Challenging the North American Convention

And so it began with my upbringing

I spent the first 18 years of my life overweight (hell, obese is a better term) and am what I would call a victim of the Standard North American diet. When I say victim though I am saying that I am not to blame for being overweight and in the end that is a blatant lie. I am to blame for the way I ate but at the same time I never really knew any better. I knew chips were bad for you, I knew massive helpings of popcorn was unhealthy and I knew that chocolate bars were supposed to be a treat. It’s too bad that they weren’t. Popcorn, chips and chocolate bars weren’t a treat… they were a common event in my house. We’d consume, on average, 2 bags of chips a week and them some between all of us. By all of us, I should likely blame myself.

But at the time I didn’t really know what real food tasted like and my parents only really ever gave us processed trash. When all you eat is chicken nuggets, shake and baked chicken, dry pork chops and burnt steak then of course chips will taste good. Everything we ate came out of a box. I won’t lie, I was a picky eater but in a house of very picky eaters being one of the least pickiest eaters meant you got away being seen as healthy. Remember, you only need to run faster then the slowest person when you are being chased. If everyone’s snail speed slow and you move at the speed of an ant.. things will be going quite well for you in terms of survival on the food chain.

Of course throughout my life I was told that I was big boned, that I was naturally fat and various other things. These messages, although never believed, were convincing that what I was doing was okay. There was no other way to eat after all. The only explanation must be that I was naturally fat, that I was eating this way because I was big boned and that I would eat this way for the rest of my life. Although I had experienced fluctuations in weight throughout my life, it was always assumed these fluctuations were associated with

And then it happened

Strangely enough, in grade 12, I experienced this weird sensation one day. I just didn’t feel hungry and I felt a bit bothered by the appearance of food. I stopped eating junk and such for a few weeks and only ate out of necessity to appease my mom’s growing concern. Eventually, I didn’t crave these foods at all. I began walking home from school and felt that overall I was becoming happier and healthier. I began to experience rapid weight loss and I began to gain more confidence. Life was great for the first time.

Over the next year and a half I would reach my all time low of 158 pounds. During that time I never snacked, never really felt an urge to snack and walked a fair bit. I did eat out a fair amount but I usually ate healthier then my friends. I walked to and from mun… and walked with friends a fair bit. Overall though, I still drank Pepsi but that was essentially the only junk food I ever ate. I ate out a fair amount but also worked a lot. The fact I worked a lot meant I consumed highly individual meals and as a result, ate healthier I felt. Thinking back though, I still drank probably a liter of pop a day and also drank a fair amount of chocolate milk.

I feel like I maintained my weight like that for a long time just because of the fact I worked a fair bit, walked a lot and overall didn’t feel an urge to snack. I remember one particularly stressful night turning to a big turk bar as a snack and getting hooked. The problem I feel with the way I ate then was that I still consumed a lot of sugar. I had a high sugar, low fat diet that fit in well with how often I walked. I also got a good amount of sleep.

Of course, winter would come and  I would slow down. Not only that but I began to feel cravings for chips and chocolate once again. I would gain weight rapidly from binging non stop over the next few months. At around 175 I managed to get back into exercising by going to the gym. For the first time in my life I tried to eat healthy but I would never eat perfect enough in my eyes. I was borderline eating disorder I’d imagine and my life became transformed into an obsession with walking in an attempt to lose weight. Of course, walking three to five hours a day just made me hungrier and hungrier. I’d end up eating, feel full again then go back to trying to work it off.

And so the cycle began

This began my viscous cycle of calorie counting, compulsive exercising and binge eating. This cycle would subsist until about a year ago. I would go up in weight, down in weight and would keep food logs and tried virtually everything. I had an endless supply of nutrition knowledge from diet sites all across the Internet. I knew what foods were healthy, what foods had macro-nutrients and what foods made you feel full. The problem I encountered though was that I never made the full transition into eating healthy. I counted calories and exercised while eating what I perceived to be health food.

To me, my diet of processed health foods was enough. Eventually, these processed health foods would cease to be enough. I began to eat Tim’s every day for lunch at work and began to sneak desserts randomly. I ballooned to a whole new level of weight much closer to where I was before. My lunches tasted like shit, my breakfasts were far from satisfactory and my suppers fluctuated between healthy and processed. I began to crave crap again and I ate crap again. I had fallen back into my old trap… at that time I was also beset by poor mental health (Maybe another blog?) and feel into a cycle of avoidance.

And here we are today

If I say I’ve tried more then most of you to lose weight, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Most of my friends have kept the weight off effortlessly and those who haven’t probably have felt the same way I have felt. Weight loss is often an exercise in futility (no pun intended). People tell you that being fat is a combination of eating too much and exercising too little. If you aren’t suffering, you don’t deserve to be thin. You are guilty of the sins of sloth and gluttony and for that you are fat. The solution is simple… eat less, move more and you will lose weight. Suffering will get you there.

Wait a second… so all of my thin friends are suffering? That’s never been something that clicked in my head until recently. I am sure some of my friends suffer trying to eat a low calorie diet but I am also sure some of them are happy eating what they eat. Some of my friends have good insulin resistance and as a result can eat high levels of glucose and fructose and feel full. I know I can if I exercise a fair amount… exercise has been shown to make proper sugar metabolism easier and is about the only reason I feel exercising contributes to weight loss in non-extreme cases.

In the end, it’s not about how much you eat but what you eat (which everyone will be like… well, duh) but conventional North American ideologies tell us otherwise. Labels like low fat, low sugar, low calories all tell us that these things are important. We all line up at Subway for a nutritious sub but treat ourselves for our healthy feat with two cookies and a glass of coke. We pile on the veggies, put on our honey mustard sauce and chow down on our “Italian Herb and Cheese” bread.There’s something wrong with that way of thinking.

My dad consumes a diet of primarily carbohydrates. My dad doesn’t believe in the words “Healthy Fat”, “Bad Sugar” and has been told by the Weight Watchers that everything is okay in moderation. What does moderation even mean? My dad tells me that it’s okay to have a treat every night since that’s moderation. As long as it fits in your points, it’s okay because it’s in MODERATION. A quick google search defines in moderation as “without excess; moderately; temperately”. The problem with this way of thinking is that if you eat everything in moderation… there’ll be no space for anything healthy.

What I plan to do

I’ve spent the last few weeks reading hundreds of blog posts, reading links to studies and overall just food geeking out pretty much 24/7. I’ve consumed a lot of literature, digested a lot of knowledge and in the end I feel like this conclusion in terms of a solid well rounded diet are these 7 simple rules.

1. Half of your food should be vegetables of a wide variety.

2. Most of your carbohydrates should be from intact, whole grain foods.

3. Most of your fats should be a mixture of healthy fats from various sources.

4. Limit sugar to three teaspoons a day or so. Desserts should be a special occasion.

5. Eat mindfully and enjoy every bite of food you take.

Here’s to my new healthstyle… let’s hope this works.

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