"Is that piece of chocolate an innocent indulgence? Or your next hit? We're finding that a sweet tooth makes you just as much an addict as snorting cocaine.
SETTLED on the sofa watching the usual rubbish on TV, I notice that predictable, uncontrollable, nightly craving. At first I sit there, fighting it. But the longer I fight, the worse it gets. After 20 minutes, I can't concentrate on anything, I feel anxious, and start fidgeting like crazy. Finally, admitting my addiction, I break. I go to the freezer - to my stash of white stuff - and take a hit. Almost instantly, I relax, my brain in a state of bliss as the chemical courses through my veins. Isn't it amazing what a few scoops of ice cream can do?
Before you dismiss my agitation as mere weakness, consider this: to my brain, sugar is akin to cocaine. There is now compelling evidence that foods high in sugar, fat and salt - as most junk foods are - can alter your brain chemistry in the same way as highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Junk foods switch on biological mechanisms that are just as hard to fight as recreational drugs."
-Bijal Trivedi, "Junkie Food: Tastes Your Brain Can't Resist," New Scientist, Sept. 8, 2010-
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Look, I don't miss my old favorites, like cheeseburgers, barbecued ribs, corned beef sandwiches, olive oil, or brie anymore. I'm so over them. Not remotely interested.
But, really good cookies or chocolate--now that's a whole different story. Why? Because I can't each just one. If I start with one, I want (no, I need) more. Normally, I can "just say no!" But, this season....
On Thursday Dr. D came into the library to give me a thank-you gift for a research project I had helped her with. This wasn't a Whitman's Sampler--it was a box of chocolates made locally by an artisan chocolatier. I wasn't planning to taste a single one--and I set the box on the counter by the microwave in the library--for everyone else to enjoy.
But when two colleauges said, "Go on, just have one. You deserve it. Give yourself a treat," I took the bait--and I didn't stop with one. I ended up eating four pieces, stopping only with sheer will power.
Two days later, at a wedding, I downed a piece of red velvet wedding cake, and followed it up with a mini German chocolate brownie. That night, before I went to bed, I dug into my purse, opened & ate the two-piece mini-box of Russell Stover chocolates my friend Marge had given me on Friday night. Thanks, alot, Marge! I tried to refuse them--but she wouldn't take no for an answer.
If you think sugar addiction is a myth, think again.
Back in September, my friend Bob, who works for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), sent me a copy of the New Scientist article I excerpted above--along with a hot-off-the-press article from his friend & colleaugue, Dr. Mark Gold: "Neurobiology of Food Addiction," by Daniel M. Blumenthal and Mark S. Gold, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Jul;13(4):359-65. Dr. Gold is an international authority on addiction research--specifically, cocaine addiction. According to Gold, there's now hard evidence for the biological basis for sugar addiction. Doesn't sound far-fetched to me!
Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the FDA agrees--and last year he wrote a book about it: "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite." Want to learn more? Read my summary of his research here. If you can get a hold of the New Scientist article at your local library, it's definitely a worthwhile read, as well.
Bottom Line: As I continue through this season of temptation--with cookies-chocolate-cheese-and-alcohol everywhere you look--I'm etching Dr. Michael Roizen's mantra indelibly on my brain. And you can, too!
"The joy of eating an ice cream cone might last for 15 minutes. The damage it does lasts months!"
"The sugar from that cone is going to negatively affect the proteins in your body for the length of life of that protein--anywhere from 90 to 100 days--far outlasting the 10-30 minutes of pleasure you're going to get from that ice cream cone.
Yes, that "extra sugar causes the proteins in your body to be less functional and as a result, directly ages your immune and arterial systems and even your joints (hello, arthritis). The joy of the food might last 10 minutes. The protein change lasts months," says Roizen.
Last night my friend Babs, an expert baker, told me she had just made "THE best-ever-chocolate cookies". Babs is one of those lucky people who really can stop after eating just one cookie. Her scrumptious recipe comes from Sara Moulton. It's Moulton's all-time favorite cookie recipe from the just released: The Gourmet (Magazine) Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009, so you know it's got to be good (and bad for you). Sara's Chocolate Mocha Cookie recipe comes from 1990--20 years ago--back when I wouldn't have given butter, eggs, sugar, and chocolate a second thought.
Three dozen cookies made with 4 oz. of unsweetened chocolate, 3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips, 1 stick of butter, 4 eggs, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Oh my! I'll have to just leave this one to my imagination. Have you all heard about the new Imagine Diet research out of Carnegie Mellon? If you want to torture yourself, click here for Sara's & Babs' recipe.
Just in Case You Do Overindulge - Be Sure to Get Up & Exercise Before You Eat Breakfast!
Don't miss Gretchen Reynolds' December 15, 2010 article in the New York Times, "Phys Ed: The Benefits of Exercising Before Breakfast". Now this is practical research you can really use!
Here's the pitch:
"A recent study by scientists in Australia found that after only three days, an extremely high-fat, high-calorie diet can lead to increased blood sugar and insulin resistance, potentially increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Waistlines also can expand at this time of year, prompting self-recrimination and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions.
But a new study out of Belgium, published in The Journal of Physiology suggests a more reliable and far simpler response. Run or bicycle before breakfast. Exercising in the morning, before eating, the study results show, seems to significantly lessen the ill effects of holiday Bacchanalias."
For six weeks, three groups of healthy young men ate a lousy diet--50% fat, and 30% more calories than usual--kind of like all of us might be eating for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.
- One group quit exercising completely for six weeks--and just enjoyed their high fat, caloric diet.
- Two groups participated in serious, supervised morning workouts, both with an equal energy expenditure.
- One of the exercise groups ate a hefty-carbo-rich breakfast before they exercised, and also drank a sports drink during exercise.
- The third group worked out before breakfast, on an empty stomach, and only drank water while exercising. But afterwards...they chowed-down on the same calorie-rich breakfast as the breakfast-eating exercisers had enjoyed.
The results are compelling.
- Bad News. The breakfast-eating non-exercisers packed on six additional pounds in six weeks! And it gets even worse. They developed insulin-resistance, their muscles no-longer efficiently pulling glucose out of their bloodstream, and they started "storing fat within and between their muscle cells". The Lesson Here: Don't plan on skipping exercise after holiday partying!
- Somewhat Better News. The group who ate a hefty breakfast before working out gained about half as much weight as the non-exercise group. And just like the non-exercisers, they too became more insulin-resistant, and started storing more fat in their muscles.
- Best News. The exercisers who skipped breakfast gained zero weight, and showed no signs of insulin resistance. And they still got to eat a hefty breakfast--but after they worked out.
Take-away message: When you indulge at a holiday party, be sure to exercise on an empty stomach the following morning. Eat breakfast after your workout. Read the entire article for the "rest of the story!"
As for me, since returning home from our Thanksgiving trip to St. Louis, I haven't skipped out on any of my usual exercise routines. In a week I fit in 4 days of spinning, 3 days of yoga, 2 days of weights, & one or two days of rest a week. In spite of various sugary indulgences (like handfuls of leftover vegan chocolate chips that I had around because I was baking for company), restaurant dinners, dinner at friends' homes, holiday parties, and a wedding--not one extra pound has been gained so far.
Enough of the Holiday YouTube Videos - This One Might Be a Real Life-Changer
I just discovered this powerful video this morning, thanks to James Brown at the Dr. McDougall site. You'll hear first-hand how fifty-something James Brown ended up bypassing on bypass surgery--with the blessings of his originally skeptical cardiologist.
Brown had been on high blood pressure meds since he was 23; by his fifties this 5' 7"er weighed 206 pounds; his cholesterol was 339; and he was starting to experience chest pains. Talk about a "do-over"! Brown really did it. If you aren't seeing the video in this post, click here.
The Healthy Librarian's "Enlightened" Version of Company-Worthy Ten-Minute Asparagus & Brown Rice
Looking for a healthy recipe for the holiday season that everyone can enjoy? This might be it.
Last January I discovered Heidi Swanson's amazing garlicky & lemony-tahini dressed garbanzo bean, rice & asparagus salad. I brought it work, and everyone who tasted it ended up making it. It's that good.
But, it's also loaded with fat: over a third of a cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of tahini, and 1 cup of slivered almonds. Gee, and I used to think this was a healthy meal. I haven't made it since June 18, 2010 when I started eating "no-added fat" ala Esselstyn style.
Three weeks ago I decided to see if I could "enlighten" this recipe--ditch the olive oil used for sauteeing--and substitute low-fat silken tofu for the olive oil in the dressing--a trick I learned from the Wellness Forum's Chef Del.
Golden Browned Onions Without Any Oil
Browning the Garbanzos Without Oil
Toasting the Almonds on Parchment Paper
A Bunch of Asparagus
Mixing It All Together
Mixing Up the "Enlightened" Tahini Dressing
For a copy of recipe on one page, click here.
Enlightened Ten Minute (more like 30) Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice
based on Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks recipe
2 14-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup of vegetable broth--used only as needed when sauteeing the onions & chickpeas
1 bunch of asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
3 cups pre-cooked brown rice (I used the frozen already cooked brown rice available at Trader Joe's
2 TBS. of almond slivers, toasted in a low oven (I cut this down from 1 cup of almonds--you could leave it out entirely if you like)
fine grain sea salt & paprika, optional
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, optional--if you like your food hot & spicy
1 garlic clove, smashed & chopped
2 TBS. tahini (I cut this down from 1/4 cup) *Don't leave this out!
zest of 1 lemon
4 TBS. low-fat silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
scant 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (one lemon)
2 TBS. hot water
scant 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt (optional)
a few good grinds of fresh black pepper
1. If you're using frozen rice, heat it in the microwave and set aside. Or, make up enough rice for 3 cups, cooked.
2. Make the dressing by pulse mixing the following ingredients in a food processor: the garlic, tahini, lemon zest, lemon juice, and tofu. Add the hot water to thin a bit and then add the salt & pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Heat your non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the dry skillet and saute. Lower the heat. Sprinkle with a bit of salt & paprika if you like--the paprika helps give it a nice golden color. Stir occasionally--the onions will be fine sauteeing in their own juice for awhile. As they get dry, or begin to stick, add a couple tablespoons of vegetable broth to deglaze the pan. Add the garlic, and continue to saute for about 10 minutes total, until they are soft, sweet, and golden. Add broth--2 tablespoons at a time, if needed to prevent sticking. Remove from the pan, and set aside.
4. Now add the 2 cans of chickpeas/garbanzos to the skillet, and "dry saute" for about five minutes. Let them get a little crusty, browned or even a tad bit charred. They may "hiss & pop".
5. When they are nicely browned, add the sauteed onions & garlic back into the pan, and add in the asparagus pieces. Cover with a lid for a minute or two to steam--just until the asparagus brightens and softens up just a bit.
6. Uncover and stir in the rice and toasted almond slivers. Taste & season to taste. Mix in the cayenne pepper, carefully, if you like that kind of heat.
7. Serve family style in a big bowl, and pass the tahini dressing so everyone can mix some of it into their rice.
NOTE: This dressing is delicious on a veggie or falfel burger, and left-over rice salad is great mixed into a salad of greens.
Enlightened Ten Minute Asparagus and Brown Rice
Serving Size: 1 serving
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