My Food and My Body

I’m going to share this secret. Although for the last fifteen or so years, since going to acupuncture school, I’ve been reading about how good for me vegetables are, I still don’t get all enraptured by them. I eat them. They are, after all, good for me. I just don’t love them. I don’t get excited about them. In fact, I eat them first so that I can get to the good stuff after they’re gone.

Now, don’t go tell me that I should just give them a chance. I’m 50 for heaven’s sake and I’ve been working on the vegie thing for the last 15 years. I still don’t love them. I eat them. That’s as good as it gets. And I do my best to eat healthy, not that that’s always easy considering the conflicting evidence.

Sorry vegetarian friends, I eat meat. I do so because the year or so I was vegetarian and the six months of that time I was vegan were the worst months of my life. I felt worse than I had in ages and I pretty much disliked everything I ate, except of course for the fact that I allowed myself Skippy peanut butter. Yeah. I ate the bad stuff. I had to have something I actually liked. And my blood work reflected this. It was about as bad as it’s ever been.

Now I don’t just eat any meat. I work to source my meat. My husband and I eat a quarter of a cow from a local farmer who raises them sustainably and pretty happily on his land. I also look for pastured chickens. I get my eggs from said chickens as well, in the summer. However, I continue to buy eggs in the winter, because I like eggs.  I still eat out and I’ve often felt guilt about that.

I avoid chemicals as much as I can. I read labels. I don’t eat a lot of things I might like because they are “bad.” And then, of course, it’s not just health. It’s political. I mean my favorite organic yogurt maker was giving money to defeat GMO labeling in California.

And I sat there and cried because it’s getting so hard to purchase food that’s good for me and is also good for the world. Even Chipotle was off limits for awhile because they weren’t supporting farm workers. Fortunately, they changed their stance so I could feel good about a salad (no wheat so no burritos) when I went there. Some days I feel like the woman who started eating only kale.

Except instead of going that route, and living on kale, I found Health At Any Size. No more would I count carbs or chose lower calorie foods. I was helped in this when I was thinking I ate plenty and normally and my naturopath looked at me and said, “You need to eat more. You aren’t even eating 1500 calories most days.” And my jaw dropped. But I was gaining weight and I felt like I was eating like a pig. No longer. I actually did have to eat.

So I ate more. I paid less attention to the bad foods. I read good blogs about internal food choices rather than external food choices. This means that I don’t avoid ice cream because the manufacturers are bad. I don’t avoid it because it’s not organic. I don’t avoid it because it’s cold, greasy and fatty and thus damp producing and creating even further spleen xi deficiency. I eat it anyway. The kind my husband likes because no matter what I tell him, he likes ice cream. And he doesn’t care about organic. Especially with ice cream because to him, what’s the point. And yes, it ups my caloric intake. And yes, if I want to eat it every night for a week, I can. Except I learned that I don’t feel as well the next morning.

After a dish of ice cream in the evening, I find that getting up in the morning is more difficult. I want to sleep. I’m not hungry for breakfast. My head isn’t as clear and my daily tasks seem harder to get to. So now, when I want ice cream, I consider how I want to feel in the morning. Some days it’s worth it. Some days it’s not. I no longer feel deprived.

Gluten too. I never tested positive for celiac so I have that choice. However, most gluten containing products (not all) give me a headache. I continue to avoid gluten whenever I can because having a headache isn’t fun. I eat the gluten containing things that I can eat. Breaded fish doesn’t bother me. Some pastas don’t bother me. Fast food inevitably gives me a headache.

You know what else I found? I don’t really like soda. Now that I don’t care, I realized I don’t like soda. When it was “bad”, it was always a treat. Now I prefer certain types of iced tea that aren’t as over flavored  to soda. Or Kombucha. Those taste better to me. Even the sodas that just have sugar and no HFCS. I really don’t want soda at all. I used to love Dr. Pepper. I’m not so keen on it any more. I’m not even so keen on the good Root Beers. They’re too sweet and too fake. Just where my body is right now. I don’t drink them.

I still don’t much like vegetables, but now I have foods that I actually like. I find that I eat less and think less about the foods that might not be great for my body. I have better reasons for avoiding them than “they aren’t good for me”. I know exactly what they will do in the short term and I avoid them.

Will I die earlier because I’m eating ice cream? Who knows? My genetic history shows that all my immediate relatives on my father’s side (who I tend to take after) died suddenly and unexpectedly without any particular illness. I probably don’t have to worry too much about long suffering. So if I have some ice cream and die earlier of a heart attack, I probably won’t have time to regret it. Because when I had ice cream? I REALLY wanted it. Now I don’t have to deprive myself simply because someone else says it’s bad.

Why We Get Fat

As an overweight person I just want to thank Gary Taubes for his stunning little book Why We Get Fat and What to do About It.   I enjoyed his other book, Good Calories, Bad Calories but it was long and ponderous in its information.  This little book says something that is very important and looking at the Amazon reviews seems to be something many people don’t get.   I am not fat because I eat too much.   If you looked at my life long caloric intake pound per pound it is probably less than someone of my weight but perhaps greater height who didn’t worry about being fat.    According to studies Taubes” cites, the could be why I have so much fatigue.  I eat too much because I tend to be fat.

I do feel better eating a protein heavy diet.   I was fascinated that in the back of the book one diet he recommends (although not the only diet) he talks about adding in broth!  As a traditional foods person I was ecstatic! Now there is yet another reason to drink my broth!

I recommend reading the book even if you tend to think in terms of a vegetarian diet for yourself that you read this book. No one diet works for everyone.   My Spleen qi deficient, yang deficient, damp body prefers a diet heavy in proteins (grass-fed beef and pastured chickens and eggs).   I have friends who tend towards heat and yin deficiency and they do far better on a vegetarian and mostly vegetarian diet.   Food is about energy which balances what goes on in our body.   I suspect has I eaten differently throughout my life I would have different food needs and a different diet might be most appropriate.

One of the most important thing in the book from my point of view was the pronouncement that fat people are not fat because they lack will power or there is something wrong with them psychologically.   What Taubes says is that being fat is a symptom of something else and doctors need to look at that.

Food Energetics

I was reading a forum post about brown rice being more astringing than white rice.  Further, the writer said that patients with damp tend to do better on brown rice. I find it interesting that my experience is actually the opposite.   I find that white rice is better and seems to help with damp.  It makes me wonder if we are generalizing too broadly and forgetting that there are two different ways to dry damp.

One way to dry damp assumes that spleen works generally pretty well and that all it needs it a little extra assistance drying.  The other way is to build spleen energy so that it actually does the job of transforming dampness.     For me, the issue has always been a weak spleen.   I find that when I am being very nurturing of my digestive system I do best with minimal fiber and lots of cooked foods including meats.   These are all easy to digest.   I can add in white rice, preferably in congee and all these things help my damp and spleen.

Notice that my need to is to tonify the spleen. I am talking less about astringing damp.  While tonifying the spleen will help this issue the primary function is to build the energy.   I believe that the ease of digestion of white rice is what makes it more tonifying.  Notice that the best way to eat it for that effect is to basically over cook it in way too much water (thus using less body energy to digest).

Brown rice, on the other hand requires some energy to digest.  I am hypothesizing that it does astringe more but requires that there be enough spleen energy to absorb the energy and utilize it in brown rice.  However, it then may be better at getting rid of excess damp build up.

I have no idea if that is the difference in these to methods, other than observation and theory.   I am wondering if anyone has any other thoughts on the differences in white rice versus brown rice.

On Dieting

We live in a world that’s hungry for a diet to end all diets. Two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.

Michael Snyder, MD

It’s amazing to me that the idea of being fat is worse than cancer or nuclear war. I think this says something about the emphasis we place on the way we look rather than how we feel. Snyder has a full article talking about his new book here.

Gary Taubes has a new book and blog

Gary Taubes who wrote one of my favorite nutrition books, Good Calories Bad Calories has a new book on weight loss coming out and is blogging. I think for those who are really interested in nutrition and weight loss that this is an invaluable place to visit as Taubes is a science writer and this is a subject he’s been researching. There’s great information here and well thought out articles. No quick ideas over there but the time spent reading items that are of interest is worth it.

Eating Well on Vacation Part Two

My husband and I also visited his family in a small town in Southeastern Alaska. In most areas that I’ve been in that are smaller, the food tends to be less nutritious. While this town still had a lot of easy to prepare fake foods and condiments, finding things made from mostly real ingredients was easier than in most cities in the “lower 49”.

In town there was a little cart with a tend that served breakfast and lunch. While I had the egg sandwich and breakfast burrito, neither of these was the standard fast food fare. Real eggs graced the sandwich and burrito, along with real bacon or sausage and we had a choice of cheese, although no “American” cheese food products were offered!

Lunches included nice deli sandwiches. While the meats were likely just common deli meats with nitrates that aren’t optimal, they were freshly made while you waited. The bread to protein ration was higher than usual as well and they didn’t skimp on the “fatty” condiments. While nothing here was something I’d want to live on, for my 10% because I’m on vacation food, it wasn’t completely horrible. Elsewhere halibut and salmon abounded (it is summer). While halibut fish and chips were common, the breading was nice and it was obviously fresh. We got it at a place where crab were placed in a tank waiting for new owners to take them home for dinner.

Having seen the prices of food and knowing that most food must either be home grown (lots of fresh green house grown tomatoes and lettuce here) or imported from a long ways away, I was surprised at the choices. I was also pleased that while the ingredient list may not have been the best, most of the food at these small restaurants was freshly and carefully prepared. Certainly the energy that the cook imparts to her gifts to the world can feed us energetically in a way that mass processed food never can.

What I find so encouraging is this is the sort of thing I wish we saw more across the lower 48. With access to pastured eggs, pastured butter and other foods from real nutritious ingredients, image how much better travelers could eat than they do now, when it even sit down restaurants so often rely only on frozen meals and ingredients.

Eating Well On Vacation (or not)

My husband and I went on vacation at the beginning of the month. Each part had some unique aspects to finding good foods to eat. During week number one we went on a cruise up to Alaska. During week two, we spent time with his family in Southeastern Alaska.

Eating well on the cruise was the harder part of the vacation. The cruise line tries to allow people to eat well. They now offer all sorts of low fat and no fat offerings. However, the offerings for most part are still filled with vegetable oil fats and there is little real food.

Breakfast offered the easiest choice. Eggs, cooked the way I like them. I’m a big over easy fan. While regular bacon or sausage may not be the best, at least there was some good protein. I could choose from a variety of potatoes (which may or may not have been real) or bread. While some muffins were labeled whole grain, there was only a traditional flat looking wheat bread in the choice. While I couldn’t find full fat yogurt, I did find whole milk.

The first day I found myself famished. I couldn’t get satisfied. As I thought about my sudden hunger, it occurred to me that my body is so used to plenty of good fats that it couldn’t satisfy itself on the fake foods. That was the point at which I started adding in the homogenized whole milk (although I doubt it was the best).

Lunch offerings were cafeteria style and it varied. Some items looked like they could have been freshly made and then placed on the warming trays, but most looked as if they were frozen foods with little nutritional value. There was a nice salad bar and fruit bar, but the protein choices and full fat options were limited. No whole milk was offered during lunch. I also didn’t know where to look for “real” food.

Dinner was sit down and there was a choice of five entrees. I’ve cruised before and normally dinners were fairly satisfying. Not this time. I don’t know if it was the cruise line or if my body is just used to getting good fats. Most of the options held some level of “low fat”, although given that some low fat choices looked fatty, I suspect there were plenty of unnatural substitutions.

I know that that week I ate far too many carbohydrates as my body attempted to satisfy itself with the poor nutritional level of the food. Even as time passed, knowing what was going on, my body’s cravings didn’t change. Nor did they change in the face of the fact that I really didn’t LIKE any of the cruise food.

One day we were walking around Ketchikan and had some lovely fish and chips. I have no idea how they were made but it was fresh halibut. I think that was the one day I felt really satisfied.

In my next post I’ll explore the good and bad of eating in a small isolated town in Alaska. Hint: while not perfect, it was way better than the cruise ship!

Has Anyone Else Experienced this?

I’ve spent most of the morning trying to think of a pithy title but nothing comes up. I have been on GAPS for several months. Last month I started sliding again. What gets me most? Chai. While it’s fine sometimes to just have the tea with water, what I really want is a latte. As I’m working on healing my gut flora and even raw milk makes my nose drip, I’ve been trying to avoid all dairy. This only makes me crave chai more.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Starbucks. I figure at least it’s a local company (if you count driving to the original store taking only 25 minutes at 2 AM and 45 minutes to “I turned around after three hours because traffic wasn’t moving” during normal hours local). They are also the only place that serves Tazo chai. I used to love Oregon Chai but after going back to Traditional Foods, Oregon Chai started tasting too sweet. Now it has to be Tazo.

Grande no water chai was my choice. And boy did I pay. My nose didn’t just drip. I had a headache and stomach pain and bloating like I’ve rarely had in my life and never after drinking milk. I thought that this was just because my body knows how good it feels without something that bothers it and so it reacts more.

Did this stop me? No. A couple of weeks later the siren song of chai called again. Same body reaction. I could hardly eat the rest of the day.

One last time. This time as I was suffering through the ill effects I thought eventually such a reaction has to make me hate this stuff and I can stop craving it.

The next time something prompted me to try something different. “Grande, whole milk, no water chai.” No bloating. No crampiness. No heartburn.


Try again (same week but after all this is an experiment right?) Whole milk. No bloating. No heartburn. No problems. Normal appetite. Normal everything post chai.

I know that many people who can’t tolerate milk tolerate Raw milk. However, I’ve never heard of anyone experimenting with whole milk versus low fat milk. Could it be something in the additional processing in the low fat milk that makes it even harder to digest than pasturized whole milk? Alternatively, is it possible that my body is reacting to something in the Tazo liquid chai that the higher fat content of the whole milk coats allowing my body to deal with it?

I’m publishing this as part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday in hopes that one of the knowledgeable food experts will come by and perhaps offer any answers or at the very least any opinions! Thanks!