Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weight-Loss Secrets I Learned from Japanese Women

The so-called experts scoff at desperate American women in search of a "magic weight loss pill," or some other simple solution to their weight problems.  But it's the experts who may be the fools and gullible ones. I spent a year in Japan, which gave me a new perspective on food.  How many experts and nutritionists in the United States tell overweight American women that there is no secret, no magic to weight loss. With a sarcastic sneer, that generally say something like:  "all you have to do is stop stuffing yourself, substitute lettuce salad for pepperoni pizza and take up jogging."  That is not really sound advice because most overweight women have such strong food cravings, that those dietary changes are not do-able.  Besides, substituting lettuce for pizza is not the real reason I couldn't find a dress size 12, and barely any size 10s in Japanese department stores, stocked with size 0's through 6's.  Do Japanese women have that much more willpower than we do?  Of course not.
 Japanese women don't overeat because they don't suffer from "food cravings."  And the reason for that is the fact that their diets are dominated by rice rather than wheat products.  For many westerners, the issue isn't  merely a matter of substituting  white for a coarser type of wheat flour.  The culprit may be the wheat itself.  In some cases it may be the gluten in the wheat.   Many overweight women in America suffer from undiagnosed gluten intolerance.  How do we know?  It is because they crave donuts, cake, bagels and pizza. What our bodies crave the most are the substances we metabolize poorly.

 An alcoholic is a person whose  body is unable to break down alcohol efficiently.  As strange as it may seem, rather than the person's body rejecting the substance, it craves it.  The same can be said for whatever carbohydrates our bodies do not digest efficiently.  As we age, our bodies may become less able to process certain carbohydrates.  When my son was an infant, the pediatrician explained that I should start him on rice cereal and only transition to wheat when he was at least 12 months old.  The reason given was that wheat is harder to digest than rice.

However, wheat and gluten are not the only culprits.  Nature has fine-tuned our bodies to flourish on whatever kinds of foodstuffs our ancestors ate. Because my ancestral origins are from West Africa, I have come to develop a diet high in rice, millet bread, yams and other grains or vegetables common to West African societies.  The benefit has been dramatic.  Without starving myself, or suffering any hunger pangs at all, fifty pounds have melted away.  And laboratory tests no longer put me in the pre-diabetic range.

So, how does one get rid of the foods we crave the most?  It is not as difficult as it may seem.  The reason I've found is that when I don't take the first bite, my brain seems unable to recreate the craving for wheat products or whatever else my specific diet forbids.   If I eat eggs for breakfast rather than a bagel, I have the "will power" to stay away from wheat-foods.   I substitute other carbohydrates for wheat.  The point initially is not to count calories, but to remove the offending type of carbohydrates from the diet, experimenting with other foods until one is found that does not spike cravings.  I've bought a rice cooker, and love experimenting with different grains found in the health food store. 
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