Saturday, 25 July 2015

Chewing the Fat on Diet

I've talked about the fanatical 'Paleo Diet' and how it's consuming peoples fascination with what they put in their mouth holes before.  If you missed it and want to laugh at these food freaks then click just here and read all about it.  Who could miss the onslaught of helpful diet tips and trends which seem to ooze from every available media platform, reminding us that if we change our ways we too can become happy, slim, fit, glowing, and successful, pretty much any thing we could ever dream of.  From Insty to Facebook to Pinterest, you can find more information about clean eating and weight loss miracle cures than you could ever need - pouring out at you. 
 But just like the ice cream ads you see on the sides of buses or on TV these diets are almost always advertised by hot, young, slim models(fat people just don't look as alluring licking ice creams).  One is led to believe that they have found the answer to the pesky fat issue and are now living the dream life.  The truth is more likely to be that they have just always been that way, rather than the more unlikely idea that they are more disciplined than their fat, lazy, more unsuccessful counterparts.
 Time and time again what's noticeable with these amazing new diets is that more often than not they are touted by people with a rudimentary at best knowledge of nutrition and diet. What they do have a huge helping of is confidence and narcissism all wrapped up with some technical terms like carbs, protein, gluten, portion control, trans fats, ketosis, detox, and other smart sounding words. They know very little about these terms which they toss around like a big expert diet salad. These tactics are all designed to make the deliverer appear to be some kind of expert and also to make a quite simple situation appear so complex that one could not possibly choose what to eat without consulting a self proclaimed expert.  

What could happen if one was to eat the wrong thing?! Maybe one would die young, get bloated, feel lethargic, suffer from thin hair- the list is endless... Take a deep breath and relax everyone, let Plum put you back on the right track. Now I know what you might be thinking- oh she thinks she's an expert now.  Well- I'm not- but what I do have under my belt is five chemistry papers(one of them food chemistry) some psychology study and a pretty decent dose of common sense and great arts of observation.  So feast your eyes on my words of wisdom and free yourself from fad diets forever.

Here are a few things I learned about our body weight- its highly heritable, highly unlikely that you can successfully maintain a significant long term weight loss, and not true that overweight people are of any weaker will than slim people.  In other words- slim people are not more successful at self control around food than overweight people and nor are they necessarily healthier.  Click the links if you are outraged and craving proof.  I'm not going to go into it here because - the truth is out there.  I know the heritability factor will have some of you dining out on ideas of how crazy I must be so I am going to knock that one off the menu right now.  If we accept that our genes control our, eye colour, hair colour and height, then surely we must be able to accept that maybe they're going to have an impact on our big butts, guts and thighs right?  And if you're not going to ask someone to fight their genes for height and become shorter or vice versa then you also shouldn't expect someone with a genetic tendency to gain weight to change the recipe of their complex metabolic system and magically become thin either.  
Now I know you're thinking 'oh well, has everyone got the gene for obesity then since half the world is suffering from it'?  OK smarty pants- if you have a complex gene structure that results in you easily gaining weight (which by the way would be a damn good thing if food supplies were not reliable)it's still not going to be able to express itself in an absence of abundant food.  That's right- you don't just see half the starving people in third world countries wandering around all obese with nothing to eat.  But if you take a population (and this has been studied) out of that environment and into one with abundant food supplies you would see that some of them would remain of slim build and some would get fat. 

So, what is the problem then?  Well according to all the aforementioned health gurus its very likely to be one of these evil things- gluten, carbs, sugar, dairy, inorganic meat, just meat, toxic liver, processed food etc, etc.  And how can we fix it all? Chia seeds, protein, fasting, detox, coconut oil, eating out of jars(wtf?), paleo diet, blah, blah, blah...Lets get one thing sorted out here- sugar is actually what the body lives on, ever heard of blood sugar levels and how important that is?  Without sugar your brain is going to starve to death( I think that's part of the problem for some of these anti sugar guru's). 
 Don't get me wrong- I'm definitely not saying go and load yourself up on highly processed sugar but what I am saying is that those of you who think that you are all pure and clean because you 'quit' sugar - you're full of sugar baby and your body is licking that gold star energy up.  If you think mincing dates up and using them is replacing sugar- you're wrong- those things are sweet because of sugar.  Processed sugar is just food processed enough to remove only the sugar- so coconut sugar is sugar from the coconuts palm, rice malt syrup is sugar from rice you get it?  It's sugar, and processing simply takes care of the job that our body usually does in order to access the sugar.  We love it for a good reason- our body's need it to live and it's a natural part of all plants. 
It's not a great idea to eat greedy portions of sugar in most situations but as usual there are some exceptions.
 Pure sugar is pure energy so if you're giving birth and so exhausted that the idea of dying seems a luxurious prospect I can assure you that a glucose pill in the mouth will provide a surge of life to the body and brain and a surge of something slimy, and screaming from the nether regions.  Also if you're climbing a mountain and you need energy then that's an awesome time to crack open a packet of lollies and feed your tired body some instant energy.  In these situations sugar is king and I suggest throwing your slow release carbs and lettuce or kale leaves to an office worker to maintain their comparatively low energy requirements.  
I guess a few of the more faithful Paleo followers probably think I'm something akin to a Satan worshipper right now! Don't worry about them- they're brains are probably dying from a lack of sugar... I should mention as an aside that I am not saying go out and eat sugar with reckless abandon.  If you are eating processed sugar you are gaining a huge hit of energy without any of the nutrients and fibre that formerly encased it.  Also if you think using a ninja blender or some thing that pulses all your food into juice is great for your health you may want to consider that you have just got that machine to do the work of your mouth and stomach for you.  Also if you can't eat an orange, an apple, a bunch of spinach, some chia seeds, avocado, a kiwifruit and coconut water in one sitting then you probably shouldn't juice it to fit it all in either.  

Lets take a look at the animal world- of which we are a part- and see how they manage their diets.  Now an important thing to point out at this stage is what a diet actually is.  It is what you eat, which means we are all on a diet.  Congratulations- you're great at sticking to a diet!  So back to the animals.  Animals in the wild, (I'm no expert on this particular area but as I mentioned I'm observant) they don't appear to have any issues with eating what they want when they want. There doesn't seem to be any particular problems with obesity either.  Why not?  I think its the lack of shops to be honest.  It is a bit of a bummer that they can't just walk through and order a burger when they're hungry or bored. 

So their diets can be quite restricted especially for the non omnivorous animals- they can't be picky at all.  The carnivores have to be at ease with their conscience over killing animals to eat, they've got no choice.  Imagine the poor philosophical Lion starving to death because he couldn't face killing a Zebra and wanted to keep it as a pet instead.  Also, imagine how it would look if you caught a Zebra for your Lion family and one of the cubs was like "I don't eat Zebra, the stripes are bad for my liver"... So their food choices are limited and they don't have access to an endless supply( but if they did have choices and endless supply I'm betting they'd get fat too).

What about exercise?  So the lioness's are dining out on baby Water Hog and discussing their bodies "I've really gained some weight, who wants to come for a run around the desert? I'm going to do 10km today and one day I'm going to do a marathon". "Well I want to gain muscle so I'm going to do cross fit instead so I can burn fat and gain muscle" says the super annoying other lioness(they all hate her now).  You might think that I'm not quite a full three course meal after this ridiculous analogy but sometimes things are better illustrated in an abstract way.  We are animals too and we are acting like dicks.  The Lions get their exercise simply as a matter of going about their work of finding and collecting food, and then they eat and then sleep.  Personally I like the way the Bears go about things.  I reckon feasting all summer, then sleeping all winter(fasting)and emerging slim and ready to party again next summer is a kind of utopia the Bear has somehow managed to be blessed with.

So why are we suffering from obesity? We are not wild animals, we are domesticated animals and domesticated animals get fat.  A quick
google image search of fat cats and dogs will paint a picture worth a thousand words.  Basically unlimited food supplies, combined with hardly any physical work to gain it.  Combine these factors with a genetic predisposition to gain weight and you've got a recipe for disaster.  So what's the answer?  There isn't an easy one unfortunately.  Well there is but it's the same dietary advice you always hear- stay active, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, eat good quality  whole carbs and proteins, energy in vs energy out etc.  If you work in a job sitting at a desk all day you will need much less food than someone working in a hard physical job. 
 Exercise is anything that makes your body do work, you don't have to go to Zumba, or make the pilgrimage to the gym - those are structured costly exercises.  Exercise includes gardening, house keeping, washing your car, bike rides, walking, sex or basically anything that makes your body move. 

If joining the latest diet craze or buying the latest piece of exercise machinery is what will do it for you then by all means gorge yourself on them, but I suggest making a subtle change to your  diet or exercise regime every few weeks that you can turn into a new habit.  Small changes over time add up to big changes in the long run.  You'll know what it is for you, for me it would be- don't eat junk food on the couch at night- especially after 10pm. Or I could just release myself into the wild and live a fairly risky but ultimately slim life.

If I were to design a diet craze myself it would be pretty brutal.  I'd make sure my tribe grew their own vegetables, ground their own wheat, made their own bread and butchered their own animals.  They'd also have to make their own clothes, and walk to work and shops.  Maybe I shouldn't mention this- it sounds like the perfect diet regime. All I need now is an instagram account, some inspirational photos and a whimsical recipe book.  Now what shall I call it...