Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Sweet It Is

This post is also available on my writing blog

I've been trying to get this entry done for a week. I have so much to say about this topic that I find myself writing too much and trying to fit all of my opinions and experiences in to one little post. So, I did my best to stick to the point of the benefits of low-glycemic eating.

I read a couple of articles the other day from the December 2007 O, The Oprah magazine that I wish had been written when I was a teenager going through the first throes of a body image horror. Not that I would want to promote diet mentality or further push myself into self-loathing, but simply so that as a young girl I could biologically understand MY BODY and why it was so different than everyone around me.

The articles deal with low-glycemic eating, what it is and how it affects people who are high-insulin responders.

The first article, "How Sweet It Is" by Nancy Gottesman shares the example of a woman who started to put on weight when she hit puberty. Insulin is a hormone and as the hormone stew takes off in puberty, high-insulin responders can have a reaction that includes piling on the pounds.

When LeeAnn Henn turned 12, extra pounds almost magically appeared on her frame. "I was always a little chunky," she says, "but right around puberty I put on a lot more. . . Though she tried to cut calories and fat on a number of different diets over the years, the numbers on the scale just kept going up. "I'd eat less, exercise more, get frustrated, then quit," recalls Henn, now 28. "I could never lose much, and over time, I just got heavier."

I was always a little chunky too and found that when puberty hit my weight took off as well. I spent most of my teenage years wishing for a different body. That never happened and gradually I began to learn how to work with the body I was given.

Also, I REALLY liked the article because of this quote below. I used to get mad when I was younger and people would say that a calorie in and a calorie out and that losing weight is as simple as that. Yet, this was not my experience. I felt like I put on weight whenever I just looked at food compared to someone like my brother Adam who seemed to be able to eat anything and everything and store it in his hollow leg without gaining an ounce. What I didn't know at the time was I was high-insulin responder comparing myself to low-insulin responders. When I ate things like bread, pasta, crackers and fruit juice, I really was putting on weight because of the way my body responded to such foods. Which is why I agree with the statement below.

[Dr. David Ludwig] is one of a handful of researchers trying to prove that all calories are not, in fact, equal; some of us are genetically programmed to pile on pounds much faster when we eat the wrong type of food, even foods we think of as healthy.
I knew from long experience that a calorie in and a calorie out theory didn't work which is why I would get upset when I heard it repeated over and over. It is so comforting to have that innate belief backed up by hard data.

An easy way to gauge if you are a high-insulin responder is the example below.
"High-insulin secretors tend to be apples, with more fat around the middle," maintains Ludwig. "Low-insulin secretors tend to be pears."
I never developed broad hips, but I've always had a tummy. And that tummy is the last thing to go when I do lose weight. So, I'm an apple shape for sure.

The accompanying article then gives some guidelines for what to eat on a low-glycemic diet. First though there is an explanation of the glycemic index.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the number, the more quickly you'll digest the food and trigger extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. Low scores (55 and lower) mean the food is digested slowly and produces only gradual changes in blood sugar. . . . Ludwig advises that you avoid "eating by the numbers" and instead follow these simple guidelines.
The guidelines are:

1. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables (dark leafy greens—good; corn—not so good), beans (all of them), and fruit (apples, pears, peaches, and berries have a lower GI than tropical fruits, like papaya and mangoes).

2. Limit potatoes to small side dishes.

3. Choose grains in their least processed states. For example, replace refined and white breads with stone-ground whole wheat, sourdough, or pumpernickel. Swap jasmine and arborio rice for basmati, brown, or long grain. Instead of processed cereals like cornflakes and instant oatmeal, stick with old-fashioned oats or cold cereals that have at least four grams of fiber per serving. Ration white-flour sweets like doughnuts and cookies for the occasional treat—there are no healthy substitutes for these!

4. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, and drink no more than one cup of 100 percent fruit juice daily.

5. Consume protein and fat at most meals and snacks. Eating a balance of nutrients will help keep your blood sugar steady and your hunger in check. Vegetable and lean animal sources (including dairy) are your best options for protein. Olive oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, and nut butters are healthy fats. Cut back on saturated fats, and banish trans fats completely.
My perception of eating healthy as a young girl was to not eat a lot of treats and to eat less food at each meal. What this led to was a constant battle with hunger and the feeling that if I didn't control my hunger better I was somehow a bad person. Now I understand that when I was eating potatoes and bread and cereals that those foods tend to make me more hungry because they spike my blood sugar--especially when they are eaten alone or without accompanying good fats and lean meats.

It has been such a relief over the last few years to discover that hunger is a normal, natural state and that feeding that hunger with foods that are low-glycemic is one of the best ways to eat for my body. This is not about depriving my body of any foods--this simply is about learning the balance and learning that eating lean meats, fruits and veggies, and good fats like olive oil and raw nuts as well as whole grains or complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes or butternut squash makes my body feel its very best.

And now, my stomach is grumbling and I wish I'd started dinner an hour ago. At least I know exactly what to eat.

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