15 August 2013

I wonder...

Sorry chaps - this one has turned into particularly lengthy fat lass ramble so do feel free to skip me blethering on. Perhaps it's been triggered by recent events or maybe I've reached that stage in life, but I've found myself deep in thought for many reasons recently.

Yep, the fat lass has definitely been 'wondering' about stuff in recent weeks... hmmm, make that months... and loads of different things have zipped through my thoughts. Just like the Grinch, I've been puzzling and puzzling 'til my puzzler is sore.

One of the random and inconsequential things I've wondered about is when, precisely, did tomatoes morph from being a savoury staple to a sweet treat (well, in my opinion anyhow).

Looking back to the days before the new low-carb 'us', we used to buy and use tomatoes in bulk. We loved 'em, and almost everything we cooked included them, be they fresh, tinned or paste (and sometimes a mixture). Think of that holy trinity of tomatoes, onions and garlic as our starting point, and you'll get the picture. And it always, always, always seemed like those gorgeous red globes were savoury, to me. Since we moved over to our low-carb lifestyle, and as tomatoes pack quite a carbohydrate punch, we've drastically reduced this reliance on them in our cooking.

Imdeed, we've moved away from buying weighty bunches of the big beefy vine tomatoes and now buy maybe one small box a week of the teensy tiny cherry toms instead. No longer, even in a salad, do we have a whole large tomato or more each. Now one, or maybe two, of the teeny weeny cherry tomatoes apiece is quite sufficient.

And, d'ya know what, these little darlings are amazing. They're like sweet little flavour bombs. I suppose I 'knew' they were fruits but wow! I find I really do only need one or two, chopped into small sections, to be satisfied with that sudden burst of juice-filled tomatoey flavour. Guess now I don't eat much in the way of 'added' sugars my tastes have changed.

I've also wondered a lot about how (or rather, whether) I would have coped with the events and stresses of recent weeks and months had lovely hubby and I not changed the way we eat.

By 'change', I don't mean any recent change that I haven't mentioned before, but the sustained move over the last year or so to cut out all added sugars, processed foods and associated 'crap', and minimise our carbohydrate intake drastically. In other words, to maintain our bodies in a ketogenic state as far as possible (and possible it is!), dip-stick testing weekly to check that we haven't inadvertently strayed. To keep to this plan, we now only include smallish amounts of fresh veggies (primarily things like spinach, leafy greens, and the cruciferous veg) and a few lower-carb berries for most of the carbohydrate contribution to our diet. Hey, know what? It's easier than it sounds too.

Somehow, without this move to a radically different diet/lifestyle, I think I'd now be writing to confess my latest descent off the back of the wagon.

I'd doubtless be bemoaning a weight gain, maybe a pretty substantial one by now, grumbling about how challenging my struggles had been and coughing up to those the 'treats' I'd indulged in. I'm guessing that an unhealthy reliance on comfort eating may have been involved in this (sure, with vending machine crisps and chocolate playing their part). Yeah, the old-style fat lass was definitely an emotionally driven eater.

I cannot and won't say I haven't comfort eaten at all through this - because I have. Perhaps a bit of an increase in the cheese and olives 'snack' component of my diet is testament to that - but it hasn't been overwhelming, and I've actually lost weight in recent weeks (much to my surprise). This is significantly different than during previous periods of stress in my life. And, whatever I have nibbled under stress this time hasn't tipped me overboard into stuffing my face until I feel like I could burst. Now how amazing is that? There you go, Mum - that's a blessing counted.

But, back to my main point... I've mostly wondered just how much of an ass I must have been.

Much as it pains me to say it, I think I've probably been an ass for years. How could I (supposedly trained as a scientist, for heaven's sake) have believed in and dedicatedly followed the 'sound dietary advice' spouted by so-called experts, about basing the bulk of my food intake on 'low fat' pseudo-foods and those 'healthy' whole-grain carbs, for so long?

What's worse, this slavish adherence just plain 'happened', without my giving a single moment's thought to it's validity or taking a nano-second to consider whether the advice was, in fact based on good solid science. Instead, without so much as a backward glance or a quibble, I accepted what I read and heard and 'assumed' it was right.

Silly old fat lass! Assumptions, after all, make an ASS out of ME (...and maybe U too).

Having now pored over lots of detailed explanations (er, I guess some may still call it 'heresy') from the likes of Phinney & Volek, John Briffa, and the Eades, John Yudkin, Robert Lustig and a lot of other people who lay out the scientific basis for carbohydrates (and especially sugars) being something rather less than the 'healthy' basis for a balanced diet that the 'eatwell' plate (amongst other things) recommends, I wish I had come across this years ago.

Maybe, just maybe, had I encountered this scandalous idea earlier, and taken the time to review the science behind it as I have been trained to do, I wouldn't have endured my decades of obesity. Perhaps I wouldn't have tried and failed at so many 'diets', always beating myself up for my failures, and despairing as I grew more and more heavy over time.

Maybe, had I encountered this earlier, I could be looking back at photos taken of my Mum and her grown-up 'little' girl (me) together, and not always see her tiny frame dwarfed alongside her gargantuan daughter. Bless her, though. While I know she was worried about me, she never, ever judged me and she loved me anyway. Still, I can't turn the clock back and it does make me feel sad.

That may be so, but I'm so very, very grateful that she got to see me change my bad habits in the end - steadily moving downwards through the weight-loss pathway towards where I am now. Healthy again. There you go again - that's another blessing counted. How am I doing, my lovely Mum?

So, back to this wondering business...

With regards low-carb, this time I haven't been content to just read what this new bunch of 'experts' say and accept it, but I've thought and wondered, and checked, and counter-checked, and researched, and even gone back to some of the original published research papers myself, and generally made use of a little grey matter.

Between this newly acquired 'knowledge' and with the benefit of seeing the positive (if empirical) results for both me and my lovely hubby, I'm finally happy to concede that the 'eatwell' plate is, after all, the 'eatbadly' plate that Zoe Harcombe describes. Sorry if this is beginning to sound like so much evangelical zealotry on my part, but I do rather feel like Saul on the road to Damascus at times.

I've been wondering about other stuff too. I've read quite a lot in various blogs and books, over the last few months, about addiction. Food addiction, that is. Specifically, an addiction to sugar and to wheat.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I've been seriously sceptical about 'addiction' to any sort of foods in my own case. If I'm honest, I thought it was hogwash! Until recently I've been much more inclined to think my penchant to overeat was of my own making. Hey, there's that self-blame all too many of us are willing to take on board - but before I condemn this as 100% negative, in my case I think a healthy measure of it actually helped me.

You see, a good part of my 'self-blame' stemmed from all the years I spent on that decades-long 'diet' roller-coaster, looking for 'something' (anything, whether it be hormones or circumstances!) upon which I could 'blame' my obesity. Now I look back at it, what I was doing was quite a commonplace thing. I was looking for someone or something to take the hit, and a for there to be a nice neat quick fix for whatever was 'wrong'.

The mythical magic bullet was what I was seeking. For way too many years, I didn't countenance that any 'blame' for my weight problems could ever be pointed in my direction. What? My actions the cause? Hell, no way!

But, there probably always was a tiny seed of doubt there and, for me anyway, it turned out that I was only able to bite this particular bullet and take positive action to first lose and then maintain my weight loss once I'd accepted personal responsibility for 'my' part in the original (and subsequent) gains. That's where the self-blame (or call it taking responsibility if you'd prefer) helped me. Until the point when I took on board that it was to do with 'me' and there wasn't an external (if convenient) 'cause' for it, year in year out, diet by failed diet, this ageing broad just kept on growing broader!

However, and this is a pretty large 'but', the more I have read about this subject, the more I now wonder... was all of that responsibility 'really' mine to take?

As I say, when it comes to 'me' and food addiction I was sceptical in the extreme. In part, this was because (as you'll know if you've read older posts from the 'losing' days) I didn't lose the bulk of my weight and improve my health through the low-carb route, but followed a low-fat, reduced calorie 'diet' and increased my activity levels. And this was successful... for me.

Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, and because of this I really have doubted that the 'healthy' food I was choosing could possibly be addicitive or cause me harm in any sense.

Sugar (or sweet stuff) in itself hasn't generally been such a big thing for me. While I've always been partial to the odd cake or scone or chocolate up to a point, they weren't 'my' thing in a that big a way - most of my passions were, and still are, savoury. Sweet or savoury though, a good many of my 'go to' foods used to be wheat based and the overwhelming majority were seriously carbohydrate heavy.

Potatoes and other root veg, pasta, pastry, bread (hey, wholemeal of course!), those occasional scones, potato and wheat-based snack foods, lots of sweet fruit, etc.... heck, you get the picture.

But now I wonder... were those carbohydrates, whether sweet or savoury, a driver (at least to some extent) for my desire to eat, or stuff down, more than I could reasonably hold. Although I've always considered (and still do) that I don't have a carbohydrate tolerance problem per se, maybe, just maybe, I was not entirely correct. Maybe that constant top-up of insulin-triggering foodstuffs did indeed tip me into a whole different place - one I didn't knowingly recognise or understand anything about.

Perhaps that's not too surprising though. Karen over at Garden Girl has described her own problems with sugar and wheat as leading to "brain fog and numbing" and she, quite rightly, goes on to say "this stuff is COMPLEX..."

A little aside...

Before going low-carb, if you'd dared suggest that I could and would willingly put aside my life's 'staples' I'd have been absolutely horrified. I've been prepared to compromise on a lot of things, and indeed had already done that with a lot of things I'd previously thought almost 'essential', but give up my good, wholegrain, home-made bread? No way, Jose!. Almost certainly I would have growled at you and muttered something like “Nope! Don't be so bl**dy silly - I could never ever give up my beautiful healthy bread!”.

Since I have done though, it isn't such a trauma. I've realised now that life without bread isn't a deal killer at all. Whee, what a liberating thought that is. Could it be that my declared adherence to bread as 'necessary' to my life (my staff of life, perhaps?) was a form of addiction? Who knows.

So, maybe those years of obesity weren't actually 'all' my fault, even if I still feel that some part of my seemingly never ending weight gain was down to me - see, there's that mea culpa again! But, could I have been, in any sense, an addict?

I'm not sure, and I'm not convinced I'll ever really know, but if I was, and if behavioural changes are anything to set store by, maybe 'recovering' addict would be closer to the truth these days. After all, I now better understand my own weaknesses and am all too aware that I'll always be just one slip away from the carb-fuelled chaos of comfort eating. A low-carb lifestyle certainly helps me, but...

Hmmm, I really do wonder...


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