Subsidized sugars and "food deserts"

A curious thing happened a couple of months ago- the CD player in my company truck seized up, forcing me to rely on radio.  I cannot stand any of the music on any of the stations, so I found myself listening to NPR for 8 to 10 hours every day.  I drive around for a living, as an ambulatory veterinarian... long have I avoided the News, because it tends to make me too angry.  I discovered so much more though, lots of thoughtful conversations and topics, some of which I find relevant to this blog and the struggle I have long had to eat well.

There was a week when NPR covered obesity as our national epidemic.  Finally I heard someone talking about the inverse relationship of obesity and poverty.  In history, it was typically the rich man with the big belly- the "fat cat".  These days it is the most impoverished that end up obese and unhealthy.  Why is that?  I think it's pretty simple; it's cheaper to eat fast food (the $1 menu, for example) than it is to eat the way I eat with my astronomical grocery bill from buying organic or whole foods.  What is in the $1 menu?  Lots of corn, some fatty meat, salt and sugar.  Sugar.  That's it.  Nothing that is at all nutritionally sound.

Then they introduced the concept of the "food desert".  This is areas of the country- often inner cities- where there simply is no fresh produce or meat available.  For those folks who don't or can't drive, and can't take the time for a long bus ride to a grocery (or can't afford it!), they rely on the cheap sources of energy from fast food or the corner store.  It is literally a desert.  No fresh markets, no nothing.  I have seen this myself!  How are you supposed to eat healthily if you can't find the food to do it?

This all plays back into our health care system, too; and the millions of overweight and unhealthy Americans who aren't that way because they choose to be but sometimes are that way because it's what is available to them.  Yes, sedentary life plays a big part- choosing to sit inside with your TV rather than walk or run or play- but so does diet.  When you make nothing but cheap calories available to people, that's what they'll eat; then we all complain about the burden on our health care system.  Well!  Serves us right.

What about subsidized sugars?  Not cane sugar, that's a whole other story.  Corn sugars.  High fructose corn sugars and syrups, one of the most evil things ever created.  It's in everything.  Why?  We grow too much corn every single year, and it's paid for by the government... so where do we put it?  We invent new ways each year to use up the surplus- fillers, additives, sugars, animal feeds and even plastics.  Your plastic grocery sack is likely made of corn!  And the government paid for it.  I don't want my tax dollars subsidizing such a useless and dangerous starch!  So many people have become hypersensitive and allergic to everything, and I've heard some pretty compelling cases made against the over use of corn and corn by products.  We already know that overdoing sugars tanks your immune system.  Go to the grocery store and look at how many things contain HFCS.  Corn comes in other guises too!

Go watch "Food, Inc." for a closer look at how pervasive corn is, and how the industry works.  It's sad.  It even talks about the epidemic of poor folks unable to buy anything but fast food.  And the powerlessness of folks to fight, often, because of the enormous lobbying power of some conglomerates, and their big lawyer budgets.  It made me so angry!

So between NPR and this movie, lately, I have done a lot of thinking on how tough it is to eat well and be healthy.  I'm lucky I make enough money to afford to eat well, and have a car to get me to the best place to buy produce.   I support my local butcher and local farms, with both produce and meat, when these things are in season.  If you can you should too.  Heal yourself, heal the planet.


Paleo Diet

Here I am, several months after the diagnosis of IBS and several years after my self-diagnosis of hypoglycemia and certain sugar allery (aka addiction).  I've tried so many things to heal my body and mind; veganism, vegetarianism, alternative sugars, fruit-free, gluten-free.  What I inevitably come back to each and every time is kicking sugar.  Breaking the sugar habit.  Realizing that I cannot have even a small amount, because it is the catalyst to bigger problems and habits that are harder and harder to break as my life accumulates more stress and responsibility.

I've wondered for a long time what it would be like if the temptation simply were not there.  If the colorful packages beckoning from every aisle were missing; if I were raised on the simple fare of my ancestors and did not know this strange addiction and all that it entails.  I thought a lot on my heritage- I am mainly Northern European, with some Native American thrown in (Inuit, or Eskimo)- what did they eat?  What was my body best adapted for?  Our ancestors did not have access to so much sugar, and not even so much fruit except in certain times of the year.  These thoughts shaped what I typically cooked for dinner- fish and greens, some poultry when I finally dropped vegetarianism for good- but had no effect on the endless battle against chocolate and sugar.

I went back on the wagon this year.  When you are facing isolation and boredom, that is the hardest time to look your own personal demons in the eye and try to win.  Like Cartman says... "the chocolate loves you, the chocolate doesn't judge you..."  Ah, such battles!  Each and every holiday is filled with treats and more clever ways each year to peddle them.  One of the grocery stores in my area has tables set up right in front of the doors so that when you walk in you are assaulted by the nearest holiday's brightly colored packages of chocolate and sugar, blasting your senses as soon as you enter.  How hard it is to fight it!  How very difficult!  I fully sympathize with cigarette and heroin addicts, as I understand the undertow.  A little... just a little... it opens the door, and you cannot fight that.  There is no such thing as a little.  It is all or nothing.  I thought, when I began this fight (and this blog) that once I kicked it, it was forever.  I did not know that it is a continuous fight. 

One thing I have discovered, which has helped me immensely, is the Paleo Diet.  As I was saying previously, I wondered a lot how my ancestors ate.  Did they have digestive troubles as I do?  Did they have colds all the time?  Certainly some things must have been better, without so much sugar around.  I have since read Dr.Cordain's "Paleo Diet" and have found so much relief.  There are others out there thinking the way I do, and others who are committed to finding relief to dietary and GI issues.  I don't enjoy constant low grade pain, gaseousness, and irregularity.  In fact I didn't know I had constant low grade pain until it went away.

As I wrote in a previous entry, I went through testing this fall and was given the official diagnosis of IBS.  Fabulous.  What triggers it?  Stress, and too much sugar, or foods that are "too rich".  What is "too rich"?  Well... fatty meats, cheese/ dairy, patries and candy, I assume.  What else?  The Paleo diet (which is a lifestyle, not some "lose wieght quick" diet that you use and lose) is basically committed to getting people back on what we evolved to eat.   The basic tenet is this: eat as much fresh vegetables and fruits as you can, and eat some LEAN meat with your meals.  Good quality protein, and not too much.  Lean is the key; our modern meats are raised on foods they shouldn't be eating; you are what you eat, and thus the chain is created.  So you do what you can.  Animals fed what they were designed to eat make a proper ratio of fats in their own bodies, and you benefit from that directly.  Cattle fed fermented grains (which they LOVE but boy does it cause a lot of medical problems, speaking as a veterinarian) create a lot of fat, and most of that fat is Omega-6 fatty acids- the kind that solidifies easily when you're done cooking that juicy hamberger.  Well, Omega-3 (the "good" one) is one that is supple. So if you think about it- your body benefits from good "supple" fats because you need fat to keep you warm and give you energy; "hard" or "bad" fats tend to compete with the supple ones and that is not optimal.  That's a very simplistic explaination... sorry.

We buy locally grown, grass fed beef.  Free range chickens.  We know where the animals are raised, we can see them.  I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, and raw when I can.  I eat fruit to satisfy the sugar urges.  It doesn't work 100% of the time but I am making my best effort, because I want to feel better.

Eating so well actually illuminates the times I don't.  I can feel the change as soon as I eat something stupid; my belly doesn't like it, then my mood crashes, and I feel terrible even up to the next day.  That is just no fun.  I know what I am doing and why; the responsibility for my own moods and my own health sit squarely in my lap.  Sometimes this makes it easier to avoid eating things that are not good for me; sometimes it just makes the lesson when I don't all the more poignent. 

Still, 90% of the time I am following the Paleo Diet.  I don't eat any of the recipes I once posted here.  I don't eat stevia (I react to it!  Sad.); I don't eat ice cream, and chocolate only rarely.  I just can't do it; one little bit and the door is shoved open, the demons of sugar addiction dancing all over me.  I'm healthy, though, and fit; my body looks better and feels better.   There are no grains in my diet at all.  I don't need them, and I find that my blood sugar stays more stable, and I'm not hungry as fast.  That took some adjusting; I was ravenous when I started on the Paleo diet.  If this is what it takes to win this battle with sugar, so be it.  I'm through with fighting.

I saw this picture on another blog, someone else who is fighting this fight... sugar is the gateway drug...