Food Tastes Good In My Mouth

FATTY FATTY TWO-BY-FOUR

I’ve had problems with my weight my entire life. Who knows why. My mom says I was raised on evaporated milk or some such, but that’s hardly science. The problem I have is probably the same problem you have – I love food! Food tastes good. I was watching a special on TV the other night called “FAT: What No One Is Telling You” and it was about how the human species evolved in a world where food was scarce. Our bodies are designed to store fat for when we can’t get food, and our brains are constantly telling us to stock up. The problem is, the world we evolved in is gone (for North America, anyway). These days there really isn’t a time that we can’t get food. It also touched on the difficulty that many have when they pit their conscious mind – the one that wants to be thin and to not eat – with the subconscious mind that throbs with millions of years of instinct. It is a battle that can’t be won. Your will can make you hold your breath for only so long before the rest of your mind forces you to gasp. We all have different metabolisms, we all have different tastes, we all have different parasites! And those things control what we eat, how much we eat, and how our eating habits affect our bodies.

I USED TO SNEAK INTO THE KITCHEN AT NIGHT WHEN MY PARENTS WERE SLEEPING AND EAT SPOONFULS OF DRY HOT CHOCOLATE MIX. SERIOUSLY.

Check out me (far right) with my brother (far left). I got the artist genes, he got the skinny genes.
Not Hereditary

The most I ever weighed (that I know of) was 220 lbs, and that was about a year ago. Since then I’ve lost 40 pounds through 3-4 months of a very strict and difficult diet. Since I stopped being on that diet I gained back 10 pounds (I’m surprised that’s all considering it’s been well over half a year) and after the Saturday Morning Cartoon Party I once again restricted my intake in order to get back down to 180, more or less (which took about a month). I still am not “thin,” but I don’t care about that. My goal was to have an average weight, not borderline obesity, and I think I met that goal. Maybe I’m a little extra-average, but that’s something I can live with.

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION – INCLUDING MODERATION

And in the harsh light of day I realize that I will probably be doing this sort of on again/off again diet thing for the rest of my life. I can go a month denying myself certain delicious pleasures. I cannot go through my entire life that way. I will overeat from time to time. Everybody does it. In me it’s a particularly strong weakness (yeah I know that’s an oxymoron). Is it wrong to treat myself to a binge now and again? The alternative is to deny myself 24/7. If I promised to never gorge myself on butter chicken or junk food, I would simply end up breaking that promise. So why make the promise? I have urges and cravings that I am simply not strong-willed enough to deny. I have learned that after 30+ years of trying to deny them. I can’t fool myself; it’s something I’m going to have to accept, and so is everyone around me! I am going to eat things that taste good.

A BIG FAT DESTINY

I am slowly learning tricks to manage these urges (eat slower, eat small things more often, ignore that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ bullshit, and above all don’t keep any food in the house) And thank baby Jesus for medical science! Thank Hough & Phadnis for sucralose! Now I can have a bowl of ice cream that has less calories than a banana or two pieces of bread. I can get candies at the Candy Aisle on 4th Ave that are neglible. I can drink cream soda whenever I can track it down.

Here’s me at 13
13 and Chubby

MY FAVOURITE FOODS ARE BAD FOR ME

Our taste buds were designed over millions of years evolution to most enjoy the kind of foods that give us the greatest amount of energy. Energy = calories, by the way. So that’s why we like sugar and fat the most. If I lived in Africa or Labrador many years ago the only way I could stay alive would be to go out and risk my life trying to stab a yak in the neck. And then I would fuckin’ eat the yak, and the yak would sustain me for a good long time. Now the yaks are prepackaged and on every corner and I don’t have to risk anything to get one. And they’re smothered in butter and sugar. So once again technology has become a double edged hammer.

Here are the most tasty things in Toren’s world that are available every day within walking distance:

Butter chicken
Pizza (Mediterranean or Uncle Fatih’s ham & pineapple)
Scottish eccles cake from Max’s Deli
Chocolate everything
Cheddar beer chips (among many other kinds)
Butter or Pecan tarts
Pies of all varieties
Delicious nachos with guacamole
Sour cream donut from Tim Horton’s
Licorice
Ice cream
Licorice ice cream
Taro bubble tea
Pineapple
Broccoli

All but the last conspire to make me morbidly obese.

There are certain things I don’t have trouble cutting out of my diet. Bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, and, surprisingly, cheese, are all things that I don’t crave. They’re nice, but if I’m going to go for something bad for me, there are other options. So I opt to avoid those things 99% of the time. Occasionally I will have have a bready sandwich instead of a breadless salad. For me, every food item has a certain ranking of TASTE vs CONVENIENCE vs HEALTH. I consult the somewhat nebulous chart in my mind when I’m hungry. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s realistic. And I try not to have any delusions about what I can and cannot pull off when it comes to one of my favourite pastimes: eating.

There is very little chance of me becoming ‘thin.’ And as I get older, that chance shrinks. But here’s the thing: I don’t care to be thin. I exercise on my little bike for a minimum of 20 minutes almost every day. I am not in danger of having a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or any other problem associated with obesity. I am not entirely out of shape. I’m going to enjoy my life, and if and when I find my body is outside the boundaries of good health, I will set goals and take steps to meet those goals, and then when those goals are met I will resume life enjoyment.

toastmuscles.jpg

How ya like me now?

Post-sugary cereal diet

Today I begin another cycle of better eating, after the orgy of sugar that was the Saturday Morning Cartoon Party. During my MediFast diet I lost about 40 lbs in 3 months. This time, according to Joyce’s scale, I only need to lose 10 lbs so that should be a month or less I hope. That’s if I stick to the regimen which so far so good.

PS – I got 19/20 on my first 2 pages of comic book art! Wooo! And I have some interesting secrets about the World Wildlife Federation of Justice that will have to stay secret for now.

My Brain Hurts!

I had a terrible migraine yesterday. For some reason, my migraines seem to come with some regularity – in between the 27th of the month and the 7th of the next. I’m positive is meaningless coincidence, but it’s been interesting to track them and I will continue to do so. What there does not seem to be is any kind of strength predictability. Sometimes I will get my aura which precedes the migraine, and the headache itself can be practically shrugged off. Other times, like yesterday, it will be completely debilitating, I have to leave work, I’ll climb into bed for five hours and keep a bucket nearby just in case I have to throw up (I didn’t yesterday). When my migraines were years apart I wasn’t too worried about them, but I think I’ll head down to the doctorb (the ‘b’ is for ‘bargain’) this week and see if he can prescribe me something*, because for all the good the Extra Strength Tylenol Ultra for Headaches and Migraines did me, I could have shoved them up my ass.

*plus I can get my passport photos signed!

The Silence of the Yams

I think it was Lewis Black who said we don’t know S.F.A. about what’s healthy to eat (paraphrasing here). I like this article on the NYTimes, which I will now quote in small chunks.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

…a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

…the food industry, nutritional science and…journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding what is…the most elemental question an omnivore confronts. Humans deciding what to eat without expert help — something they have been doing with notable success since coming down out of the trees — is seriously unprofitable…

It was in the 1980s that food began disappearing from the American supermarket, gradually to be replaced by “nutrients,” which are not the same thing….terms like “fiber” and “cholesterol” and “saturated fat” rose to large-type prominence.

Vitamins brought a kind of glamour to the science of nutrition.

The first thing to understand about nutritionis [and therefore nutritionists] is that it is not quite the same as nutrition. As the “ism” suggests, it is not a scientific subject but an ideology….[a way] of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.

The “French paradox” — the fact that a population that eats all sorts of unhealthful nutrients is in many ways healthier than…Americans are. So there is…a question as to whether nutritionism is actually any good for you.

the food industry set about re-engineering thousands of products to contain more of the nutrients that science and government had deemed the good ones and less of the bad, and by the late ’80s a golden era of food science was upon us. The Year of Eating Oat Bran — also known as 1988 — served as a kind of coming-out party for the food scientists, who succeeded in getting the material into nearly every processed food sold in America. Oat bran’s moment on the dietary stage didn’t last long, but the pattern had been established, and every few years since then a new oat bran has taken its turn under the marketing lights. (Here comes omega-3!)

it’s…easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness.

The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.

People don’t eat nutrients, they eat foods, and foods can behave very differently than the nutrients they contain. Researchers have long believed that a diet high in fruits and vegetables confers some protection against cancer. So what nutrients in those plant foods are responsible for that effect? One hypothesis is that the antioxidants in fresh produce — compounds like beta carotene, lycopene, vitamin E, etc. — are the X factor. It makes good sense: these molecules (which plants produce to protect themselves from the highly reactive oxygen atoms produced in photosynthesis) vanquish the free radicals in our bodies, which can damage DNA and initiate cancers. At least that’s how it seems to work in the test tube. Yet as soon as you remove these useful molecules from the context of the whole foods they’re found in, as we’ve done in creating antioxidant supplements, they don’t work at all. Indeed, in the case of beta carotene ingested as a supplement, scientists have discovered that it actually increases the risk of certain cancers. Big oops.

What’s going on here? We don’t know.

To look at the chemical composition of any common food plant is to realize just how much complexity lurks within it. Here’s a list of just the antioxidants that have been identified in garden-variety thyme:

4-Terpineol, alanine, anethole, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, eriodictyol, eugenol, ferulic acid, gallic acid, gamma-terpinene isochlorogenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaempferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, oleanolic acid, p-coumoric acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, palmitic acid, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic acid, vanillic acid.

This is what you’re ingesting when you eat food flavored with thyme. Some of these chemicals are broken down by your digestion, but others are going on to do undetermined things to your body: turning some gene’s expression on or off, perhaps, or heading off a free radical before it disturbs a strand of DNA deep in some cell. It would be great to know how this all works, but in the meantime we can enjoy thyme in the knowledge that it probably doesn’t do any harm (since people have been eating it forever) and that it may actually do some good (since people have been eating it forever) and that even if it does nothing, we like the way it tastes.

Scientists operating with the best of intentions, using the best tools at their disposal, have taught us to look at food in a way that has diminished our pleasure in eating it while doing little or nothing to improve our health.

Long familiarity between foods and their eaters leads to elaborate systems of communications up and down the food chain, so that a creature’s senses come to recognize foods as suitable by taste and smell and color, and our bodies learn what to do with these foods after they pass the test of the senses…. Health depends on knowing how to read these biological signals: this smells spoiled; this looks ripe; that’s one good-looking cow. This is easier to do when a creature has long experience of a food, and much harder when a food has been designed expressly to deceive its senses — with artificial flavors or synthetic sweeteners.

The sheer novelty and glamour of the Western diet, with its 17,000 new food products introduced every year, and the marketing muscle used to sell these products, has overwhelmed the force of tradition and left us where we now find ourselves: relying on science and journalism and marketing to help us decide questions about what to eat. Nutritionism, which arose to help us better deal with the problems of the Western diet, has largely been co-opted by it, used by the industry to sell more food and to undermine the authority of traditional ways of eating.

It might be argued that, at this point in history, we should simply accept that fast food is our food culture. Over time, people will get used to eating this way and our health will improve. But for natural selection to help populations adapt to the Western diet, we’d have to be prepared to let those whom it sickens die. That’s not what we’re doing. Rather, we’re turning to the health-care industry to help us “adapt.” Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. It’s gotten good at extending the lives of people with heart disease, and now it’s working on obesity and diabetes. Capitalism is itself marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into lucrative business opportunities: diet pills, heart-bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But while fast food may be good business for the health-care industry, surely the cost to society — estimated at more than $200 billion a year in diet-related health-care costs — is unsustainable.

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don’t forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg’s can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don’t take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market; you also won’t find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils — whether certified organic or not — will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called “Hara Hachi Bu”: eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the “eat less” message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don’t know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants — the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s? — but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you and certainly can’t hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less “energy dense” than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians (“flexitarians”) are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren’t a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn’t still be around. True, food cultures are embedded in societies and economies and ecologies, and some of them travel better than others: Inuit not so well as Italian. In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals — and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can’t possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of “health.” Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It’s all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn’t bordered by your body and that what’s good for the soil is probably good for you, too.

Toast

It’s, like, the list, that I made, right? For you

I think Early Man will be gone by this weekend 🙁

 

A Fantastic Woman shows at Tinseltown (Intl Village)

Game Night shows at Metropolis Metrotown.

 

I, Tonya shows at Tinseltown (Intl Village)

 

Jumanji screens at Tinseltown

Call Me By Your Name shows at Tinseltown

 

If none of these suit your fancy I could be talked into re-watching Annihilation and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Fear of God/Dad

Written sometime after 1996 in a very small book (transcribed here in 2020):

I remember once when I was very young I was throwing rocks – not just rocks but big fist-sized (mind you my fist be be half the size it is now) stones and maybe jokingly, but I hit a kid – a kid I knew from my neighborhood and he was really hurt, bent over crying hurt. And I felt huge pangs of guilt but even more so fear. Fear for myself and the repercussions of my actions. If my dad beat me up for not washing the dishes, for saying “what” too many times – what could I expect for braining someone? I ran home and I don’t know that I’ve ever believed in God more that day, or at least wanted to believe in some all poerful force that would save me from pain if only I would beg it from Him and make empty promises. But even then I knew it wasn’t enough and so – and I have no idea if this was courage or cowardice – I went to the kids parents and at first they were livid with me but they could see the regret or at the very least fear in my eyes and I begged and pleaded with them not to tell my parents through fountains of heaving sobs – quite real I assure you.

Sometimes you cry so much your glands hurt – your ducts get raw and bitter. This hasn’t happened for a while but I remember the feeling.