It is important to have a developed awareness and the ability to discern the true nature of a situation. As Witches, we learn that in many cases the truth lies in the resolution of a paradox, meaning that when you are confronted with situations or arguments that end up self-contradictory or with no positive solution, it is time to get creative. It is very important when confronting a problem, to actually identify the real problem or you run the risk of merely treating the symptom while the underlying problem remains. A simple example of masking the symptom versus solving the problem is in how most people deal with allergies. The actual problem is how our bodies react to allergens; pollen, dust mites, pet dander, et cetera. The mask is in taking allergy medication to suppress our body’s inherent reaction to these allergens, which is much easier than solving the problem by removing the allergens from our immediate environment. It would make much more sense to make sure to live in a dust free, pet free, flower and grass free environment but most of our lives are not equipped to live in such a sterile setting, so in this case the mask is the best option. In other cases however, masking the symptoms can leave us vulnerable to the problem resurfacing again and again.
Here are two very relevant examples of the danger of treating the symptom while ignoring the deeper issue; weight loss and animal rights. With weight loss, we have all been trained to view weight loss, fitness, disease and health as some great mystery that we can never possibly understand when in fact, once viewed through the critical eyes of a Witch, everything becomes crystal clear. Here’s how the body (basically) works.
There are three sources of food energy (calories); carbohydrates; proteins; and fats. Our bodies utilize the calories and other nutrients from each of these sources in a different way. The human body runs primarily on carbohydrate energy. When our bodies are at rest, up to 75% of the calories we are using come from the carbohydrates we eat (The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates are in the amount of time it takes the body to break them down, simple carbs are already nearly broken down and so are absorbed by the body much faster. Complex carbs take longer to digest and so provide the body with a steady stream of energy instead of one fast burst then nothing, like simple carbs do) while the remaining calories burned come from fat. When we are active, meaning that we are doing some form of aerobic activity (moving consistently for 30 minutes or more within our fitness level, while remaining in oxygen i.e. not out of breath), our body shifts and up to 75% of the calories we burn come from fat.
Under ordinary circumstances, the body does not use protein as regular fuel. Protein is only used to build muscle and to provide pathways for carbohydrate molecules or fat molecules to digest so less protein is needed than most people realize. The majority of the US population takes in around 4 times the amount of protein than they need per day. Since our bodies do not store protein, the body is forced to constantly try to remove the excess. This process results in extra strain on the kidneys, a leeching of calcium from the bones due to excess nitrogen in the body, and can result in kidney damage and osteoporosis in the long term. It can also contribute to/worsen gout. The World Health Organization recommends that healthy protein intake be around 5% of our daily calories. 5 not 15 or 25….. 5. Incidentally, when a person eats a grain and a legume (together or separately within a 24 hour period) you end up with “complete” protein and since there are amino acids in virtually every food, it is impossible for vegans or vegetarians to eat too little protein.
If you listen to the diet industry, you are told that all calories are the same and the only way to lose weight is to cut calories and exercise more. If you listen to the high protein/low carb people, you are told that all calories are not the same and that you can eat as much protein as you want, pay little attention to fat content and only cut carbohydrates down to almost nothing. This is supposed to “trick” the body into a state known as ketosis which is when the body will use the protein and fat you eat as energy sources (since it does not have the carbohydrates it actually needs), so you don’t die. The funny thing is, when you cut calories the “traditional” way, you also throw your body into ketosis as a result of going into starvation mode. The thing neither side tells you about ketosis or starvation mode is that there are four things which occur every time you restrict calories.
1. Your metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of fuel, which usually results in feelings of fatigue and exhaustion during the diet.
2. Your body begins to crave high calorie foods as a means of regaining its lost fuel, which usually results in “cheating” on the diet with junk foods.
3. Your body begins to store the fuel that lasts the longest i.e. FAT, which results in those “plateaus” when no matter how hard you try/starve the fat just won’t come off.
4. Internal cannibalism. A.k.a. ketosis, a.k.a the only time your body actively uses protein as a source of energy is also when it is digesting its own muscle tissue which usually results in weakness and lethargy.
Since no one bothers to tell us these things, most of us remain convinced that a lack of effective weight loss (or weight gain for that matter) is somehow a character flaw instead of what it really is, a lack of proper information. It’s sad/disappointing/enraging to think of all of the low self-esteem and eating disorders that result for a simple lack of information. Dieting masks the symptom (while creating several more issues) but never solves the problem. What is the problem and how do we solve it?
Without addressing GMOs, antibiotics, hormones or other food additives which do contribute to a decline in overall health and wellbeing, the problem with weight gain is actually, simply, and obviously, FAT. We have been so misled for so long that many are actually convinced that it is somehow easier for the body to digest store and magically transform sugars into fat rather than for the body to just absorb and store the fat we eat. Here’s the truth about fat. A tablespoon of pure lean protein has about 45 calories. A tablespoon of pure carbohydrate has about 45 calories. A tablespoon of pure fat has about 126 calories; more than double the other two sources of energy. If you eat fatty foods, the volume of food that you can eat is much smaller than the volume of genuinely low fat foods while having the same number of calories. The pat of butter on a baked potato has more calories than the potato. That’s not the fault of the potato; throw out the butter!
High protein pushers have pointed to carbohydrates as the root of all weight gain evil. When they say carbs, they always seem to point to French fries, potato chips, cookies, cake and doughnuts and say they are responsible for people gaining weight. This is true but not because of the carbs, each of these items are loaded with fat. One thing they say is true, when you eat high carbohydrate foods that are also high fat, the carbohydrate content does make you store the fat much more easily. This is due to the fact that fats and carbs both need to attach to an amino acid molecule for digestion and when there are a lot of fats and carbs competing for the amino acids, the carbs are faster and so they get digested and the fat is left to be stored. Their conclusion that you should eat the fat and toss the carbs is false, ludicrous and dangerous however; just toss the fat.
If, when we are at rest, we burn no more than 25% fat calories, then why would we want to eat more than that? If you weigh what you want and never want to worry about gaining weight ever again, simply make sure that you eat no more than 25% fat in your daily calorie intake. Don’t count calories or grams, consider percentages. Look at a bottle of ranch dressing. Calories: 148 Calories from fat: 140. Simple math (divide fat cal by total cal) 140 divided by 148 tells us that the salad dressing is 94% fat. Gross. So we go to the low fat? Nope. Looking at that label, we see calories: 29 calories from fat: 12. 12 divided by 29 tells us that this alleged low fat is actually 41% fat. Basically what I’ve learned is that “fat free” is actually low fat; “low fat” is actually high fat; and regular is outrageously high fat! Of course, all of this can be avoided by eating only natural foods, but to each their own.
If you wish to lose weight, instead of eating 25% of calories from fat reduce that down to between ten and fifteen percent but do not reduce caloric intake. Generally speaking, it is wise to take whatever your current weight is and add a zero to it, with that number being the minimum amount of calories you should eat daily! In addition to fat restriction, add in 30 minutes of aerobic activity 4 to 6 times per week and you’re all set. Period. Done. Problem solved. No eating disorder, no self-hatred, no yo-yo dieting, no kidney damage, no morbid obesity, just the resolution of a paradox; eating more to weigh less.
One final point about fat; vegetable fat will make you gain just as much weight as animal fat. If you are old enough to recall, there never used to be any fat vegans. Vegans were always thin, so much so that meat eaters tend to make fun of vegans as scrawny people. This is changing though, and there are an increasing number over overweight vegans. This seems to be due to the overabundance of vegan substitute products on the market: vegan “cheese”, “meat”, and “ice cream” products, most of which are incredibly high in fat. Fat makes you fat.
The second example of ignoring the problem while treating the symptom is in the area of animal rights. Most Witches, me included, adore animals; we tend to see them as friends, companions and equals, but most of the population doesn’t fully share in this view. There have been horrible abuses of animals in everything from ranching to cosmetics and people rally and protest and try to create greater safety conditions for the animals, but only marginal progress has been made. The problem as I see it is that there aren’t enough supporters of animal rights to make a definitive impact, so we need to look deeper.
The real issue must be why they use animals, not merely that they do use them. In the cosmetics industry for example, they use animals to test the safety of the makeup and I don’t understand why I haven’t heard many people express concern that they are using toxic chemicals in the makeup. They put them on the animals to test for reactions to the poisons they include in the makeup. Why is it acceptable at all for there to be any amount of poisons in makeup? Various forms of cosmetics have existed for hundreds of years and humanity has managed to beautify itself without lead and toxic chemicals for the most part. We need to come at this from a human standpoint. We need to stop settling for (which is a tacit allowance of) low quality, toxic, foods, medicines, makeup, etc. It’s not okay that chickens are crammed into pens, de-beaked and have to have more than three open sores on their body to be pulled from the production line. It’s not okay that poisons are put into makeup in any levels. It’s not okay that cows are pumped so full of antibiotics and hormones that they can barely move and it’s not okay that we are consuming them to the severe detriment of our health. We need to seek Quality and Equality and these issues will be resolved. If we don’t buy toxic makeup and toxic meat and toxic processed garbage “foods” they will stop making them and the torture and disease of both humans and animals will stop, thus reconciling the paradox of how do we get humans to treat animals with care and respect? Make it all about the humans! Most people only do something if it directly affects their lives and being poisoned and made ill from toxic garbage affects the quality of all our lives. Happy Earth Day and Blessed Be.