Monday, July 8, 2013

Food That Feels Good

Tam had sent me a link to this woman's blog a while back, and I wasn't really sure what to make of her approach, in part because her approach was hard for me to figure out.  I sort of had trouble with her idea (which, to be fair, is not uncommon in the Health at Every Size blogosphere in my, albeit narrow, experience) that to limit or exclude certain foods/food categories from your diet is a bad thing or a not recommended thing or evidence of having screwed up eating habits or whatever.

But I've been reading the archives a bit, and I did like this post in particular, which clarifies her position on this for me a bit. 

Now, I admit, I actually do think that there is good reason to believe that most people would benefit health-wise from eating fewer grains/sugar (and not just because this is a way that makes it easier for people to manage their weight).  But in my own case, I am so sensitive to most grains, beans, dairy, and other by-my-lights-not-as-healthy foods that I am happy to avoid them because of their relatively immediate phenomenological (i.e., consciously experienced) consequences, like stomach aches and cramping.  I know that eating too much fruit makes me feel sick within hours because it screws up my blood sugar levels.  Tonight, I really know that eating too much dark chocolate makes me nauseated.  (I'm still awake at almost 1 a.m. because I felt too sick to my stomach to go to sleep.  I have to relearn my lesson with excessive chocolate consumption about once a month.) 

And now that I am not eating those foods, for the most part I don't want them, and I have found that eating other foods (fats, meat/fish, vegetables) not only promises to be long-term healthier and has a noticeably superior impact on how my body feels, these foods also taste better and are more enjoyable than the stuff I'm not eating.  I am totally serious.  I even dreamed last night that I ate vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough (not CCCD ice cream, but the even more decadent ice cream with actual dough mixed into it) and I was like, Eh, OK, it's sweet, but it's not very flavorful really, and I set it aside after a couple of bites.

But I never would have figured that out if I had kept eating those other foods.  People, it was over 6 years ago that I declared that I don't like pancakes.  But I kept eating them, thinking that they would be tastier than they really are.

I don't want to get into the neurobiology or the politics of "food addiction" but I will state that in my experience, it's very easy to want things that you don't necessarily really like or prefer, and that it's possible to bring wanting, liking, and doing back into alignment by stopping eating those foods that have a wide wanting-liking gap.  (In my case, that's almost all grain-based foods.  Yep, even my beloved oatmeal isn't actually as yummy to eat as, say, eggs scrambled in butter and bacon.)  And in doing so, you might discover that other foods are actually quite more delicious than you thought. 

In my case, I think that my system had been geared up to want things that were sweet, and once I lost that sweet tooth, I started to like the flavor of things that are not so sweet (and to notice the sweetness of things like grape tomatoes and bacon, which never seemed sweet to me before).

These days, the primary food that I don't eat but that sometimes seems appealing is cheese.  Sometimes I want a cheese stick.  But then I just eat something else that has fat and salt and isn't dairy and I'm very satisfied.  (I actually don't think that most people would be hurt eating some cheese, but I know from my elimination diet days that it affects me negatively.)

So I guess in some ways, my finicky system works to my advantage.  My omega-6 to omega-3 ratio gets too high and my joints hurt and I know it's time to ramp up the salmon and the flax oil.  If I eat grains and highly-sugared foods, I will feel sick and gross, so I don't eat them.  This immediate feedback reinforces eating in a "healthy" way.

I think I am starting to get what she means about feeling you have permission to eat whatever you want.  I don't feel like I "can't" eat carbs because that will make me a fat unlovable unworthy whatever person.  I primarily don't eat them because (1) they make me feel sick and (2) they really aren't as tasty as other foods.  (I mean, the only good thing about rice is that it's a vector for butter or oil plus salt, and you can put butter or oil plus salt on something else -- like meat or vegetables -- and the taste of that combination will kick the rice's ass, hard.)  But it is basically awesome that subtly limiting my carb intake allows me to eat a lot of good-tasting food and maintain my weight.  (Compared to my previous experience, in which I ate significantly fewer calories than now while continuing to gain weight, this is truly amazing and excellent.)  And I do think that this way of eating is healthier, too.  (The numbers from my last blood test were fantastic, so there is some evidence supporting this idea.)

Pretty much everyone, me included, thought that eating a neo-paleo diet would be very hard for me because it eliminated so many of my "favorite" foods.  But it's turned out to be really rather easy (except for situations in which the majority of the available food is ruined because it has been drowned in lemon juice -- caterers at my cousin's wedding, I'm giving you the evil eye).

I know it's natural for me to think, Well the way I choose to limit my food consumption is not like the diets the Health At Every Size people are railing against.  I'm sure a lot of people feel that way about their diets.  But I really do believe that.  I do not feel restricted.  I actually feel freed from a weird, maladaptive, unsatisfying compulsion to eat sweet-yet-bland foods.  Instead, I eat yummy foods and don't think about food most of the time that I'm not eating.

And, yeah, sometimes I eat too much dark chocolate.  But that's OK, too.


Tam said...

You make me want to give paleo a try again, but it seems too difficult and expensive. Also it brings up food craziness for me in a way that doesn't feel healthy, though I'm pretty much always crazy towards food anyway...whatever I am eating.

I'm glad it's working for you, though. A lot of people report similar experiences to yours - feeling satisfied and happy with their eating while experiencing improved health - so I think there is something to it. My best guess is that it's a healthier way to eat even though I can't really pull it off.

mom said...

I feel about salad the way you feel about rice. To me salad is just a salad dressing delivery system.