Friday, February 15, 2008

It's the real thing, baby

One of the first lessons I learned in intuitive eating was that substitutions are unsatisfying. That is, if what I really, really want to eat is a baked potato with butter on it, then a baked potato with margarine or olive oil probably isn't going to cut it. Neither is a pretzel. Or an eclair. Or air-popped popcorn. When you're tuned in to your appetite, you can't pretend you want something else.

That holds true whether what you want is a hot fudge sundae or a bowl of kale with sesame seeds, both of which I find delicious at various times. And if you give me the sundae when I want the kale, I'm probably going to keep on eating until I'm either overly full or I find a bowlful of kale.

Now a new study done by Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson at Purdue University now supports the notion that certain kinds of substitutions just make you eat more. (Scroll down the link page for a free PDF of the study.) They found that rats given yogurt sweetened with saccharin ate more, gained more weight, and developed more body fat than rats who ate yogurt with sugar.

In other words, you can trick your mind, but you can't trick your body. Any food is unsatisfying when it's not what you really want, and fake crap like saccharin, aspartame, etc. is especially unsatisfying. Unless what you really want is a mouthful of chemical aftertaste.

I'm sticking with sugar, myself.


Anniee451 said...

Thank you Harriet! This is SO true! I was reading a site called, sadly, "Hungry Girl" by a girl who "loves food." Almost the whole site is dedicated to finding no-cal/no-point substitutes for whatever you're craving. Such as, if you crave chili-cheese-fries (which, er, I never do - being able to eat what I want tends to curb cravings for heartburn-inducing junk) she suggests baking up butternut squash, cutting it into fry shapes, putting on no-fat chili, no-fat 'cheese' and no-fat sour 'cream.' Well...who the hell wants that? And how will that satisfy the craving for chili-cheese-fries? It won't. Another suggestion was that instead of cocoa, make sugar-free diet cocoa (NO-coa?) with water, add dairy-free/sugar-free cool whip, and enjoy. Er...if I want a chocolate dairy drink, I *might* be able to substitute some chocolate milk or some chocolate ice cream, but diet cocoa is going to do jack-squat for me. I can drink it till the unmilked cows come home and I'll STILL want the cocoa. A little of the thing you WANT is worth a ton of the crap you DON'T. And your cravings for junk detensify over time. Yet the rats *gained* weight. Go figure. I tell you, that was a perfectly timed post. Screw BS substitutes - eat some of what you actually want. It evens out in the end :)

And as you know, when you're trying to refeed someone, all this stuff comes into crystal clear perspective. (By the way, my daughter is doing great with her refeeding and seems to be progressing far better than expected.)

Anonymous said...

AnnieMcPhee, I too thought of that siate when I read this post. That's one hell of a sad site. I don't think there's anything inherently awful about processed food but good lord, you can take it way too far. Hello, you need the fat in those foods so that you can absorb the vitamins and minerals in them. Like, oh, calcium for your bones. A Big Mac might have 600 calories (I'm just guessing here) but I rather suspect that you'd get more nutrients out of that than anything on that site. Half a cup of full-fat milk will do more for your body than a whole cup of skim.

The thinking is just so...disordered. It's OK TO EAT REAL FOOD. Please do so.

And hell, I can think of stacks of recipes that would be low-calorie and/or low-fat without having to resort to faux food. My mother used to have a few Pritikin and macribiotic cookbooks, and the stuff in there seemed pretty nice in general. I've known people who felt they'd be healthier with less fat in their diet yet managed to not have to give up, say, real pizza. But no, this is not about health. "Hungry Girls" seem to think there is no way to enjoy "naughty", "forbidden" treats within a balanced diet, you have to have the "guilt-free" version with all the fake crap in it. So afraid that if they have one slip-up, they'll be 250lbs again in no time.


Unknown said...

Well, what we have that rats don't is the desire to be thinner. So when the rat's aren't satisfied with artificial sweetner, they eat more.

When I'm not satisfied with artificial sweetner, I simply white knuckle it until I go to bed.

Seriously, I can't count the times when I was doing LA weightloss when I would go to bed and just bawl because I was SO HUNGRY for something specific that I "couldn't have"-- and a lot of the time it was just something like an apple, but I had already eaten my fruit portions for the day. Other times it was something like a taco or pizza or something...

Eventually I did give in... but for several months of my sophomore year of college I was subsisiting off tiny portions of food. Dinner was one slice of diet bread with 3oz of chicken, one cup of salad greens, one tbs of light mayo, and as much ketchup (!!!!) as I wanted. I think I could sub the piece of bread for half a small potato. Breakfast was half a cup of milk with half a banana, or a whole orange or apple. I could also choose to have 2 prunes. (Freaking 2 prunes!)

Sorry that was such a long rant about LA weightloss, but it just makes me think, looking back on it now I'm like, THAT. WAS. INSANE.

But at the time I just thought I wasn't strong enough to lose the weight.

I quit when I was working at chick-fil-a and my LA weight loss "counselor" came by and picked up fried chicken sandwiches and fries for the office. Man, I wish I could have a picture of the look on her face when she saw me at the window! (Part of the schtick at LA Weightloss was that all the counselors were on the maintenence plan, and they often suggested that the reason I hadn't lost weight that week was because I had more baby carrots than was allowed)

Anyway. Sorry. I forget what my point was... oh yeah. People probably don't gain weight from eating artificial sweetners because we have the crazy.


Anonymous said...

This is totally not news to me.

I used to try that kind of stuff: if I wanted a cookie, have a cracker instead. And then I'd go through my kitchen, eating every kind of cracker I had, and toast, and maybe even a rice cake if I had it - but I still wanted the damn cookie.

It's a lot easier and saner (and kinder to yourself) to just stop first, and say to yourself, "What do I REALLY want?" and then have it. I'm a lot more likely to be happy - and to eat a reasonable amount rather than go on some crazy "search and can't find" behavior - if I decide, "yeah, I want a cookie" and then eat the cookie. Or "yeah, I want an orange." or "Yeah, I want some cheese." or "Yeah, I want some nuts." Or whatever.

Sadly, no one can make money off of that kind of thing, so you won't be seeing ads for "just eat what you actually want and don't screw around with poor substitutes" any time soon. (Not to mention that it goes against the self-denying behavior that seems to be a hallmark of the diet/beauty industries)

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is old news for me (and I am sure for quite a few others who have tried substitution). Now, while I am all for broadening your horizons with trying different things (hell the sweet potato chili fries may be good after all if you tried it) I don't believe in substitution. There have been many many times in my life where I have systematically went through the kitchen and ate almost everything thing to find the one thing I wanted to eat...but couldn't pinpoint. This has mostly occurred in the last few years since I have lived up North and the food choices are different (I can't even get a decent can of hominy up here!) I actually think that is why I couldn't get rid of the baby weight I gained first time around...I couldn't find my old fashioned comfort foods like at home (mmm pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cornbread) and just had to make due. I can't even get a good piece of country ham to put in mah beans! That's just downright uncivil!

One story though...when I was pregnant the first time about halfway through I wanted fish. But not any fish. Captain D's fish...and for those of you who don't know Captain D's is a fast food fish place...think of a cheaper Long John Silver's.

To be honest I hate fish. But I HAD to have Captain D's. Well, the closest Captain D's is about 400 miles away...and at the time the closest Long John Silver's was about the same. So I had to substitute fish from the grocery store. I hated it and did not fill my craving.

However, not long after this we had to make an emergency trip back home (800 miles down south)...and when staying with my sister she asked me what I wanted for dinner. Of course, I said Captain D's. I have to say that was the BEST piece of fish I have ever had in my life...and I never wanted it again.

I have always felt if people just gave into their cravings...just for a little bit...then they would be happier and healthier in the long run!

Anonymous said...

I will never forget the thanksgiving feast I attended cooked by people on the Atkins diet. Everything on the table was pretend except the turkey, it seemed. I walked away feeling the need of another meal.

The sad part was, if they'd just been honest about what the food was, I would have been perfectly content with it. I enjoy pureed cauliflower. I like zucchini sauteed in butter. Unfortunately, they tried to tell me these things were 'mashed potatoes' and 'lasagne.' I wanted to cry and my stomach rebelled at the cognitive dissonance.

I love these people dearly, but I couldn't eat with them while they were on that foul diet. The food wasn't bad. It was the 'let's pretend it's something good' attitude I couldn't stomach.

Now I will happily eat with them, because they tell me what things really are and I can make my decisions and prepare my mouth accordingly.

Oh, and none of them lost an ounce in the Year of Eating Stupidly.

wriggles said...

Yes, I had to find this out the hard way!

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz said...

I just read something like this in the NYT about diet soda, and I immediately started jumping around the house like I'd won an Olympic medal. I have been saying for YEARS that diet soda makes me crave sugar, or more food, or whatever -- it makes me *crave*. Sugar soda, on the rare occasions that I have it, doesn't. Part psychological (not denying myself the real thing) but part physiological, too! I knew it! There's nothing better than an "I told you so...." If only my husband would listen.

Yan said...

My mother always taught us that if we were craving something specific, then there was probably a reason that our bodies wanted it. I still love her for that.

The constant, self-hating dieting around me makes me frustrated and sad. It's such a fruitless waste of time and energy.

TropicalChrome said...

I couldn't agree more - back in the dark days, when I had cravings, I used to try to find something, ANYTHING that was "good" to satisfy them. Of course it didn't work. I realized pretty early on that if I'd just eaten what I really wanted I could have saved myself a lot of anguish and time (not to mention the waste of eating stuff I didn't really want).

But I do have a slightly different personal point of view on the artificial sweeteners. No, they're not a substitute for a good chocolate cake, and I don't pretend they are. (Nothing is!) But they are useful for me because often what I want is not sugar, but simply the taste of sweet in my mouth. When I want the cake, I have the cake. But if all I want is a sweet taste, they work well for me.

Again, this is a very individual thing, because I know that people taste the different sweeteners differently and have different needs. It's an individual thing - which really is what intuitive eating is all about!

Anonymous said...

Chili with chunks of butternut squash in it is good. I've done it myself a number of times. But, it's no substitute for chili cheese fries, that's for sure. Luckily, when you let yourself eat chili cheese fries whenever you want, you don't want them very often. I find (for me at least. Not speaking for others) that they sit very heavily on the stomach and give me terrible reflux that breaks through my medication even. So, I wind up not wanting them. But that's the great thing about intuitive eating- you learn to listen to your body like that. Used to be, if i was "letting" myself have them because I was being "bad", I'd gobble them up, reflux afterwards be darned.

As for artificial sweeteners. I've always avoided those, mostly because they don't taste sweet to me. They taste of chemicals to me. Except stevia, which is an herbal sweetener. That tastes so much of licorice to me that I can't stand it. Honestly, I'd rather never have a sweet thing again than have one of those fake sweeteners and the nasty chemical taste.

Sandy- have you looked in the Mexican grocery stores for hominy? The ones around here all have it, because its used in posole. Hmmm. Posole. I'll have to make that sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

And that is why I don't diet. While I consider myself a long term low carber, I eat sugar, I eat fruit, I eat chocolate, I even gasp eat wheat once in a while. I dunno, maybe that doesn't make me much of a low carber but it sure does make me feel good about myself...

Anonymous said...

rosecampion-No I haven't...I don't know of any close to me either. It isn't that I can't get any hominy here...but that the only brand I can find package it in such a way it is more of a big pile of goo. I tried to eat it thinking maybe after cooking it would be different. Nope. I will look around though and see if I can find a Mexican store somewhere that my have a better kind...thanks for the info!

And I can't stand the fake sweeteners either. Long ago I said I would rather be fat than to "aquire" a tate for that nastiness. Ew.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I like real food. I rather have a taste of good chocolate than the cheap stuff any day. That said the more healthy food I eat (less junk); the less I crave junk food. I have no interest in sweets of any natural most of the time. Eating healthy shouldn't be about losing weight, but about being healthy. In my opinion, artificial foods aren't healthy.

If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables; you decrease your odds in getting cancer, have nice skin, look healthier all around, have more energy after meals, etc. The anti-oxidants in bright colored fruits and vegetables may even reduce the signs of aging. Not bad, even if you don't become a size smaller.