“The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.”

– Sir William Osler

An opportunity missed

…or, yet another instance of damn, I wish I’d had my camera.

Meesus TTP and I had to travel down to Georgia over the July 4th weekend to tend to a few remaining loose ends as a consequence of B’s recent accident.  We’ve both had better 4th of July holidays, I have to say — and yet, we were able to salvage some moments of renewal and rebirth (the stunningly beautiful Victoria Bryant State Park, for one example, where a new butterfly park is being planned in Brittani’s honor) and even a few instances of serendipitous joy.  (Serendipity seems a common theme in my life — possibly something I need to further explore?)  At any rate, one of those “serendipitous moments” came while Meesus TTP was tending to some business at Emmanuel College.  I remained outside of the on-campus, Student Life center for some fresh air, sun, and a bit of quiet reflection when a sign I’d seen countless times prior — Jones Garden — suddenly hit me anew.   While contemplating the alternative/contemporary meaning of “Jones”, I enjoyed one of those laugh-outloud-with-no-one-else-around moments.  I’m sure any onlooker to this scene would have mistaken me for one of the drifting, poverty-stricken and psychologically-burdened casualty cases of the modern American healthcare system.

Then I saw the sign for Jones Church, and I just about lost it.

Those two pictures would have made for a great intro here, but alas, you’ll have to suffice with your own mental snapshot.  And while the Jones connotations above are funny (admittedly, possibly only to me and my quirky sense of humor), a serious Jones of any kind is no laughing matter.  Especially, and in the face of attempting to clean up your act on the diet front,  the dreaded carbohydrate variety of Jones.

Victoria Bryant State Park.  No carb cravings.  Thoughts of those two ducks, though, on a grill, are another story.
Victoria Bryant State Park. No carb cravings, here. Thoughts of those two ducks on a grill, though, are another story.

And to that end, low carb podcast maestro Jimmy Moore recently scored an interesting interview with psychologist Julia Ross, author of The Diet Cure.  Lots of good information to be had here.  And I know what your thinking.  No, this isn’t low-carb 101 for the Opera-watching masses — Ms. Ross actually hits on some very important and advanced issues concerning addictions; addictions of all kinds, really, but in particular here, carbohydrate addictions, and how to curb, and ultimately, overcome them.  One point that Ms. Ross makes — and one in which I totally agree with — is that an addiction of any sort has less to do with lack of willpower and more to do with altered brain chemistry.  Correct the chemistry and, for the most part, the physical addiction will have been eliminated.  The psychological and situational issues will remain, of course — and this is where willpower will have to prevail — so, like most issues, overcoming the carbohydrate Jones requires more than just focusing in on one underlying cause.  I’ve written about the carb Jones, previously, here, and you might want to check that particular post out again for some other thoughts and associated links.

Proper use of amino acid supplementation will go a long way toward negating the underlying brain/chemical cause for the carb Jones, as will increasing the amount of good fats in one’s overall diet.  My favorite trick for curbing a sweet-tooth pang (a pang that will in time, and with the maintenance of proper diet, become a thing of the past) is to horse-down a tablespoon or three of olive, fish, or other such oil.  Good, quality nut butters work well for this, too.  Of course now we have the luxury of partaking in an even more palatable option for this purpose — Artisana’s raw coconut butter — though I must warn you here of the dangers of trading one addiction for another; that raw coconut butter is seriously good stuff.

Channeling obsessions, and the quest for control

Alex, over at a Paleo Journey to Health, brings up an excellent point for contemplation in this post.  Another aspect to the whole carb Jones phenomena may just be the sense of “out-of-controlness” one feels in the initial stages of withdraw.  That is to say, (and this is my take on the issue, take it for what it’s worth) that what we’re dealing with here is another dimension of the psychological issue.  People will do things, and ultimately and eventually (though, unintentionally, in many cases) form habits of those actions, as a means of having some control over their lives.  Now, in some instances, this works out for the greater good.  My initial love of, and remaining immersed in, physical culture (writ large) was born, early on, from a deep-rooted desire to have total control over something — anything — in my life.  Lance Armstrong has famously stated that, in his opinion, the compulsive drive of a professional athlete (he was speaking specifically of TdF cyclists, however, in my opinion, this is true of all compulsive athletes), stems from that athlete’s either running from, or chasing down, some personal demon.  Of course, it can be argued that this kind of compulsion is as damaging to the mind and/or body (in a cumulative trauma and/or free-radical sense) as any other compulsion — and, in a manner os speaking, I agree.  That’s a topic, though, for another time.

Back, though, to known destructive habits.  Some will get on quite readily with actions they acknowledge at the onset are bad for them — even actions that they know (logically) and at the onset of initially partaking, are highly addictive.  Ironic, isn’t it?  The insidiousness of carbohydrate addiction though, is that it’s so very sneaky.  We were brought up to believe (and the masses still cling tightly to the notion) that (1) all carbs are created equal, (2) that refined carbohydrates, while maybe not “good” for you per se, are certainly much better for you than fat of any kind, and (3) addiction? are you kidding me?  This concept of “carb addiction” is still considered the stuff of the lunatic fringe.  Ah, but you and I know it’s real — very real — and for some, the addiction to carbohydrates is overwhelming.  So overwhelming, in fact, that many folks will walk away from a Paleo-like diet because of an inability to shake the carb Jones, even while fully acknowledging and buying into the Paleo concept on an intellectual level. This carb Jones is no puny opponent.  It can be soundly defeated, though, with a little applied knowledge, and a little effort in the form of willpower.

So check out Jimmy’s interview and Julia’s website.  There’s some good information be be had in both.  I can say that The Diet Cure is now on my “books to read list”, as I believe Ms. Ross has the addiction thing — the physical/chemical aspect, at least — pretty much nailed.  And as any of us who’ve made the switch from a western diet to a more Paleo diet can attest, overcoming the carb cravings and the social alienation are the two big storms one must clear to get to the smooth and easy Paleo waters.

In health,

Keith

29 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great post. It took me awhile to completely beat that carb addiction.

    A big key for me was slowly lowering the amount of fruit I ate. Initially I thought I could get away with eating lots of fruit but i realized it upset my stomach and left me feeling tired and groggy. Ever since dropping fruit it has been a smoothe ride.

    A piece of 85% cocoa dark chocolate seems to go a long way.

  2. For me, as discussed in one of my IF articles, fasting and using cyclic diets went a long way to shake the carb jones but also realize that they have their place in controlled amounts. One may not need to go to the extent recommended by cyclic diet like the Anabolic Diet to reap the benefits; something closer to NHE would work well for those splitting the difference.

    • I think if one were to shake sugar and refined flours, and replace those calories with good fats, 90% of their health (and flab) woes would disappear. The rest is mere polish.

      • I asked a question regarding this 5 years ago on a forum and got this (for those who care about minutia):

        “Overeating glucose generally leads to a large volume of 5-HT (serotonin) synthesis in the brain as a result of elevated insulin and plasma tryptophan levels (this is the primary culprit behind “carb-hangover,” coupled with a rapid spike & dip in blood sugar). Nicotine is actually the most common drug that modulates serotonin activity (MDMA is another), so I would actually say the pharmacology of nicotine is slightly more analogous to the actual fed state. Cocaine is in some ways as well, but it doesn’t really affect 5-HT activity significantly (at least not that I’m aware of).

        Cocaine primarily modulates the reward-mechanisms through DA activity. It spikes massive DA releases while simultaneously inhibiting DA reuptake pumps which filter it out of active circulation so that all that dopamine just kind of “hangs out” and pleasurably stimulates receptors for several hours. Heavy carbohydrate (glucose) feeding will also stimulate DA release via PC12, so there is some merit to the “food & coke” conjoining. I still tend to think nicotine is the more complete ‘fed state’ mimicker; blow is just a shitload more powerful because the initial DA stimulation is exponentially greater than what you’d get from a cigarette for example.”

        The Fed State is also a relevant reason for using a bit of good carbs when you’ve earned it. Or flip it: earn you carbs, really make sure you have if you’re an athlete, and they’ll benefit you in controlled amounts. If you’re not super-hard training, you don’t really need them.

        • The glucose-nicotine link is interesting. If people knew this going in, they might be better prepared, and have more success, adjusting to a Paleo lifestyle.

          • Yeah, I remember the ol’ nicotine gum trick from back in my bodybuilding days; and old fav. of the wrestling community as well. Thanks for the link — heavy stuff, there.

    • And in the spirit of this post, here’s an interesting interview (podcast) with the author of The End of Overeating, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, David Kessler, who says that the U.S. food industry has manipulated American consumers into unhealthy eating habits. Kessler describes how chronic overeaters might resist artificially induced food cravings.

  3. “Overeating glucose generally leads to a large volume of 5-HT (serotonin) synthesis in the brain as a result of elevated insulin and plasma tryptophan levels (this is the primary culprit behind “carb-hangover,” coupled with a rapid spike & dip in blood sugar).

    Exactly. That is why humans like to gorge on carbs. In the short term, popping our serotonin simply feels good, we get a bit of a buzz.

    But “used” chronically, carbs actually lower serotonin levels.

    Hmmmmmm, I wonder if there is a correlation between increased use of anti-depressants and the low-fat mis-information cascade…..nah….couldn’t be…..

    http://depression.about.com/cs/diet/a/foodallergies.htm

    [The causes of depression may vary as much as our individuality, yet we often fail to consider our eating habits as possible culprits. With each passing year’s increased understanding of the biological complexities of the human animal, more data suggesting dietary factors are unveiled. The use of drugs such as SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and herbal extracts such as St. John’s Wort (1, 2, 3) and 5-hydroxytryptophan (4) to manipulate quantities of serotonin at the synapses within the brain has demonstrated that available serotonin beyond the blood brain barrier (BBB) is an important factor in alleviating depression for many people. The brand name of one such drug, Prozac, has become a household word in our North American culture. Protein, if consumed in excessive quantity, suppresses CNS serotonin levels. Carbohydrate intake, as well as alcohol and cocaine abuse increase levels initially, but if use is chronic, such use dramatically lowers CNS serotonin, resulting in depression, carbohydrate cravings, sleep disturbances, and proneness to argumentativeness, irritability. Violence can also be used to manipulate serotonin levels. Additionally, the morphine-like substances derived from the incomplete digests of dairy and cereal grain proteins are other dietary factors which may alter mood by depressing CNS serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels]

    • When you look at this through the prism of yo-yo dieting (by the way, I wonder how Oprah is hanging in…), and your average Walmart figure, you just have to say, what the f$%# people, wake the hell up!

      • Scary thought: Biochemically, we might be a drug addict nation addicted to carbs, and treating our “symptoms” with more carbs…..

  4. BTW

    1) when I write “why humans like to gorge on carbs.” — I mean liquid carbs as well e.g. beer.

    2) when I get carb cravings I usually whip up heavy whipping cream with a bit of unsweetened cocoa and make a cocoa cream. Try it sometime, really no need for sugar.

    • Which brings up an interesting point — where does athletic compulsion cross over to obsession or addiction? I know my first year away from football, and competition in general, was the darkest period of my life, until the passing of my stepdaughter. I fully understand Brett Favre’s need to stay in the game.

  5. Keith, question for you!

    After performing Lunges or deadlifts I have been getting enough lower back tightness that I want to take care of it before it becomes a problem.

    I have been using a Lacrosse ball to roll on and loosen up any tight spots in my glutes and that has helped tremendously.

    I was curious if you could recommend any supplementary lower back exercises that work well to strengthen the lower back.

    Thanks. PJ.

    • Hmm. One thing I’d need to know is your lifting history. Is this something that has just cropped up unexpectedly in an otherwise injury-free lifting career, or are you just starting out with these lifts? Sometimes lower back problems present as a result of an otherwise weak posterior chain. If you have access to a GHR bench, that would be a great way to work both the lower back (in static hold) and the lacking PC at the same time.

      • It is an old injury I suffered when i was doing leg presses about 5 years back. I was dumb then and used all sorts of weird machines.

        I think it is just something that I can keep in check as long as I always make sure i keep my form and stay away from some of the stupid machines I used back in the day. Free weights have always felt much safer in my opinion.

        I do have my own GHR and I will start throwing in some more of those static holds.

        When you perform GHR’s. How long is your eccentric portion of the lift?

  6. Hey Keith,

    I have a question regarding getting others (namely family, and more specifically, my mom) to accept my paleo eating habits. My mom is convinced that saturated fat is the devil and whenever she sees me scarf down a spoonful of coconut oil with dark chocolate she has a heart attack (and insists that I’m going to do the same thing). How can I convince her that I’m not clogging my arteries with full fat dark chocolate and coconut oil/fatty grass-fed meats?

    Thanks again,

    Justin

    • This is a tough one, and, ironically, my mom insists that the same fate awaits me. All I can do is offer up the bullet point arguments (which I do, very respectfully, of course) and the supplemental reading material (I bought mom and pops a copy of GCBC a while back). Actually, I think my grandparents’ generation (those 80+) would more readily buy into the theory, because they can recall (personally) the time before the “great brainwashing”. My parents’ generation was full-on indoctrinated with the fat = death nonsense. I guess it’s really tough, especially in advancing years, to let go of what you believed your entire life to be true. This is one thing that I have made note of, myself. I’ve promised myself that, no matter how strongly I hold an idea to be true, I have to be willing to let it go in the face of evidence to the contrary. If someone can prove to me that the Paleo lifestyle is, in fact, not the way to go, I’ll drop it like a hot rock. I’m married to no theory that cannot continually, and in light of advancing science, prove its correctness. That, in a nutshell, I think, is the essence of remaining mentally young. Good luck with mom. Maybe have her check out Art DeVany and his lovely wife. It didn’t work for me & my mom, but I think it’s worth a shot 🙂

      • @Keith and Justin

        you cannot convince anyone of anything BUT you can facilitate the convincing of themselves. My wife is finally coming around to paleo, one major reason being the massive amount of compliments I have been recueving with my ongoing transformation.

        Also, I have the same pov as Keith does regarding paleo epistemology. It makes sense and I am firmly convinced of it’s efficacy based on current knowledge, fact, reasoning and supposition BUT if new data and argumentation emerges that cogently argues against it, I could drop it in am instant.

  7. BTW most people will nit even consider paleo until everyone they know is doing it. Most people outsource their thinking to newspapers and the mainstream media = the blue pill.

    There are very few who think for themselves, have no problem going against the flow, buck the “experts”, and experiment on themselves essentially. Paleo pioneers, if you will. The red pill.

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