May 31, 2013

Why veganism is not the answer

I passionately believe in the importance of animal rights and environmental issues. It's somewhat understandable that, knowing this, people assume I'm vegan.

They are mistaken.

But this is not only an incorrect conclusion about myself. It is an incorrect conclusion about veganism, animals, and our environment.

No such thing as a vegan
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Since animal rights issues have become entwined with veganism, I wish to explain my conviction that such a partnership is not compatible.

In fact, it is actively detrimental.

It's bad for cats. My favorite pet is an obligate carnivore. They will die if they do not eat animal products. If the embrace of veganism becomes part of the cause of animal rights, cats become targets for mistreatment.

There's already a movement afoot to blame cats for the decrease in bird populations; even though the decline is actually because of habitat destruction and other environmental damage. It's simply so much easier for humans to not change anything about themselves... when they can blame cats, instead.

Because they are predators, cats are painted as "killers." This makes our efforts to get cats better societal treatment even more difficult.

It's bad for animals. Aren't we showing how much we love animals by choosing not to eat them? Isn't veganism the highest moral choice? Isn't this the way to stop animal cruelty?

It sounds so good, doesn't it? But like a lot of well-meaning ideas, (Communism, industrialized food, and low-rise pants,) it turns out that it doesn't work in the real world. Not only that; it makes things worse.

If we do not support animals any more, what will become of them? We have created them in their current, domesticated, dependent on humans, state. Some extreme elements of the animal rights movement characterize them as "slaves to be set free." But these are no longer wild animals. If they are "set free," they will suffer, and die, and then, die out.

Is that really the right path for "animal lovers" to take?

It's bad for humans. We still have domesticated animals, and still eat some of them, and we always will. Because it's a fantasy to think there is another way of handling the Cycle of Life.

Just like cats, we also need animal products to live. Vegans like to claim the way they eat is the healthiest. In My Health Is Better Than It Has Ever Been, a young woman describes the turnaround in her well-being... when she becomes an ex-vegan.

What about science? Studies show that vegetarianism suppresses the immune system. The China Study turned many people towards vegetarian diets for health reasons. Except the data, accurately examined, turned out to show the opposite.

Orthodox Hindus who emigrated to Great Britain started coming down with megaloblastic anemia; caused by a B12 deficiency. How could this be? Their religious traditions had made them vegans for centuries without these health problems!

Turns out, the food they ate in India had insects in it, an animal product that was enough to stave off the deadly anemia. In Britain, the cleaning standards were much stricter... and they lost this protection.

So I'm not surprised that, in a 2003 study:

Of self-defined vegetarians, nearly 2/3 (214/334, or 64%) ate a significant quantity of meat on at least one of the two days for which their dietary intake was surveyed!

When I speak with vegetarians, it often turns out they have meat "once in a while," or "when I get cravings," or on "special occasions," or simply don't consider fish to be "meat." As science shows, even a small amount of animal products can safeguard our health.

But we must have that small amount.

It's bad for the environment. It's become "accepted knowledge" that grazing animals are bad for the environment. They eat the happy plants to death, and trample down the soil, and toot out killer quantities of methane!

Except... none of that is true.

In High Priest of the Pasture, Polyface Farm demonstrates that plants and animals work properly in symbiosis; a mutally dependent relationship. After all, the buffalo and the grasses of the Great Plains got along for millenia. Yet, in a few short decades, monocultural farming practices created the Dust Bowl instead.

Many countries are reclaiming arid, ruined land... by pasturing animals on it. How did the land get ruined? By intensive agriculture, and its attendant irrigation and petroleum-based fertilizers. Our current farming practices are not self-sustaining. And we all pay a terrible price.

The way to stop animal cruelty is to stop animal cruelty.

By focusing on veganism and not wearing leather, people feel they are actually doing something for animals. But the eating of animals and the utilization of animal products goes on... because it must go on.

Nature is unavoidably structured so that predators eat prey, who eat plants, who need animals to return vital nutrients to the soil. Break this chain at any point, and none of it works.

When feedlot farms are run on mistreatment and antibiotics, the real cruelty is in the animal's life.

Not their death.

    This recent TED talk, Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change is an excellent summing up of some of my points about environmentalism. Please share!

May 21, 2013

The wrong fuel

We have almost fifty years of research telling us that animal fat will kill us and whole grains are the path to health. Why, then, have we spent the last fifty years getting fatter and sicker?

We are told what food is
Because it has all been based on humans eating an Industrial Diet. This is like a big distorting lens placed over everything we see.

If we take it as a given that we have to eat grains, we have completely left out the possibilities that might happen if we don't eat any grain at all.

If we are sitting on the beach, but eating sand, it really doesn't help us to know what kind of sand does the least damage to our teeth and stomach, does it?

We need to know that we should not eat sand.

Likewise, it doesn't help to know that whole grains have more vitamins than bleached and processed grains... if meat has more vitamins. If meat has more protein. If meat is actually better for us.

Imagine that cars started having to run on different fuel than we have now. It's not as filtered, it's not as concentrated, it's not an optimum fuel. But this is what we have available.

We would take that as a given. We would work around it.

We would put extra filters in the cars, to take the gunk out of this fuel, and we would get used to changing them every few months. We would let the car "warm up" for a longer time. The fuel would not be as powerful, so our tires would be lighter and wear out sooner. We would replace the fuel injectors at so many thousands of miles, because "that's what you do."

Because everyone's car was like this... because that was the only fuel we were told was the right one to put in our car...because every mechanic would truthfully tell us this is how it works... we would keep patching and replacing and putting up with it. Even when our cars wouldn't last more than a few years.

Because we wouldn't know any better.

April 22, 2013

About hunger

I'm experimenting with One Meal a Day. I've been doing it for about a month now. It's surprisingly easy. That is because I've been low carbing for a long enough time to tune up my fat burning machinery.

Getting our body to burn fat is easier.
Our bodies have two pathways to getting energy from what we eat.

There's the one which burns Sugar.

There's the one which burns Fat.

Protein is not really a variable in this process. It is one of those nutrients that is highly versatile. Some of it gets used up as muscle, and organ, rebuilding. Some of it gets turns into glucose, as needed, a process known as glycogenesis.

Studies have shown that people tend to eat the protein they need. So I don't consider it a working variable.

That leaves fat and carbohydrate as the two levers to push and pull. And, let me tell you, they are powerful levers to push and pull.

  • Fat vs. carbohydrate is what determines our weight
  • Fat vs. carbohydrate is what determines our health
  • Fat vs. carbohydrate is what determines our metabolism path

When we burn FAT, we are in a situation where carbs are scarce. We do not put fat on our bodies. We burn fat, instead. Because it is an abundant fuel, and because it is our bodies' favorite fuel. Ketones are preferred by the brain, and the heart.

When I skip breakfast, it's because I'm not hungry. When I skip lunch, it's because I am signaling my body to run off my fat.

When I don't skip dinner... it's because I'm hungry enough to eat a big meal. A meal that is about addressing my needs, not responding to the urges of my carb addiction.

I have discovered that I don't have to panic when I feel hungry. I can have a spoonful of coconut oil and see if that satisfied my body. If it does... I wasn't really hungry.

April 15, 2013

The Want/Get Cycle

Disordered eating is so difficult to solve because it actually has two engines. One is the chemical influence on our brain. The other is how it fits into the Want/Get Cycle.

We want, we get, we live
Most of our brain is geared to make us want life-enhancing things like air and water and food and sex and accomplishments and love... and so we figure out how to get these things.

It keeps us alive.

So when this survival drive gets crossed with a craving for processed junk food, it can become incredibly powerful. When we are down or bored or hungry, what a handy packaged cheap solution it is!

Because one of the strengths of our brains is their marvelous flexibility. It lets us adapt to many different circumstances, and create a way around obstacles which thwart us.

But it can become a serious weakness, too. If our brains are clamoring for us to contemplate our bad marriage or difficult employment or ill health, we can temporarily "turn off" the clamor by doing something.

Anything. Really, anything at all. We need to recognize that in some ways, it doesn't matter what the thing is. It's the wanting and the getting that becomes important.

That is why it is so incredibly common for people to turn into a restaurant drive-through and sit there thinking: I can't do anything about my job right now, I've got bills to pay! I can't do anything with my relationship right now, they won't even talk about it! I'm not going to think about that blood sugar warning from my doctor right now, not with all this stuff going on!

Waiting for the food increases the wanting for the food, whether it is picked up from a store or served to us on a platter. It builds up in our minds as The Goal. And when we finish eating, it's Mission Accomplished!

Of course, the other problems are still there, afterward. We might even be contributing to some of them, from health concerns to getting our energy back to feeling lousy about our mood and appearance.

Want something. Get something.

The best way to avoid disordered eating is to not use eating as a substitute for something else. Want something else, and get something else.

That's using our brains!

March 10, 2013

Be your own food company

How many of us used to go "grocery shopping" and filled the cart with frozen, single serving meals? (Raises hand.)

A big problem of swimming against the cultural tide with Low Carb is to wish we had the ease-of-use that co-workers on Lean Cuisine seem to have. So many are hesitant about (gasp!) cooking, because it seems so daunting.
Once upon a time, you had to use the oven!

The good news is that WE CAN have all those things. And it's much better, tastier, and more satisfying than those teeny tiny portions of rubber meat and heaven-knows-what's-in-that sauce over the spoonful of vegetables that we were used to having, back in the day. Did that meal out of the microwave ever look like the picture on the front?

So take one of the best "paths to happiness" on low carb. Do you have a skillet with a lid? You're in business!

Throw a spoonful of butter or coconut oil or olive oil in a pan, medium heat. (That's the middle of your dial. See how easy?) Set the kitchen timer to 3 minutes. Now sprinkle on some seasoning... they have it labeled CHICKEN, people. You can't mess that up. My favorites are the Montreal Seasonings, but that grocery store has a whole aisle to choose from!

Then put in chicken breasts, chicken thighs, buffalo medallions, those pre-sliced steak strips, pork chops, lamb chops... whatever appeals to you. Put the cover on, set the timer for ten minutes, and see what frozen vegetables you have in the freezer. Don't take them out yet!

When the timer goes off, take off the lid, inhale (mmmmmmmmmmmmm!) and turn them over. You've got something to turn them over, don't you? Even a fork, works. Set the timer for another 10 minutes.

When that dings (you had time to check your email and tell your mom that You're Cooking!) take one out and cut it in half. Is it done? If yes, take the rest out and let them cool on a plate. Open that designated bag of frozen veg and put a serving into the pan. Turn the heat down a quarter turn, put the lid on, and set the timer for 10 minutes. (See how much of a friend we have in our kitchen timer? Mine is built into the stove so I can't lose it.)

While that is happening, you can divvy up the rest of the frozen vegetables among your single serve freezer containers. We can use any containers, but what really helped my husband Get Into It was a few packs of those single serving freezer to microwave food containers.

Timer ding! Now (test the tougher vegetables with that fork) we have OUR meal for the evening, AND we have delightful leftovers! (If we have pan drippings use those over the meat.) After our meal, we can finish our "frozen meal" assembly, snap the lid on, put them in the freezer.

Now we have meals to pull out of the freezer, microwave, and enjoy! Stash a bunch of those in the freezer in just one afternoon or evening, and you're good all week. If we are math-minded, we can add up the cost of the ingredients, and compare to the cost of the same numbers of frozen meals. Bet we are saving money and getting more food for it.

Now we have discovered that cooking a big batch of something takes no more time than cooking a small batch. That's the key to better meals... and better health.

January 7, 2013

Change does not have a masking function

In graphics work, it's valuable to work with a "mask." That's why masking tape has that name; we use it to protect the woodwork from the wall color when we are painting a room.

Does the butterfly complain it is not
a caterpillar any more?
But it does not work that way with our bodies and our psyches. When we embark upon a change in our eating, it's going to change more than our pant size.

It's normal to think losing weight is only a matter of changing our physical shape. But we also hope for more, don't we? We hope it will let us be more active, more attractive, more outgoing and confident and assertive.

And yet... should our usual routines and meals become too different, then we sabotage ourselves with:

This is too much change.

Other people don't eat this way.

I miss that thing too much!

Until we are right back where we started, or even, worse off. If we regard our food changes as temporary, our results will be, too.

But sometimes we panic because we are changing too much. Who are we now? Well, we've changed. Isn't that what we wanted?

That is what change IS. It changes everything. But we are still ourselves; we just have the tools to be more ourselves.

That's our goal, isn't it? To be different from the way we are now? That will not happen unless we embrace it.

Because none of us gets to pick and choose all the ways we become different.