Why I Can’t Overeat

Hunger is insolent, and will be fed.

–Homer

Ever since I started eating this way, I wanted to eat eggs. I know they’re relatively cheap little powerhouses of fat, protein, and nutrition. But I’m allergic. Finally I ran across a mention that most people with an allergy to eggs don’t show allergy to raw egg. It’s the “scrambling” of the cooked proteins that makes them indigestible to some. Sure enough, that turned out to be true for me.

I’ve felt even better since I added eggs to the menu. I don’t love raw eggs–who does, really?–so I had to invent a way to eat them. I finally hit on this:

2/3 C coconut milk (fresh or from paper packaging–the kind without six kinds of emulsifiers and stabilizers: just coconut. If you’re not sure if your coconut milk is filled with additives, the sure-fire test is the refrigerator. Put it in there for a few hours and the “milk” and “cream” will separate. If it doesn’t, you’ve got soy, carageenan, guar gum or something else in there.)

3 raw eggs from pastured chickens

1 1/2 t maple syrup (You could do honey or something if you preferred. )

2 T cocao powder (the real stuff, not Dutch-processed, as that processing removes all the stuff that makes cocoa taste bitter, which is precisely what is so good for you about cocoa. You don’t have to eat chocolate or cocoa, but if you choose to why not eat the stuff that retains all the nutrients?)

1 t vanilla (I make my own from vanilla beans and vodka)

2 T fat (I use 2 T of butter, or 2 T of coconut oil, or 1 T of both, or 1 T of MCT oil: whatever I have on hand and feel like at the time.)

I throw it all in a blender except the butter and oil. I add those through the hole in the top as it’s running. Then I put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how you like it).

I just drink it with a straw–it has the consistency and taste of a chocolate milkshake. The first time I made it I realized I had to hide it from The Roommate (who can eat cooked eggs just fine, thank you) because she looked on it as dessert. I also feel great after drinking it. It’s not only become a general way to get my eggs, but is now my go-to “in a hurry” meal. It takes seconds to put together, only a few minutes to reach the right consistency in the freezer (during which time I can do other things), and keeps me going for hours.

But it is surreal.
I’ve had many a milkshake before in my time. You start out and think: Wow, that’s so good! And then you just start slurping away. You’re shocked when you reach the end. Gone already? Next time you’ll get a bigger one: I was really hungry! Keep drinking and you start to feel bloated. Then you feel really sick. Ugh.

So drinking this was a strange sensation. It was creamy, cold, and sweet. (Coconut milk is sweeter to the palate than milk, so less maple syrup or other sweetener is needed to achieve enough sweetness to balance the bitterness of the cocoa and the “egginess” of the eggs.) When I started drinking, I immediately reverted to sense memory. My memories of milkshakes were telling me: SLURP IT UP!

I slurped, baby. It was delicious and familiar and I started walking around doing other things, slurp, slurp, slurping through that straw.

And then I hit a wall, only halfway through. My stomach, my whole body, said, Ok, that’s plenty.

Now don’t misunderstand. It wasn’t the ugh-I’m-going-to-be-sick feeling that you get when you’ve eaten too much sugar or pizza or other worthless garbage. It was satisfied fullness. It was that’s-great-that’s-all-we-need–thanks -nessIt was pleasant, but it was surreal. It was so strange compared to the feeling that I remember from chocolate milkshakes.

To understand why, we have to understand what hunger really is.

Today, we’re told that hunger is entirely a matter of character. You should ignore your hunger if you’ve eaten “enough” calories. If you don’t, you’re a big fat slob without any self control.

Obese

Oooh, ooh! I have a question!

If the problem with obesity is that people are just refusing to exercise self control, what happened in 1980? We have talked about this before, in this post. 1980 is some kind of turning point in obesity, heart disease, cancer, ADHD, diabetes, celiac, and autoimmune disorders in the United States. Without discussing the others, what is the deal with the obesity? Did America suffer a instantaneous willpower collapse in 1980? Perhaps the Russians did it with some sort of Cold War Character Bomb?

Hunger–a multifaceted physiological response–is being reduced to solely one facet. It’s not that self-control has no part at all; it’s that the indulgence facet of eating (related to feelings and pleasure) is only one small part of the issue. You can’t control just that one part and expect simple and easy results.

Far more important than feelings is physiology. Your body is powerfully motivated to eat what it needs: ask any pregnant woman or her beleaguered husband. Once she’s eating to satisfy the needs of two people’s bodies instead of one, it all becomes blatantly obvious.

Your physiology is made to overpower your feelings. Our bodies need nutrition, and they will impel us to eat until they get what they need. This urge is affected by the macro- and micro-nutrient composition of what we’re eating, as well as by our access to stored nutrients in our own body. We’ve talked about that one before. Insulin lowers blood sugar in part by blocking access to the stored fat, thus impelling your cells to burn blood sugar for fuel. Keep the insulin levels chronically high with oatmeal and fruit, then a granola bar snack, then pizza for lunch with a soda, and pasta with a nice, healthy, low-fat salad dressing full of sugar for dinner and you are constantly blocking your own access to all the stored fat. It doesn’t matter if it’s always sitting there jiggling on your hips. You can’t get to it. You’ve taught your body to rely constantly on energy from the outside; thus you feel hunger constantly.

My “milkshake” also illustrates this issue. When you eat a regular chocolate milkshake, you initially slurp it eagerly (or want to) because the high sugar content produces a pleasurable, addictive response. If you just keep slurping, you eventually feel full, then bloated, then sick. Then hungry again two hours later. Why? Because you’ve just filled your stomach with a toxin (sugar) and very little in the way of nutrition.

In response, your body first felt hormonal pleasure from the sugar and sensual pleasure from the memory and feelings of the food. Then physiology changed your feelings. The milkshake did not change a bit from the moment you first tasted it. But your perception of how it tastes changes dramatically as you keep eating it.

Why? Did your character suddenly change? No. But if the milkshake didn’t change, and your character didn’t change…what did?

Your body.

You started feeling sick because your body is telling you that it simply cannot process any more of that junk. It has reached critical mass–keep trying to stuff more garbage in there, and your body is likely to respond by violently throwing it all out again.

What happened to me was the same, but opposite. I was having the same feelings of pleasure and memory from my chocolate “shake” as I get from a regular one. But my physiology overrode my feelings, just as it does when you eat a sugar-bomb regular milkshake. In the case of the regular milkshake, physiology tells you to eat more and more and more and STOP!!!! With my “shake,” physiology told me very gently when we were satisfied.

Here’s what in a regular chocolate milkshake these days:

 
  • 700 calories, 15g of protein, 20g of fat and 114g of carbohydrates.
  • 50% of the calcium you need for the day, 10% of the iron, 25% of the Vitamin A and a tiny bit of potassium.
  • In addition to the cream, milk and cocoa, you get: Nonfat Milk Solids, Corn Syrup Solids, Mono- and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Dextrose, Sodium Citrate, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Disodium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup,  Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor (Vanillin), Red 40, Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup,  Mono-And Diglycerides, Carrageenan, Polysorbate 80, Beta Carotene (Color), Natural (Dairy and Plant Sources) and Artificial Flavor, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E) to Protect Flavor. Whipping Propellant (Nitrous Oxide).

Here’s what I was getting:

  • 760 calories, 22g of protein, 190g of fat and 11g of carbohydrates.
  • Generous amounts, in some cases all I need for the day, of the vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorous and potassium.
  • Good amounts of folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

The calories were almost the same, yet the effect was quite different. I was starting to feel full after about 6oz of my “milkshake.” I had very little sugar and tons of fat–that provides me with hours of energy and no blood sugar or insulin spikes. The glycemic load of the regular milkshake is through the roof. When I ate a regular milkshake in the past, I could easily eat 700 calories and feel hunger two hours later. When I had my “shake” today, it had been 15 hours since I’d last had a bite; yet I was starting to feel full when it was just half gone. It has been five hours since I had that shake, and I’m not hungry or tired in the slightest.

What happened is my body got the nutrition it needs, and when it got that nutrition it told me to stop eating. It was not the screaming, toddler-esc STOP!!!!! we all remember from overeating milkshakes. It was the polite, Jane Austin-esc, Pray stop, for such is sufficient that signals the body’s physiological needs have been met and it is ready to power you through the day.

My “milkshake” also illustrates the superiority of physiology over indulgence in another way. The only problem I have with this meal is that occasionally I feel unsatisfied because my meal didn’t require a knife or fork, wasn’t hot…wasn’t real food. It “felt like” dessert. This is entirely a hedonistic response, based on my memories, culture, and habits. When I have the time, I will sometimes have a piece of cheese or some meat along with it in order to satisfy this entirely arbitrary set of feelings. But when I’m in a hurry–which is often when I choose this meal–I stop and say to myself:

Self, are you hungry or craving or truly dissatisfied in any way?

No, but I want something hot.

I see, but is it because you have any need for anything more than you’ve had?

Ok, no, but, but, but, I WANT it.

We don’t have time for that now; just wait till the next meal. For that one you’re having roast beef and salad, remember?

Yeah, ok, ok

That, friends, is an example of willpower. When physiology is satisfied, willpower can do a lot. When physiology is desperate, willpower becomes increasingly impotent.

(For some more interesting reads, have a look at this study where obese women on similar diets were put into groups. One group was supplemented with a placebo, one with a multivitamin and multimineral, and one with only calcium. The ones getting plenty of nutrients lost significant amounts of fat compared to the others. Why? My guess is their bodies were nutritionally satisfied and they spontaneously ate less and had more energy.

In this study, people were all put on the same diets. They lost similar amounts of weight, but the ones taking multivitamins and multi-minerals were significantly less bothered  by feelings of hunger.

When the obese are studied, they are almost always deficient in things like calcium, magnesium, or B vitamins, suggesting that their eating may be fueled in part by a physiological craving for nutrition they aren’t getting.

Does this mean you should pop a multivitamin and then rush on down to McDonald’s for a shake? Not at all. For one thing, the blood sugar and insulin response you’d have would be harmful even if the shake were stuffed with nutrients. For another, there are many issues to be considered with multivitamins beyond this one. I’m not going to go into those. I’m just going to ask this: if you’re going to get nutrition, can’t it be from real food?)

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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