I’m such a child. I’ve been playing with my food again.
The Horizon documentary “Fat vs Sugar” was broadcast here recently. It explored some of the science behind arguments for giving up either fat or sugar.
Ignoring the extreme sides of that debate, the take-home message for me was that foods with equal quantities of fat and sugar suppress our “I’ve had enough” signals. In these situations, I keep eating not because I have no willpower but because my body cannot react the way nature intended. The food manufacturer has tricked me into eating not just more than I need but also more than I want.
In response, I’ve been experimenting. And while I was experimenting, I finally broke through the three kilogram barrier that has plagued me for years.
My three kilogram barrier
When I began fixing my eating habits back in 2012, I didn’t just go on a diet I’d found in a magazine. Instead, I progressively studied my way through the various food groups. When necessary, I bought new kitchen equipment. Change was gradual and sustained, though not total.
Eighteen months ago, I began fixing my exercise habits. I didn’t just go to the gym three times a week. I didn’t go to the gym at all. Instead, I progressively added more activity to each day and each week. I had a wonderful time, trying things I hadn’t done in years, getting back out into the bush, taking my camera with me. I admit, though, the amount of exercise does vary. The big set pieces aren’t as routine as I’d like, but I’m sitting less and moving more.
I feel a lot better, but doctors still frown at me because the weight didn’t shift. I see-sawed within this range of three kilograms.
My experiment – Fat vs Sugar
My experiment was confined to a subjective assessment of appetite. It was limited by the fact that I couldn’t separate all my meals into only fat or only sugar. The aim, then, was to separate where possible and reduce the ratio where separation was not feasible.
Under the Sugar heading, the documentary included any food that we know to be sugar or that breaks down to the various types of sugars when digested. Under the Sugar heading were sugars (obviously), carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits.
Under the Fat heading were the meats and diary.
The more time between the consumption of the meats/dairy and the carbs/sugars, the less I wanted to eat and the more sensible my appetite felt.
The further from equal the ratio of fat to sugar or sugar to fat, the slower I ate and the less I wanted to eat.
The closer to equal the ratio of fat and sugar, the more outlandish my appetite when I knew I wasn’t hungry. I ate more than I really wanted.
I took a closer look at the wrapper of the 100g of organic white chocolate I’d just finished. I ate it in one sitting while reading the paper this morning. My subjective view of the experience placed it in the Outlandish Appetite category. Sure enough, the information panel shows 9.6g of fats for every 12.8g of sugars. That’s a ratio of 3 to 4. That’s pretty close to equal.
The experiment also showed how difficult it will be to completely ignore all equal ratio foods. Manufacturers want us to buy more … and more. And that’s not just the packaged foods from the supermarket; it’s also the sandwich bar and coffee shop.
The experiment over, it’s time to decide if … no, strike that … it’s time to decide how to implement change. The aim is to allow the body to signal “I’ve had enough thanks”, while maintaining appropriate nutrition.
The strategy, then, is as follows:
1. What am I eating that encourages appetite?
2. Which of those can I do without?
3. Which could be adjusted to reduce the ratio?
4. Look for new food combinations that don’t encourage appetite.
Here’s an example:
I don’t want to give up my glass of milk each morning, but I can’t abide the taste of plain milk. I’d already dismissed the three heaped teaspoons of flavouring suggested by the manufacturer as too sweet for me. One teaspoon proved ideal. I could drink quickly and smoothly from the tall glass. I’ve now reduced that to 1/2 a teaspoon. I drink from the glass a lot slower.
The other up-side is that that package of drinking chocolate will now last twice as long.