Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28 2015. Food, food, glorious food! But (a whole lot) less of it is better. But what is ‘it’ really?



QUANTITY AND QUALITY (about which we care little—and know less).


Back in September 2013, I decided that since there were a number of things beyond my capabilities and circumstances to  control—scarcely a new discovery—I would not repine, but focus on what I could master.

It wasn’t a lot—but it was important.

To that end, amongst other things, I decided I would eat significantly less—and better—and try to exercise a little more. Shortly after that, more as an exercise in self-discipline than to cut calories, I decided I would eat only one meal a day. I had noticed that I was feeling a little sluggish, after even a comparatively light lunch, and wanted to retain my writing edge.

Do I think of writing as a sword? Not literally—but it conveys the spirit of the thing.

I don’t think I am particularly strong-willed—but, where writing is concerned, I tend to be as motivated as a human being can be—and motivation is a force to be reckoned with.

Like most of us, I have dieted before—sometimes with significant success, sometimes not—but, in this case, I was after a lifestyle change.

When you reach my age, that is not so hard, because you don’t face decades of deprivation. Your quest becomes manageable. Getting old, strangely enough, has its compensations. I guess that is why we bother.

The results have been entirely positive to the point where I feel decidedly foolish for not doing this before. I feel better, I have more energy, and I have lost a great deal of weight. On top of that, it hasn’t even been that difficult. I don’t miss eating breakfast, rarely miss having lunch—and, by and large, find one course in the evening adequate. If I’m still hungry, I’ll eat more—but mostly I find I’m satisfied with a comparatively small meal.

I eat a little meat, a lot of fish, some fruit, and as many vegetables as I can lay my hands on. I eat a little pasta, but have cut back on bread—and avoid sugar, or anything containing sugar, as if was poison. It probably is.

Do I sin occasionally? Well, I have experienced enough Catholic guilt in my life to last for generations—so I have built some degree of flexibility into my regime. I’m not after perfection—merely better. Nonetheless, I depart from my chosen standards much more rarely than I would have expected—even when I am accused of being discourteous.

If people don’t understand the discipline of a diet—and take the refusal of food as ill-mannered—then I don’t have much sympathy for such people.

Despite being high in calories, I have continued to eat good cheese—normally without bread, and frequently by itself. It seems to round off a meal somehow. The French know what they are doing.

What is good cheese? It is stuff like Camembert or Stilton—and mostly not American. Clearly, cheeses like Camembert are processed—but in a very natural way. There is processing and processing.

What is the difference? I can’t tell you with precision—but it is there, and it is profound. Conventional American food processing involves the addition of unhealthy chemicals and fillers, the utilizations of processes which degrade the nutritional value, and excessive, unhealthy, and misleading packaging. Deception underpins the whole approach. The idea is to deceive you into thinking you are getting a substantially better product than you really are.

Is an industry based upon deception to be trusted?  

I never touch soft drinks. I drink an enormous amount of tea with milk and stevia during the working day—and some alcohol in the evening. I have tried doing without alcohol completely, but seem to function better on it. I prefer wine to beer, but these days enjoy both.

Relative success with diet hasn’t left me cocky. I still don’t eat as many vegetables as I would like because it’s socially difficult—I can only manage it when I cook for myself (I eat about four times as much as a traditional portion of vegetables)—but my real concern lies with the quality of our food.

As I have written elsewhere, I tend towards the view that the American food chain is a health disaster, and that we are poisoning ourselves on an industrial scale.

Quite why that receives so little attention defeat me. Cancer and all sorts of worrying conditions are rife and growing. Why is this? There is always a cause for such developments.

I guess it isn’t seen as a vote getter. In contrast, condemning terrorists seem to get the blood running.

Throat-cutting ISIS is more compelling, in media terms, than the threat from sugar-saturated yoghourt.

If it bleeds, it leads!

Perhaps we need a new slogan specially crafted for the food industry.

If it fills, it kills.

It is my belief that American food kills vastly more people than terrorists—by many orders of magnitude. We already know that the quantity does—but seem determined to dodge the quality issue. Big Food has the resources to buy political silence—and it certainly knows, with considerable precision, how to tempt, hook, and otherwise manipulate us. We humans like to think we make up our own minds, but we are remarkably easy to condition.

It is hard not to be reminded of Big Tobacco. Should we constrain Big Food as well? It’s counter-intuitive—since we all need food and like to think we have the freedom to choose what we eat, but if we are being manipulated to the extent that I believe we are, maybe we are not really deciding for ourselves after all.

Sooner or later, I would like to think we will wake up—preferably while still alive.

The following is from a New York Times story of July 24 2015.

After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better.

Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent.

The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.

In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.

As calorie consumption has declined, obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference.

Perhaps the biggest caveat to the trend is that it does not appear to extend to the very heaviest Americans. Among the most overweight people, weightand waist circumference have all continued rising in recent years.

The recent calorie reductions appear to be good news, but they, alone, will not be enough to reverse the obesity epidemic. A paper by Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, estimated that for Americans to return to the body weights of 1978 by 2020, an average adult would need to reduce calorie consumption by 220 calories a day. The recent reductions represent just a fraction of that change.

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