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Sugar Nation
Category: Happy Eating


I finished reading Sugar Nation by Jeff O'Connell. Jeff is a fitness writer and editor who has worked at Muscle & Fitness and Men's Health among others. He's also diabetic. Not a stereotypical obese, sedentary diabetic but one of those active skinny guys who can eat whatever he wants and not gain weight. There was just the small matter of his pancreas going berserk and trying to kill him. I thought he would have an interesting perspective. I was mostly right. The book is a little uneven with certain chapters being completely riveting - his diagnosis, his diabetic dad, his discussions of other fit people who also have blood sugar issues, the specifics of how he handles his food and workouts. Yet, other chapters with longwinded tales about diabetes conferences literally caused me to fall asleep and drop the reader out of my hand. 

What's most disturbing about the book is how little doctors know about controlling the disease through nutrition and exercise, and how outdated and dangerous the official recommendations are from organizations like The American Diabetes Association. Basically, they stuff you full of carbohydrates and then try to control the wild blood sugar swings with drugs. 

"On its web site, the ADA recommends that diabetics divide their plate in half and fill one side with starchy foods such as breads, cereals, or potatoes, all of which will be readily converted to sugar in the body. The next step is to halve the empty space and fill one part with fruit, more fast-acting carbs. The remaining (optional) quarter is reserved for a breakfast meat. An egg, arguably the single healthiest food on the planet for diabetics, has no place on this table.

The ADA isn't done carb loading a nation of diabetics, however. They recommend washing it all down with an eight-ounce glass of non-fat or low-fat milk.  All told, that's the equivalent of eating several candy bars' worth of carbs, providing a feeding frenzy for the disease that the ADA seeks to prevent with its recommendations."

Jeff himself has learned to manage the disease through exercise and reducing his carb intake. Regular heavy lifting and high intensity interval training make his muscle cells more receptive to insulin and make it more likely that the carbs he does eat will be used as fuel instead of just zooming around in his bloodstream wreaking havoc. He keeps his daily net carbs below 80g per day even though that's breaking the rules.

"Following the ADA's lead, health organizations around the globe are telling diabetics never to consume fewer than 130 carb grams a day. They claim even that amount is extremely low, and that anything below that threshold literally will starve the brain and central nervous system. But after four years eating amounts well below their lower limit, my mind is sharp. My body feels great. I can power through forty-five-minute daily workouts. The only thing that seems helpless to function under these conditions, actually, is diabetes."

Sugar Nation is worth a read if you have blood sugar issues or care about someone who does. It will also appeal to nutrition book junkies, healthy eaters, and conspiracy theorists. I'm a little of each, so I found it worthwhile even though it had its ups and downs. It's truly horrifying what's happening. If we continue this trend of not exercising and living on processed carbs, he says, "One in every three people born in the year  2000 will become diabetic. For minorities, the rate will be one in two."  Yowza!

Side Effects May Include...Leanness
Category: Happy Eating

There's an awesome article on the Precision Nutrition blog today: Side Effects May Include...Leanness. It talks about how getting and staying lean is a side effect of your lifestyle. Kind of like when I talk about "creating a new normal" versus going on a diet or starting a plan. I don't want to go on a diet. I want what I do every day, what's normal and enjoyable for me, to be what keeps me lean. My favorite quote in the article:

 "A 12 week diet/workout blitz will help you lose fat. But if the sole reason someone eats nutritious foods and exercises is to lose fat, what happens when there is no more fat to lose?"

I can answer that one. You regain everything, kick yourself for a while, and then look for a new/better/stricter plan to start. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Although there may be brief periods of control freak euphoria when you feel like you're "winning" the process of getting lean is never truly fun and so it never lasts long. There's always the urge to rebel, to go back to what makes you happy.
That's what I had to get past, especially coming off years of the Body for Life 12 week challenge mentality. I couldn't deal anymore with diets that I was on or off. Or plans that made me miserable for a number of weeks until the measurements were taken and the photos were snapped. You might look good for that one day, but then you immediately start backsliding because the methods you used to lean out quickly were so dreadful and unrealistic.
Now, I'm happily lean and getting leaner, but I'm doing it so slowly and pleasantly that I hardly notice. I'm talking 1 pound per month, and I expect that to eventually slow down and stop, at which point I'll just keep doing what I'm doing because the process itself makes me happy and makes me feel good. It's just what I do.
How has your track record been with diets? And especially transformation contests? Has anyone who's ever entered one of those before and after things with pictures easily maintained the "after photo" appearance? Has anyone done a contest and then rebounded horrifically? Has anyone vowed to never do a diet/contest/transformation again as long as they live? What are you doing differently now? Is your current lifestyle producing the results you want?
Lots to think about!         

No Pressure
Category: Happy Eating

Ok, something weird is happening. I've been gradually reducing my carb intake by cutting out most grains. Yet I'm not freaking out. My response to the idea of low-carb has always been, "Oh, hell no." Just thinking about it would make me feel edgy and defensive. I'd have to go make a sandwich to calm down. Kind of the same deal with doing 30 days of Paleo eating. As soon as I declared my self "one of them" and committed to no grains or sugar, I went kind of bonkers and started fantasizing about the Italian food bonanza and epic dessert I was going to eat as soon as it was over. 

It seems to be the act of committing to a diet plan or applying a label that causes the chaos. If I just play with an idea, doing it in a part-time, half-ass, no-stress way, I'm able to make more changes with less backlash than if I vow to do it "right." For example, after reading Wheat Belly, I've been toying with the idea of eating less wheat. If I'd declared myself gluten-free, I'm sure I'd have had a fit of rebellion and gone straight to Panera Bread to make it all better. As it is, I'm just experimenting with other food options. The only wheat I ended up eating last week were a pizza crust and an ice cream cone. You know, the important wheat. :-D

This week, I'm toying with the idea of skipping my day-off mixing bowl of air popped popcorn. I'm going to maybe have some cheese and nuts and dark chocolate instead and see how that goes. Next week I might try an experimental gluten-free pizza I saw at the grocery store. It has a cheese-based crust! No grain at all. I don't remember the name. It was in a red box, frozen. Anybody know what I'm talking about?

How about you? Does committing to a specific diet or applying a label cause problems? Have you found a way around it? Or do you prefer the structure and guidelines of joining a group or following a plan?

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