Category Archives: dieting right

Confessions of an ex-junk food junkie

junk foodI have a confession: I love junk food.

I would probably eat it everyday.

But I know that it will kill me. It’s loaded with calories, salt, fat, preservatives. It comes up short on nutrition. So I avoid it.

I’m not so much of a health freak to NEVER eat junk food. But I try to limit it to once a week. The rest of the time, I try to stay health.

Officially, weekends are “cheat days” to not live in dietary misery. I indulge an ice cream on Friday night. I don’t watch my calories.

Ashcraft family

I’m the tall guy in middle. I’m 51.

But Monday through Friday lunch, I’m pretty good about being intelligent about food selection. My tongue doesn’t feel good; my body does. I enjoy the benefits of feeling healthy depriving my tongue of daily delights (those are saved for weekends).

And the benefits I feel in my body are great. I have energy. I don’t get sick. I go to the gym and have strength. I enjoy walking up stairs without struggling. I don’t go to the doctor or the hospital. I do my work with zest and passion and don’t have to lie down and recover. My body delights in health (though my tongue gets deprived of the rush of emotion over super tasty foods).

Here’s what’s amazing and possible: I actually enjoy the healthy food now. I savor the broccoli, the asparagus, the not-fried chicken, the salads, the food without heavy cream sauces and cooking without grease and fat.

Yes, it’s possible.

My experience is that you can literally retrain your taste buds.

I think it takes years. It has taken me years. Right now, I’m actually grossed out by soda if I drink it. As hard as that may to believe.

nutrients flavor bamboo steamerMy journey towards healthful eating and healthfulness has led me to selling bamboo steamers on Amazon. People are absolutely fanatical about bamboo. They conserve nutrients better and absorb some of the steam so that Chinese buns come out right. I have discovered that steaming fish fillets to take into work with me is NOT slower than warming fish sticks in the toaster oven. If you want to buy one and try it for yourself, here’s the link.

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In other words, sugar makes you want to eat more food. (Why you don’t feel full.)

food ratsSo the food industry only provides what people want. Right? And people want, time after time, what they crave. So sugar is sinking America’s health.

To be sure, there are many culprits — more sedentary lifestyles (read: gaming), for example. Also of surety, sugar is a huge villain.

That two of three adults are chubby? Um, yes.

Are we surprised that 30% of boys and girls under 20 are overweight in 2019 — up from 19% in 1980?

Is it any wonder that 160 million Americans are obese?

Sugary foods represent a double whammy for health. First the calories add on the fat. Then the overeating, induced by sugar, brings on the fat.

Consider a college grad student named Anthony Sclafani who was only being nice to lab rats under his care: As a treat, he’d give them Fruit Loops.

But then Sclanfani noticed they really loved the sugary cereals. So he started conducting experiments in the 1960s: Would rats abandon their wall-hugging rambles to venture into the dangerous center of the room for Fruit Loops? They did.

(And so do our teenagers.)

When he needed to fatten up mice for another experiment, he found the critters stayed slender no matter how much chow he gave them. They ate to satiety — feeling full — and no more. He remembered the Fruit Loops and quickly got fat rats.

Still more experiments. They loved sugar — even when they couldn’t taste it — and never stopped scarfing it. Sclafani has made a lifetime of studying sugar-indulging  rodents and his findings are frightening: sugar suppresses satiety.

The implications? The food industry has made lab rats out of us all.

What now?

Excess body fat leads hypertension, high LDL cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, cancer, mental illness and depression, and body pain.

It’s easy to slam the food producers. They fill up the supermarket with sugary items — up to 73% of grocery store items contain added sugar. Because we reward them for it.

So what is to be done? Read the rest on Medium:  how the food industry made rats of us with sugar.

How to cut sugar without stress

sugar addictionBusiness Insider recently showed how sugar is becoming the #1 culprit (ahead of fatty foods) behind the current weight gain epidemic. Naturally.

So concerned diet experts are targeting sugar consumption. Unfortunately sugar already has been targeting you — usually with great success.

If you feel your own powerlessness, you’re not alone. Like starting a fitness routine, there are right ways and wrong ways to start a sugar-reduction plan.

Today. Right now.

Ready?

Here’s seven tips to slay sugar:

1. Your stomach doesn’t really care. Your brain does. Find alternative rewards for your brain: Sugar fires off dopamine production in your brain, a key component of addiction. Unlike a balanced meal (which can also trigger dopamine but tapers off if repeated), sugar keeps flooding the brain with warm fuzzies. It is this overactive reward system that creates craving.

Suggestion: Source the pleasure hormone elsewhere:

  • Consume large quantities of meat and other proteins, specifically Tyrosine which can be found in almonds, avocados, bananas, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea and watermelon.
  • Eat yogurt, kimchee, pickles, some cheeses or other foods rich in probiotics.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Enjoy music.
  • Meditate.
  • Get sunlight.
  • Consider supplements as curcumin, ginkgo biloba, L-theanine, acetyl-l-tyrosine
  • Get a massage. Hug your family. Get a pet.
  • Learn something new. Make new discoveries. Develop and satisfy your curiosity.
  • Divide your duties into small tasks and check them off as you go. A sense of accomplishment releases dopamine.

Other reward hormones: Other feel-good hormones also provide potent sugar substitutes:

  • Endorphins — from significant exercise. Go to the gym.
  • Serotonin — from feeling significant or important. Socialize.
  • Oxytocin — from feeling cherished, cuddled, intimate or trusted. Get support from family and friends. Cultivate relationships.
  • Adrenaline — from fear or competition. Ride a roller coaster, make a high risk investment, or watch a horror movie.

2. Rewire your brain. Neurobiologists are changing the way we see human weakness (addiction). A bad habit is not simply dusted away — or ridiculed by the strong. It’s actually rooted in your brain. It turns out that there are neural highways in your gray matter. The more you reinforce any behavior, the more electro-chemical pulses are fired along certain pathways. Dendrites are even added to the most used thoroughfares, and pulses are sped up.

Yikes! your brain literally aids and abets your addiction.

To forge a new path is to head off through brambles and crawlers; it will be slow go. You’re off the beaten path, so the walking is not easy. This is not only bad news because it’s not impossible, just hard. You can “re-wire” your brain, but you need to be realistic. It might takes weeks, months, even years.

Suggestion: Journal your progress. Set small goals towards a larger objective. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. If you “fall off the wagon,” get back immediately. Get a empathetic support group or accountability partner. Repetition is the key to forming both bad and good habits, so try to steer clear of sugar over and over.

3. Identify negative emotions. There’s a reason why they’re called “comfort foods.” The are a happy-reset button. What are the emotional storm clouds you escape from? Here are a few common factors inducing sugar addiction:

  • Stress — The inability to handle stress well is ripe fruit for escapism.
  • Fear/ anxiety — Ditto above.
  • Boredom — The dull lulls of life make you want to zest up your life with some tasty morsels.
  • Loneliness — Social isolation, anxiety and rejection bring a heavy emotional cost.
  • Frustration — Failure and setbacks bring depression, from which you naturally want to take a break.

Suggestions: Developing strategies for these and other negative emotions may require some outside help from a trusted counselor. You might get inspiration from a good book or some motivational videos on YouTube. Journaling can help you analyze, dissect and give you the objectivity to overcome these. Get a hobby, take up gaming, learn a new language or play the guitar. Read the four other tips for cutting sugar without stress.

bamboo steamer kitchen revolutionMr. Mustard Seed is selling 10″ bamboo steamers on Amazon as a way to help the health habit. Profits go to his ministry.