Daily Archives: August 11, 2011

Asceticism: Another Tool for Sugaraholics

Food asceticism is among rising tide of ideas about how to be free of the sugar-starch-artificial sweetener demons. Food asceticism develops out of the notion that our taste buds are in effect being overly stimulated by the high level of tastiness; so, we are being unnaturally clued to over-eat in a way primitive humans would not. Let’s face it, raw or poorly cooked meat that is unseasoned with so much as salt, and roots and berries that were very low in starch or sugar compared to foods we eat nowadays, would not have been nearly as stimulating to the primitive region of the brain that governs cravings.  Of course, to them it would have been tasty no doubt, but the triggers would have been far less excited compared to our modern brains. We who have been on a steady diet of highly sweetened and seasoned foods since before birth now have a high need for those stronger, deeper tastes.

The idea then behind food asceticism is to limit the strong seasonings and flavors to retrain the brain. When I first thought about this I wanted to reject it, but as I considered this idea further, I realized that I certainly don’t crave many sweet or starchy foods, or plain sugar water–though if we keep taking in such a substance we will learn to like it according to Cornell food scientist and author of Mindless Eating, Professor Brian Wansink. Still the thought of eating something with low flavor is not appealing. I have a friend, by way of contrast, who likes what I consider very bland foods compared to the spicy, rich flavors I’ve always enjoyed. Still, for most of us, meat without salt is pretty bland, as are most vegetables, and many foods would not be so appealing without their load of salt, spices, sugar, sweeteners.

Food asceticism is about deliberately toning down the number of foods one eats, and the savory-sweet-sour-hot-unami type flavorings or tastes.  I have decided to work on this for a while, since I still have a few pounds I’d like to lose—thanks to a couple weeks of vacation!—and do believe the simplicity of a few basic foods, lightly seasoned might have merit.

If you, like me, have always counted on highly flavored foods, you might want to consider this to help lose some weight.  I see this as a temporary goal, for food should be enjoyed, but if I can learn to enjoy my food with a bit less of the strong flavors so much the better.

The way I understand it, we will crave less if the food is less strongly flavored. Whether this is true I don’t know, but it does have the ring of truth about it. Consider the foods you most want when you have binged. Chances are good that you think of the flavor more than the texture, though some textures are appealing. Some people love smooth and creamy foods, while others like crunchy, sharp foods (this is me).  I think of brownies with walnuts, one of my long time favorite sweet foods, but I never liked brownies without walnuts since that seemed to be a “weaker” taste, and I liked the crunch of the nuts. So I’m making a list of my former favorite binge foods and making notes of what made them so appealing to me. Also, this relates to how we combine foods; I never wanted Oreos unless I had a glass of milk. So was I craving the milk or the Oreos? My belief is that the milk was a kind of transport for the Oreos, and enhanced their flavor. Of course, the milk also doubled the sugar load!

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you view flavors and the idea of food asceticism as a tool to break addiction to sugar-starch-artificial sweeteners.

Yours in search for answers,

Nan aka Sugarbaby

Infantile Paralysis: Not Letting Go of Childhood Food Loves

Blog post 7/6/11 (somehow deleted this, so reposting)

When President Roosevelt developed what was then known as Infantile Paralysis, or polio, there was a lot of attention drawn to what was a widespread disease, and many researchers devoted untold hours to finding a cure for that terrible disease which caused varying levels of paralysis in mostly children. Jonas Salk was the physician researcher came up with the vaccine that many children remember being inoculated with in the 1950s.

This came to mind when a friend of my spouse who is morbidly obese was arguing with my lean spouse who does primal/paleo eating as I do. While my spouse is not the sugaraholic I am, he knows that he will begin to want those foods if he starts eating them, and he lost more than thirty-five pounds getting off the sugars, starches, artificial sweeteners along with me. His friend, I’ll call him Bob, believes in the calories-in-calories-out false theory, about what causes weight gain or loss, so well debunked by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, along with Mark Sisson, Mark Harris, and many others. Why does Bob hold on to what so clearly fails for him time and again; he is a Weight Watchers rerun. Having heard for years what he orders at their weekly breakfast meeting tells me that he can’t let go of his childhood food loves.

Bob is convinced, for this is what he wants to believe, that pancakes, fruit, bread, and all manner of high starch and sugar foods are fine as long as he eats egg substitutes and avoids fats. He has a kind of infantile paralysis that does not let him move forward. He doesn’t want to read or hear anything that will change his mind, though he weighs nearly 300lbs on a 5’10” frame.

The sad part that is most bothersome for me in this is that when polio was raging through the country, no amount of money or resources was held back in order to find a cure. Now, though, when diabetes has doubled world wide since 1980, we find there is very little money for research on various foods or diets that is not being provided by the big food conglomerates who only accept what supports their ends. Very little independent money is available to researchers to get anything like independent results. We need to get past this fund crunch, for it was mostly American tax dollars that found cures like polio, smallpox, antibiotics like penicillin, etc. Our health care system is being heavily burdened by the diseases of over-weight and diabetes, and something will eventually have to give.

I have my areas of infantile paralysis, too, but they have more to do with liking fire flies, and watching reruns of Bewitched. Food is something we should remember is medicine, fuel, and not just comfort. However, while I no longer eat the foods I once thought of as childhood comfort foods, I now know that what I eat is truly good for me, and that is its own mature kind of comfort.

Ever learning,

Nan aka Sugarbaby