Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eating well is the best revenge

I'm not sure what that means, but I thought it sounded good, so there you go.

It seems like food and health news is everywhere I turn lately. Well, actually, I have to admit that some of it is self-inflicted, since I'm only just getting around to reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (my current treadmill book) and I've been flipping around in Mark Bittman's Food Matters (a xmas gift that will be next up in the queue), and I'm also working my way into Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.

But I also got a Newsweek in the mail today, which contained a couple of great articles on heart disease: Crimes of the Heart and Heart to Heart (if you think heart disease doesn't have anything to do with food, check again!).

And then to top it off, the Surgeon General just issued an obesity report and Michelle Obama just started an anti-obesity campaign, so everyone is talking about food, including my one of my favorite food commentators, Marion Nestle (follow the links above for her thoughts on those specific topics).

And just for good measure, here's a final thought for this post...

I know losing weight, eating healthy and getting regular exercise are all hard things to do. I've struggled with these issues my whole life. But be realistic. You know what you have to do. You maybe don't want to do it, but the sooner you get on with it, the better you'll feel.

I promise.

This is not rocket science. You have to eat less fat and fewer calories (which unfortunately means that you have to give up most processed food -- if you've seen it advertised on TV, you probably shouldn't be eating it) and you have to move around some every day. Once you get over that hump, everything falls into place pretty quickly, and then you just get to relax and Eat Food. Lots of it. Yummy, home-cooked food. If you do this right, portions control themselves, and all you have to worry about is which delicious leftovers are you going to pack for lunch tomorrow? It doesn't get any better that that.

ps! There's more!


Buck said...

I once saw an interview with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and he said, "the grim facts are that you have to eat right and exercise".

Those facts are grim but you are right. It is not rocket science. It is just hard as hell to do. Portion control is probably more important than anything. I can gain weight on plain unsalted, unbuttered popcorn but the reason is that I can eat a #3 washtub full of it.

I have gotten my weight down from about 340 lbs to 265 lbs. But it has taken me years to do it. A co-worker saw me eating my lunch the other day and she said, "you have been on a diet for about 4 years haven't you?" I grinned at her and said, "it ain't a diet. It is a lifestyle"

I went to the doctor for the first time in 2 1/2 years the other day. They did blood work and everything checked out just fine except my PSA levels were elevated. I am going for further tests next week but the doctor said that riding a bicycle can elevate your PSA levels and I am riding an exercise bicycle almost 100 miles per week depending on how motivated I am. Sometimes I can only get about 75. But I ride that damn thing religiously. I set the tension on it as high as it will let me set it and I try to get 15 miles in an hour. The other night I rode it for 26 miles in 99 minutes and I swear I think I could have ridden another 26 miles. Dave Matthews was preaching to me through my IPOD and the endorphins had released and I was feeling no pain. A natural high and I have always been a sucker for a high.

Eating right and exercising are their own rewards. You really do feel better. And it is well worth it. My only advice to folks is that it is a long term lifetime committment. Don't get discouraged.

I hope to one day get my weight down to 245 lbs. That sounds like a lot to people but I am 6'1" and as my daddy says I have always been a big 'ol boy and I always will be.

But slow and steady goes the race and eating well is the best revenge :-)

Keera said...

Well... recent research done here in Norway (not yet published) shows that the biggest culprit in obesity is sugar, not fat. Sugar converts to fat. Sugar + fat converts to obesity. Fat alone isn't the problem. Of course, what do mice know. ;-)

Still, I have read all your links, and I am disappointed. They offer nothing new or clear, with the exception of the story about adding sidewalks and making it possible for people to walk and some of Jamie Oliver's comment (he never did mince words). The surgeon general, IMO, is a true wimp and not qualified for her job: "consider keeping televisions out of children’s rooms." Consider??? WTF? What is the TV doing in there in the first place?

Buck said...

No doubt about it. Sugar is a big problem.

But I am convinced that the explosion in obesity in American also can be tied to the plethora of drugs that folks are taking now. That is why I try my very best to stay away from doctors.

Go often enough and before you know it you are taking pills because of high blood pressure and pills because of high cholesterol and pills for anxiety and pills for any and everything you can imagine.

Keera said...

Buck, obesity in modern western countries is definitely a syndrome - something caused by many things. The US was first, but we're starting to see it here in Norway: New communities built without considering public transportation or local stores, more prefabricated food in the diet, more GM food, more replacement food (like HFCS in stead of regular sugar), more soy, more TV/computer use, more pharmaceuticals ending up in drinking water and the food chain, etc.

And have you noticed that people are getting fat in a different way now? They become wobbly-looking and biggest around the middle; the women don't keep their narrower waists and the men actually gain around their thighs and arms so both genders look like apples. A generation or two ago, fat people looked solid and muscular, and the genders kept their gender-based shapes.

alice said...

Yes, sugar is a problem and I usually forget about it because I never really have had much of a sweet tooth. Actually, our mantra here at Chez 10K is "no salt, no sugar, no fat" -- which we pretty much got from the heart association peeps. And all things in moderation, of course -- including moderation!! (Perhaps the "no" up there is too strong a word.) ;-)

There are many contributing factors to the obesity epidemic, but at the top of my list is the media. I rolled my eyes the other day when I read that the usual suspects were whinging about Michelle Obama's new anti-childhood obesity campaign this past week, responding to her efforts by raising the scary specter of Big Brother. These people believe that Michelle's efforts are another example of government meddling in the lives of people by trying to influence the choices they make. But where are these same people when children turn on the TV and corporate sponsors are filling their little minds with all sorts of influential suggestions, from eating sugar-laden cereals for breakfast, to fat- and salt-laden lunchables at mid-day to having a drive-thru meal at dinner time, before finally settling down in front of the TV in the evening with a bag of chips and Mellow Yellow?

How is taking the junk food vending machines out of schools evil conspiring on the part of the government, but the advertising on the TV just fine and dandy? That's not influencing the choices we make?!? Really?

And it's not just the kids this stuff is aimed at. We're all subjected to this stuff constantly, and it's making us huge and sick and crippling our health care systems.

But somehow Michelle Obama is evil because she suggested that some kids should give up drinking coke for breakfast? Sigh. Deep breath.

Yeah, so where was I? ;-D

Dr. Susan Rubin said...

Its not just the soda we're swilling, its Juice!

Hard to believe but true.

Robert Lustig MD a pediatric endocrinologist from UCSF makes a compelling argument against all forms of fructose (with the exception of fruit in its original form). He also will convince you that eat less/ exercise more is NOT necessarily the answer.

Watch this while on your treadmill and re-think your drinks!

As a dentist, I've been working tirelessly to convince moms and pediatricians that juice is not nutritious nor necessary. It rots baby teeth and creates a life long sweet tooth.

WIC and NSLP are a huge source of juice for millions of kids.

We've got to stop it.

alice said...

I think I'd like to change "corporate media" to "corporate culture," because it's not just the advertising that's manipulative and misleading. It's also the dishonesty in labeling and a whole manner of other deceptions that keep people confused and ignorant about what they're eating. I'll be making a post about this in a few days...

alice said...

Dr. Rubin, thanks so much for weighing in! Marion Nestle put me off of juice in her What to Eat -- she pointed out that in taking the pulp out of the juice, you're losing many of the benefits (the fiber, for example) of the fruit, so why not just skip the juice and just eat the fruit? I haven't had juice since (but I do eat real fruit every day). I'll definitely add Sugar: The Bitter Truth to my treadmill queue (with so many TED videos!).

Buck, I've been struggling with anxiety pretty much my whole adult life and there are only two things that have worked to keep the demons at bay for any length of time: xanax (which got me over the hump early on) and daily exercise (which is my current dragon-slayer). I was very happy to trade in my xanax for a treadmill, because I'm with you -- the fewer drugs the better. There are not many things in this world that I trust less than Big Pharma.

Keera said...

Here's another point, Alice: Functional illiteracy, oh, and another: scientific illiteracy. The first leave people to get their "information" from television and other people, and they can't read up on alternatives - or even food labels. The increasing scientific illiteracy (which is happening everywhere, especially as newspapers cut down on writing and research staffs) also makes it harder for people to understand the reports and research.

What I learned in 9th grade biology class in Norway still serves me well, but kids nowadays don't get that level of education until their freshman year at college, not high school.

Buck said...

It is confusing.

Neither of my parents have an issue with weight. They both have been healthy all of their lives and to this day (both are in their early 70's) neither have had to struggle with weight problems.

However, 3 of their 4 children have battled it all of their lives.

I have the "Eat This Not That" books. I have educated myself as best as I know how on what to eat and what not to eat. When to eat and when not to eat. How much to eat and how much not to eat. I drink a glass of milk every day but other than that it is ALWAYS water or unsweet tea. I drink no alcohol. I drink no juices. I drink no soft drinks either diet or regular. I watch Dr. Oz all of the time :-)

I was exactly 7 pounds lighter when I went to the doctor than I was 2 1/2 years ago my last visit.

The doctor thought that was wonderful but to be honest with you knowing how much I exercise and how little I eat I was a kind of pissed.

But as I said, slow and steady goes the race. I am not going to quit because I know if I throw caution to the wind and say to hell with it I can gain 50 pounds in 6 months.

I am not going that route ever again.

Keera said...

Buck, there has been a change in both "foods" and cooking habits after WWII. Sugar isn't sugar anymore. It's fructose from corn or artificial sweetener. Fat's not lard or butter anymore. It's margarin (with trans fat) or any number of cooking oils. They now add soy to all sorts of food items; all that phytoestrogen isn't good for anybody and soy is also a goitrogenic. We don't eat oatmeal from oats grown in a field nearby; we eat processed grains grown with huge amounts of artificial fertilizer and insecticides - or genetically modified; it's fortified with vitamins and minerals, but that turns out to be fairly useless relative to actually eating the vitamins in their natural state in the grain. We also have plastic wrapping everything, and some reports say it leeches more estrogen-like substances into our diet. All of these things affect our metabolism and overall health.

Buck said...

All of this talk of estrogen is makin' me nervous! I'm barely a man now.

And I thought soy was a good thing. Guess I need to get a different set of books.

Keera said...

Or a perimenopausal woman. ;-) The estrogen in the stuff can sooth or annoy perimenopausal symptoms.

Soy is eaten traditionally in Asia only as a condiment and/or in a fermented form (it's not used fermented in the US) and it's original use was to add nutrients back into the crop soil, not for food. I think US researchers should have looked elsewhere for the explanation for Asian (relative) good health.

alice said...

Buck, don't fret -- you're doing well and I wouldn't worry about anything you're eating, as long as you're eating it in moderation (Marion Nestle reassured me about this in her great book, What To Eat). Keera's right -- our food is horribly over-processed -- but as long as you're making improvements and not binging on any one thing, you're doing fine. Each day is better than the last one.

I've read a few of the "Eat This, Not That" books and generally, I'm very impressed -- I think they offer some very good advice and present it beautifully. The only issue I have with them is that the authors assume you're going to eat prepared food (either from the grocery store or restaurants and fast food vendors), and as much as possible, it's good to eat food you've made yourself from wholesome ingredients (or, if you do eat processed food, the fewer ingredients, the better).

G-Dog and I both eat soy products (I like tofu, both of us enjoy edamame beans in salads and other dishes, and soy sauce is indispensable when I'm tossing together a stir fry!) and neither of us appears to be suffering from too much estrogen (or a goiter)! Some people are more sensitive to it than others, of course. And we don't eat many processed foods at all, so for the most part, the only soy we eat is on purpose. (Just about everything we eat is prepared in our kitchen from scratch -- including things like bread and corn chips.)

BTW, I'm with you on the lifestyle vs. diet thing. I reached my goal for weight, but I haven't changed my eating habits since and still I'm just maintaining. There's a very fine line between weight loss and maintenance, and I'm currently toeing that line, trying to get a feel for it.

And don't you just love those endorphins? They don't visit me as often as I'd like, but when they show up, I'm one happy camper! I think maybe I need to try the exercise bike thing -- I love the actual bike, but with the weather we've had this winter, I'm starting to forget what it feels like to be pedaling over those wheels!

You know, the two of us talk about food so much, we really must break bread together some day. Do you ever make it over to this side of Georgia? Let me know... or maybe it's time for smijer and me to take a road trip...

Keera said...

Alice, many claims are made about soy. I hope the soy products your family eats are fermented, like they are in Asia.

I did a Google search on "How much soy do Asians eat?" and here's one of the links, explaining the origin of soy products in the west. I have to admit that I haven't given much thought to how the beans are processed to produce milk, but it sure doesn't sound healthy or sustainable.

alice said...

Not to worry... soy is not on our menu very often, and since we prepare all our food from scratch, the only time we do eat soy is when we're eating it on purpose (and I never drink soy milk -- I don't like it). I'm not convinced that consumption of moderate amounts of soy is a problem (the arguments continue), but even if it is, we don't eat it with enough frequency to raise any concern.

I do keep an eye on my thyroid function. I eat a lot of goitrogens (cruciferous veggies are some of my favorites, and they DO appear frequently on our menus!), but so far, I exhibit no sign of problems there, or with any of the other symptoms raised by Moffat (thanks for the link -- it's good info!).

Keera said...

I'm keeping my bottle of soy sauce! :-) Your article has made me go look for information, because many make the claim that soy is healthy because Asians eat it and avoid certain health issues that westerners face, including hot flashes. But from what I'm reading now, that's all a huge misrepresentation of both Asian eating habits and Asian health statistics.

I see you have a new post up on food. I'll save that for dinner. :-)