The Good, the Bad and the Ugly I

There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.

–Robert Frost

There’s good, bad and ugly in the news. How about the roundup? We’ll start with the good.

The Good:

I spend a lot of time slamming the nutrition insanity perpetrated by the American medical world. And, to be fair, I understand some of this insanity. Doctors deal with the sick. The sick expect their doctors to be able to tell them how to get well, and most people want a quick cure-all that won’t be hard either to understand or follow. Neither the doctors nor the patients have the time or inclination to sift through cause and correlation, association and bell curves, statistical variations, and genetic anomalies–all of which are a part of understanding the significance of any study about health and diet; studies which are published on every aspect of human health by the dozens every week. Not to mention that doctors are by definition experts at treating sickness once it starts–not necessarily at preventing it in the first place. That’s a different ball of wax, though obviously they are not utterly unrelated.

  • But there are some things the medical profession does really well, and this is one of them. Congratulations to all those involved; especially to the doctor willing to take a risk to save a child (if her aggressive treatment had failed, or made the child sick in other ways, it was her head that would have been on the block).
  • More good news–a pretty reasonably well-conducted study shows some more benefits to eating dark chocolate. Good news for chocolate lovers, anyway. (This is for you, Sister-in-Law #1!) The way it was conducted was good, and the restrained nature of the reporting and conclusion-making is also good. I especially like how careful they are to point out what everyone knows and nearly everyone forgets: just because some is good doesn’t mean more is better. And the headline is refreshing, too. Dark chocolate may do such and such.
  • I don’t think much of the WHO, but finally they’ve gotten one thing right–they now recommend everyone cut their sugar intake from the previously-recommended 12 teaspoons per day to 6.  That’s 6 t of added sugar–they aren’t suggesting that you have to count that apple towards your sugar for the day. 6 teaspoons is about 24g–a great thing to shoot for. The only bad news here is the proliferation of websites reporting this as “Can Americans Reduce Their Sugar to Just 6 Teaspoons a Day?” Most of them seem to think it’ll be impossible. Well, ok, that’s not the only bad news. There’s also the bad news that people are still turning to some group of elitist, ignorant bureaucrats to tell them how to live.

Three years ago, I didn’t eat many sweets. But I did eat lots of whole grains, enormous naked salads and lots of fruit smoothies and pieces of fruit at every meal. (Healthy!) And back then when I did have a dessert, there was no way on earth that it was going to be strawberries and cream. That’s not real dessert. Real dessert is cake or fudge or something. Then I stopped eating all that blood-sugar-spiking garbage. I didn’t even eat the fruit for the first few months, and I avoided all grain and all refined sugar completely. And I mean completely stopped eating–no piece of bread once a week, brownie every three days (just a bite!) or anything like that.

And suddenly…something changed. I realized that the thought of an apple baked in butter and cinnamon and topped with heavy cream was far more appetizing than cake or cookies or brownies. In fact, when I ate a few bites of cake or cookies or brownies to avoid offending someone, I was disgusted. This isn’t food, I thought to myself. The Roommate and many others have had a similar experience. Through it, my eyes have been opened to the addictive nature of refined flour and sugar.

Haven’t your tastes just changed?

Nope. Here’s why I say that.

When you eat lots of carbohydrates, you can be aware that fruit tastes good even if you don’t really crave it. (Not unless its the “blueberry” flavored muffin.) And when someone offers it to you as dessert, without added Sugarflour, you feel cheated. You want real dessert. By real dessert you mean, though you may not realize it, stuff with flour and refined sugar.  The point is that while you don’t necessarily crave the fruit, you’re aware that it is tasty. It’s not nauseating to think about: it’s just not enough by itself.

Once the addiction is completely broken, though, this trend doesn’t seem to go in the opposite direction. You don’t think I just don’t feel like a Twinkie right now. I’d rather have some berries, but I do think Twinkies are tasty food.  The Sugarflour, especially the cheaper it is, doesn’t taste like anything except empty sweet. The Sugarflour stuff just tastes like…flour. Sugar. (Sugar doesn’t actually have much flavor of its own, though it can enhance the flavors of something else.)

This is quite similar to what happens to a drug or alcohol addict who kicks their habit. You find them speaking in glowing terms of how now they can see the beauty, the goodness, the deliciousness of other things in life. All they wanted before was more alcohol: and by the end they certainly couldn’t wait for a shot of 20-year-old fine aged whisky or an expensive wine. They’re out buying the biggest, cheapest Bucket-‘o-Booze available. Tell me that’s not like the person who feels vaguely cheated by something that’s not a real dessert, like raspberries, but who’ll eat an entire box of Ding-Dongs* during a stressful time. I’ve seen foodies–who turn their noses up at inferior steaks, know how to pair foods beautifully, and can taste whether a vegetable is fresh and in season–eat twenty Tootsie Rolls at a sitting. It’s like their superior taste buds just suddenly stopped working. That’s because their taste buds aren’t really involved at that point. What’s involved is their blood sugar and their hormones, in an addictive response.

Certainly the addiction is not exactly the same as that of an alcoholic; although alcoholism might be more honest. I’ve heard lots of alcoholics admit that it was never “taste” for them. It was always a biochemical reaction. I’ve seen many heavy Sugarflour addicts delude themselves that it’s really the taste–even as they satisfy themselves with cheap box-mixed brownies and canned icing. Not everyone gets that bad, but when you see it reach that point it’s clearly addiction. Think about it: they’d never accept vegetables, fruits, or meat that were of such abysmal quality! They go to the open-air market and taste every vendor’s tomatoes with the utmost finickiness: but when it’s Sugarflour, suddenly a bag of those cheap minidonuts is fine dining.

And of course the addiction isn’t as severe as alcoholism, either. But even if the addiction isn’t as severe, wouldn’t you like to know for sure that you’re being ruled by your good sense and discerning palate, and not by a sudden shift in your hormones?

It may not be as severe an addiction as addiction alcohol or drugs, but the mechanism is very similar. Have a look at these questions used to help a person determine if he or she has an addiction to alcohol:

  • Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
  • When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?
  • Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
  • Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?
  • Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?
  • Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?
  • Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?
  • Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking?
  • Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a “little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?
  • Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?
  • Are there times when nothing but a drink can satisfy you?

Now, let’s apply these question to Sugarflour:

  • Do you eat Sugarflour heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
  • When eating Sugarflour with other people, do you grab another handful or eat an extra piece in the kitchen when others won’t know about it?
  • Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if Sugarflour is not available?
  • Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about eating another piece of Sugarflour?
  • Do you often want just one more slice of Sugarflour after your friends say they’ve had enough?
  • Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your Sugarflour consumption?
  • Have you tried switching brands or types of Sugarflour, or following different plans to control your Sugarflour consumption?
  • Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your Sugarflour consumption?
  • Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in mid-morning or mid-afternoon and find that it helps to have a just a little bite of Sugarflour?
  • Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy Sugarflour consumption?
  • Are there times when nothing but Sugarflour can satisfy you?

Think about it.

*(Ingredients: Sugar, Water, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Barley Malt, Ferrous Sulfate (Iron), “B” Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid), Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Palm Kernel, Coconut, Palm), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Palm Corn Syrup, Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable And/Or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed And/Or Canola, Beef Fat). Contains 2% Or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Soy Flour, Datem, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Corn Starch, Mono And Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Calcium And Sodium Caseinate, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 60, Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Glucose, Whole Eggs, Egg Yolk, Natural And Artificial Flavor (Caramel Color), Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness). Contains Wheat, Milk, Egg And Soybeans.)
 

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