Friday, August 10, 2012

Veggie Gluttons: They do Exist! (Part 1)

Yes, suspend your disbelief! This is not a mythological creature of which I speak. You see, once you start loving plant-based food options and preferring them to the SAD (Standard American Diet), there's no reason you can't become a healthy glutton!

Indulgence is indulgence, regardless of the object upon which one lets loose. And despite how far I've come from practically double fisting raw cookie dough in college, I still notice some areas where my habits of self-gratification haunt me (regardless of the fact that fruits and veggies are now the treat of choice).

I felt convicted by a quote I read recently. Unfortunately I cannot recall where I saw it, so I can't quote it verbatim. Here's my simplified paraphrase, though:

"Weight gain is the consequence of gluttony and a physical side effect that no one's thrilled about. And so we often feel more guilty and regretful about the consequences of gluttony than we do about the sin itself."

If only all of our sins left a visible mark... (A pimple for every mean thought, perhaps?) How much more proactively would we try to suppress our bad behaviors? And yet subsisting on almost calorically neutral veggies is not going to easily make one overweight, and so the vanity factor that often makes us bemoan our over-indulgence may not ever come into play.

But gaining weight is not the primary reason God warns us to moderate our pleasures. It's a visible side effect that certainly enforces its importance, but God wants us to practice self-control in all areas (mental, emotional, sexual, physical) because it's a soul issue just as much as it is a body one. Jesus was always pulling outward issues to the heart level: "If you so much as lust, you commit adultery. If you so much as hate, you commit murder." And so on...

And so I'm going to outline some indulgence pit-falls I've fallen into during the last 5 months I've been plant-based. Since a lot of my examples talk about the concept of "real hunger," let me first explain what true hunger means according to Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Julienna Hever:

Dr. Fuhrman: 

- When we do not meet our micronutrient needs, we do not feel well unless our digestive tract is continuously at work - this creates a cycle of toxic hunger (read that explanatory article - Dr. Fuhrman says it best!)

- Digestion retards symptoms of withdrawal (which is what happens when our body detoxes from low-nutrient foods), so we continue eating to keep a full and busy digestive tract to override the following sensations (which we commonly mistake for hunger):
  • Headaches, fatigue, nausea, weakness, mental confusion and irritability, abdominal and esophageal spasm, fluttering and cramping in the stomach 

- "The drive to over-consume calories is blunted by high micronutrient consumption. The symptoms that were thought to be hypoglycemia or even hunger […] simply disappear after eating very healthfully for a few months […] When micronutrients in the body’s tissues have accumulated, the symptoms of fatigue, headaches, irritability and stomach cramps go away, and people get back in touch with true hunger, felt primarily in the throat.

- "True hunger is felt in the throat, neck, and mouth, not in the stomach or head. It is not uncomfortable to feel real hunger; it makes food taste better when you eat, and it makes eating so much more pleasurable.

"Signs of true hunger:
  • Enhanced taste sensation
  • Increased salivation
  • Gnawing throat sensation

- "True hunger requires no special food to satisfy it. It is relieved by eating almost anything. You can’t crave some particular food and call it hunger;  a craving by definition is an addictive drive, not something felt by a person who is not an addict.

"How to achieve a state of true hunger:
  • Do not eat when not hungry.
  • Do not snack, unless you are sure it’s true hunger.
  • Do not overeat. Don’t eat until you feel full or stuffed.
  • Do not eat a big dinner.
  • Don’t eat after dinner. Instead, clean the kitchen, brush and floss, and stay away from food. Look forward to how good food will taste the next morning when you are hungry again. 
  • Discontinue or wean off caffeine, salt, alcohol, sweets, butter, cheese, processed foods, soft drinks, etc (foods which perpetuate symptoms of toxic hunger).

"Signs that you’ve developed the skill of knowing the right amount of food to eat at each meal
  • It relieves your hunger
  • You feel satisfied (but not full) 
  • You are hungry again in time for your next meal."

- "Most Americans have never felt true hunger in their entire overfed existence."

 Julienna Hever: 
Gage your appetite on a scale from 0-10 (0 being starving, 10 being Thanksgiving full)
- Start eating at 1 or 2 and stop around 6 or 7
- "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're probably not really hungry."
- "If you're not positive you're hungry, you aren't hungry. Have a cup of tea instead."
- "Notice how you feel before you start eating. Ask yourself if you really need to eat."
-  "Eat only if you're hungry enough to eat an apple and all of your options sound delicious."

And this one's mine:
- If I feel like I need to lie down after a meal or can't go about doing what I was doing with the same energy and light, comfortable feeling that I had before I ate... then I overate. (And man do I hate that feeling!)

And so I will say that what Dr. Fuhrman says about the difference diet plays on our internal food signals is
true. Healthly, nutrient-dense foods really do blunt unruly hunger cravings. I've personally come to the place where I know when I need to eat and when I need to stop. I no longer experience dramatic swings in appetite, get ravenous between meals, or find myself desperate for a dinner encore a mere 2 or 3 hours after eating. Thankfully all of that nonsense is behind me!

So I didn't outline the definitions of true vs. toxic hunger to say that I'm still experiencing and gratifying the latter (thankfully that's not the case!) 
I bring up these distinctions to say that now that I know what real hunger feels like, I have no excuse to eat for other reasons. If anything, I feel held to a higher standard now. I can't un-know what I know... and so a lot of my examples relate to times when I ignored my body's signals and indulged my bad habits (albeit with with nutrient-dense food) anyway.

Okay, I'll stop there for now and forgo exhausting your reading reserves, dear friends. For my examples of veggie gluttony and a "
cream" of broccoli soup recipe, stay tuned. :)

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