Is the Pandemic Stimulating Your Appetite?
Is this pandemic stimulating your appetite? Are you consuming a large number of carbs, more than your body can use in a day? Even if you keep a diet diary, are you perplexed that you cannot stay within your calorie budget? If you are like me, you eat all your calories by early afternoon and have nothing left over for supper. Perhaps you have given up trying to record anything and are just eating uncontrollably.
Today, I decided to see what I can do about this. First, I think the stress of the pandemic and its threat to the food supply is triggering this response. Our survival is threatened or at least appears to be, and the body responds to perceived threats the same as real ones.
We have typically put an order into Instacart.com for groceries, and two hours later, we have the groceries. Now it is taking a week or longer if we can place our request at all. We usually have to choose a different store than our first choice. Then there are many substitutions and deletions, so what we get is different than what we ordered. We have not come close to starving, but there is disorder in our kitchen. You, too, may be affected by this. We still do not know if toilet paper will be available by the time we run out.
Will it get worse? It very well could. We do not know who is working or not, or whether the food supply is even safe. Instacart shoppers went on strike–though thankfully not the faithful shopper who delivered our last order. The Instacart workers are asking for bigger tips and hazard pay, and who can blame them? I suspect that some of them have stopped their service. Demand, on the other hand, is higher than ever as people want their groceries delivered to avoid lines and dangerous grocery stores.
Are there solutions to these things? Of course, but they will likely take time. Meanwhile, what is the best way to avoid stressing over this, which puts us in survival mode, and stimulates our appetites? I ordered some groceries from Costco.com. Some of them still have not arrived. I called customer service, and they said they were backlogged–probably a lot. I ordered from nuts.com. One of my orders from them got lost. They re-processed the box, and it got here four days earlier than they predicted. I was so relieved and happy that they replaced the order. However, I think you can tell that I went through stress getting everything–well, not everything yet.
One thing we have been able to get reliably is bread. I have stopped worrying about my gluten intake, at least for now. The bakery we get our loaves from hires ex-convicts, and they must be more loyal to their jobs than ever. I am grateful we have bread. I have plenty of brown rice, but having to cook it all the time and clean the pot is an inconvenience.
However, it could be that eating so many carbs is stimulating my appetite. I always lose and maintain my weight more easily when I eat plenty of fat and protein. In its favor, though, our bread has a very high fiber/sugar ratio. Most days, I have eaten more than 30 grams of dietary fiber and less than 55 grams of total sugars–meeting three of my goals.
JV Life Tracker
Even through the stress of the past month, I have continued to keep my JV Life Tracker app. On days that I do not record all my food in Cronometer, I lose a whole lot of points. I want to recommit myself to eating for points, even if I cannot stay on budget. I have quite a few points I can earn even if I overeat. Though there is no special magic in the activities I have chosen to score, they are based on my knowledge of nutrition and have worked for me for years. I think instead of changing my process, I will re-commit to it even though doing so is especially challenging in this pandemic.
Above is a two-week report from last year on how I was doing on a list of 27 diet-related activities. That is when I was doing well and getting results. Let me go over these activities, so you know what they mean.
To score this point, I log all my food and supplements for the day in Cronometer. Cronometer provides most of its functionality for free. However, for an annual payment of $34.95, you can get additional functionality that is not critical but is very useful. Getting the paid-version can also increase your commitment to using the tool.
Cronometer .5 to 1.0 protein/carb ratio
As a follower of Barry Sears’ Zone Diet since October 2, 1996, I still try to keep my proteins and carbs in a 0.5 to 1.0 ratio. This means there are always the same or more grams of carbohydrates in the diet than protein. If you are into the ketogenic or Atkins diets, this will not work, so you can disregard this. It is hard to do this on a vegan diet but possible. Fortunately, this ratio range works for me. You may notice that I did this only 9 times out of 14, but I still lost weight.
Staying in your calorie budget can be very challenging, but it is crucial to at least come close. In Cronometer, you have flexibility in setting your budget. I set my settings to maintain weight and discovered that staying in my budget allows a slow weight loss. You do not want your budget to be too tight or
- it will be way too challenging to get all your nutrients
- the starvation reflex will kick in, forcing you to eat more
Especially when under the threat of famine, it is essential not to give the body the message that food is scarce, or it will eat uncontrollably. Setting the calorie budget up to work for long-term weight loss or maintenance is a balancing act and can take a while to figure out. Be patient, and keep trying.
Even though I find it almost impossible at present to stay on budget, when I get close, I can still lose weight. I am going to keep trying and at least maintain my weight or not gain as much.
Cronometer estimates how many calories you burn. If I eat less than that, I get this point. Right now, the estimated burn amount is the same as my budget.
Cronometer Ca to Mg ideal
Calcium and magnesium should be taken in balance. To calculate the ratio, you will need to log your supplements that contain calcium and magnesium. Too much calcium can mean constipation. Too much magnesium, and you get the opposite. Both minerals are essential for maintaining your bones. If you are in the ideal range, which Cronometer will show you, you get this point. You can also judge it from your bathroom habits.
Cronometer fiber/sugar ratio > .5, .6, .9, or 1.0
Generally, the higher the fiber-to-sugar ratio, the better. If it is > 1.0, it is more than .5, .6, and .9 also, and you can get all four points. Eating a lot of fiber can be a bit rough on the throat, so eat what you can tolerate and increase your fiber intake slowly when you are trying to eat more. I find a fiber-to-sugar ratio more than .6 to work. Notice that I scored that point 11 of 14 times. Dr. Robert Lustig, who is known for his YouTube lecture about sugar, wrote in Fat Chance that this ratio is ‘the key to the kingdom.’
Cronometer K+ to Na+ ideal
Potassium and sodium ions are two minerals or electrolytes the body needs to balance. Too much sodium can result in high blood pressure. It can be a challenge to get enough potassium. I do not recommend taking potassium tablets, which contain only 99 mg of potassium anyway. Its best source is vegetables.
Cronometer omega-6 to omega-3 4.0 or less
Unfortunately, Cronometer’s database does not include omega-6 and omega-3 values for all foods. However, do the best you can to choose foods for which you do have these values. A ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 4.0 or less reduces inflammation in the body. Inflammation plays a part in chronic diseases. Less inflammation is better.
Cronometer Trend Report
I am talking about the Nutrition Report in the Trends menu option in Cronometer. Currently, I check my values from two custom dates, June 22, 2019, and September 22, 2019. I run two reports up to yesterday. This tells me how I am doing on average. The report can be falsely reassuring, however, because some nutrient quotas need to be met every day. This is especially true of B vitamins and Vitamin C, for which meeting the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) on average is not good enough.
Cronometer weight record notch in Google Sheets
This Google Sheet is a spreadsheet game I made for myself. Whenever I lose .05 kilos, I save a dollar. I collect $25 or so and then literally transfer the money from checking to savings. If I gain the weight back, I have to lose it and save it again. This is kind of fun to play. I have saved some money and lost some weight. You can play the game using more money at a time if you wish.
Cronometer Zn to Cu ideal
During my research for my ebook Joyful Vibrance: Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood! I learned about the importance of balancing zinc and copper. Too much copper is dangerous to your mental health and can lead to
- racing thoughts
- disconnection from reality
- being in your own world
- eventually psychosis
When I used LifeForm as a food diary, I had no way of quantifying that balance. Then on June 28, 2017, I started using Cronometer. Generally, foods that report copper in Cronometer account for zinc also. For optimum mental health, keep these minerals in ideal balance. Cronometer can help you do that.
Eat 30+ grams of fiber.
You may want to start with less dietary fiber and work up. You may eventually want to target an even higher value than 30 grams. As you can see, I reached that target 10 days out of 14. On average, I am still eating not a lot more than 30 grams daily. Fiber slows down the entry of sugars into the bloodstream, preventing spikes in blood sugar. High blood sugar can be very dangerous. It also provides a platform on which probiotics can multiply. These are friendly bacteria that protect your gut. This is only the beginning of fiber’s resume. Processed foods have much, if not all, of their soluble and insoluble fiber, removed, which is one reason they are harmful. If you have not already done so, increase dietary fiber in your diet. Vegetables are a healthy source. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are excellent, and whole grains have this nutrient also.
Eat 55 grams or less of sugars.
I did not get the number 55 from a book or research paper. It just happens to be a number I can live with that does not do that much damage. The key is to be sure to get at least 30 grams of fiber also. These sugars should be natural, not added sugars. I can eat less than 55 grams of sugar, but then life is not as fun, so the number is kind of a compromise. If you can eat less, outstanding. Do whatever works for you.
Eat 63 grams or less of sugars.
If for some reason, I go over 55 grams, this point is available to motivate me not to go overboard. You may want checkmarks like this in your checklist to keep you from badly messing up. Of course, if you get this point, you have eaten less than 55 grams of sugar also, so you get two points.
Eat and chew thoroughly.
It is tough to say on any given day whether I did this or not. I give myself a point if I seem to have done okay. The checkmark is there mostly to remind me to chew thoroughly daily.
Eat no added sugar.
This is usually easy to score, and it is also crucial to successful dieting, so even if these other checkmarks are not essential to you, this one must be. A coach may tell you that you can eat a “moderate amount” of added sugar. A pro will tell you you must give added sugar up. Sorry to land the truth on you. Sugar messes with the brain’s reward center and creates an appetite for itself. Addiction can result. I know because I am a recovered sugar addict myself. A 12-step program may be needed to help you break free of the addictive habit.
Eat no cheese.
I kept this suggestion only 9 of 14 days. Cheese tends to constipate me. I have heard conflicting reports about the effect of cheese on your health. If you do consume it, consider using cheese from grass-fed animals. Cheese is so delicious I tend to eat it anyway. However, it is better if I do not eat it every day.
Eat no gluten.
I may not score too well on this presently, but I will keep it in my app.
Eat none of your spouse’s food.
I tend to eat everything I prepare for a meal. In contrast, my husband has a lot of leftovers. It is tempting to eat them, so I do not have to put them away. However, that is a disaster for my diet.
Eat nothing after dinner.
This is one of the most challenging yet rewarding eating behaviors to acquire. It can help improve sleep, weight loss, and reduce the incidence of chronic disease. This behavior is supported by a lot of research. Check out The Circadian Code by Dr. Satchin Panda or an older book, Mastering Leptin, by Byron J. Richards.
Eating sauerkraut with live probiotics is a cost-effective way to improve your gut bacteria, your microbiome, and your health. Sauerkraut tends to be a bit expensive, but once you have built up the friendly bacteria in your gut, you do not need it every day. I think it is more cost-effective in repopulating my gut with friendly bacteria than probiotic pills. Also, it gives you another serving of vegetables, usually cancer-preventing cabbage. You cannot go wrong.
Food 8-Hour Window
Food 9-Hour Window
Food 10-Hour Window
Food 11-Hour Window
Food 12-Hour Window
This point used to be “Food fast 15 hours”. Now that activity is for up to possibly five points. You will get benefits from fasting 12-16 hours, with more benefits the longer you do it. The Circadian Code mentions a lot of research about this. Instead of saying you should fast fifteen hours, Dr. Panda says to eat your food for a day in a nine-hour window, which is essentially the same thing. If you score the lower points, you also get all the higher points.
Here is my current progress report for these points:
Eating Timing Management
Eat in an 8-12-Hour Window Every Day for 42 Consecutive Days.
ETM (Eating Timing Management), 12-Hour Window
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Saturday, May 16, 2020
Eating first thing in the morning
Food green drink
I still have found no food to be more nutritious than a green smoothie. If you use green drinks a lot, be sure to supplement them with a small zinc supplement. Greens contain a lot of copper, which needs to be balanced with zinc. I scored this point twice a week in this example, but I would prefer to do it every other day. There may be a shortage of greens this spring. Spinach can be stored in the freezer.
Food no quickie carbs
Foods like potato chips and other junk food can be considered quickie carbs. Since they are delicious but not nutritious, see if you can cut them out of your diet. Potato chips are exceptionally high in omega-6 fatty acids, so they can be inflammatory.
This is a giant checklist to score every day, but I actually do it. You can create and check your own list and see how you do. JV Life Tracker provides you a way to create your checklist, check it off, and analyze it. Jeff Haden, the author of The Motivation Myth, drinks a full glass of water and eats some almonds before meals to help him lose weight. These are two things he checks off his list. Do whatever works for you.
If you would like to join me on this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One. If you wish to download a FREE copy of my ebook (with no need to enter your name or email), click on the book below.