Thursday, September 8, 2011

A High Principle Diet

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

I spent a pleasant afternoon last Labor Day weekend at a fair canoodling with someone I'd just met. It ended awkwardly when I wouldn't go to his house, and he didn't offer any other suggestions. I don't go home with people I've just met, period, no exceptions. It's a first principle of mine.

This, and a post by Dr. Richard Feinman about portion control really meaning self control made me think about sticking to a healthy diet.  "Most people know not to eat too much," Dr. Feinman says in the comments. "The question is how?" Tactics like eating a small portion and waiting to see if you're hungry for more, filling up on good food before going to a party, and taking healthy snacks with you all help. So does getting moral support from other low-carbers. But there will be times when you're hungry, surrounded by carbs, and without snacks or a nagging spouse. Or worse, you'll have a spouse who encourages you to indulge, as my father does with my diabetic mother. These are times when your own fat, protein and principles have to sustain you.

A first principle you can have is that you won't eat things that make you feel lousy. Why did you start a low-carb diet in the first place? I did so to get rid of acid reflux. Eventually, I found out that wheat makes me congested, too much carb makes my joints hurt and makes me gain weight, and certain carbs make me so bloated that I look pregnant. Like many diabetics, my mother feels nervous and shaky when her blood sugar is high. Thinking about what will happen to us in 20 minutes makes it easier for us to avoid eating too many carbs.

Another first principle you can have is to weigh nutritional advice on the merits of whether it makes sense from an evolutionary or ancestral standpoint or on the basis of your own experience. Much nutritional "wisdom" is nothing more than platitudes that have been repeated so many times that most don't question them. Why do we need copious amounts of fruits and vegetables, when just a few hundred years ago these were available only seasonally in most places? Why do we need grains when we got along without them for millions of years? Does a leafy green salad really fill you up? What I like about this is that you don't need a formal scientific education or background in statistics to do this--it's just using some common sense. It keeps you from being buffeted by waves of dumb advice.

Letting hope triumph over experience should violate first principles. Can you stop at one brownie? I can't, so I don't start with the first one--or I buy one, put it in my bag and leave. Has eating light--only to leave room for dessert or a midnight snack--ever worked out for you? I end up eating bad food if I go dancing without  dinner first, so I have a low-carb snack first even if I'm not hungry.

We live in such ridiculous times that "first principles" sounds like something from another century. Note that some of this violates the idea of moderation. It especially violates the idea of flexibility, for the better. The tendency to put flexibility over first principles is why the guy from the weekend bet that I'd cave in if he held out. It's why some of my friends have ended up with men who never got around to paying their bills or filing for a divorce; these relationships would have been non-starters had first principles been first. And it's what the purveyors of poor advice and worse food are counting on to keep us eating junk.


Angel said...

Excellent post, Lori. Rational first principles are the foundation for developing self-respect and good character. We do indeed live in a toxic culture.

Does anyone even talk about good character anymore? I don't recall seeing much mention of it outside of Jane Austen novels.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Angel.

Judge Judy comes to mind: "You need to look for someone who HAS character. Not someone who IS a character."