Add or subtract?

Today’s post ought to start with a line like: ‘Want a surefire method of losing weight, enhancing your mood and leading a happier life?’ But I won’t be so clickbaitily cheap and obvious.

So there’s this idea that when someone is trying to modify their diet to improve their health (or get a beach body at least), human nature causes us to prefer to add stuff rather than to take it away. Maybe it is indeed human nature; and maybe (*cynicism alert*) it’s a result of living under a corporate-run, consumer-obsessive society whose aim is to direct all attention away from the simplest, least corporately-profitable ways of eating.

Here’s an example from when I was looking around at mental health conditions and carbs, which I covered briefly in my last post. ’10 foods I eat every day to beat depression: dark leafy greens, walnuts, avocado, berries, mushrooms, onions…; along with a list of nutrients in those foods that the writer believes are the reasons the food stops him/her becoming depressed (eg walnuts, rich in mood-boosting omega-3 fatty acids; avocado, its oleic acid  gives you brain power).

Another list gave us: ’31 superfoods that will supercharge your weight loss’. The list includes goji berries and pomegranate seeds, blueberries, grapefruit and pears too.

Is it a coincidence that both these types of articles encourage the sufferer of depression or overweight to consume? I think not!

Is it a coincidence that these two fairly representative lists contain largely carbohydrate-based, plant-based foods? Again, I think not!

Is it a coincidence that neither of those lists is topped by ‘red meat’?  I think not!

Is the supplement industry, whether pharmaceutical or sports, worth billions? I think so! It’s always about adding stuff, buying more, consuming more.

As zero-carbers and/or carnivores, I think we have hit upon, wittingly or unwittingly, something very powerful: stripping your food intake down to its barest essentials (plus cheese) and letting the body and mind (and biome) have a bit of peace and quiet from the noise, metaphorical and literal, of the standard western diet. Our lists of ‘foods I omit from my diet to lose weight and have better mental health’ would be very long indeed, possibly infinite.

Worked example, courtesy of food writer Joanna Blythman: mayonnaise, home-made, ingredients: egg yolk and olive oil. That’s it. Blend. Enjoy. Zero carb, high fat goodness. (She didn’t say that, I did).

Asda Light Mayonnaise, ingredients (deep breath): Water, spirit vinegar, sugar, modified maize starch, vegetable oil, pasteurised salted free range egg yolk (4.5%), Dijon mustard, preservative, acidity regulator, salt, maltodextrin and I give up typing there with more crap to go through.

Many health coaches, diet advisors, trainers, whatever, who espouse the LCHF or ZC way of eating have to surmount the apparently insurmountable: getting the client to remove items from their daily intake, when what they often want to hear is, ‘Here. Take these. A handful of chia seeds. Eat them. You will become thin. And happy.’

In both of the examples of superfoods above the implication is that the consumer is maybe eating a  (I hate this term, and I’m using it advisedly) ‘balanced diet’, and, like a car that is running a bit rough, adding a fuel additive to the tank will be sufficient to elicit happy moods or lower body fat. Yet looking at the two mayonnaises, it’s clear that someone unhappy with their body fat levels, and who regularly, in good faith, eats Asda Light Mayonnaise, would benefit either from getting one egg yolk and some olive oil and a blender, or not ever eating mayonnaise, home made or from a supermarket. Adding  to the ‘balanced diet’, even pears and walnuts, is not guaranteed to have a positive effect.

Eating avocado for the oleic acid, walnuts for the omega-3 and so on is too much like popping pills. It’s the quantified self, a neurosis, reducing the self and conditions like depression to a set of nutritional elements. If you have the courage to remove all the extraneous parts of your daily food intake: all carbs, all PUFAs, all plant-based food, and live with that for a good while, long enough to see what happens to brain and body, then you may well find more healing in that approach than any other.

And you’ll be saying, ‘For the high-quality fat, I eat meat.  For the protein, I eat meat. For the micronutrients, I eat meat. For the energy, I eat meat. For its mood-enhancing properties, I eat meat. For its weight loss properties, I eat meat.’

Declutter your diet. Desupplement it.

Till next time.

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