Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaking My Carb Addiction

According to the CDC, 35.7% of American adults are obese--not overweight, OBESE.

Look around your kitchen. How much of your food comes in a box? How much is frozen? How many items in your kitchen come in individual wrappers? If you're an average American, the answer is probably "most." Do you eat cereal, granola bars, donuts, or other processed foods for breakfast? According to the USDA, 63% of the Standard American Diet is comprised of processed foods. If you've been inside a grocery store in the past 30 years, that data shouldn't surprise you. But it should alarm you. Again, not that it takes a post-graduate degree to figure it out, but a diet high in processed foods and low (7-12%) in fresh vegetables leads to poor health and a host of deficiencies and diseases.
Let me start by saying that "being fat" is not a medical problem so much as the manifestation of a number of more serious issues. Again, I shouldn't need to tell you that obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer. What frustrates me the most is how little we are willing to do about it as a country. By no means am I standing on a soapbox right now. I am included in that "we" as I sit ten feet away from a pantry full of cookies, cereals, and snacks, a freezer full of "Weight Watchers" desserts, and a counter laden with several types of chips. I am angry that I have allowed myself to be surrounded and consumed by these industrial foods, while we ALL know what we should be eating instead. Say it with me, people: "Eat your vegetables!"

We know our diets are bad, but what is it that is doing the most damage?
  • High-carb foods. Think vending machine garbage. The stuff you feel horrible about eating even while you are eating it. 
  • Trans-fats. They come from hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils and can be found in most processed foods. (If you don't care to follow the link, just know that your Lean Cuisines and Ramen Noodles are on that list, but chances are so are your cereals and salad dressings.)
  • Sugar. ALL sugar. Even "raw" sugar, maple sugar, molasses, and honey. If you are using it to sweeten something that is not naturally sweet, it is probably contributing to your addiction to sweets (and carbs in general.)
  • Refined (white) flour. Basically most breads and pastas. Remember that healthy diets contain a rainbow of foods and white is not a color. (With the exception of white fruits and veggies, of course.)
I am extremely confident in my views of nutrition, and I am more than happy to debate food choices with you. I look forward to posting about low-carb vs. low-fat diets. (If we should be following supposedly successful "low-fat" diets, why are we still so fat?)

Anyway, my research on the subject of nutrition has led me to a deep interest in Paleo and Primal lifestyles. I am very attracted to the idea of eating whole foods, being closer to nature, and getting back to the diets we had as healthy Americans before the industrial revolution flooded our dinner tables (and our poor, unfortunate digestive tracts) with grains like wheat and corn. Unfortunately, I have a problem most of us seem to have. I am addicted to carbohydrates.
Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin (a "feel good" chemical) which is why many carb-rich foods (mac 'n cheese, ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.) are considered "comfort foods." The problem is that many people become dependent on this feeling, leading to a dependence on such foods. Ironically, carb addiction can also lead to serious problems like eating disorders and depression.
How many of you have tried to start a "low-carb" diet like Atkins? How many of you failed to follow through after the first week because you couldn't handle the cravings, or you were sick with headaches, nausea, and fatigue? Those are called withdrawal symptoms, folks. It is a real addiction, and it is nearly impossible to quit cold-turkey.
I am in a somewhat unique situation in which I do not have much control over the foods that come into this house, but I am going to attempt a 21-day sugar detox in order to reset my palate and hopefully make it easier to wean myself off of carb-rich foods and transition into a diet that is more in line with the Paleo lifestyle I admire so much. Will it be cheap? No. Will it be easy? Of course not. But, damn it, these foods are literally making us sick and I'm not going to sit back and let it happen anymore! Anyone care to join me?

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