Tuesday, January 13, 2004

oh, please, enough already

Standing in line at Cala to buy a couple of bags of shredded cheese, I overheard a customer at the next register enthusing about "that new carb-free ice cream."

I had no idea they were working on carb-free ice cream.

Before I even start wondering how they manage such a thing, what miracle of modern technology (remember that one of the first fat substitutes was whipped rayon) makes such a thing possible, I need to come clean about one thing. I'm not a physically big person. My BMI has always been in the low-to-"normal" range, I can get my Jewish girl butt into size-tens everyday and size-eights on special days, and I've never really felt the need to go on a reducing diet. I mean, I'm rounded, and heavier than I apparently look, but my weight is not one of my first concerns. It's not even in the top twenty. So I feel a little weird commenting on issues reductionary, because I know I haven't struggled with my body the way a lot of people have, and do, and will.

That said, carb-free ice cream? Often when they develop a food free of one thing or another (fat, sugar, eggs, carbs, gluten, whatever happens to be the day's demon), they have to throw in something else that often turns out to be just as evil, or worse. Olestra. Saccharine. Mineral oil (don't laugh; one writer seriously suggested the replacement of food oil with mineral oil in mayonnaise and other preparations.) The aforementioned whipped rayon. Sometimes the replacement is benign (rice flour for wheat flour, say) but sometimes it's downright scary. Sure, Olestra passes through your system undigested--but it pulls along any fat-soluble vitamins it finds along the way, namely A, D, E, and K. So they have to formulate the oil with added vitamins to replace the ones it's going to take out, and then you have the whole question of whether the added vitamins are of the same quality as the ones they replace.

saccharine. Cancer in lab rats. Need I say more?

Margarine, a veritable hotbed of transfats, may not prove to be any better for us in the long run than butter.

Take a look at the Snackwells designed to be fat-free (not the sugar-free ones.) They're absolutely loaded with sugar, which some nutritionists feel is worse for dieters than fat, because sugar in any form screws with your cortisol levels.

So the question becomes, if you're giving up the carbs, what are you getting in their place?

The second question: What if you just ate real ice cream, but less of it?

A-ha, therein lies the real problem. We do not trust ourselves to eat properly unless we're told how. Listen to the authoritarian tone many diet advocates take, especially those pushing virtual starvation diets. We're not built to survive long on 1,200 calories a day, yet that's what most reduction diets, whatever they're called, are based on. Regardless of our body types, our activity level, and the quality of the food we're eating.

Laura Fraser says all this much better in her book Losing It, which I recommend without reservation to anyone who has ever even thought about dieting.

Carb-free ice cream. Jesus. I find myself saying this a lot: carbs are not the enemy.

In other news, vis a vis yesterday's post, AX just sent me a link to a piece by Clive Thompson that largely focuses on the phenomenon of blogging teenagers. Apparently half of the blog community is made up of teenagers. Interesting stuff.