Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food, Part One- 'Eat Food'

{One of my more virtuous breakfasts lately.}

I have been thinking about food a lot in the past few weeks. I feel like I have enough to fill a tome, so I am going to write it in installments, based on my food mantra provided by Michael Pollan.
My curiosity-turned-fascination with nutrition began at least a couple of years ago as I seriously suspected sugar's role in my depression. I have long felt that I was in all seriousness, addicted to sugar. Much the same way that some people can have a drink without any problems, yet their neighbor is an alcoholic, I have a very real sensitivity to sugar, in all its forms. So I did what I always do when I am interested or curious about something: I researched it. Pretty heavily. It turns out that those who are prone to depression are especially prone to sugar sensitivity, due to their lack of enough endorphins and the endorphins that sugar readily provides. There is a lot more to it, but there's just a little nugget distilled from 14 books worth of information.
In the last 20 months I have read 14 books on nutrition, many of them specifically focused on sugar. As I began reading them I completely identified with them. So much of it described me in detail and just made sense to me. I read them in a near-constant state of head-nodding, yet failed to do anything about it for the last 2 years. Finally, in anticipation of my 30th birthday I was inspired to take action. I went 26 days straight without sugar, until I was undone by The Cupcakes. I spent some part of 3 days dabbling in the stuff again (almost solely devoted to The Cupcakes and their components), before begrudgingly climbing back on the wagon on Sunday. It is so much harder to get back on after you've fallen off.
 I know I do better the less sugar I eat. My skin clears up, my mood levels out, and I lose weight. One of the best side effects is that I do not feel consumed and driven by an uncontrollable drive to seek sugar in all its form at all times. (After I have detoxed, so to speak.)
I have almost completely avoided flour, and try to limit artificial sweeteners as well. By virtue of avoiding these ingredients, I have been more or less forced to eat more 'real' food. Just try to find a whole lot of junk food that doesn't contain some type of sugar, flour, or artificial sweetener. Not a whole lot out there.

{Another virtuous breakfast- note the 'sprouted grain' bread that contains no flour or sugar. It is supposed to have much less of a glycemic load and be metabolized a lot easier than typical flour breads. Tasty too. Note also my cocktail of supplements I have started taking daily: 3 fish oil tablets, 1 prenatal vitamin- NOT pregnant- and 1 vitamin D pill.}

{So gross. I exclaimed out loud and considered not buying this due to the risk of 'Fish Burp'. The very claim that it controls said Fish Burp was more disconcerting than if it had said nothing. I was unaware of the Fish Burp risk. Luckily, there was no need to fear. No Fish Burp here. *Shudder*}

So here I am again, on day 4 of my second sugar-free cycle. It sucks. I am uncertain if I will continue it or not. I cannot stop the ongoing dialog in my head- no, not even a dialog- more of a diatribe. It's not such a simple issue of sugar tastes good, although of course it does taste so, so good. It is fraught with emotional facets and far-reaching effects. I have a constant debate in my head, each side mud-slinging at the other in an attempt to get to the bottom of the issue. Some of the topics of debate include: What are my values? Is being 'skinny' really worth giving up something that brings so much pleasure? I love to bake- it is a family tradition, and one that links me to generations both past and present of women I love and admire. Besides, I am good at it. Am I willing to forsake it forever? (I am not good with moderation.) What is life about? Who do I want to be? On what do I base my value? Why would I deprive myself of one of life's principal joys? What do I value more: thinness, or the pleasures of food and baking and the camaraderie and affection it espouses?
I do not have the answer to these questions.
I want to be healthy.
I want to eat food. Real food.
I also want to enjoy something that brings so much pleasure.
I don't want to be a weirdo and set myself apart by my dietary restrictions.
For now I am continuing on my quest, waiting for the urges to ease up, as they inevitably do with time. Perhaps if I go long enough for the compulsions to fade I can treat myself occasionally. As long as I do not keep it in house.
Mortality. Huh.

Post Script: If you are one of those wretched naturally thin people who regularly indulges in total crap food and has yet to see any weight-related repercussions, measure your response carefully.


paws said...

I am not one of those aforementioned people, and I say that you should stick to it! Ra ra ree (That's me being a cheerleader.) I'm very impressed that you went so long the last time.

I guess it does boil down to what you value most, but I would say that feeling good is a much worthier motivator than simply looking good.

Miranda said...

I was composing a comment in my head when I read post script and fell apart from the hilarity. It was an excellent warning.

I concur w/ paws that I am very impressed with your sugar abstinence.

My favorite part of this post is (I am not good with moderation). Ha! This is exactly how I feel. Moderation seems to be the thing I am constantly working on. CONSTANTLY.

I have suspicions about being too dependent on sugar myself but I'm too chicken try to give it up. You are a stronger woman than I.

michelle said...

I am dying over the fish burps. Years ago, Marc tried some fish oil capsules that did not have that claim. Be very glad that you aren't risking those.

You know where I stand vis a vis baking.

JessWilson said...

Would love if you shared the flourless bread recipe! :)

Jill said...

I love your warning at the end of this post.

I'm always impressed with your extreme will power where food is concerned. I never make big commitments like this (other than giving up diet Coke) because I tend to panic and go into starvation mode as soon as the decision is made. I don't think I'm a sugar addict, but I could certainly stand to eat more real food.

Jill said...

P.S. The fish burp thing is so scary, but having a fish burp would be so gross!

Denise said...

Emily was wondering what I was laughing hysterically at when I read the label on the your vitamins--also, the small-print warning at the end. You're too funny! I have tried fish oil supplements before and was in fact put off greatly by the fish burp side effect.

I feel your sugar-dilemma pain, though I've never had the courage to go cold-turkey.

Damn that whole moderation thing.

Amy said...

I'm just a bit ahead of you. . .I just recently gave up sugar also. Man, were those headaches miserable! Actually, in reality, I'm not totally giving up sugar, just the food that send me on a sugar bender that lasts for days. Cupcakes. Candy. Cookies. I still have the occasional piece of toast with peanut butter (the kind with added sugar) and I haven't gotten rid of salad dressings that have sugar in them. I will avoid buying those kinds of food in the future, but I'm not going to get rid of them now.

My policy is that I can eat dessert on birthdays and at weddings. And if I go to Paris. I want to use sugar consumption for social occasions only, and not as a daily crutch. For me defining when I can have sugar very strictly has worked. I've had two birthdays since I gave up that junk, and I've managed to eat my reasonable portion and not have any more. I have, however, noticed that my body has adverse reactions to sugar almost immediately. Maybe even being a social sugar eater isn't worth it. (I sound like an alcoholic, don't I?)

Good luck to you! I'll remind you that it does get easier! You'll start seeing results quickly. Stay on the wagon--it's definitely worth it!

Molly Krauss Smith said...

Wow, I'm impressed. I need to seek a healthier food lifestyle, too. I am nearing the end of a 72 oz. bag of chocolate chips from Costco. Ugh.

Diana said...

I think you're doing great and you should do anything you want that makes you feel good about yourself!

jt said...

Jessica, it's not homemade bread, though I wish it were. And it's not GF either, it still uses wheat and a lot of other grains, it's just sprouted grain instead of flour. The brand is Bread For Life.

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