Saturday, September 26, 2009

Giving Up Before Starting

By Diana Hsieh

Over the past year, quite a few friends from Front Range Objectivism have adopted a more paleo diet, often with excellent results. As you might imagine, I'm delighted! This week, yet another FRO member asked some of us about it. I sent links to my two main blog posts about my diet: The New Diet and What I Eat. I also gave the following general advice:

The key is to change the big things about your diet first. Eliminate all grains, sugars, modern vegetable oils, and soy. Eat full-fat dairy. Eat fatty meats. Eat nuts. Eat eggs. Moderate fruit intake. Then, once you're comfortable with those big steps, you can refine your diet.
The person e-mailed us back with the following remarks:
Sugar's out. Does this mean I can never eat another Snickers Bar again? I'd rather shoot myself.

Eliminate all grains - even whole grains, then? I suppose this means wheat, rice--are beans grains? Are potatoes in? I'd rather fall on a newly sharpened blade than to never eat potatoes. No matter how you cook' em, they taste damn good! Boil 'em, fry 'em, mash 'em, bake 'em, bake 'em again. Damn, they're good. Please don't tell me they're out.
Amusing, yes -- but I can't help but see problems. Here's what I wrote in reply:
You've started by telling us the various foods that you refuse to give up. If that's going to be your approach, then you might as well not bother attempting to change your diet.

The fact is that certain foods are objectively good for you. They are conducive to health, beauty, and strength. Other foods -- namely most of what people eat today, including what they regard as healthy -- are self-destructive to varying degrees. So if you want the good effects of a truly proper diet, you're going to have to enact the requisite causes by actually eating that diet. Indulging your desires for certain foods simply because you've trained your mind and body to crave them will only frustrate your ends.

It can be somewhat hard to wean yourself off a carb addiction. Your body has to adjust itself to running on proper fuel, primarily fats. That can take few days to a few weeks. Also, you'll find that your tastes change over the course of months. However, if you're like almost everyone I know, you'll soon find that you like your new diet much, much better. You'll relish food in a new way. You'll feel better. You'll look better. You'll think the foods that you used to like are simply gross. And, if you're carb-sensitive, you'll find that any significant deviations from the diet will produce unwelcome effects.

If you "cheat" from the get-go, you'll likely never experience those benefits. Then you might wrongly suppose that the diet just didn't work for you. (That's like blaming capitalism for the failures of the mixed economy!)

Of course, if you discover that you hate a paleo diet, then you can always quit. But I think you should try it in earnest. Focus on finding good foods that you love to eat, rather than on whatever you're not eating. Allow yourself to experience what the diet has to offer. Then you can try deviating from it on occasion as a kind of experiment; that's actually very informative.

I was a major sugar addict for as long as I can remember. I loved candy, bread, and pasta with a passion. Before, I couldn't imagine giving all that up -- yet I have for over a year, happily. The health and energy benefits have been tremendous for me. More than that, I've not sacrificed one iota in terms of my pleasure in food. I enjoy food more now than I used to, precisely because I'm not feeding my carb cravings.

I never could have gotten to that delightful point if I'd declared that I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick rather than give up Jelly Bellies.
The person in question wrote me back, in part:
Screw it.

I'm in 100%. You're right about everything you wrote to me, Diana. Thank you. ...

I needed the kick in the ass you just gave me. Thank you.
I love people who can take a much-needed kick in the rear! And I love people willing to give such kicks to me when needed, even though I might grumble a bit at the time.

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