Friday, February 19, 2010

Breaking Food Seductions

This is a slightly long post, so let me give you a quick overview of what I talk about.

1. Dr. Neal Barnard’s book, Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings- and 7 steps to End Them Naturally
2. My experience (briefly)
3. My plan to start Dr. Barnard’s 21-Day Vegan Kickstart on March 1st…Yeah, I’m already vegan, but I’m going to focus on making it a low-fat, high fiber, lower glycemic index vegan diet. I hope you join me.


Dr. Neal Barnard is a medical doctor, and also the president and founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization that I really respect.

In his book, Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings- and 7 steps to End Them Naturally, Dr. Barnard gives us a great explanation as to why Western Society is stuck on SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, CHEESE, and MEAT; the addictive qualities of those foods! And he shows us why it is important to end the reliance we have on these foods, and most importantly HOW to break that addictive cycle. He believes that a vegan diet is the healthiest and best for us. But not just a vegan diet, because it can be easy to eat unhealthfully and be vegan. Dr. Barnard recommends a low-fat, high fiber, lower glycemic index vegan diet.

Some benefits from this diet:
~not be at the mercy of food cravings
~lose excess pounds and achieve a healthy weight
~lower cholesterol
~lower blood pressure
~reverse heart disease
~prevent and even reverse diabetes
~decrease your risk of cancer
~possibly improve back pain (Strange, right? But not just from losing weight, but by removing blockages in the lumbar arteries that contribute to lower back-pain.)
~prevent impotence in middle-age and older men
~eliminate constipation (haha! I'm so pun -y.)
~prevent hemorrhoids (more fiber equals less straining)
~create stronger bones (animal products leach calcium, yes, including milk)
~reduce PMS problems
~just be overall healthier, live longer, and have more energy

These are the direct benefits of a [low-fat, high fiber, lower glycemic index] vegan diet for you...we're not even taking into account animals and the environment, who will also benefit. Seriously, who doesn't want the above?

I found this book to be very easy to understand and accessible. And though it's listed as a 300 page book, at least 100 pages are of recipes to steer you in the right direction to eating healthy. And Dr. Barnard and Robyn Webb have a new cookbook coming out in May 2010 that might be a good supplement and worth checking out, "The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook."

Anyway, as I was reading about the different cravings/addictions, I could see that everyone struggles with their own kind of cravings, has their own poison so to speak. I had no idea that cheese and meat were actually addictive, and that explains a lot about why it can be hard for some people to quit them. [insert Brokeback Mountain joke here] In fact, I have had people not believe me when I say that I never had cheese or meat cravings after going vegan. It's true, though.

But I suffer from other cravings. I briefly mentioned my month-long trial of going vegan back in 2006, and the terrible idea of missing Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Ironically, I don't really struggle with chocolate either. It's the sugar. Chocolate on its own I can pass up, but add some sugared-up peanut butter or cookie dough or other fatty sweetness, and I am sucked in by the demon of sugary addiction. Sweets and fried foods were not something I had to give up when I went vegan. This is why I am not one of those skinny vegans. I’ve battled weight issues my whole life, and I was already significantly overweight when I went vegetarian and then vegan.

My weakness for sugar is also why I struggle with potatoes. They are a gateway drug for me. I LOVE potatoes, especially French fries, but it's their digestive conversion to sugars that causes me to go on fat-sugar binges. If I am not careful, eating potatoes on the higher end of the glycemic index sends me into dessert-craving territory and I consume far more calories than desired. I do better these days making my own low-fat potato wedges and choosing ‘new’ potatoes when I have to have potatoes. But I still crave them and sweets.

I checked out this book because I've been looking to fix my diet so that I don't suffer greasy food or sugar cravings. My goals are to really make those occasional foods, to not crave them, and to drop about 50 pounds. I suspect that this book will help me get back on track, and I know that if I follow Dr. Barnard’s guide I will be where I want to be.

Back in 2005, I had a gall bladder attack. WORST. PAIN. EVER. Of course, it was the only time I ever had a major health issue or major pain of any kind, so I know there is room for worse pain to exist. But it was the worst pain I had ever felt up to that point, a full 10 on the pain scale of 1 to 10. The ER doctor suspected it was gall bladder related though the ultrasound showed nothing. I went to my regular doctor and later a GI specialist who confirmed it. I didn’t dilly-dally about setting up an appointment to get my gall bladder removed. In the meantime, I started eating what they call a bland diet, which also happened to be a low-fat, low glycemic vegetarian diet. I wasn’t yet vegan, but I was already very close. And even eating a bland diet didn’t stop me from having a second gall bladder attack. My poor little sac of bile was already compromised.

I dropped quite a bit of weight in a relatively short time, I didn’t have ANY cravings for sugary, fatty, or greasy foods, and I felt the best I ever have. I know it was due to the low-fat, high fiber, lower glycemic index diet. I finally had my gall bladder out, and was still eating that way for awhile…and yet, somehow I fell off the wagon. I’m actually not even sure what happened, but I gradually started eating poorly again. And ever since, I’ve wanted to find a way back to that place. I know there is a way to be happy on a low-fat, high fiber, lower glycemic vegan diet. And I’m thinking that this 21-day Vegan Kickstart is what I need.

I might check in once in awhile about my progress if it relates to being vegan in Az, but I promise this won’t be a diet blog by any stretch of the imagination. I'm curious, is anyone else interested in trying the program?

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