"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

16.2.09

Food

I read a bit today from Michael Pollan’s January 2007 New York Times article, “Unhappy Meals.” Michael Pollan is the author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. I haven’t read either book, but from what I have gleaned from people who have, Pollan has a strong stance on the subject of whole foods and food culture versus food reductionism and science.

That is to say, he argues that by reducing our foods to mere delivery systems for macro- and micronutrients we are doing more harm than good. By taking the vitamins and anti-oxidants out of their context and the systems in which they work, we render them useless or even harmful.

Take for instance, the Omega-3 fad. Touted as a benefit of eating fish, we don’t realize that fish obtain the nutrient from green algae - its primary source, along with other leafy greens. As well, the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids come from the interaction in the body another essential nutrient, Omega-6, which is found in seeds and grains. Within naturally evolved food cultures this ratio is close to one to one and is linked to cell structure and function.

However, with the industrialization of grain-fed, Omega-6-heavy beef production, rather than free-range, grass-raised - and little to no consumption of green vegetables - the western eater receives almost no Omega-3s through intake of whole foods. Supplementing it in pill form is virtually ineffective unless Omega-6 consumption comes down.

The idea of food-culture resonates with me strongly. The so-called “French Paradox” contradicts everything about American food science: a diet loaded with fat, butter, and wine that produces, for the most part a healthy, fit population. The key is in whole foods, Pollan argues, in shunning heavily processed foods, in communal dining without snacking.

All food-cultures evolved along with their environment and available foodstuffs. For example, the majority of humans were once lactose intolerant, some entire populations still are, getting sick when they drink cow’s milk. Yet, certain genes that produce enzymes for its digestion were passed along over thousands of years as humans became agrarian, and spread until the populations adapted. This benefited the cows, too.

The reason I relate to so much to this idea is another book, published several years ago, called “Eat Right For Your Type.” I referenced in a past blog a cancer scare I had, years ago, that led to a massive and permanent weight loss. The falling of the Berlin wall in my life is the still that one life-changing event in 2001.

If you, in our time together, come to understand only one thing that defines me, it is this: I spent two months believing I had cancer and learning about what I had been putting in my body up to that point. It was like somebody had ripped off the heavy blanket covering me on a sunny day, and I will never go back. To eating like that, looking like that, or feeling like that. I don’t have so much of an issue with food itself - maintaining a pretty consistent weight and body size ever since - as I have with the food of the western diet.

Coming out of the battle victorious and armed with new knowledge I still had many questions for my doctor. Such as, why am I still so irregular? I felt terrible all the time, even though I was doing my damnedest to eat healthy, high fiber foods. His answer?

That’s just the American Diet.

Bullshit.

So off to find more information I went and ended up at the homeopathic place on Addison, a block east of Damen. I spoke with a gentlemen there who informed me of Peter D’Adamo’s book, “Eat Right…” and said I should give it a read, being a Type O. He said that Type O’s have trouble processing wheat gluten and it makes them irregular. So I bought the book, then the idea, stopped eating wheat products, and within a week, was shitting like a champion.

The idea is simple, and sound I believe, regardless of any doctors who scoff at the science. Type O is the universal blood, in fact, because all other blood types evolved from it. That is a Type A can receive Type O, but not visa versa. This evolution took place as humans agrarianized and began cultivating more complex and starchy grains, as well as animal for dairy production.

Type Os are a hold over from hunter-gatherers. Therefore they are much less tolerant of grains with gluten, and most dairy products. The more simpler grains - like rice, and rye, leafy natural greens, and lean protein, the better. I don’t know much about the methodology behind D’Amado’s findings, except that it’s worked incredibly well for me.

When I’m able to follow it.

Just try avoiding wheat gluten. It’s nearly impossible to do so without having to constantly explain that you are not some Atkins Diet jerkass. “Come on, have a cookie!” “What do you do about pasta?!” It’s so tiring that sometimes I’d rather just acquiesce, not give the lecture, and then suffer in silence with a copy of Katy’s “People” for an hour under the soothing hum of the bathroom fan.

But lately, I’ve really tried get gluten out of my diet. I didn’t have a single piece of pizza at our latest cycling team function last night, and I’ve avoided the cafeteria at work since Day One, 2009. I bring my lunch every day. And empowering myself this way, starting the day off right – “leaving it all behind you,” as Louis Armstrong used to shill - albeit naturally, is really making a difference, and giving me more willpower to keep on eating right.

When you have a hobby like mine, and performance is everything, an issue like this can really take on weight. And with the mountains of California approaching in the distance, having a lighter load makes all the difference in the world.

Sorry to take the tone of this one in a downward spiral, but seriously, I urge everyone to take a more thoughtful look at what they are eating. Think of food as whole food and the whole person it makes you.

4 comments:

Jeff of MargaretAndJeff said...

I enjoyed this post quite a bit. I don't suffer from the irregularity problems you do, but the post was insightful and informative. Thanx.

The Car Whisperer said...

You're welcome...I am a serial oversharer, but I don't care. I've learned a lot about foods and eating on this journey and I will continue to do so. Dude, loving the Mad Alchemy sponsorship for the Mens' 4/5. I'm am SO winning that race!

Illinoisfrank said...

Props to you for finding and, more importantly, sticking to (pun not intended, but left in nevertheless) a diet that has you "shitting like a champion". The fact that it came from a book based on nothing but the author's conjecture is a coincidence, not science. I'm blood type O and have no problems with wheat products.

It's not that doctors "scoff at the science", they scoff at the diet because it isn't based on science. I refer to this book review and information from the Mayo Clinic.

Why am I bothering? I applaud your determination and your disciplined training to improve your cycling performance. I enjoy reading your blog because it is well written and I like following your progress. That said, I don't like frauds getting any credit for your success. Also, if I can, I'd like to keep you (and your readers) from wasting valuable training time and money on the next performance enhancing fad.

This is a good article that explains what constitutes good evidence that a particular treatment (such as a diet) really works.

The Car Whisperer said...

Well, thanks for the feedback. I realize it's not based on much science, but again, the Blood Type guidelines have worked for me...at least the concept of avoiding certain kinds of food. I agree that it is mostly anecdotal. And probably the blood type isn't the cause, but merely a leading indicator of a particular person or population's gastronomical makeup, to coin a phrase. I was reading Scientific American (light airport reading), the recent 200th Darwin anni issue, and an article mentioned that chimps have only one gene that produces an enzyme beneficial for digesting starches, and as a consequence, they mostly eat plants, leaves, and even meat. Some humans have up to ten different starch-enzyme producing genes. I would bet you my next gluten free meal that many (but not all - such as you) type Os and other people with my issues have a smaller number of kind of gene.

I bristle a bit at the implications of me wasting money on "fads" however. I am certainly not one to invest in the latest "anything" and avoiding wheat has been one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, not mention that it came about as a result of a long and calculated learning. I don't see any way you can put my decision in with the same line of thinking as opting wholesale into the South Beach or Atkins diets. I'm not on a "diet." I sought to fix something that was wrong, and have succeeded. No fad there.