Friday, August 21, 2009

P.S.: Sensible eating

(Click to start with part 1 of this review.)

Last night Mr Neff and I joined friends for a lovely Indian meal followed by peach pie, cherry pie, and vanilla ice cream. Aware that I had just posted an article urging people to refrain from white flour and sugar, I enjoyed every bite. Hypocrisy never tasted so good.

Blanche at 22

I thought again of my mother, whom (in part 2 of this never-ending review) I described as a sensible person who never gave up desserts. She ate modest portions, though, and she rarely ate bread with meals. I went to this website and put in information for my mother as she was when I was 12 years old and beginning to think about body shapes and sizes: 50 years old, 5'8" tall, 150 pounds, 16 hours resting and 8 hours of very light activity a day (Mother was no athlete). The calorie requirement to maintain her weight: 1617.

Blanche at 72

Changing nothing else, I gave her a weight of 130 pounds, the weight she would have preferred (and indeed the weight she easily achieved once her doctor told her to cut out most dietary cholesterol and start walking three miles a day). Calorie requirement: 1517. A reduction of only 100 calories a day lowered her set point by 20 pounds!

I suppose Mother could have given up white flour and sugar--i.e., desserts--when she was younger and dropped a couple of dress sizes. Since it takes about 3500 calories to add or lose a pound, 100 fewer calories a day would have produced a painfully slow weight loss of just under a pound a month. In two years' time, though, she would have reached her new weight of 130. But would that have been a good idea? She enjoyed her food. She was not a hypereater. She was not overweight. She looked nice. She didn't spend a lot of time thinking about weight or calories. She was happy. I stand by my original assertion: for her, sensible eating was second nature.

People who need to give up white flour and sugar are people for whom sensible eating is not second nature--inveterate snackers, people who binge, hypereaters, people who can't stop with small portions--or people who eat sensibly but who really would rather weigh less than eat sweets and snacks.

For these people, I offered my basically Mediterranean approach to eating in part 4 of this review. If you're more carnivorous than I am, I suggest the South Beach diet instead. Forget all the talk about the wonders of protein and the horrors of carbs: by the time South Beach dieters are at phase 3, they are eating plenty of wholesome carbs. The main difference between South Beach and my approach is that South Beach allows unlimited meat but limits fruits and starches, while my list limits meat but allows unlimited fruits and whole grains. Neither approach allows junk food--what Kessler calls hyperpalatable foods--and that is why both approaches work.

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