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Hi from China

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  • Hi from China

    Well, here goes. I'm an American working in China. Been overweight since puberty, slowly getting worse all the time despite eating what was CW for healthy. I was always a very active person, but over time (I'm now late 30s) I felt like an active person trapped in a sluggard's body. I live in Beijing, just about the pollution capital of the world. Because of the heavy pollution we live with, I finally had to switch only to exercising in my own home where I could control the air quality with filters. That helped for a while, but finally reached the point where I would go over to the elliptical only by sheer force of will, use it for 15 minutes and then fall off it and stumble to the bed in complete and utter exhaustion.

    If you know anything about food scares, you know that most of what we here in the Worker's Paradise have available to us is not just passive poison (like, say, diet sodas), but actively poisoned by people trying to make a quick buck. Melamine in the dog food and milk and baby formula; glow in the dark pork; "gutter" oil used in restaurants, etc. In the last 20 years, cancer and diabetes have surged to levels (and in amounts of time) that make what happens in America look like a mild cold. And now in the last 5 years the most common cause of death has become poisoning, from food, drink and packaging. To avoid that as best we can, we shop only at the import store. There we could get goods from the EU, Australia, New Zealand and the United States as well as "organic" local vegetables. The reason for the quotation marks is that even government spot checks still admit that 1/3 of organic products have pesticide and fertilizer contamination. We really scored when demand from foreign expats brought in a halal (for the non-pork items) butcher from Australia, shipping in all grass-fed beef and lamb.

    Because of my mother's influence I was kind of, shall we say, primal primed my whole life. She never allowed, and I never grew to like, anything pre-packaged, with chemical additives or any kind of box-mixed anything.
    But ultimately I'd say the journey that led me here started with my dogs. Melamine in the dog food. People's dogs were dying of kidney and liver failure pretty regularly. I had never had mine on a Chinese brand of dog food, as I knew that wasn't safe. But I could only afford the cheaper "international" brands, those brands that were still made and packaged here, but supposedly overseen by an international corportation. That provides a small margin of safety, but is still no certainty, as the local xenophobia forbids anyone from abroad to come even to look at a plant or factory they bought or pay, without a difficult visa process that involves an "invitation letter" from the Chinese head of the factory or plant. So there are no surprise inspections around here. You know when they're coming, so you just tidy things up, make sure they see only what you want them to see during the guided tour, liquor them up good, throw them back on the plane and laugh all the way back to the factory and business as usual.

    So I was feeding my dogs Pedigree. Then one day it was pulled from the shelves for a month. When it reappeared it was different and was making them sick. Within a couple days I took them off it. Then I didn't know what to do. I couldn't afford the fancy imported science diet and stuff like that. Then I read online about the BARF diet for dogs. Bones and raw food. What people said made sense: domestic dogs are not significantly different in their internal physiology from their wild relatives. So why would they eat completely differently? After a week on this diet, they were completely different dogs. All the health issues I'd attributed to them being senior dogs disappeared even though I couldn't even afford to give them the clean imported food. I was giving them locally produced meat, with quality I couldn't control. I could see in the package how inferior it was to the stuff we were eating imported. But they were still thriving. I was completely sold on this diet for them. But at the time I believed the other things I read: this worked for them because dogs are much different from us and can eat large percentages of fat without harm and have no nutritional need for carbohydrates.

    Meanwhile, we were plugging away with our tons of whole grains and boneless, skinless chicken breasts and some deep water fish a couple times a week. I was feeling worse and worse all the time. Then we ran out of whole wheat. They stopped importing it, and Chinese "whole wheat" is just bleached white flour with a couple scoops of bran thrown back in at the end. I made mine stretch as long as I could, then went with unbleached white flour. If you didn't eat lots of grain, you would end up eating fat, which was evil. So I reasoned that unbleached flour was the best I could do, and at least we weren't eating bleached flour. We rarely if ever had sugar. But we did eat lots and lots of fruit, primarily because I couldn't be sure the "organic" vegetables were really clean. So fruit was much more important to our diet than vegetables. We ate grain-based oils because they were supposed to be so much healthier than butter. And all this time we continued to grow steadily larger and steadily more exhausted.

    Then we started to get depressed. We made what changes we could: we rescheduled so we weren't so busy. We got more sleep. We tried to get away once in a while. Those things all helped some, but still, it was getting pretty serious. Why were so tired? I finally, and belatedly, began to pray persistently for the Lord's help–specifically to figure out the answer to what was wrong. And not long after, 2 months ago, I stumbled off the elliptical, swayed through a shower and collapsed on the bed without the energy to do anything else till I'd rested. I picked up the iPad, which had only one book on it at the time: Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes. Someone had given it to us because it helped him (though he was always very thin and active). I looked at the blurb and thought: "What a crank." And, in my defense, the friend who gave it to us has a mother IS a crank and who sounds just like the blurbs on that book. (She's now isolated in her bunker home and no one can see her without a decontamination first.)

    I went into the book that way, but I sure didn't come out that way. I was intrigued by his clear logic and by the good science. I am still learning, and by no means take everything he said as gospel. But I thought he proved without a doubt that CW is wrong, and he himself was clear that his hypothesis are just that: hypothesis until such time as real, repeatable testing can make them theories. I respect that. I changed our diet immediately, cutting out all sugar and grains and most fruit. I decided that since the dogs were thriving on local meat, despite it not being ideal, that we would do better risking more "organic" vegetables than continuing to eat so much fruit. So I quadrupled our vegetables and embraced the fat and protein.

    The results have been spectacular. We've both been shedding weight without any effort.We both are thinking clearly, have so much energy we aren't sure what to do with it all, and are never hungry or thinking about food as we used to. Despite eating a very high percentage of fat, I am satisfied with 1200-1500 calories instead of being ravenous and weak at 2000. Not that I count them now: I just was curious one day to find out how many it was. I find myself returned to the active person I used to be, and hopping on the elliptical or going out for a bike ride or walk (with a pollution mask now!) every day because I want to. I've learned that what my body always told me eat–what I craved–is what's good for me. I always disliked sweets and loved meat.. I've always loved nuts, but never when they were honey roasted or otherwise messed with. As someone for whom cooking is my hobby and creative outlet, I knew by instinct and smell that butter is always better (though a nice fresh olive oil is amazing, too). And I've craved salads; yet avoided them when eating out because I was told they were even worse than entrees because of fat.

    I began browsing a lot of low-carb sites, but I've ended up here because my instinct is kicking again. Lots of those sites have great advice and many have some great recipes which I'm enjoying trying out as I get my feet under me with this new way of eating. But I notice a lot of those sites are full of recipes that just provide a poor alternative way to eat the same things people ate before. Splenda instead of sugar; low-carb flour (whatever that is) or protein powder instead of regular; all kinds of bars and shakes and mixes and things in boxes. For me, when real food tastes so good and now you know you can eat it, why would you eat some of that stuff?

    Thanks for a place to let it all out, and if anyone's gotten this far...whew! Good for you. I know there's much to learn yet, and I look forward to reading what people here have to say in the forum.

    By the way, if you're drinking green tea for your health? Make sure it's not from China, because you're drinking nothing but poison. Even if it says organic. Greenpeace did a big test over here recently, under the radar: they didn't find one tea brand, no matter how famous or "organic," that didn't contain dangerous levels of chemical fertilizers and/or pesticides that are banned in the United States. Get your green tea from Japan or South America.