Curses

Winter is nearly over.  As always, I’ve picked up a few pounds.  Not a lot.  Not even more than usual.  Still, I am pretty tough on myself when it comes to weight.  I get more comfortable as I get closer to my typical low (which I do every summer), but even then I sometimes see myself as kinda heavy.  Add ten to that and I get pretty sad.  Even though I know my self-image is off-kilter, I have never been able to correct my vision on this point.  It is something I have lived with my whole life.  It isn’t debilitating. I still eat and enjoy life, but knowing this detail about me should help you understand why I read a diet book.  Also helps to know that this particular book was recommended by my hero, Grant Petersen.  Recommended isn’t the whole of it–he is selling it.  I got a copy from the library, though.  Sorry Grant, but we pay hella high property taxes in this town and have a dozen or so awesome libraries as a result.  I try to use them when I remember I have too much stuff.

Enough intro.  The book is Why We Get Fat (and What To Do About It).  It is easy to read and the arguments are convincing.  I believe it has helped tons of folks.

Here’s a brief and probably imperfect summary.  Carbohydrates spike insulin in the bloodstream and insulin causes fat cells to store energy as fat.  If you eat less but still include carbs, your body will still store energy as fat first and leave you low on energy for living.  You’ll probably eat more before too long to compensate.  If you exercise more, your body will ask for more food.  No net loss.  It gets worse.  Over time, your cells can become resistant to insulin.  Muscle cells before the fat cells.  The resistance triggers the release of more insulin and more fat storage.  A terrible cycle.

What to do?  Severely limit carbs.  Easy to do it if you are comfortable eating animals and/or their discharges.  Pretty tough for vegans, though.  After I finished the book, I found a few blog posts discussing low carb vegan diets, but it seems sketchy and I am just not there.  Carbs are everywhere (in my house)!  My last shopping trip (before I had read the book) included beer, bread, potatoes, yams, squash, corn chips, raisins, bananas and apple juice.  All carb monsters, and all things I eat all the time.

I read the book in two days.  Finished Sunday.  I was pretty shaken.  The last book I read that fast was Joanne Stepaniak’s The Vegan Sourcebook (and that triggered twelve or so years of veganism–maybe I should read it again).  From Why We Get Fat, I got the sense that even if I am fine now, I may not be someday.  Sounds as if it has a lot to do with genes.  My biological dad is not skinny (but he has some things going on that I should be able to avoid).  His dad died in a war (so I don’t get to know how his shape would have changed as he aged).  Not much reliable genetic information, then.  In a vacuum, I can get pretty pessimistic.  This book pulled me there quickly.  Under the spell of fresh information, I forgot that I don’t have a weight problem yet.  I started bumming.

Insulin spiking, fat storage and insulin resistance all sound kinda harsh on the old body.  I wanted to ditch carbs just to be safe.  I made a few meals that seemed better (less carby) than others I could have made.  It wasn’t terrible.  I skipped my daily beer a day for two days.  One lousy beer and now I was uncomfortable having even that.  Forget the chips with it.  What is going on?  I thought my plant only diet was so good that I could afford to have a few treats.  Maybe not.  Even beans are kinda carby.  That’s just cruel!

Must.  Shake.  It.  Off!  Summer is nearly here.  The heat and increased activity should go a long way to making me feel better.  It always has in the past.  Maybe I also eat fewer carbs.  Maybe not beer and potato chips together.  Renew my efforts to eat only whole grains.  Eat apples instead of drinking apple juice.  Try not to worry about it too much until a legitimate problem presents.  Do it for Lacey.  She is super supportive, but there is no reason to bring fake problems into our lives.  There are always plenty of real, immediate, problems to deal with.  I need to let this one go.

Then, out of nowhere, THE ANTIDOTE!  Forks Over Knives.  It was hanging out on our play it now list and my friend just reminded me to watch it.  I didn’t know anything about it.  I didn’t know it laid out a really convincing argument for a plant-based whole foods diet, but there it was.  I basked in its bias right glory on Monday in the middle of my low-carb depression.  While it surely doesn’t advocate beer and potato chips, most of what I eat fits right into the recommended diets.  Gosh, I needed that.

We’ll see where this all goes.  I’ve long told myself and others that I’d stick with my vegan ways even if I found out it wasn’t optimally healthy.  It’d be really sad if my warped self-image and despicable vanity got in the way of my convictions.  Highly unlikely, but I must admit there were moments over the last two days where I considered chucking it all.  Surprisingly, even to me, that was the first time in twelve years of veganism that I had such thoughts.  Seriously.  Veganism has always been easy for me.  Now this?  Life is strange.  Maybe don’t read Why We Get Fat.  Maybe watch Forks Over Knives.  In any event, be better than me!

I am going to go hug my dog.  Nothing keeps me being a vegan more than her.

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4 responses to “Curses

  1. Hey, I am going through a similar experience. I found the book on the Riv site and eventually decided to disregard my ethics for sake of my “health” and appearance. Anyways, I’ve come away from the whole experience with two big personal observations in favor of veganism/vegetarian. First, low-carb cooking sucks, and I LOVE cooking, especially vegan cooking 🙂 Second, eating animal products seriously decreases my mental well-being and motivation. From my desperate research, I’m convinced that industrial and modern agricultural foods are the source of diminishing health and increasing weight. Also, there are notable studies of aboriginal tribes that show that Taubes’ hypothesis is not perfect. For example, the Kitavan people live almost exclusively on root vegetables (70% of calories) and are astonishingly healthy and fit…

    PS: If you are at all interested in food politics you should definitely check out the film “Food Inc”.

    • Josh! Thanks for writing! I didn’t expect anyone to be going through the same thing, let alone hear about it so quickly! Good to know I am not alone.

      It is great to hear you are finding populations that thrive on our preferred foods. My guess is Taubes reply to your Kitivan finding is that genetics matter. I know little about my ancestors, but I suspect the odds are low that I have any Kitivan in me! My question is how do my genes react long term to a diet which includes carbs.

      I am going to give it my all to stick with veganism. Last night’s dinner was roasted fennel, onions, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes with a tofurky sausage and sauerkraut and pickles (both from my garden). I had a nice beer, too. A Celtic Ale from Harpoon. If my weight doesn’t come off fast enough this summer, I can pretty easily pick up my physical exertion. If eating more carefully and doing more doesn’t work, well, I’ll worry about that later.

      Food, Inc. Yes! Netflix has my preferences pretty well dialed in, so documentaries that support my biases are made known to me and I watch most of them pretty quickly. This one I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for suggesting it, though. That’s exacly what I need now.

      Just now I am going to do a yoga dvd. I haven’t done yoga for years. A winter without shoveling has left my core feeling weak. Just the impetus I’ve needed to get back on the mat. Thanks to Lagusta for mentioning her new yoga practice. I need pushes in the right direction!

      Keep in touch to let me know how you are doing. Thanks again for wriitng. Best of luck to you!

  2. Hiya
    I watched that last night! It put me to bed thinking about the meat we do eat, although we are not meat eaters on the regular. But it made me think more about the homemade yogurt I make (with all the fat!) and the chickens we raise for eggs. On the other hand, the girls and I dug up overwintered carrots and turnip greens for dinner with brown rice. So on one hand it seems like a balanced way of eating, and on the other, Dr. Esslstyn’s wife is about to come after me with a giant carrot. Who’s to know! Take care. P

    • Hey! Thanks for writing! I miss you all and hope you are all well. If I were a chicken and could pick a place to live, I’d stand in line for a place in your yard. Give a big hello to your family and keep making the world a better place.

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