Friday, October 14, 2011

October 13

Today I wanted to talk about fighting the correct battle.  There are many battles and challenges when it comes to improving diet and health.  There are challenges in understanding what needs to be done, developing shopping and cooking skills, changing habits, coping with family and social situations, coping with travel, overcoming food addictions, understanding and applying the principle of adherence, and getting slimmer just to name a few.  I would like to discuss some of these challenges in upcoming posts if anybody is interested.

The reason I want to discuss this topic is because, in my observation, too many people are getting nowhere because they are fighting the wrong battle.  I have experienced this myself and had to learn the hard way.  I used to comment on the boards when I saw this happening, but found that it infuriated others - mostly people themselves who were fighting the wrong battle.  So I stopped.  Perhaps I can discuss it here in a general way.

An example of this is somebody I have quietly followed for over year.  This is a person who is very overweight with serious health problems and has made no significant progress over the last year.  This person perceives her battle to be a daily conflict over whether or not she will overeat.  When her weight is on the way down, she posts and tracks enthusiastically.  When her weight goes back up, she is in a more somber mood and fails to track what she is doing.  I have never seen her look back at her posts as a whole for the last year.

If you researched the persons posts over the entire year, you would see frequent comments concerning things like chocolate, brownies, cakes, restaurant and coffee shop food, coffee drinks, candy bars, pastries, Cheetos and other junk food etc.  There is always an excuse offered - typically stress.

So this person thinks that she has a battle with stress when it is apparent to me that she has a battle with addiction.  I have never seen her use that word for what she is doing, nor have I seen her make an effort to deal with her problem as one of addiction.  But it is clear from looking over the year that she can never go long without some type of high calorie density treat.  I don't think her situation will improve over the next year unless she realizes that she has to deal with her addiction, and experience total withdrawal from these foods.  As long as she teases herself with tastes, the problem will continue.

Another example of sabotage from fighting the wrong battle is a grossly overweight individual who said he wanted to change.  With encouragement from others, he resolved to completely adhere to a very healthy vegan diet.  Of course, he failed miserably, repeatedly, and perhaps completely.

This person failed to fight the early battles.  He had little understanding of the principles of healthy eating (which is different from an understanding of "rules"). Further, he had no idea of how to shop or to cook and did not have the proper kitchen tools to do so.  By taking on an advanced challenge of total adherence to a very strict plan, he ensured his failure

The reason that I am so concerned about this issue is because earlier in life I knew of Dr. McDougall and his teachings, and had his books.  However I failed because I elected to follow the "rules" of his plan rather than the principles.  Rules are easy to bend.  You will see people with vast amounts of weight to lose who rely upon things like bread, popcorn, tortillas (perhaps baked to chips), rice cakes, cold cereals, and other high calorie density foods making up large portions of their diet.  And then they wonder why they fail.  So did I.

In summary, getting to a healthy eating place is perhaps a never-ending series of battles.  And it takes thought and effort to determine which battle you should be fighting.  One thing is for sure.  If you are not experiencing success, you are likely fighting the wrong battle.

In my own case, I believe that I was recently fighting the wrong battle.  I thought that my weight plateau, which was too high, was about what I was eating.  In fact, I had to learn (from Dr. Fuhrman) about toxic hunger and how it differs from true hunger.  Right now, I think I am winning this battle.  My next battle may be how to include nuts into my diet without over consumption.  Again, when I follow Dr. Fuhrman's advice and only eat them with meals, I do ok.

As for amount of nuts, I am trying to follow a path that everybody likes.  2 oz. of nuts per day seems to be ok for everybody, and seems to work for me too.  If I stop losing weight, I may drop that to 1 oz.  I can't eat nuts alone - even when I have made a mistake on my hunger levels and am very hungry.  I wish everybody luck in identifying their own correct battles.  
When you have a good starch ready to go, lunch can be simple and fast.  I always have warm brown rice in the Tiger rice cooker and Japanese sweet potatoes either in the oven or in the refrigerator ready to warm in the microwave.  All that is needed is some of my favorite fruit and or veggies.  On this day, I had chopped spinach, zucchini, and bell pepper.
Some of my favorite veggies chopped and ready to go.

I also had a can of black beans, and there is lunch.

It looks a lot like lunch, because basically, it is.  I added a bunch of mushrooms and added almonds (I had too many) and no beans.  I did add another Japanese sweet potato.


  1. Another enlightening post, Bob. The concept of principles versus rules is such a valuable one to grasp--and it is not a distinction I had really thought about, but it makes perfect sense now that you have isolated it. Over the past month, I have been really working at getting more low-calorie density, raw veggies into my meals. I've developed a shopping strategy that works with my schedule, and have moved my veggie processing tools (processor, knives, cutting boards) to the front of the counter where I can't miss seeing them. I keep the dishes done up, and the sink clean, so that it is ready to wash veggies whenever I get any. What seemed like something that would be difficult to manage is much easier than I thought. So much for excuses, eh?

    I am fascinated with the "toxic vs true" hunger idea, but I'm not sure I really have a handle on it for myself, yet. Working seven days a week keeps me on a relatively inflexible schedule; if I don't want to eat when it's "time to", I don't have an opportunity to eat until the next meal time; I don't want to get so hungry that it interfers with my work (which is mostly customer service), or so hungry that I snarf down whatever is handy (which, where I work, won't be anything I ought to eat). On the plus side, being at work all the time does limit my opportunities for bingint out on junk, so it's not all bad. I'm thinking I might try skipping supper--assuming I'm not all that hungry for it--and see how that feels at breakfast time. Differentiating between those two types of hunger is something I want to learn to do. I know it would be of benefit to me over the long run. I'm getting a lot out of reading about your experiments in this area.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post and blog about your meals and thoughts and practices. I admit that I have been coasting for awhile, in that "good but not good enough" area of the journey. You have gotten me excited about hitting the road again and have given me some fresh tools for the trip.

  2. Hi SactoBob,

    Greetings from Heretic! You may perhaps remember me from McDougall's forum a few years ago.

    I think "fighting the wrong battle" is a very good and fairly generic description of the problems you are referring to. I agree with your choice: adding nuts as per Joel Fuhrman's plan was a good idea. A lack of fat is often one of the main (though not the only one) reason behind some of the problems you have described. However, as you probably know, nuts do not contain the full range of fats needed for the human body. Topping it up with an occasional egg yolk from grass-fed poultry, butter from grass-fed cows, and wild fish - will work even better.

    Stan (Heretic)