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Minimize Me

I just finished watching the documentary Supersize Me.  I came across it in Blockbuster the other day and figured I needed to watch it as part of my food research.  It is a very interesting film and I quite enjoyed it, although the message is disturbing.  For anyone trying to acquire a quick snapshot of food issues in North America, the film makes a nice complement to the books Fast Food Nation and The Ominvor’s Dilemma.  Throw in a viewing of The Corporation and you may never eat out again.

In Supersize Me, director and self-selected guinea pig Morgan Spurlock decides to eat exclusively McDonald’s food for 30 consecutive days.  Before launching this experiment, he enlists the help of three doctors and a nutritionist.  They take his weight, body mass index, blood work, cardiovascular capability and so on to get a complete profile.  These tests are then repeated at one-week intervals while he is on his McDiet.  The results are predictable but nevertheless shocking.  By the end of the month, he had gained 25lbs, developed the liver of an alcoholic, and suffered from depression and lethargy among a myriad of other health problems.  It then took twice the length of time of the diet to get his bloodwork to return to normal, and 14 times its length to lose the weight he put on.

Because the film’s star eats McDonalds three times a day, some may still think that it’s not a big deal to eat there from time to time.  I have never been much of a McDonald’s fan and have eaten there only once in the past decade, perhaps longer (a chocolate shake and small fries).  But before starting my locavore diet I was eating at Tim Hortons fairly regularly.  By that I mean several times a week I would grab a muffin and very occasionally a sandwich.  I didn’t think much of it, figuring it was a small enough percentage of my food intake to not really have an impact.

Nevertheless, since eating only local – and therefore totally unprocessed – food, I have lost close to 10lbs.  In fact this summer my mother started to be concerned I was too thin. I put a couple of pounds back on over the winter with all the carbs and animal products I have been consuming, but I am still sitting at the weight I was when I was 15, which I certainly never expected to see again.  In other words, even though I considered myself someone who ‘rarely’ ate processed or fast food, I was unconsciously consuming enough of it to have a significant impact on my body.  Eating merely a few Tim Hortons muffins and the occasional pre-made sandwhich a week meant I was carrying 8-10 extra pounds!

On my new ‘diet,’ I eat whatever I want, whenever I want and as much as I want, as long as it is local.  (This of course rules out all processed foods.)  I give my body what it craves, which is very clear now that I am off my sugar addiction and varies considerably with the season.  In the summer I subsisted nearly exclusively on fruits and vegetables, not wanting anything else. 

In the winter, however, my I have turned into quite the carnivore.  My cold weather diet has included – in addition to a variety of vegetables – at least 4 liters of whole milk, a pound of butter, 2-3 liters of full fat yogurt, 6-12 eggs, half a pound of cheese, small amounts of meat, 2 loaves of bread, a lot of maple syrup and honey, 2 (fair trade organic) large bars of dark chocolate and a bottle of red wine per week. 

Despite eating what many would think to be a very high fat diet, my cholesterol (and all other blood-work in fact) is in great shape, and my weight is down.  This suggests that it is the processing of food that causes problems, not the food itself.  Fresh, whole organic foods are easy for our bodies to break down and use efficiently as fuel.  For an interesting discussion on this topic, and of our obsession with nutrients over whole foods, check out Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan, or pick up a copy of his new book In Defense of Food (which I have not yet read but have been told is yet another good read by this author).  Certainly my experience to date supports his arguments and observations.  

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