Kitchen does all the work for you--at a steep price. I paid $8.00 for a small portion of bland chicken tikka masala that contained three bites of chicken. In under one hour, you can cook a more flavorful version of this dish at home. Snap gives away terrific free tote bags, however.
Please keep one important caveat in mind. If you do alter your eating patterns and diet for the better, don't make a big production of it. Nobody actually cares, you see. A couple of years ago a funny meme was making the rounds on the Internet, and I posted it on my FB feed. It was just a photo of a scrap of paper that said: "Number of times today my co-worker has told me she's vegan: 5. Number of times I cared: 0." Simply proceed quietly and proudly. I'm not advocating veganism, either, but you get what I mean.

Next week: Eating fat does not make you fat, intermittent fasting, and how a low carb diet can make you super aware driver who is annoyed by everything!

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