Layer upon Layer, A Body of Knowledge is Built

How long have I been doing this?  In January 2013, it will be 9 years since I started this last weight loss journey.  NINE YEARS!!  Nine years of reading and researching how to do it, anything and everything about food and nutrition, various types of diet theories (Weight Watchers, paleo, vegetarian, raw food, intuitive eating, low carb, calories in/calories out, whole grain, you get the picture,) the whole psychological component to weight loss, why some people succeed at maintaining weight loss and what and how they do that, oh, and exercise.  I’m sure I left something out.  But you know.  Its a LOT of information.

And the thing is…all of it is useful.  Even the stuff I have decided is not true for me.

Yes, it is frustrating that there is not more definitive information about obesity, its causes and cures, and weight loss maintenance.  But still, we have an awful lot of knowledge to draw upon.  Layer upon layer, I have added all this to the base of my eating and exercise habits.  When I decided to try The Hunger Game, I did not throw away everything I knew about good nutrition and what works in my favor.  If anything, I am using that information more than ever.

It kind of drives me nuts when people who have been doing this a long time figuratively throw their hands up in the air and act like they do not know anything.  We know a LOT.

Part of what I know is that it is hard work to maintain a lower body weight.  It is hard because as you age, something or other goes on in your body (more efficient?  slower metabolism? hormones?) and your body holds onto weight.  Helen reminded me that you don’t need to eat as much when you get older, and the next day I got an article in the mail saying that women who have gone through menopause need 200 calories LESS a day!  Oh my goodness.

It is hard work to maintain a lower body weight if you have previously been very overweight for an extended part of your life.  That is a theory I believe because of the overwhelming amount of objective information available (evidence gathered by various scientists, and also the testimony of many many people who have lost weight and maintained that loss with varying degrees of success.)

I know a LOT about food and nutrition and how the body processes food.  (Oh, side rant:  I know many of you would be more comfortable believing that the body is a machine–that you can input certain food or exercise and you will receive the same results every time.  I’m sorry, but that is simply not true.  The body is closer to a work of art than it is to a machine. Period.  end rant.)  So at my best, I am easily able to choose healthy, balanced whole foods that will keep me satiated for 3-4 hours.

I know a lot about exercise, and what part it plays in weight loss (very little) and weight loss maintenance (a lot.)  I know that the body gets accustomed to the same exercise and gets more efficient at how it processes that exercise (not fair!) so that it is good to continue to challenge your body with exercise by increasing the intensity or by changing the type of exercise periodically.  I know that it is good for your heart and your mind.  I know that it keeps me from becoming stiff as a board, so I keep doing it!

It took a while, but I do understand very well the part that the mind plays in food choices and eating.  I learned that for me, anxiety was the single largest factor in why I overate.  Just learning that was a tremendous step forward in changing my relationship with food.

So I know all this stuff.  I did not discard one bit of it when I decided to WAIT UNTIL I WAS HUNGRY to eat.  Honestly, it just makes sense to me.  Just one more piece of the puzzle.

Let’s Talk Grains, Shall We?

Things seem to be heating up in the War on Grains don’t they?  What?  You haven’t noticed?  Primal/Paleo–just eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors did (what?  they didn’t gather wheat???)  Now we have the latest book making the rounds “Wheat Belly” telling us all the evils of wheat.  I read it.  Of course.  I like to be informed.  Well, let’s be fair.  I skimmed the whole book in one afternoon.  (and can I say how awesome the public library system is?  I did that on-line thing where you order a book and sooner or later your library calls and says it has arrived.  I was so surprised–I forgot which book I had actually ordered.)

Anyway.  You already know I eat minimal wheat.  Its just that its an easy food for me to eliminate.  Now.  It wasn’t always this way.  I learned in Weight Watchers how to eat high fiber, whole grains.  (and totally off-topic, am I the only one irritated about the complete overuse of the useless ‘fiber’ inulin?  How else do you think they get fiber into yogurt and ice cream?)  Back to the topic at hand.  What were we discussing?  Oh yeah.  Grains.  So wheat.  Even though I’ve eliminated it, I don’t exactly think its evil.  Its just attached to some high calorie stuff that I try to avoid, like cookies and cake.  Pasta I like, but I’ve discovered I actually like the sauce better than the pasta.  And bread.  I guess its over there with the cakes and the cookies.  If its good, I can’t leave it alone, and if its not that good, like the high fiber wraps, I can’t be bothered.  I did wonder if I had a slight allergy to wheat, as it seemed to cause, ummm, some intestinal disturbances…

Anyways, Wheat Belly.  Dr.  Davis did make some interesting points.  He states that wheat, calorie for calorie, increases your blood sugar and your insulin response higher and faster than table sugar.  I can believe that.  I was always trying to tell my dad that it was carbohydrates that you had to watch, not just sugar.  Dr. Davis makes a lot of other claims about the effect wheat has on various body systems.    I kept thinking the whole time I was skimming, just wheat???  Finally I got to the last chapters where he recommends a specific diet, and he has a LONG list of foods to avoid.  Can anyone say paleo?  Are he and Dr. Berkley roommates???  So even though his book was all about the evils of wheat, especially the current wheat being produced, there are a lot of foods that he wants you to eliminate or severely limit.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

I’ve had some interesting email conversations with a few bloggers about the topic of grains.  Debra SY had some fascinating comments that she shared with me.  Instead of trying to summarize what she said, I think I’ll just print her entire brilliant comment:

 I’ve read that our bodies do not process grains well, they were the last resort of our ancient ancestors — starvation foods — therefore they may trigger a starvation reaction in our bodies.  I have also read they are inflammatory.  On the other side, however, in the Bible bread seems to be metaphor for spiritual evolvment.  Our ancient ancestors may have had to resort to munching down on wheat and barley shafts, just to keep their stomachs full in times of scarcity, but we have evolved beyond those times and have learned to bake bread.  Glorious, tasty bread.  Christ proclaims himself the bread of life, not the meat, not the nut (certainly not!), not the vegetable or fruit.  (Salt, too, fares well in the Bible, metaphorically.)  So, the spiritual me cannot let go of bread entirely.  But giving it up mostly seems okay.  Christ, as metaphorical bread, did not contain TBHQ preservative, his flour was not stripped of all nutrient value through processing, and he certainly wasn’t brought into existence by Keebler elves.  Debra of Debra’s Just Maintaining

And then, probably the most important(?) thing I wanted to share was an article I read in an old National Geographic magazine while I waited for my car to be repaired.  You’ve probably all heard about this study–the one about the “blue zones?”  The blue zones are areas in the world where whole populations live healthier and longer lives.  I think there was a book written about it.  Anyway, google it if you want.  The findings are very interesting (to me.)  The main thing I noticed when I read that article was that one of the things all these people had in common (besides eating a diet very high in vegetables) was that they all ate a lot of grains.  Whole grains.  They did not eat a lot of cookies and cake.

So here’s a theory of mine.  I have no research to back this up.  Hey, that never stopped a lot of scientists from presenting their theories as truth.  Anyway, I think it is the American way of over-doing almost anything.  Can we just have some balance here people?  We find one thing that is “good” and we do it to death.  Whole wheat is good?  How much of it can we produce?  How many different food products can we make (and consume) that have this good thing in it?  Finally, our bodies revolt at the overabundance of a singular food product.  If my theory is right, oats and flaxseed meal will be the next on the chopping block (BTW does anybody else love that crazy show?)

And finally, I will end with a brilliant quote from my good friend Lori, as we “chatted” last night about the claims of losing weight, even losing your “belly” if you would just eliminate wheat in your diet.  And I said, referring to the ‘success stories’ in the book, as I am prone to say these days, come back and talk to me in five years.  Like I said in this post, we live in a world of cake.  Yes, you can be diligent, and you can fight the first 50 years of personal conditioning, and you can fight the whole food society that we live in.  But not too many people will be able to do that for a year, much less five or a lifetime.

It’s like that with any eating plan, whether it is low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, paleo, primal, whatever.  There is always that honeymoon period where things just are great and super, then reality sets in and your body adjusts.  It all comes down to making the best choices you can for the calories you need in the day without driving yourself crazy.  Lori, of Finding Radiance 

So that’s it.  The key.  Lori, you could write a best-seller.  I think I’ve pretty much figured out how to maintain a weight loss without driving myself crazy.  I’ll keep reading the latest information.  You never know when you might run across something helpful.  And there’s always room for tweaking, like Cammy said this morning.  I actually tried one of Dr. Davis’s recipes this morning–Pumpkin muffins.  I had all the ingredients, and they sounded interesting and tasty.  The jury’s still out on them.  I’ll probably have another one tomorrow and report the results to you.