Monthly Archives: July 2010

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Is Hunger Really a Matter of Willpower?

How many times do you hear people say, “I just need more willpower so I can lose weight”, or “I can’t stop eating”? I hear people say things like this quite often. The other day someone said the reason our culture has such a health epidemic is because we have problems with “self control.”

There is also a perception that if we only exercised more, we’d be healthier and lose weight. What’s funny is that I used to work at a health club for three years, and during that time, I never observed any noticeable change in the overall weight profile of members who exercised there. In general throughout, I don’t notice people losing weight because they exercise more.

Some people maintain that their weight has some bearing on their genetic “predisposition” to keep it off. And yet, our obesity problem has become an epidemic in just the last generation, so how could the genetic profiles have that much impact on this factor? Not to mention the fact that even most conventional doctors will tell patients that genetics really only amounts to, at maximum, 20 percent of your risk factor.

Let’s face it, based on those conclusions, your lifestyle is the over-riding factor here, and it comes in at about 80 percent.

What are our cultural habits and beliefs about health and weight loss?

A belief that more exercise will do the trick

More exercise doesn’t cause weight loss. It requires more energy to perform, and thus really only makes you more hungry. Although exercise is good for building our musscles and stamina, boosts our mood and emotional states to a positive condition as well as gets our lymph moving and clears out toxins, if we don’t feed ourselves properly to provide the needed energy for that exercise, the systems in your body will become overtaxed and can collapse from too much activity and not enough nutrients very easily. Your body will not be in a weight-shedding mode then, but rather, a fat-holding mode.

Whole Health Source, one of my favorite web sites for information on health with good research backing up the articles is managed by Stephan Guyanet. He has some fascinating data on the weight-loss/exercise connection. He doesn’t dismiss exercise as a useful tool for many health-related benefits, only that throughout history, the weight-loss/exercise connection that we’ve come to believe in modern times as the cure-all for weight loss issues is not as critical as we’ve thought. It’s actually much more important to maintain a healthy, nutrient-dense diet with plenty of fats and proteins and participate in intermittent, high-intensity activity to achieve maximum health benefit.

Also, check out this other post on the same web site which shows graph data displaying information about trends in weight gain and leisure-time activity versus meat, vegetable, and carbohydrate consumption, and what those numbers mean in relation to the  massive increase in obesity epidemic that has been going on for over the last two decades.  It’s really quite surprising how much weight we’ve gained collectively even though we’ve been exercising more and eating more carbohydrates and vegetables, and less meat. This is just what the experts tell us we must do to be healthy…and yet, we’re not!

It’s “fine in moderation

People often talk about how anything is fine in moderation, and too much of anything is bad. But is that really true? Let’s take the example of high fructose corn syrup, which is a subject we’ve been hearing a lot about on commercials, message boards, news stories, and many other places.

High fructose corn syrup is an artificially-produced substance made from corn, and the consumption of it has been blamed for myriad health issues that are becoming more acute and publicized in medical and health news circles. The Corn Grower’s Association has defended this product to the nth degree, but that’s what you would expect from an industry selling a product. But much research and study has been devoted to proving this substance harmful to human health.

Proponents of HFCS say it’s fine to consume it in moderation, but the problem with that statement is that this substance is not consumed in moderation by many people – it’s found in millions and millions of products in the grocery store. And people consume far too many processed foods. If you pick up the average product in a store sold in a package, jar, can, or box, it is likely to contain HFCS or some other sweetener that can be damaging to human health when consumed too often, even “in moderation”.  The definition of “moderation”, as it turns out, is pretty subjective. And, we’ve also learned that moderation isn’t so moderate after all. Moderation for many, is weekly and daily.

“If I just watch my calories and fat grams, I’ll lose weight”

Ever since I was a little kid, I remember hearing people talking about how lower calories and fat were healthier to eat, and if they could just get their calorie count down and eat less fat, they’d be healthier and lose weight. I’ve never been a calorie or fat counter, and I’ve always been thin. For many years I thought it was just because I had a fast metabolism and I was “lucky”. Of course, I also ate a lot of processed foods a great deal of my life so this almost appears as an oxymoron. But as time went on, I noticed that I was starting to actually gain weight, and then in my 30s I started having many noticeable signs of health issues – some I had ignored for years and some that were actually new and were rapidly becoming more acute as time went on.

What I’ve learned is that people need real fat and calories from real food to be healthy, and yes…even to maintain a healthy weight. What I’ve observed too is that most people who have trouble with their weight are counting calories, fat grams, and are eating a lot of artificial and processed foods. I’ve also had conversations with many, many people over the last five years who can testify to the fact that when they stopped dieting and counting calories and fat, they actually lost weight and became healthier.

So, is hunger really a matter of willpower?

A big part of the answer lies in the amount of processed foods people consume and are available.

A diet containing liberal amounts of fat does not contribute to health issues or weight gain. If it did, populations around the globe with high fat intake in the diets would be obese – in fact, throughout history, everywhere where people consumed native diets rich in fat and protein, their populations have had few health problems, including a lack of obesity – the inuit (high fat from whale blubber and seal meat), masai (who consumed milk, meat, and blood), and the tokelau (50 percent of diet comprised with saturated fat).

It’s true that people are overeating, more than ever in history. But have you ever wondered what is the real cause? Is it because they are just hedonistic gluttons who need to get ahold of themselves and use self-control? And, is hunger really a matter of willpower? In  a world where gastric bypass procedures have surpassed the amount of open heart surgeries – which are also numerous – it’s time to examine the reason why people are growing in weight and disease, but seemingly are not receiving the nutrition they need from what they eat.

What if the problem is really that we are overfed but undernourished?

Some points to counter the “eat fat, gain weight” hypothesis that has been forwarded for so many years:

Too many carbohydrates

What causes weight gain is carbohydrates, not fat. Insulin production is regulated by carbohydrate intake, not fat. When we  consume carbohydrates, a hormonal response is generated called insulin secretion.  The response tells the body to create stores of fat. So the less carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be. Adhering to the The Standard American Diet, replete with sugar, flour and many other refined carbohydrates creates an exaggerated version of this response, and thus are especially able to cause weight gain in those who regularly consume them.

Not enough fats and protein

Another part of the answer is the recommendation by most mainstream health sources to avoid saturated fats. Saturated fats are one of the most significant sources of nutrients, in which we are sorely lacking.

In her book, The Diet Cure, Julia Ross explains that fat deficiency causes fat cravings. Low-fat dieting has become such a problem that people are replacing the healthy fats they so desperately need for carbohydrates, as touted by mainstream medical health sources:

“Although many of our clients have avoided fat, overeating sweets and starches instead, many are addicted to fatty foods like cheese, butter, [which are healthy], and potato or corn chips [which are not healthy]. When we add certain oils to their diets, they lose interest in rich foods and their weights drop. Low-fat dieting depletes our bodies of essential fatty nutrients. In reaction, our bodies signal us via cravings to eat more fats. But the kinds of fats in the junk food that we binge on in response to those cravings do not satisfy our nutritional needs, and we actually put on weight as we become fat deficient.”

She also tells us that many other genetic backgrounds other than those already mentioned with very high percentage of fat in their diets such as Scandinavian, Celtic, Irish, and Mediterranean who traditionally consumed high fat quantities from dairy foods, fish, and other high fat sources are prone to many modern health issues such as alcohol abuse and depression because they are not consuming enough healthy fats as compared to nutrient-depleted foods like refined grains, sugars, and carbohydrates.

The act of limiting calories doesn’t just cause people to put on pounds, it also leads to serious overall nutritional deficiencies in the body not only from reducing essential fatty acids but other nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, and E – essential for immune system function, elimination of free-radicals, and protect our eyesight and reduce against disorders liver disease and stroke.  It is precisely this this type of eating mentality which has caused the increase in incidence of Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Adrenal exhaustion, baby!

You may not realize it, but along with all the other issues low-fat dieting causes, adrenal exhaustion is one of the worst problems we experience as a result of depriving our bodies of the nutrition we need. Have you ever felt exhausted but try as you might, sleep eludes you (which causes further exhaustion)? This is one of the most common symptoms caused by low-fat dieting that indicates adrenal exhaustion. In The Diet Cure, Julia Ross talks about how our adrenal glands – very important organs that guard against stress and help our thyroid regulate our weight – become so overtaxed from lack of nutrition and rest, they can no longer adequately perform their normal function and shoot into overdrive. This happens when we are hungry and don’t eat or eat junk instead of nutrient-dense foods.

The very foods we are told to avoid by mainstream health authorities – foods with saturated fats and cholesterol – are those which contain many vitamins and minerals our populations are sorely lacking in:

  • Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 (the “X” factor, as discussed in Dr. Weston A. Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration)
  • Vitamin B complex, in particular B1, B5, B6, B12
  • Minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, iodine, phosphorus, selenium, boron
  • Essential fatty acids DHA and EPA from Omega 3s
  • CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and important antioxidant
These nutrients are essential to almost every bodily function and organ system.  These are necessary to maintain optimal bone, brain, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, nervous system, immunity, digestion, hormonal (endocrine), detoxification and excretory processes. A great deal of mainstream health authority tells us to avoid fat and eat more vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and other carbohydrate and plant-based foods.  Read this in-depth analysis by Chris Masterjohn about why vegetarian and vegan diets are grossly deficient in all these essential nutrients that are vital to good health.

The culprits of weight gain and degenerative disease:

Foods too high in Omega 6s as compared to Omega 3s – very common in developed countries where processed foods are frequently eaten. Sources of these fatty acids occur in the following  foods we consume all-too-frequently:

  • Grains – and in particular, the packaged, processed varieties not soaked or sprouted with proper preparation
  • White flour or other processed flour foods
  • Refined sugar
  • Vegetable oils such as canola, corn, soybean,  cottonseed, safflower, corn, peanut, soybean, and other modern fats used for salad or cooking.

The primary agents that help us to keep weight off, maintain healthy hearts and organ systems, and good overall health that is free from disease and illness:

Meats, game, poultry, eggs, and dairy from healthy animals and fowl on pasture that are humanely and sustainably-raised. Animal fat is only garbage fat if you are eating the processed, conventionally produced variety. Source is of great importance both in terms of nutrient content and presence of chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics which are always found in meat and meat products that come from commercial sources.

Some people believe they are more suited to a vegetarian-based diet because they don’t do well eating meat or animal fats, but still have persistent health issues and weight gain anyway. One of the first things that comes to mind is that when you are eating commercially-produced meats and meat products, those foods are not nutritionally-balanced and contain chemicals like pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics and GMOs.  Those foods will wreak havoc on your digestive system and render it unable to digest foods. If you can’t digest your food, you will be in big trouble.  But the general reason anyone eating those substances does not experience good health is because those foods are not really food, and they are harming their health! Switching to real, healthy fats that are free from chemicals and other dangerous substances, and that are nutritionally complete would yield quite different results.

When you eat real foods from nature, your body gets full at the right time, and it’s much harder to overeat and become fat and unhealthy from those foods. By providing your body with the nutrition it needs, and thus it feels full and satiated, just as it is supposed to. When you feed your body nutritionally-deficient foods, you might feel you can eat all day long and never feel full.

Want more information on managing your hunger and maintaining a healthy weight?

The importance of dietary fats

Fat-free, low-fat, and non-fat do not equal health

Want to lose weight? DETOX!

Are you nutritionally fit?

Do eating habits or exercise dictate weight?

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Raw Dairy Real Food Recipes

Current Events in Real Food and Sustainablity – What’s Going On?

I’d like to share some important and interesting destinations I’ve recently visited on the Internet relating to real food and food politics – of course, two subjects I am keenly interested in spreading around to my readers. Here we go!

The school lunch saga continues on. In this report on the New York Daily News site,  apparently even though programs have slashed calories (and along with it, grams of fat), school lunches are still unhealthy. Hmmm. I wonder why that is? They still aren’t getting it, are they? In one part of the article, one of the students remarks on how one of the foods appears to be so greasy, how could it be healthy? For so many years, people have associated grease with unhealthy properties, they can’t even tell the difference between unhealthy fats like shortening, margarine, and vegetable oils and real fats like butter and tallow. Marion Nestle, food author says that kids should be getting nutrients from real food – isn’t this what we’ve been saying all along? Why, why is it so hard to get this really quite simple point across? Oh wait, I forgot. Agribusiness companies and conglomerates wouldn’t hear of it…so we’re back to the drawing board.  :(

And here’s another maddening school lunch story – Sodexo, a supplier of processed foods to schools, has been pocketing rebate checks from processed food companies like Kellogg’s and Pepperidge Farms instead of passing the money along to schools. Do the unethical acts ever end? Of course, we don’t like that they are supplying processed foods to schools, but this just adds insult to injury.

Because genetically-modified foods are a big problem in today’s world with respect to health and sustainability, The Millions Against Monsanto Campaign is an important movement to get involved in. Genetic-modification is something that big companies like Monsanto argue is necessary in order to keep up on being able to feed the growing population of the world. But did you know that genetic modification of seeds is done at the DNA (cellular) level and prevents crops from re-seeding year after year (and Monsanto will sue you if their seeds blow onto your land too)? There are many side-effects to GMO foods including widespread failure and destruction of healthy, heirloom crops and damage to human health. It is a threat to our entire food supply and future. Becoming acquainted with what you can do to help stop this destructive process, boycott GMO foods and contact your local congressperson to let him or her know how you feel about GMOs and how they impact our health and the planet.

Last week I wrote two in-depth articles on the subject of raw milk – The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II, which have been circulating around the Internet and getting some good commentary. If you don’t know much about the importance and health benefits of real raw milk, give this subject a few minutes of your time today. This is another subject I feel very strongly about, and I’d like to point you in the direction of Mark McAfee’s (of Organic Pastures) interview on Sickly Cat about raw milk if you haven’t already seen it. It’s fantastic and really helps to answer some of the many questions people have about this hot topic.

Are you in favor of organic fertilizer or toxic sludge used to grow foods? In San Francisco, mayor Gavin Newsom is encouraging farmers, schools, and homeowners to use wastewater sewage for fertilizing produce. Come on San Francisco, I thought you were more progressive than that! Follow the link at the top of the Organic Consumers’ Association to the Peter Collins Radio Show for the latest on this development.

CHOW has this great article about whole animal buying - advise about purchasing large portions of meat directly from farmers or ranchers, and ideas for splitting it up with family or friends. I highly recommend buying meat this way – it creates less waste and you can save money on many fronts – by knowing your farmer and the practices they use, and being able to avoid supporting big agricultural outfits that produce unhealthy meats/meat products and harming the environment.

You’ve probably heard about the new USDA Dietary Guidelines that have recently been released? There are some really good articles available critiquing this subject. Kimberly Hartke who manages Hartke is Online! has this informative piece, Government has Failed to Halt Epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes. Also, David Augenstein’s fantastic new site, The Journal of Living Food & Healing has this great article – Scientists Claim: USDA Diet Guidelines Cause Obesity, Heart Disease, and Diabetes.

Mother Earth News, a great publication with a vast variety of topics shows you how to garden in small spaces, something that’s useful for many people who don’t have big pieces of land at their disposal for farming. Also, I liked this story on sustainable poultry management too, for those of you who are venturing into raising your own chickens and eggs.

Even though I’m not supposed to, we’ve been eating pancakes for the last two days at breakfast – along with some other great things too like chorizo omelets and bacon and eggs. Yum! I do much better if I eat my grains very sparingly and eat them properly prepared – as in, sprouted, soaked, or fermented. Something I still haven’t attempted yet is a good sourdough bread or other recipe, but my friend Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa has this fabulous recipe (and is a fantastic cook too!) for sourdough blueberry pancakes, with all the steps and photos (she’s so good at that!) you need to get started. Don’t these look absolutely delicious???

Okay, here’s two posts with recipes I really liked. My friend Tara at Keep It Real has some great ideas for meal items that are naturally rich in probiotics, something we all need more of in our diets…and something fun, a soaked spice cake that is really delicious! She brought some over for us to try when we met at the health food store last week.

The Local Cook has a great book review on food preservation, something that I really want to learn how to do, but haven’t yet. I was going to start doing that this summer, but I’m still trying to find out whether my garden is actually going to produce enough to make it worth my while. And, two of my friends who normally can and that I was going to get together with to learn how to do this with aren’t doing gardens this year. Our weather was really weird and we had a long cold snap in the spring, which caused a lot of problems for many people with gardens this spring. But, we’ll see what happens. If not this year, next year for sure!

Who’s got carnivals?

I don’t, but I would love to get one going sometime soon. I’m always so busy I barely have time to get posts up, but in the meantime, here’s a list of really great blogs with great weekly carnivals you should check out!

  • Two for Tuesdays Blog Hop – my friend Alex Clark at A Moderate Life is hosting this great recipe carnival weekly now, and she gets a lot of contributions. So stop on over, contribute a recipe, and read some of her articles too. She has a great variety of things to read about – all connected to real food, nutrition, eco-friendly ideas, and sustainability.
  • Tuesday Twister my friend Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS has a lot of great information about real food, cooking, and recipes and her Tuesday carnival is a great way to share your own real food recipes. I love Wardeh’s informative style and her great ability to teach new things to people about real food!
  • Real Food Wednesdays – My friend Kelly the Kitchen Kop is one of the most well-known and visited food and nutrition sites in the world of food blogging. You will find a whole lot of great posts contributed on Wednesdays about food, nutrition, and all things to do with breaking the conventional molds of ideas about health and food.
  • Pennywise Platter Thursdays My friend Kimi’s site is one of the best for recipes and great sustainable food ideas that are nutrient-dense. Check out her thrifty carnival on Thursdays for some wonderful recipe ideas!
  • Fight Back Friday – My friend Kristen at Food Renegade, another great resource site for insight on real food, recipes, and food politilcs has a great carnival for real food each Friday, and is a wonderful site for information about nutrition, health, and food politics.

Have anything interesting to share? Please do!