Sunday, October 30, 2011

Freaked out about food

It's almost Halloween! Hands down, my favorite holiday. I like scary stuff and fall stuff and short skirts- all of which abound. Last night we carved punkins and had a weenie roast at my parents' house (those are the punkins Patrick and I did- his is the kitty, mine is the ghetto Jack the Pumpkin King.) This is a family tradition, but this year I had to bring my own hot dogs and buns because I have become a certifiable food crazy.

It started with this book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover (get it here: ). Kingslover is usually a fiction writer but this book chronicles her year living off nothing but locally grown, organic food in her small Appalachian community in Virginia. It is absolutely fascinating- the way she talks about the delicious food inspires food envy the likes of which I have not experienced since I read Julia Child's My Life in France.

It's also an amazingly compelling argument for eating locally and organically. The stats that scared me most were just how much of what we eat starts as mass-produced corn or soybeans. If they aren't directly putting it into our food in the form of syrups and additives, they're pumping our livestock full of it. I love animals but I'm not a vegetarian- but this book has definitely convinced me to do my best to purchase organic, free-range, or grass fed whenever possible. The other scary thing is the sheer amount of fossil fuels used to transport our food so that we can have strawberries in January. According to the book. for every 1 calorie of food in our grocery stores, 87 energy calories were burned to bring it there! That is really scary to me. I won't quote the book or give you every argument in there because you should just get it for yourself and read it (it's pretty popular so it should be at the library.)

I've always been nervous about the hormones and chemicals pumped into our food, but never enough to really read labels. I thought I was doing a good job of eating healthily because I pay attention to sugars, dietary fiber and protein, and I buy probably 60-75% organic produce. But boy oh boy, when you read the labels, you see all sorts of icky stuff they put in there- there is high fructose corn syrup in everything! The way I see it, there are 2 main reasons to go organic/read your labels/eat locally:

1. You are nervous about the additives, chemicals, hormones in food.

2. You are morally opposed to 6 big agrabusinesses getting all the money by running small farmers out of business and growing mass amounts of corn and soybeans that are inedible to humans and only used for feedlots.

I am both of these things. So today I went grocery shopping and only bought stuff that didn't have high fructose corn syrup, didn't have additives, and was organic and all-natural (except the laundry detergent and mascara. I don't know what the hell is in that stuff. Also, there may or may not be high fructose corn syrup in the toilet paper I bought.) I also bought some meat and animal-product substitutes because sometimes that's cheaper than free range, but I'll discuss that in another post. It was a little more expensive, sure. But not by that much. And in my opinion, if you're only buying stuff that's good for you, you're actually saving money on all the stuff you aren't buying, like chips and donuts. So in the end, it evens out. Also, if you watch your coupons or visit sites like, you can find a lot of good deals on healthy, organic stuff. Trader Joe's is great too, and Marsh usually offers organic produce for the same price as regular. Kroger, my chain of choice, has almost everything organic that they have regular and it's generally less than a dollar more.

I also really believe that the hormones in our food are making us fat. I think I've said this before, but when I look at pictures of my mom from when she was my age, she is so skinny. Like, her bone structure is so much smaller, and I really believe it's because she was developing in an era when our food wasn't so pumped full of crap. So I'm going to see if, by eating the same things but using organic instead of regular, I will lose any weight.

I'll leave you with an image of me and my adorable cat, Petunia. She is very friendly and takes after me- the other day she bitch-slapped the other cat for getting too close to her food.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dumb Diets

I am so fascinated by the diets people try. Some have a pretty high success rate, like South Beach (boyfriend lost 30 lbs earlier this year on it- and, a quote from my friend Craig: "Diets don't work. They're all bullshit. Except South Beach, I lost a ton of weight on that.") Others sound awesome yet are not- like the Hollywood Cookie Diet. If eating cookies were a diet, I'd be in the starvation ward right now getting fed through a tube because I'd weigh 80 lbs. No matter the diet, I'll at least peruse the book even if I have no intention of ever following it, mostly because I'm always intrigued by the science and philosophy behind these diets. One I picked up recently is - Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution. My good friend Kimberly told me about this when I visited her in San Francisco. The philosophy is that, with the modern diet and methods of exercise, we are activating "killer genes" which make us gain weight and cause a whole host of other health problems. Our current diet, heavily based on grains, sends a message that "winter is coming" and causes our bodies to hold onto fat. The diet advocates eating essentially like you eat when you do South Beach phase 1 or 2 (little to no grains products, protein, tons and tons of green veggies and no sugars other than those found in some fruits.) This supposedly tells your body "winter is now" and forces it to burn fat for energy. The longer you do the diet, the less meat you eat until you are mostly getting protein from tofu, tempeh, and seafood.

I have some really mixed feelings on this after reading some of the book. Kimberly lost lots of weight doing it, and in theory it should work- protein is actually the least efficient way for your body to get energy, because it has to work hard to metabolize it (you burn something like 16% of the calories from protein you consume just by metabolizing it.) And if you are already a vegetarian and really like veggies, than this could really work for you. However, I do not want to live my life eating rabbit food. What is the point of living forever if you can't have cupcakes sometimes (meaning twice a week)? I also have a hard time believing that our "genes are killing us" when we feed them sugar or dairy or grains or fruit- haven't people been eating bread and honey and apples and cheese since Cleopatra was riding around in her litter? Haven't Japanese people been eating white rice since the days of the samurais, and they're outliving us all?

What really disturbed me about the book, though, was the chapter where he advocated fasting on alternate days and skipping meals to further put stress on your body and keep your metabolism on its toes. He even admits that it's against conventional wisdom to skip meals or not eat when you're hungry. My opinion is this- unless you have absolutely iron willpower, there is no way in hell you will succeed on a diet that leaves you starving half the time. The best advice I've heard on this topic is: "the best diet is the one you can actually do." There is no better way to set yourself up for an epic binge than to wait until you're ravenous to eat. I have no doubt that this diet works, provided you can actually do it. And who the hell can do it? Not me. I went to bed hungry Monday night and two hours ago I polished off two bowls of death by chocolate ice cream with Butterfingers crumbled on top out of residual hunger.

Furthermore, I am really disturbed by the idea that, if you just push through it, you'll like the feeling of being hungry and it will make you feel "clean" and "pure." That's the same thinking that they advocate in Skinny Bitch. Let me say that there is nothing morally superior about your ability to not eat. It just makes you hungry and me annoyed with you. There are far better diets, or ways of eating, than to eat nothing but romaine. I'll discuss them later.

That's all for now, but I'll leave you with a picture of me and my new favorite cup. I love cups. And I love Hello Kitty. Where can one go wrong?