Nothing. That’s right: bupkis, nada, niente, zero, zilch. I lost 0 pounds of weight. In fact, I’ve gained a little lately, more from knee pain caused by biking my ass off (metaphorically — see my post coming up Wednesday). But after foregoing all the tasty treats, delicious delights and amazing amuse bouches out there for an entire effing year and a half, I really have nothing to show for it. It’s really quite unfair. Perhaps there are other health markers that are a better gauge, but the point was to reduce simple carbs to virtually nothing and eat whole grains. Of course I wasn’t perfect with it, and still have a major problem with sugar, but it’s no where near enough to make up for all the bread and stuff I used to eat. So, I’m gonna kvetch about this.
What and How I Stopped Eating Flour
Here’s a partial list of very yummy but questionably nutritious stuff from which I have abstained since January 1, 2018, off the top of my head:
- Refined flour
- White rice
How did I do it? I went cold turkey. But first, on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017, I ate as many things on the list above as possible with my buddy Saurabh. Then I just took it day by day. At the time, I also tried returning to a vegan diet, but got anemia, so had to quit that. So I was focusing on what I could eat. Whole grain oats, brown rice, quinoa, and so on. And more vegetables, which I am picky about.
Believe me, it took some real hard effort, will power, denial, discipline, distraction, substitution, and gutting it out (pun intended). Frankly, I’m surprised I did it. But I also allowed for reality. For example, a good buddy recently offered me a Clif Bar (or three), and since I was out biking, hungry, it was free and I didn’t want to be rude, I took it. And because the amount of flour was negligible while the social cost of being rude is measurable. Not that I haven’t turned down all kinds of things, but (You can read my posts from January 2018 by scrolling down on the right til you reach that month, or searching for key words.)
Also, the idea of #DontBreakTheChain is sort of a thing with me. It’s helped me to write this blog or book and take a walk every day for the past 18 months, too. And knowing myself, if I had a little flour product, I would want ALL the flour products. So nowadays it’s not hard; in fact it’s kind of a game. When invited for pizza after a bike ride, I simply declined. Even though I could go in and eat salad, or scrape the toppings off the pizza, I decided to bike more and save money anyway, plus I had only just met the group save one person.
I also allowed for three whole grain products that I initially would not have considered: rice cakes, puffed rice cereal and popcorn. More recently, I’ve added in kettle-cut potato chips, since they are not flour and come from a vegetable, granted, with oil on them. But I’m not a savage and one must have some crunchiness in life (and carrots and celery don’t cut it). I also eat Beanitos, which are a chip made mostly of beans but they do include long grain rice flour. Overall, I think I’ve eliminated 99% of flour from my diet. It’s a major accomplishment.
Why Give Up Flour, Dude?
There are some occasions when I have considered giving it up. Because if it’s not helping me lose weight, why do it? There are plenty who say give up carbs all together, or at least severely reduce them. Of course, humans are carbon-based life forms, and fruits and vegetables are generally carbohydrates, too. So it’s simply not that practical. But as for why, well, processed food is generally not natural and can add all kinds of ingredients that lead to obesity.
The idea isn’t new, but it was really driven home to me by Dr. Robert H, Lustig, Professor emeritus of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He became famous for some YouTube videos about sugar, but I heard of him by reading his books Fat Chance and The Fat Chance Cookbook (the latter with recipes by Cindy Gershen). The science behind the evils of sugar and flour is compelling.
I was also influenced by Dr. Andrew Weil, the botanist, medical doctor and pioneer of integrative or functional medicine who has long promoted whole grains. There are also the three simple rules of food writer Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Mostly vegetables. Not too much.” I read Dr. Lustig’s book several years ago and the idea rattled around in the back of my head. He made the convincing case that flour turns to sugar which turns to fat, and sugar should be avoided. But as you know, dietary changes are all easier said than done.
Dr. Lustig’s books are informative but readable, realistic and practical. I need to revisit them, because somewhere along the way I lost the “joy of cooking.” I could certainly benefit from recipes to get more vegetables into my my food hole, or as one of my favorite Texanisms goes, “I’m gonna throw some groceries down muh neck.”
I hope to find some good and easy things to cook that will improve my intake and help with my cycling. Fuel for a bicyclist (or runner, swimmer, et al.) is important. Every day is a chance to start over, make small and better choices that add up. Allowing for enjoyment and not always eating perfectly are luxuries for many people who are hungry or have food insecurity. As if anyone really knows what that is!
Well, like everyone, I keep trying to make healthier choices. Yet, there are other factors than just what one eats that affect health. Genetics, environment, affordability and access to quality organic produce, grass-fed lean animal protein, noise pollution (like roommates who disturb one’s sleep), all play a part.
Also, there are allergens and pollutants, one’s microbiome, various other systems of the body like hormonal, cardiovascular, psychological and more. The lower-income environment I live in (despite the high-priced rents) is not exactly a food desert, but it is full of fast food joints and convenience stores.
There’s also the issue of fat v. fitness (i.e., being a fathlete), and after my fifth best week on the bike, plus ongoing daily walking and yoga, I’m not lacking in the exercise department. But that’s only 20% of weight loss, so I know I need to do better. Dr. Lustig’s latest book should help. He goes into corporate marketing, subsidies, flavor addiction science and more that all play major roles in making Americans fat and unhappy.
The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corpoate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains came out in 2017 but is still very relevant. He goes further into the concepts identified in Fat Chance and expands them to explore what he calls “neuromarketing.” Here’s a quote about the book from his website:
With his customary wit and incisiveness, Lustig not only reveals the science that drives these states of mind, he points his finger directly at the corporations that helped create this mess, and the government actors who facilitated it, and he offers solutions we can all use in the pursuit of happiness, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Always fearless and provocative, Lustig marshals a call to action, with seminal implications for our health, our well-being, and our culture.
What are your experiences with flour, sugar, whole grains and so on? Feel free to talk about them in the comments!
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