Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grizzly diet?

I'll have to admit, my Skeptic senses were tingling when I saw the title of this paticular post: Grizzly Bears May Have Diet Lessons that are Helpful for Humans.   I was a little worried that someone was going to suggest that needed to meditate to find my guardian animal, or that I strap on Wolverine-like claws and start hunting for my own food and eating it raw.  Instead, I actually saw some evidence-based reminders about how I as a bipedal mammal have my behavior impacted by my environment, and what kind of things I could do help make changes that would help me better control my weight and weight related illnesses.   Let's summarize those lessons.

1) Removing processed food is a good thing.   By removing the loaves of bread, dog food, etc from the bears diet they got rid of a lot of empty calories--thing that might fill you up but provided little to no nutritional value.  The substitutes actually contained much for fiber and other vitamins/minerals the bears apparently needed.  We homo sapiens could stand to cut out our meats with fillers and white bread and substitute more fruits and vegetables as well.

2) Having to work harder for your food can also be good thing.  If you have a tennis ball sized orange and a 1/2 cup of orange juice, your calorie and carbohydrate intake will be the same.  But you have to peel the orange, remove the pith, chew on the sections, spit the seeds out, etc.  You will probably be satisfied with that orange when you are done with it.  If you have a 1/2 cup of OJ you will probably knock it back in a couple of swallows and then go looking for more (and you won't get the fiber to add satiety either).  So, eating food that takes longer to eat may help you be satisfied with less.

3) Working harder for your food can be a good thing.  Once the bears had to forage they expended more energy, and we humans could stand to do more of that.  The closest most of us get to foraging however is wandering through the supermarket and moving around our kitchen to cook, so we should probably do that more often instead of going through the drive through.  And if you are like me (a lazy person with good intentions), you might do something like I did last night, "Well, I could cut up some potatoes and make oven fries to go with the grilled burgers, but I don't feel like it.  I'll just have some pickles as a side and then I can save time and feel good about the carbohydrate I've saved."  (You all may not be as lazy as me, but you hopefully get the "work harder/eat less" thing I was going for.)

4) Creating scarcity can be a good thing.  If it's not there and you don't have ready access to it, you are going to be less likely to eat it (particularly if you are a captive bear).  If you are someone who typically lies awake thinking about the cookies in the cabinet, you probably need to not have the temptation available.

5) Being active can distract you from overeating.  Looks like humans aren't the only creatures who eat when they are bored.  You might have to be creative, but try to find something to keep you from oversnacking.  One of my patients who was limited w/transportation and funds made a point of taking the bus to the nearby library on a regular basis.  She loved to read, it didn't cost her anything at the library, and she couldn't eat in the library, so that worked out well for her.

6) A "trapped" animal eats what it can to survive.  These bears were obese because they ate whatever was available to survive, and the caretakers did not "punish" them but instead helped make changes in the environment so they could be healthier.  This is more of a lesson for health care providers I suppose; in other words, you need to consider the persons circumstances, motivation, funds to buy foods, etc. before coming up with some creative ways to change the environment together. 

Take home message--Making changes in your eating environment can influence your choices and help you meet your health goals.

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