Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Different Kind Of Cheating

I'm having trouble here. Yesterday I turned 40 and all week I've been using that as an excuse to slack off on my eating plan.

Again, like I've talked about before, it's not that I'm making high carb food the staple in our diet, it's that I'm having too many forbidden extras.

Some of my problems with sticking to 4HB has been the fact that a lot of my cheat day stuff sticks around for days afterwards (muffins and breads from our CSB, packages of sweets...) and I seem to have zero self control when those are around the house. I'm far too frugal to just throw it out, tho much is getting tossed after a few days of going stale anyway.

I keep thinking, if I could just have a small fruit smoothie or a handful of fruit, the relentless savoury foods of lower carb eating wouldn't seem like a chore and I'd be able to truly enjoy my foods.

Shortly after reading the 4 Hour Body, I learned about the Paleo movement. I've been reading the The Primal Blueprint and Mark's Daily Apple. And, I have to tell you, with everything I've been learning about over the last few years via the Weston A Price Foundation and traditional eating, Paleo eating and it's emphasis not on gimmicks but the hard science of how the body uses and stores energy appeals to me in an almost relieving way.

While the 4 Hour Body is awesome, it's really a set of tricks. Some of those are incredibly helpful, but I want to nourish my family forever. The binge day mentality works for adults in a diet situation, but I need to teach my children about good food choices for every single day. I'm scared that our Saturday gorge-a-thons of ice cream and salted caramels and chips, etc, are just continuing to teach them that this kind of food - high carb, high processed, high sugar - is what we ultimately want and will indulge in when we get the chance. That's sort of how I felt growing up poor; when I became an adult with my own money I just indulged as a matter of course, because I was finally in charge and I could!

At 40, I look back at the last 20 years and marvel at how cavalier I've been with my body. I have always made fun of the "my body is a temple" folks, but they had it mostly right. If you take care of your body it will work well for you long after other people's bodies are breaking down. Had I been less focused on pursuing pleasure through food, I wouldn't have to buy clothes in specialty shops or in the measly couple of racks in the back corner under the "Plus" sign. I wouldn't have scars across my entire abdomen from the enourmous bellies I grew in pregnancy. Similarly, if I'd treated my teeth like the precious tools they are, I wouldn't have had the problems I've had with those.

The 4 Hour Body is appealing for its promises of quick weight loss. The tips and tricks it offers to improve function and efficiency are valuable. But, I need to make lifelong changes to my relationship with food and Paleo offers that.

I see many parallels between Paleo eating and exercise and childbirth. When I teach families about birthing, I talk about "physiologically normal birth". This is birth as it happens in the body when a woman is left completely and entirely to its own devices. In the absence of pre-existing conditions and without any interventions found in the typical modern birthing scenario (no continuous monitoring, no vaginal exams, no bed to be confined to, no contraction monitoring, no antibiotics or pain meds or pitocin...) a certain set of things will happen within a range of normal (in the simplest sense: the cervix opens, the baby descends, they baby is born). It's how all humans work.

Same with breastfeeding. It's how humans infants eat. It's what the human animal is supposed to do during the first couple years of life.

And, so too, the body works in the same physiological normal way: our bodies work best when we feed them the fuel they run on. When we add in other fuels we can expect that our bodies will stop functioning optimally. To borrow a car analogy: if you fail to keep up with minimal maintenance of your car and decide randomly to use water or mud or soda pop for fuel instead of gasoline - the specific thing the car is designed to use for fuel - you should fully expect the engine to die, if not run like crap.

So, it seems I'm at a cross-roads. I can continue hammering away at the slow carb diet as defined in the 4 Hour Body, or I can use the book to supplement a new way of eating: no (or really, really few) grains and processed foods. I doubt I'll ever say "No" to some nice baked goods from time to time, but I think it's time to say goodbye to them in our daily lives.

(Am I gonna have to change the name of this frigging blog AGAIN?!)


  1. I struggle too sometimes. I had 2 oatmeal raisin cookies yesterday, my wife keeps buying boxes of them and leaves them out in the open and it is so hard to resist.

    What I do, or what I try to do, is make changes gradually. I am not the type of person that can quit something cold turkey.

    For example, my other vice is fruit smoothies, I could have 2 a day, I make them at home in the blender or go down the street to the Booster Juice that my buddy owns. Now I am trying to keep that undercontrol, even though they are not bad for you heath wise, they aren't going to help me lose the fat. So I slowly am trying to ween my way off them (like breast feeding LOL).

    My other issue is that I don't do much shopping, so my wife sometimes likes to buy food that I shouldn't eat, she is not following my diet. This adds a lot of temptation at home that I have to deal with.

    I think of it as a process, and try to be better every week, instead of feeling guilty for giving in to temptations.

  2. I agree that it's probably a good idea to cut out as many cheap carbs as possible (this would include most sugar-foods, or foods that quickly break down into sugars).

    And one thing all diets have in common is the emphasis on more and better veggies, so it's probably good to start with those.

  3. Just FYI: have you heard of Matt Stone and 180 Degree Health? It's a way to eat everyday. 4HB might be the diet component, if you wanted one.

  4. I've been doing similar reading. If you look at the details, 4HB/slow-carb is actually very close to (and likely was derived from) Paleo. The main differences are beans and taking a day off. Both of those seem to be mostly to encourage compliance. I see 4HB almost as an 80/20 entry point for Paleo.

    Maybe the key is to shift that one day from a continuous junk binge to just a limited safety valve. Use it instead to enjoy modest amounts of what you've wanted all week but couldn't have. Also for going out to favorite restaurants and simply not worrying about the carbs for a day.

    It's okay to skip the sugar and white starch if you really don't want to eat it. Also it might help to enjoy the "cheat day" stuff only outside the house. Don't let it follow you home. Yeah, I have a problem there too...