Sunday, March 10, 2013

Adventures in Nature - The Overview

The Facts (As I Understand Them)

I am 25 years old. I weigh 201 pounds. Today I am embarking on an holistic journey to redefine my relationship with food. Last night I watched a documentary called Hungry for Change, and it really got me thinking about, well, food. I like to tout myself as a well-balanced eater, but one look in the pantry is enough to prove that I'm not. Sure, I eat my fruits, some whole foods, nuts, and some vegetables, but the primary foods that I ingest are processed foods, filled with refined sugars and flours and loaded in with preservatives and color dyes and other things that can't be good for anyone.

The fact is that, up until a couple of hundred years ago humans were primarily a hunter/gatherer race, subsiding off food from the land. Any chance we had to enhance our diets with sugars or fats we embraced because we were programmed to view those foods as feast for a time of famine. We ate fats and sugars to store up for the winter. Only now the winter never comes. We ingest more calories than we ever have before, but the nutrition from most of those calories is empty.

We've got a weird phenomenon in western culture that wants to sell us beauty and youth and health from the outside in. We're bombarded with fad diet after fad diet, diet sodas, "nutrition" bars, and consequently, we've gotten very out of touch with food and what's in it. We tend to think that all calories are created equal: that 100 calories from a candy bar is the same as 100 calories from a salad. It isn't. The body needs calories to create energy, but there's only so much it can't do with the sugar spike it gets from the candy bar, whereas it can ration out the calories from the salad and use it productively.

The Diet Thing

Before you think I'm all about the weight loss, let me correct you. I am most certainly not all about the weight loss. I think I am about to be living proof that that size isn't an indicator of health. I consider myself body positive and this journey I am taking with food is in an effort to give my body what it needs and wants. I want to treat my body well so it will, in turn, treat me well.

I hate diets. I have been on a lot of them. High carb, low fat. Low carb, high fat. No carb, no sugar -- no make it past 6:00 p.m. because, sorry Dr. Atkins, your body requires carbohydrates to live. (It does not require bacon.) I hate diets because diets are meant to fail and they're meant, I think, to perpetuate our desire for bullshit, fake foods. Diets, by nature, are temporary and, because of this, most people gain back the weight they lost on the diet and then some. It's a vicious cycle wherein people force the weight off, return to their regular eating habits, put the weight back on, and then get really down on themselves. What I'm doing isn't a diet. It's a readjustment to eating and to how I think about myself. But if my pants fit a little better, I'm not going to cry about it.

The Scary Thing

"Foods" might be too nice of a word to call many of the things we eat. They are food-like products crafted in a laboratory to resemble food and to trigger me (and you!) to want more of them. They're filled with additives and chemicals and food companies have taken trace amounts of certain things from a given food and gone ahead and labeled it suitable for human consumption.

Care to know a bit about what's in your "food?" Warning: this is not for the faint of heart.

Food Lurker: Allura Red AC
Better Known As: Red 40
Where You'll Find It In Food: Soda, candy, cereal, crackers, etc.
The Detriments: Linked to ADHD and cancer

Food Lurker: Aspartame
Better Known As: Equal, Nutra Sweet
Where You'll Find It In Food: Any "diet" sugar foods or drinks
The Detriments: Linked to migraines, tumors, cancer, weight gain, epileptic seizures, dizziness, memory loss, highly addictive, induces carbohydrate cravings

Food Lurker: Azodicarbonamide
Better Known As: A synthetic yellow-orange dough conditioner
Where You'll Find It In Food: Dunkin Donuts bagels, fast food burger buns
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: Industrial foam plastic

Food Lurker: Butylated Hydroxianisole
Better Known As: BHA
Where You'll Find It In Food: Gum, meat, beer, butter, snack foods. This preservative keeps meats from going rancid.
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: cosmetics and pharmaceutical drugs

Food Lurker: Caramel Coloring
Better Known As: Caramel Coloring
Where You'll Find It In Food: Stove Top stuffing, colas, pastries, sweets
The Detriments: Food companies aren't required to disclose whether or not they're creating caramel coloring using straight sugar or creating it using ammonia. AMONIA.

Food Lurker: Castoreum
Better Known As: "Natural Flavoring"
Where You'll Find It In Food: It's labeled as "natural flavoring" in vanilla and raspberry-flavored foods
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: Beaver anal secretion. That's what it is, folks.

Food Lurker: 
Better Known As: Olestra
Where You'll Find It In Food: Any "light" chips
The Detriments: The human body can't break this chemical down. It can cause loose stools and allegedly robs the body of beta-carotine and lycopene.

Food Lurker: Paraben
Better Known As: Paraben
Where You'll Find It In Food: Cereal, cakes, ice cream, pie crusts, deli meat, dried meat
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: Toothpaste, cosmetics, personal lubricant

Food Lurker: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Better Known As: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Where You'll Find It In Food: Peanut Butter (non natural), McDonald's chicken
The Detriments: Eating partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is essentially like eating a spoonful of trans fats. Yum.

Food Lurker: 
Better Known As: Sweet 'n' Low
Where You'll Find It In Food: Anything made with Sweet 'n' Low
The Detriments: Weight gain, bladder tumors

Food Lurker: Silicon Dioxide
Better Known As: Sand
Where You'll Find It In Food: Any fast food. It keeps the food from clumping, so it looks prettier.
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: The desert.

Food Lurker: TBHQ
Better Known As: Butane
Where You'll Find It In Food: Pre-packaged frozen dinners with long shelf lives (Hungry Man, Lean Cuisine, PF Chang's), cereal, cereal bars, crackers, chips, fast food
Where You'll Find It Otherwise: A lighter.

If all of this makes you a bit nauseous and mad, I'm right there with you. Facts like this are why I'm embarking on a whole foods journey.

The Detox and Thereafter

For the next three days I am only going to eat raw foods. I went out and bought a juicer today from Sears and some two canvas bags filled with fruits and veggies from Maple Farm, Amherst, MA. I've fasted and "detoxed" before -- grapes and tea, watermelon and carrots, only eating peas -- with the intent to flush my body of chemicals. Here, now, the intent is to flush my body of chemicals AND pump it full of nourishing foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and calories essential to my body.

After the three days of detox, I will slowly add back whole foods that aren't raw, including things with gluten, so long as they are whole wheat and don't contain any of the products above. Things like chicken, turkey, fish, olive oil, nuts and berries, dark chocolate (all natural), natural peanut and almond butter will all be in my diet, including numerous other foods that I find.

The Rethinking

I have posted on my kitchen cabinets three signs:

"What is my food made of?" Ingredients yes, but is my food made and grown from compassion, or was it birthed and regurgitated on a laboratory floor?

"What will I get out of eating this food?" A temporary high from sugars and fats that taste wonderful but leave my body with nothing, or sustainable body and brain food?

"I CAN have it, but I don't WANT it." As I said before, this is not a diet. If I want a bowl of Frosted Flakes, I can have a bowl of Frosted Flakes and nobody is going to say boo. But do I really want it?

On my bathroom and bedroom mirrors I have posted one sign:

"I love myself unconditionally as I am right now. #LoveIsPower" What good is a body transformation if your mind isn't transforming with it? Another reason why I hate diets is because diets tell us to hate our bodies unless they look one certain way. And most of us aren't ever going to look that certain way and, thusly, hate our bodies. To hell with that! I say.

I am very lucky to be marrying someone who seems to be of the persuasion that he can love me until I love myself. I think that is something so tremendously beautiful about him, but I don't think self-love occurs through proximity or osmosis. So, twice a day everyday, I look in the mirror and repeat the words on the sign aloud to myself and reflect on that for 30-60 seconds; longer, if need be. The negative thoughts come rushing in and that's okay because, the theory goes, that, by day 28 there will be a brain shift. I'm eager to feel it.

The Accountability

I'm responsible for this detox and this reformation of body and self. I'm writing this blog to hold myself accountable. I will do my upmost best to blog daily what I'm eating and give an update on quality of sleep, energy during the day, and overall mood. At the very least, this isn't going to be a bad experience.

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