The Christmas cookies are gone... we ate the last two ginger stars yesterday.
The New Year is here, rich with possibility and the proverbial resolutions that, for most folks, are kept for only a few short weeks.
I don’t even bother with them. Works better for me to gently tweak the things that are already working and gradually downshift the things that aren’t.
Thanks to my son-in-law, the tweak is on. The day after Christmas, when I was fairly besotted with sugarplums, he recommended a book he’d been reading, Fat Chance, by Robert Lustig, who’s known in the press as the anti-sugar guy.
I had a few free days between Christmas and New Years, so I binge read it. Much of Lustig’s stuff I already do, like eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and avoiding processed foods.
But Lustig would rather we chewed our fruits and veggies rather than pulverizing them into oblivion... alas, I am a smoothie enthusiast. Also, he’d like most grains to be eaten whole, rather than pre-chewed in the form of processed cereals and flours. I love to bake, and over the holidays, I made dozens of sweet treats. Bread is something I adore and cookies... well, life is hardly worth living without cookies.
In addition, Lustig wants us eating free-range, wild, and grass-fed meats, poultry, fish. Pricey... but better omega fat ratios.
He is in the “a calorie is not a calorie” camp and claims that eating foods close to the way they grow on the tree or in the ground, slows the glycemic load (it’s all about fiber) helping prevent a plethora of dastardly health problems... diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other ailments which are exacerbated by obesity.
So I’m in.
I’ve been smoothie-free for a month now. Gary misses them a little. He’s noticed that it takes twice as long to “chew” your fruits and veggies. A longer lunch hour is indicated.
Meanwhile, I’ve stocked up on whole grains... steel-cut oats, buckwheat, brown rice, and millet. So at least once a day, I’m cooking/eating whole grains. Quinoa will have to wait. The one time I tried it, I hated it.
I’ve been gluten-free since June... I feel great and I don’t miss it, especially since I’ve had great good success baking with gluten-free flour blends. I’m particularly fond of gf Jules flour. It’s not at all gritty, like many blends that rely heavily on rice flour. Jules’ recipes are wonderful. I made her cinnamon rolls for Christmas and my 5-year-old grandson approved. “Grama,” he said, “these are better than the normal ones.”
Unfortunately, the fiber count for most gluten-free flours/grains is fairly low. Among the whole grains, nothing tops wheat. But I won’t go back to wheat because I’ve seen significant health improvements since getting off gluten. My inflammations levels are down which translates into less joint pain, the cracking and bleeding of my fingertips that I’ve struggled with for years has not been a problem at all this winter.
As far as sweets go, Lustig limits refined-flour-sugar based desserts to once a week... the rest of the week he recommends eating fresh fruit for dessert.
Juice and soda are anathema to him. No problem, we don’t drink ‘em. Also banned are hydrogenated fats. Works for me.
But no cookies during the week? That feels like deprivation. As the old saying goes, “A cookie a day keeps the doctor away.”
Here’s a quote from a physician friend of mine that speaks truth to me, “Life is meant to be lived, so I think that moderation is more important than complete elimination. So maybe you make your sweets exactly as you always have, but relish each bite fully and eat less. Eat mindfully, fully enjoying each bite.”
You won’t find any portion or caloric guidelines or menu plans in Fat Chance, just charts listing foods that can be eaten freely (green light), with caution (yellow light), and rarely to never (red light). This is where it gets a little fuzzy. Lustig implies that if you stick to the green light foods; whole grains, grass-fed meats, healthy fats and nuts, and unprocessed fruits and veggies, weight loss will occur. For folks who are overweight and chowing down on a steady diet of yellow light (processed) and red light (junk) foods that’s likely to be the case. But for folks like me who at normal weight, and who don’t eat much junk food to begin with, weight loss is not the goal, rather, not gaining weight, which has always been a challenge for me.
Lustig flies in the face of much of the medical establishment, stating that a calorie is not a calorie, for instance 100 calories of apple juice is more likely to cause fat gain than that same 100 calories of raw apple, because the presence of fiber lowers the glycemic load, which discourages fat storage. Fiber is also more filling, so you are more satisfied. Now that I’m chewing my fruits and veggies rather than sucking them down in a smoothie, I’m definitely more satisfied... it feels like a lot of food.
Since starting my version of Lustig’s program my weight has remained stable... maybe a couple pounds less. Although he’s a breakfast enthusiast, I’m sticking to 2 meals a day... just lunch and dinner. It’s how I lost 18 pounds and have kept them off for 3 years. I works for me, and I can’t imagine going back to eating in the morning.
And I’m not ready to give up dessert during the week just yet. Just a small one. After dinner. With some fruit. Maybe, eventually, I’ll see how it feels to have just the fruit. Baby steps.
And I’m not going to obsess about the free-range, wild, grass-fed thing. It’s expensive and besides, we take supplemental fish oil to make sure we get our Omega 6’s in.
The back third of the book is devoted to a passionate discussion of our wayward food agencies and industry; and the urgent need to revise food labeling, deep-six high fructose corn syrup, and decrease sugar consumption by limiting access and excise taxing it into submission, while at the same time incentivizing food producers to make wholesome foods readily available and affordable for low-income consumers.
Face it, if you’re hungry and have very limited resources. Are you going to spend $2.50 on a burger and fries from the fast-food joint on the corner or that same $2.50 on a bag of carrots?