Posts Tagged ‘society’

Gratitude

What up, friends.

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I was having a discussion with a client of mine about positivity, and it struck me that I’ve never straight on discussed on my blog how I feel about positive thinking.  I think it’s… well.  It’s amazing.  Perhaps the most important thing in our lives.   For mental health, for our relationships, for our bodies, for our souls…   Gods!  It’s a huge topic, too.  “Positive thinking.”  So I’m going to focus on, like I said, the most important points.  First, gratitude.  Then, what does gratitude do to improve our mental and physical health?

First, there’s a caveat. (I feel like Prometheus.  These damn things never go away.)  Positive thinking is, while the absolute most important, also the absolute most difficult part of this whole recovery deal to wrap our heads around.  Whether it’s because of our natural wiring and drive perfect ourselves, or our consumer culture, or globalization, or stress, or what-have-you, we are really, really good at being down.  Sadness and futility are pervasive.  The English language, you know, has twice as many words for describing sad emotions as for describing happy ones.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  The real kicker of the whole deal, too, is that sadness begets sadness.  Once we start thinking negatively, more negative thoughts pull us further under, and before we know it we’re being dragged along the bottom of the ocean bumping our heads on all sorts of lava flows and abandoned ships.  I see this time and time again with my clients.  Everyone recognizes the fact that positive thinking is the pavement on the road to recovery, but no one has it easy internalizing this fact.  So take it slow.  Practice some of the ideas and activities I (and others) propose when you feel like it.  Affirm yourself as much as you can.  Love and forgive yourself as much as you can.  Try and think of how you would treat your partner, or your child, and give yourself the same leeway. Look at the things in your life that give you stress and see how you can change them.  Trust me– the world really is a bright and beautiful and lovely place.  All we’ve got to do, well, I guess is warm up to that idea over time.  Then give it a bear hug and fight as fiercely as possible to hold on to it forever.

The world is full of pain.  We all know this.  Yet while it sucks big time, why dwell on it?   Especially when it’s our own suffering?  Focusing on our own problems doesn’t do anything for anybody.  What’s more, everything in our lives could be a whole hell of a lot worse.  We could have a shit show of everything.  That would be very bad.  That would be as bad as some other people do have it.  So perhaps we should feel sympathy for them, and think about their pain and how we can ease it, instead of focusing on our own issues that really could be eons worse. Every day we wake up feeling healthy deserves a prayerful of thanks.  Remember how scary it is to be sick?  It’s amazing that we have whatever health (and existence!) that we do.  This fact is worth cherishing beyond measure.

That said, the pain that we do experience doesn’t even have to be a bad thing.  Instead, we can internalize it as an inherent part of the human experience.  Without pain we would never know true joy, so we honestly have no choice but to be grateful for sorrows.  Moreover, we, as human beings, are united by our basic humanity.   “Hearts united in pain and sorrow,” wrote Khalil Gibran, “will not be separated by joy and happiness. Bonds that are woven in sadness are stronger than the ties of joy and pleasure. Love that is washed by tears will remain eternally pure and faithful.”  Not bad, eh? We are profoundly connected to each other by our abilities to feel and to love and to bleed, and all of our struggles help us to be truly, deeply human.  In this way, our suffering makes us profoundly (and bittersweetly) beautiful creatures.  We can–and should–find gratitude in our hearts for every experience, even for this.

What else do we have to be grateful for?  How many good, or fine, or acceptable things are there in our lives?  How many beautiful things surround us on a daily basis?  One of my favorite pieces of prose I have ever read was by a female prison inmate.  In it, she discusses the simplest of pleasures, and how desperately she yearns to experience them.   The greatest aspect of all, to me, is that she talks about color.  She yearns for color.  When I read this piece, I think about the fact that no matter where I am or what I am feeling in my life, I will always have the beautiful, wonderful experience of color.

“I want to see the colors, all of them, every color ever spun into existence.  And white, true white, pristine and unblemished.  And acres of green trees, and miles of yellow-ribbon highways, and yards of Christmas lights.  And the moon.”

What a rich and lovely and vibrant thing.  This passage will never leave me, even in my saddest times.   And it will always remind me of what it means to be human, to have senses, to experience the world, and to live and love and absorb beauty.

One of the great loves of my life once said this:

“I love life. I love everything about it. Smiling, laughing, loving, crying, breathing, jumping, running, flying, standing still – arms open, head tilted towards the heavens. Everything in, around, and about my life is beautiful. I watch countless sunrises, sunsets, wind blowing in the trees, waves rolling on open water, birds flying in the endless sky and fall more in love with this world every day. I don’t understand how any person could be anything but overjoyed with life.”

And he has a point, does he not?  The things he loves are simple and universal, and they flood him daily with enormous feelings of gratitude and love.

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So what does this do for our bodies and our health?

Feeling gratitude in every moment, and looking at the positive aspects of our experiences, increases the amount of time we spend thinking positively about the world.  With more and more positive thoughts accumulating in our heads, we are de facto pushing out the negative ones.  Instead of spending our time trying to get rid of negative thoughts, which can sometimes help us achieve neutrality, we can actively use positive thinking to shove them out the door. “Sorry, self-hate! My brain is an open invitation party for lovers and optimists only.”    Even if it is only a little bit at first, the ability to think positively and gratefully about our lives grows and grows, and can become more and more the dominant mode of thought.

Like I said above, easier said than done.  But it’s true and it’s important and it’s absolutely a practical step towards well-being.   Make a list about yourself, for example, of all of the beautiful things inside and out.  Or stand in front of the mirror.  Or flex and look at your muscles.  Do whatever you need to to appreciate your own body.  Lay in your bed and breathe deeply in and out, and think about your heartbeat and your nerves and all of your fibers working together.  Even better, though, is looking for gratitude outside of yourself. Open your fridge and feel grateful for your bounty.  We live in a world of abundance, so instead of resenting it, be grateful that you have enough food and resources to meet your needs.  It’s okay if you overeat once in a while, or what-have-you.  Isn’t that better than starving for the rest of your life?  I know a lot of people who in secret admit that they have envied starving children in India because it is “effortless” to be thin.  Please don’t be one of them.  It is the most wonderful thing to be fed and warm, and we have nothing to be but grateful for it.  Our societies have hindered our ability to normally use those resources, but that’s okay.  We can get that back.  We just have to love, love, love ourselves and rise above the troubles coming at us in our lives.  We have worlds worth of things to be grateful for, and focusing on them helps us transcend the ugliness in our own lives.

Studies about gratitude have shown time and time again that it increases well-being.   Feeling grateful makes the world a generally brighter place, and we could really use that from time to time.  The thing is that it doesn’t just have to be an occasion, or an intervention, but it can be a habit.   To make that happen, we can routinely focus on our gratitude, AND, if we really want to push the envelop, we can explicitly express our gratitude.  Expressing thanks to others has shown to be hugely beneficial and stress reducing.  One slighter but no less important method is expressing thanks privately, such as writing, drawing, or singing how we feel.  I mean it.  Get it out there.  Share with your loved ones and the wider universe what you are grateful for in any situation, and your brain be much better prepared to deal with future struggles.

I write about gratitude today not only because it is the most important thing in my life but also because it is so incredibly relevant to contemporary culture.  We live in a time that compels us to think about what we can’t have, to wish we could be better, to want want want want need need need need.  Bullshit!  Contemporary culture actively works to eliminate gratitude and appreciation.  Constantly, it chips away at our “gratitude muscles.”  I don’t like this one bit.  Positive thinking is enabled by gratitude and acceptance and love, and sometimes we need reminders of that fact.  So… stop.  breathe.  look up.  look around.   Life certainly is a clusterfuck of struggles and pain sometimes, but we always exist, and we always have something beautiful in our lives, and we always have each other.  If those things aren’t enough to ease the burdens off of our shoulders, I don’t know what possibly could be.

Kevin Spacey’s character in the film American beauty says:

“It’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst…and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…”

 

 

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The history behind Paleolithic diets

The palaeolithic diet, is a eating style which is compared to the caveman diet because it only allows you to eat certain types of meat and vegetables and bans sugar and ready-made meals. Similar eating styles were presumed to be used 2.5 million years ago. The modern version permits dieters to have grass fed, pasture raised meats, fish, vegetables, roots, nuts and fruits. However, it excludes grains, legumes, refined sugars and dairy. It tries to mimic what cave people might have lived off of.

The science behind this method is that research has suggested that modern people are genetically developed to consume the diet of their ancestors. In addition, studies have shown that there has been nutritional benefits of trying the old age diet. Some people think it can help with acne because it helps improve their skin. It seems like a good idea if you want to cut down on fatty items and ready-meals, improve your quality of life, living longer which will reduce the risk of your family cashing in on the Aviva Life insurance, or which ever company you might be with. However, it is not popular with everyone, nutritional experts and the National Health Service of England have implied it is likely to be a fad diet. Critics believe it doesn’t reach certain dietary recommendations and the diet provides no benefit, but equally no harm.

The main foods of the diet are based around those which can be hunted or gathered, such as fish, eggs, nuts, fruits and seeds. By eating lean cuts of meat, including wild game and grass fed beef, proved to have higher levels of omega 3 oils. Any product which was not consumed by the cave people are not permitted, these include dairy and grains.

To wash all that down with, dieters can drink water and some teas, but are banned from alcohol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

05 2011

Why eat paleo?

Why, indeed?

For some of us, this is old news.  But it’s always nice to be reminded, and to think deeply about why we live the way we do.  On the other hand, a relatively large quantity of diet explorers have been coming by recently (hello!), and I want to share with them a smattering of  delicious reasons for giving it a try.  Feel free to add on more (or dispute them) in the comments section.   Also, you should perhaps consult my post on perfectionism and expectations in the paleo world. In my opinion, paleo rocks, and nutrition is infinitely important for our well-being, but we should approach all things in life with appropriate expectations.   For information on the diet, check out my “paleo diet” page.  Also, the “links” page is hugely important, as there are loads of good guides and scientific blogs out there that you absolutely must check out if you are interested.  I can help you pick out the resources that are best for you.

Finally, I want to be clear with semantics.  “Diet” here means: way you eat.   Like Richard Nikoley put so well last week in his Raw Vegan Radio debate, “”Paleo” is not really a diet. Rather, it is a framework within which any individual determines their own lifelong, sustainable regime.”   Right.  Eat stuff that seems like a good idea.

A “why paleo” list, in no particular order:

1)  Eating a paleo diet just. makes. sense. Look at all of the ailments and diseases humanity faces.  Overweight, diabetes, cancer, alzheimers, arthritis, irritable bowel, mental illness, heart disease…hell, even myopia. Why do no other species on the planet exhibit the same problems?    Contemporary society has this totally misguided idea that disease is inevitable, that humans today “live longer than they used to” (false), and therefore that we need to use medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to fix all of these inherent, inevitable problems.  Wrong. Why do things go wrong with us in the first place?  Why do we develop cancers?   Why do children have diabetes?  Why does anyone?

We are made out of the food we eat.  Literally.  So if we put food in our bodies that is unnatural or that they don’t know how to handle, they are going to work way out of whack.   A good analogy is this:  say you want to build a house.   Are you going to use redwoods, or are you going to use toothpicks?  Worse, still, are you going to use something right out of a factory, that hasn’t been properly tested, that you don’t know is good for you or not, such as… I don’t know… tar?  No.  You want to use the best stuff out there.  A house made out of inappropriate materials would never stand.  Ever.  So why do the same to our bodies?

2)  Paleo cures ailments. Look at my mother, for example.  Or me.   Or these thousands at Marks Daily Apple.   The science is really quite solid on this one.  If you have a disease of civilization, there is a very good chance you can fix it with diet.  More importantly, however, people are staring to share their awesome stories of recovery, health, and vivacity.

3)  Preventative medicine is better than treatment.  For real.  It’s cheaper, it’s better for you, and it’s more natural. A doctor can give you statins for your heart all you want, but did you know statins increase the risk of other degenerative diseases and organ failure? A heart doctor might not necessarily know that either.  He specializes in one thing only.  How is he supposed to know that his medicines mess with your brain?  Drugs have effects. They might “fix” one part of your body, but they’ll surely mess with another.   Plus they are expensive. Taking care of our bodies now helps us avoid having to fix them in the future.

4)  Sugar is toxic. More than a teaspoon of sugar in the blood is toxic (this is why we have insulin, and why our bodies are so good at storing sugar as fat.)  Know how much sugar is in a can of soda?  Right.  Plus, Cancer feeds off of sugar. More and more people are looking at paleo-type diets to cure cancer, and more and more of them are having success.

5)  A paleo diet stablizes blood sugar levels and gives you more energy. Do you feel tired in the afternoons?  After eating?  Do you ever feel woozy after standing up too fast?  You might think these are all perfectly natural phenomenon, but they’re not.   What’s happening to you is that once you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar spikes, and in order to clear these toxins out of your system your body releases insulin.  Insulin gets the sugar out of your blood and into your fat cells, and then your blood sugar plummets.  You feel tired, cranky, or dizzy, and sometimes ravenously hungry.    However, if you eat a diet low in carbohydrate, your blood sugar will not spike, so it will not plummet, either.  You will happily exist on an even keel, and you will have loads and loads more energy.  Promise.

6)  Wheat is bad for you. Period.   It steals important nutrients from our intestines and significantly decreases our nutrient supply.  Ever wonder why Americans eat the most dairy but have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world?  Worst of all, perhaps, wheat creates gut permeability.  Once you have a permeable gut, all sorts of toxins and bacteria can get into your bloodstream.  From there, they can give you systemic infections.  They can also provoke your immune system into hyperdrive, and induce autoimmunity.

6.5)  Wheat and rice are BORING. Once you get over them, you will never miss them.  They have no flavor.  Bread feels like dust in my mouth these days.  So why do we still eat them?  Because they increase opiate sensitivity in the brain.  Grains = drugs.

7)  A paleo diet is the best candidate for a “cure” for leaky gut, the common cause of autoimmune disease. This is because it eschews foods that have recently been introduced to the human diet and cause all sorts of havoc in our digestive tracks (as well as other places).  These are: wheat products, dairy, and legumes. Whole, raw, unprocessed dairy may be okay to eat.  The jury is still on this one. In any case, eschew it if you’re autoimmune.  Use your best judgment otherwise.  The diseases a leaky gut can cause include but are not limited to: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alopecia Areata, Rosacea, Celiac, Grave’s, Crohn’s…..

8)  Paleo diets are the most fun diets out there. You get to eat fat, and– fuck!  As much of it as you want.  And protein.  Every animal!   Some carbs if you want.  And big, fulfilling meals.   Check out this phenomenal cookbook and Melissa McEwen’s blog to see what I mean.

9)  Paleo diets are uniquely satiating. Why?  Because eating fat is uniquely satiating, and there’s loads of it on this diet.   Because protein is the most important macronutrient for satiation, and it’s also big on this diet.  Because fructose induces hunger and high insulin levels induce hunger and blood sugar swings induce hunger, and they are all limited on this diet.  If you are a busy human being, this will keep you going without food.  If you struggle with cravings, this will help.  Enormously. That’s the theme of 50 percent of the posts on this blog.

10)  Most people spontaneously lose weight on paleo diets. Eliminating inflammatory foods and sugars, and getting back to normal metabolic processes just does it for people.  Our bodies stop panicking and overproducing cortisol (the stress hormone)  and insulin and inflammatory agents, and then get a chance to reset.

11)  People lean out and look hot on a paleo diet, especially if they’re trying. Eat paleo, throw some heavy lifting in there, and sprint once in a while, and you’ll look like Mark Sisson in no time.  I’m not kidding.  Look at all of the “leaders” of the movement.  They’re all scientists, but they’re ripped, and they’re radiant, and they’re healthy.  Why follow doctor Oz when he’s a skinny fuck with an unhealthy colon?   Or your doctor, who munches on doughnuts between office visits?  Or Gwenyth Paltrow, who looks great, eats a vegetarian diet, and has osteoporosis?  That’s a bit beside the point.  What I’m saying here is: if you want to be ripped, this is the way to do it.  Even if you’re 60.  Gods, I should post pictures of my mom.

12)  Joint pain is almost always reduced on a paleo diet. Check out that post I linked to earlier about my mother.  Inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils and grains irritate our joints.   For example, my knees act up if I’m not being careful with limiting my omega 6 consumption.  Otherwise, I am absolutely pain free.

13)  Stress and anxiety can decrease on a paleo diet.  I’m not saying that paleo will cure the ailments of your life.  What I am saying, however, is that any stress that exists in your system from the food you’re putting in it will go away.  Your cortisol levels will probably fall.  It’s nice.

14)  You get to be proud and indignant on a paleo diet.  Why should I buy a box of “heart healthy” food out of a box, fortified with fiber and what-have-you-other supposed health benefits?  Why promote awful industries?  Why participate in waste?  Eat whole, local, organic foods, and revel in the good you’re doing for yourself and for your local economy.

15)  You get to extend your “mobile years.” Recent studies have shown that while humans are living longer, we are also mobile for fewer years of our lives.   Due to excessive joint pain and obesity an increasingly large amount of time spent in wheelchairs and nursing homes is the American norm.  This is insane.

16)  A paleo diet significantly decreases the risk of dementia. I watched my grandmother spiral into insanity.  If that’s not reason to eschew grains, sugars, and other inflammatory agents, I don’t know what is.

17)  You get to think about ancestral humans in other realms of your life. You realize that you should sleep more.  That shoes aren’t always the answer, and a lot of our pain might come from the unnatural stride they give us.  That a lot of modern “necessities” are really just ways we are trying to recover from the damage we’ve done.  I use little soap, for example.  I wash my hair with natural things.   I brush my teeth only for vanity’s sake, not because I need to. And that’s not weird, it’s just fine.  I am just as clean and healthy as I always was, if not, cross my heart, more so.   I avoid fluorescent lights, and now I sleep better.  I know that “playing” is healthy for me.  I know that stress is bad.  Etc.

18)  Paleo makes phenomenally healthy babies. Regardless of your view on nutrition, you cannot argue against the fact that a paleo diet is the most nutritionally dense one out there.  Check out this comparison of nutrient density of fruits to beef liver. Moreover, did you hear about the ruckus of the French parents who raised a vegan baby and killed it with vitamin deficiencies?  Yikes.  If you’re interested, check out Chris Kresser’s work.  He recently has put together a great online course on “how to make and raise a healthy baby.”    A healthy pregnancy, healthy nursing, healthy early nutrition… it’s all super important for the baby for the rest of it’s life.

19)  Stabilized hormone levels from a paleo diet mitigate the symptoms of PMS.  It’s not normal to be fucked up by your periods.

20)  Paleo diets prevent heart disease. Think the cholesterol theory of heart disease is right?  Think again.  Even conventional doctors are coming around on this one.

21)  You get to eat MORE on a paleo diet if you want. In one study, people ate equal caloric amounts (only 12oo calories!) on high carb versus high fat diets, and those who ate mostly fat lost weight, those who ate equal amounts lost a little bit, and those who ate mostly carbs actually gained weight.  I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life.  I used to eat a tiny cup of quinoa and some cereal and six grapes for breakfast, then maybe a sweet potato for lunch…. now it’s omelets and bowls full of pork soup and fish filets galore, with an even fitter, more muscled, happier body.

(Edit: Of course there’s lots of contrary evidence out there on this point.  Check out this great comprehensive post over at Carb Sane.  Then eat and see.)

22)  It’s easy.

23)  Bacon.

24) Bacon.

25) Bacon.

01

05 2011

Feel deprived? Throw a hearty ‘fuck you’ at American culture

What the fuck.  I live in the most abundant age, and in the most abundant place, that this planet has ever known.  As mentioned before, there are more choices in my life than I could ever, ever possibly imagine.  And yet: I feel as though I don’t have enough.  I can’t eat enough.  I can’t consume enough.  I can’t do enough.  I can’t be enough.   What the fuck is going on?

Someone once pointed out to me that we were raised in a culture in which our grandparents and parents suffered deprivation.  I acknowledge this point.  My father, for example, is an extraordinarily frugal man because of the frugal and tenuously stable environment in which he grew up.  I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m grateful for this experience.  But my father feels more secure and content than practically every person I know.  I think this “Great Depression” theory is a pretty poor explanation for my feelings of deprivation.  If I really were feeling the pains of that time period, or of the giant monetary burdens I am shouldering during this century’s own clusterfuck of an economy, I might, instead of feeling deprived, be overjoyed at the abundance of cheap choices available to me.  Indeed: it seems to me that those who lived through such frugal times do not quail at the abundance of our culture, but instead (I think) tend to happily proceed on minimal means and take advantage of whatever benefits come their way.

So, big deal.  People are deprived all over the world.  The problem really is is that we exist in a culture designed to make us want more.  Choices are abundant, and we live in a sea of variety, such that every time we make a choice, we end up regretting the choice we did not make.  I feel this pressure in a big way in deciding which graduate school to attend in the fall, and I feel this pressure in a more mundane way when choosing what foods to eat a buffet.  And since this problem is more mundane, it effects more of my daily life.  Still using the buffet for an example, I always try to get as much of it as possible, because if I don’t try every food then aren’t I being deprived of something I could otherwise have at minimal cost?   Think about the PIES for god’s sake.  Apple, blueberry, strawberry, mixed berry, pumpkin, banana cream, key lime, lemon meringue… jesus christ thank GOD I am paleo and I don’t have to make that kind of choice anymore.   Even worse, this tyranny of choice doesn’t just apply to my taste buds but to my sense of nutrition: if I choose to go for the seaweed because of its iodine content, I am instead missing out on the lycopene in the tomatoes!  Woe is me!  How can I ever be healthy?  How can I ever be satisfied?  How can I ever meet all the needs society is insisting I have?

Commercials, advertisements, companies, even schools, universities, and governments… they depend on us feeling deprived.  Its our deprivation that makes us consume their products and services.   Don’t have enough education?  The University of Phoenix is here for you!  Too fat?  Try my food!  Too ugly?  Try my eight billion dollar cosmetics industry!  Chasing progress (but not perfection) is all well and good, but American culture positively pounds it into us.  If you don’t have this new thing or that new fad or God knows what popular personality trait, then you’re just not cutting it.  You need to be perfect to find happiness, to find a lover, to be complete.  This sucks.  Idiots.

This is present in all aspects of our lives, and in all forms of consumption, but it is particularly striking in food culture.  What kills me the most is that…well, we have this abundance.   We have established that this can lead to unhealthy thought patterns.  Even worse, however, is that we are given feelings of inadequacy to go along with the deprivation. We see commercials and advertisements and friends with freakishly mutant genetics and start to develop a crazy idea: other people have what I want, but they don’t suffer negative consequences.  That woman on the TV can eat chocolates and not have fat thighs!  My friends can eat dairy without developing acne!  My brother can eat pounds of ice cream a day without nary a negative side effect!  Why am I so unique, and so deprived, and so incapable of having the same pleasures as everyone else?  We are simultaneously bombarded with signals that scream: “you need more products and variety!” and signals that scream: “these people are perfect, why aren’t you?” and it tears at our souls, it really does.

Our culture of abundance is structured to make us feel deprived, and it is these exact feelings that give us patterns of disordered and binge eating (not always, of  course, but often enough.)  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this thought, or had friends or clients share it with me: “I’m tired of eating what I’m supposed to eat.  I’m tired of eating when I’m supposed to eat.  I’m tired of following rules and having to watch myself so closely and censor all of my food choices.Honestly, I hate this more than anything.  I feel it intensely, and I acknowledge its power, but I still have a hard time getting over it.  Why can my roommate eat five times a day?  Why can she eat carbohydrates?  Why can’t I?  why can’t I?  Why can’t I?

This is because there is SO MUCH out there telling us to eat more, tempting us, telling us its possible to eat these awful things without having negative consequences, and making us feel like our dietary choices (re: a paleo diet with regular meals) is a deprivation diet.  Ugh.

What this says to me is that what we really need is psychological freedom.

We need to acknowledge that our feelings of deprivation are external in origin. And not only that, but they are deliberately instilled in us by consumer culture.   How dare they?  How dare we?  What the fuck are we doing to ourselves?  Is there a solution?

Well.  There are a few.  They’re not panaceas, but they do help, some.

First, acknowledging the power of this cultural machine is a big help.  Once you acknowledge what kind of sway food culture has over you–whether it’s by advertising, by the abundance of choice (like me at a Taiwanese buffet!), by friends who eat conventional diets and seem to do just fine, or by people who pressure you to partake in unhealthy foods–you can fight it.  You can see it coming and dodge.  You can hide.  You can use whatever strategies you have in your arsenal, from outright anger to, again, hiding from the media, to help alleviate the psychological pressures.  One way in which I’ve really helped myself feel better is by moving away from America.  Honest.  And I don’t watch TV.  So I am no longer ever confronted with images of beautiful, leggy, clear-skinned, elegant women all over advertisements.  I don’t spend time wishing I were them.  Another way you can do this is to make a point of never, ever watching commercials.  Every time they come on the TV, put it on mute and open up a book.  Or stop perusing those horrific Self or Cosmo or Shape magazines.   Pay attention to what they’re saying to you: the message is always “indulge, indulge, indulge,” because they already know, and are trying to cultivate, your feelings of guilt and deprivation.  They’re not helping you, no matter how much they insist this is true.  Instead, they are deliberately crafting their self help magazines to make you keep needing their help.  Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it all.

Another solution, though not an easy one, is to turn it around.  Instead of feeling deprived because you can’t partake in this food culture, feel sorry for everyone involved in it.  Your diet is right and your lifestyle is awesome and it’s actually (really, it is) quite sad that they don’t have a truly healthful, fulfilling diet.  If you’d like, permit yourself to partake in this culture occasionally.  Writing yourself off from it entirely might make you feel even more deprived, and you don’t want it to have this kind of power over you.  Philosophies of asceticism are abstaining are dumb (*usually).  Life is short.  Instead, be the ruler of your own mind and your own body, and exist above popular ideas and consumer culture.  Come down and mingle with it from time to time, show it who’s boss, and then head on back up to your lofty spot of awesome health.  You are in control of your health and your diet (or at least most of the time!) and that is a completely badass, empowering fact.  Every day you choose to follow the paleo lifestyle (or a similarly good one) because it is right and it feels right and it’s so good for your body.  Fuck cookies!  They taste good but they destroy your liver.  You don’t need that shit.   Your diet is not just tasty but is awesome for you, and I feel sorry for all the idiots out there who are deliberately ignorant of these facts.

Finally, I know that this is easier said than done.  But I really, strongly believe that feelings of deprivation are huge components of disordered eating.  They make us crave fulfillment and indulgence and immediate pleasure, and food can give us that.  Especially when the exact thing we feel deprived of is, in fact, food.   Try not to view your healthy diet and your progress away from bingeing or grazing behaviors not as a step into deprivation but a step forward into the light of psychological freedom.  Without food on the mind, and without that desperate wishing and need so common to disordered eaters, we are free to feel all sorts of new positive emotions.  This is perhaps the most wonderful and empowering fact of paleo dieting.  It is a long and a hard road, sometimes, but increasing our awareness of what’s hampering that progress does nothing but compel us forward.

And, like I’ve said perhaps a million times, though a million is surely never enough: progress is the true goal.

Columbus (the idiot occasionally had one or two eloquent thoughts) once wrote:

“Following the light of the sun, we left the old world.”

Amen.

Leave the ugliness of consumer culture behind.  Transcend its call, and rise to a life of progress and holistic health.  You’ve got the tools.  All you need is a bit of attitude, a confident swagger, and a eye on continually building your self-love and progress.

And Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Breaking news: vegetarianism is lame for many reasons

Hi friends.  What follows is not a well-researched, heavily linked article on the perils of vegetarianism.  I would like to write one of those, but it might take ages, and I also have limited access to academic journals, not currently enrolled in an American academic institution.  It is, instead, a bit of a personal statement against vegetarianism.  Most paleo dieters are aware of the arguments I make here, but others that I sometimes direct to my blog, such as my family and friends, are less familiar with typical vegetarian versus non vegetarian arguments. I am more than happy to get into grittier details with people if they want.  Please email me on the contact form, or prod at me in the comments section.

This is just the surface, and–if you can’t tell–an emotionally charged one as well.  However, I want to append that caveat with another caveat: I believe that my strong emotional response to vegetarianism follows the arguments– I see the logic and I get pissed– not the other way around, where I feel angry and then rationalize my anger.  I myself was a vegetarian for many years, and I understand how absolutely compelling it is.   I was emotionally attached to it.  However, once I took a look at the statistics about sustainability and at the information on human health, I was forced, logically, to change my stance and my actions.  As such, I believe that vegetarianism is extraordinarily well-intentioned but ultimately misguided.  What follows is why.

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Gods.  Vegetarianism makes me sick.  I.. haha.  Is that true?  I think that’s true.  It wasn’t always.  The reason I feel that way is because saying “I’m a vegetarian” has all these moral implications, and I remember wearing that title as a student and using it as a means of identification and validation and moral superiority.  Who am I to say I’m better than you because I don’t eat animals?  That’s not okay, especially if others around me are making the best choices they can with the information provided, too.  Let’s not forget that vegetarianism has ascetic and religious roots, and that the idea of abstaining from something appeals to people for psychological and sociological reasons beyond ‘good for the planet.’

And YES, while as a vegetarian I was certainly acting on the best knowledge I had, and definitely trying my best to be moral, it was, essentially, wrong.  My vegetarianism wasn’t helping the environment as much as I thought.  Still eating eggs and dairy?  Fish?  I wasn’t, but many vegetarians do.  If you practice vegetarianism because of animal rights, consider that consuming milk is probably more abhorrent than consuming meat itself.  Milk cows are subject to an entire lifetime of soy products, digestive discomfort, extreme udder discomfort, hormone disregulation, and crowded, dirty, indoor (and, in fact, in-stall) living conditions.   On the other hand, if you practice vegetarianism because it is supposed to be more sustainable, consider that while your meat cost more energy than your grain or soy products, the transportation costs of the grains are still enormously high, and your grains are still destroying the incredibly tenuous soil resource.  Still eating plants from far away?  Bad news bears for transportation costs and pollution and the horrific environmental impact--especially soil depletion--of large scale monocultures.  While true that eating meat in excessive amounts is, well, excessive, eating meat to obtain sufficient protein from a local source is, I think, in fact a healthier course of action both for the environment and for our selves.  The books Meat: a benign extravagance and The vegetarian myth are excellent rebuttals (or, at least, alternative viewpoints) to contemporary environmentalism.   Also, check out this website on the book Against the Grain, which gives a concise summary of the most pertinent arguments against, well, grains.

I think vegetarianism is misguided (duh).  Sure, gorging ourselves on grains and not eating cows might help sustainability for another couple decades or so, but when it comes down to it, large scale agriculture is going to destroy the planet just as easily (if not quite as quickly) as raising livestock.  Vegetarianism is a band-aid, and a bit of a shitty one, at that.  The real answer to sustainability issues is local, cradle to grave husbandry.  Grow some plants, pick them, grow some grass to replenish the soil and keep it in place (something large scale agriculture doesn’t do), have cows eat the grass and poop on it to fertilize it (something large scale agriculture doesn’t do) and eat the cows then grow plants there again.  While impossible with America’s current subsidy and large-farm system, this type of ecosystem maximizes the health of the planet and our foods and our bodies, while minimizing negative impacts.

Something else to consider when we’re discussing environmental impact of foods is the level of processing.  If you’re a vegetarian and still eating foods out of boxes, you are consuming combinations of vegetable oils, different compounds, and all sorts of poisons (hyperbole? perhaps) that required transportation to the facility, manufacture, packaging, and later transportation.  Legitimately, very, really, legitimately, if you’re eating foods out of boxes your environmental impact may be much higher than someone eating a whole cow once every couple weeks.

What’s more, American culture tends to prize just a few cuts of meat.  This is ridiculous.  Organs and other less-celebrated cuts of meat are incredibly nutritious.  In fact, the lack of organ-eating in contemporary culture has been attributed to all sorts of nutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, copper, folate, selenium, zinc, and CoQ10.  If people begin eating WHOLE animals, and stopped wasting so much of them, their environmental impact would go WAY, way down.  I eat a lot of meat, sure, but my favorite meals are chicken stomachs, chicken hearts, beef liver, and beef tongue.  I eat all the parts other people throw away.  Does this mean I have “zero” environmental impact?  Not really.  But it’s a hell of a lot better than eating just a part of an animal and throwing the rest of it away, or even eating, as I mentioned before, anything grown on a monoculture or produced in a factory.

A lot of the literature on vegetarianism comes out of universities and the like, and a culture of sustainability dogma (most of which I’m all for, so long as it’s free thinking).  A lot of this sentiment, however, and the cultural zeitgeist comes from industry.  We all hear vegetarians talking about the evil powers of the meat industry, but what about the evil powers of the wheat, soy, and corn industries, which are vastly larger than the meat industry, and on which the contemporary meat industry actually depends?   American culture with regards to food, sustainability, health, and funding is a giant clusterfuck, and there’s no way around it.  The best way, imho, to say ‘fuck you’ to that giant machine is to eat as locally as possible.  Or, instead of in my opinion, but in my practice, it’s to move to Taiwan and daily eat a duck Wang Peng butchered and deep fried this morning.

Finally, there are about eight million health reasons to eat animals.  Here are a few:

Complete protein, for one.  You won’t get it from plants or legumes no matter how much vegetarians tell you otherwise (fuck quinoa!).

Getting enough healthy fat in your diet is another problem with vegetarian diets.  Vegetarian diets tend to be low in fat in general, which is BAD for your metabolism, your brain, your blood sugar, and your hormonal function.  What’s more, the content of the fat in vegetarian diets itself is high in omega 6-rich vegetable oils, which raise systemic inflammation and leads to all sorts of inflammation related diseases including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and alzheimers.

Another big one is nutrients.  Contrary to popular opinion, which is nuts, by the way, meat is full of vitamins and minerals and is in fact far and away more nutrient dense than grains.  One important nutrient is iron. Others are zinc, selenium, folic acid and phosphorous. Red meat is rich in vitamins A, Bs (12, the biggie), D, E, and K.  B12 is particularly important since it is found in no plants.  If you’re a vegetarian and you’re not supplementing, you’re in big trouble.

Note also that all of the vitamins and minerals contained in plants are less readily absorbed by our guts than those found in protein and fats.  This is because they are tied up with fiber and must first be broken down by gut flora.  Vegetarian literature often espouses that you not only can but SHOULD get all your vitamins and minerals from plants.  This is ridiculous.  Common vegetarianism asserts, for example, that you get your vitamin A from carrots, but this just isn’t true. Carrots instead have beta carotene in them, which is converted to vitamin A by bacteria in your gut, but only at a rate of, at maximum, 30 percent. There is WAY more vitamin A in animal fat and in animal livers than in plants, and its readily available to use.

Any vitamin that you digest in plant form must first be handled by your gut flora, and then absorbed, but the thing is that plants–especially wheat–often have lectins in them, which inhibit nutrient absorption.  This is potentially responsible for all sorts of nutrient deficiencies in developed countries, particular Ca and Mg.  Think you have osteoporosis because you don’t eat enough dairy?  How come Americans, who consume more dairy than any other country in the world, have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world, too?  How come cultures that have never come in contact with dairy have perfect bone health?  That’s because (I assert!) they eat a natural, high fat, relatively high animal, no grain, no sugars diet.  For serious.

What about antioxidants?  Forget it.  You “need” antioxidants to fight free radicals, which are produced primarily by carbohydrate metabolism. If you’re not putting shit like grains and excessive sugars in your body, then you don’t need antioxidants to fight them.  Why dig a hole in the ground for your ladder so you can paint your basement windows?

Oh, and as a final remark, if you want to be a vegetarian for religious reasons, be my guest.  That’s cool.

And that might be about it for right now, friends.  I’m sure there is plenty more.  Have more to add on my side?  Drop me a line.  Want to fight about how poorly cited my diatribe was?  Please respond with some links in kind.   I 800 percent acknowledge that you might beat me silly with a good argument, so go ahead.  I want to be smarter, and I want you to open up my mind.

That said, vegetarianism was so 2008.

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03 2011