Monday, January 16, 2012

further enlightenment

I got a flash of insight this morning as i was finishing my first cup of coffee:  although fulfilling the "hot caffeinated beverage" function for which it's intended, coffee without heavy cream is much less of a pleasure-delivery system than it used to be.

Now, "duh" is the expected response to a statement like that.  If i stopped my analysis there, this would be the most banal post i could possibly write, but the way my mind works, it's the subtle ramifications that i find most intriguing.  I'm attracted to the tiny rills which swell the mighty river.

Two reactions will probably inhibit a lot of people who might otherwise try this dietary scheme:  the "i can't give up grains" response, and the "but i always ... because it relaxes/invigorates/pleasures me."  The problems are addiction, habit, and fear of loss of pleasure.  Been there.

The first time i specifically banished grains from my diet was when i started Atkins, about 8 years ago.  I don't specifically remember it being all that difficult, though i sorely missed a few foods which had been staples when i suffered under the low-fat paradigm.  But on the occasions since then, when i allowed myself to indulge in bread, rice, or oatmeal, i clearly felt the pull of such foods -- the urge to continue eating, scarfing them down, despite the lack of actual HUNGER.  When my husband was working in New Orleans ... OH MY GOD ... the wonderful french bread you could buy for a SONG at Croissant D'Or....

Some foods are physically as well as psychologically addictive.  Treat them as the evil seducers they are -- they want to convince you that it's all about innocent pleasures whose only downside is disapproval by puritanical anti-hedonists.  They're lying.  The downside is disease and misery.

Various blogs (and the recent book "Wheat Belly") explain why, with their discussions of the addictive properties of grains.  You don't notice it so much when it's a part of your everyday diet, but quit for a while and reintroduce -- WOW.  My name is Tess, and i'm an addict.  I won't embarrass myself by getting technical with talk of opioid receptors and endocannabinoids, but i'll willingly confess to being their thrall.  Just recently, during the holiday season, i allowed myself a treat in the form of "party mix" made with only rice chex and nuts, and the usual butter/spice topping.  i rationed my servings, but after the butter-rice combination hit my digestive tract, i felt the urge to stuff my maw like Cookie Monster!  Butter and vegetables don't have QUITE that strong an appeal.

A HUGE number of people actually exhibit signs of panic when they're asked to give up bread and cereals.  (Note to self:  add "auto-hypnosis" to "addiction" and "habit" above....)  If they believe they can't give up these things, they're very likely to saboutage themselves.  They're addicted, and the best thing they can do is go cold-turkey.  Eat pre-cooked mini-quiches for breakfast, and wrap your sandwich in leaf-lettuce rather than bread; order restaurant sandwiches and hold the bun -- it's not that hard to substitute.

Enter, "habit."  That glorious first cup of coffee of the morning, as a vehicle for cream ingestion ... i did it every day, and didn't think about it, because cream is "legal" in low-carb diets.  I expected to want it much more than i do, now that i've gotten used to coconut milk.  I expected cheese and wine to elicit cravings, because i love them and used them often.  I DIDN'T.  When i got back from taking my husband to the airport last night, i wanted to sit down with a cocktail; a month ago, i would have done just that.  But i didn't CRAVE it (because these are not physiological NEEDS) -- it was easy to resist.  I don't NEED all these things i consumed regularly, before.  I hardly miss them at all.

I suspect that "fear of loss of pleasure" may be a very strong motivation to continue eating things we shouldn't.  To get back to the cream and wine as exemplars:  i LOVE cream, and there's no reason from a low-carb point of view, why i shouldn't allow myself to enjoy it ... UNLESS it causes physiological effects which i'm significantly better without.  The ONLY WAY i'll ever learn exactly what these effects may be is to strictly CUT THEM OUT of my diet.  For the space of a month???  If this is the hardest thing i'll every do, i lead a charmed existence!  Hell, gestating a baby makes this look like dancing around the maypole.  The sheer pleasure of being able to walk around with less pain and more agility makes the "pain" of giving up "neolithic agents of disease" laughable.

Think about it.  Think of all the things you've dreaded doing, then found it wasn't such a big deal when you actually started.  I've discovered that being "perfect" on the PPC is MUCH easier than i ever anticipated.


  1. As it happens, I'm going off coffee. I just don't want to have to eat anything, and obligatory coffee (or suffer a headache) was not sitting well with me.

  2. :-) that's why Mormons don't approve of coffee, it was explained to me -- it's dependence-forming but doesn't contribute anything important. (we lived in Salt Lake City a few years, and loved it.)