Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Travelling And Eating Right: An Unusual Solution

I eat a very restricted range of foods: basically just vegetables, beans, and fruit. I say "basically" because no starchy vegetables are allowed. Because of this, travel is usually a pain in the ass for me. Often the best an airport restaurant can do to satisfy my rules is an anemic salad for $14, and I have to pick the bits of bacon and cheese out by hand before I can eat it.

I am not a patient person when it comes to food. Typically when I encountered this problem, I caved in and ordered fries, burgers, whatever I could get, and just figured I'd get back to eating right when I got home. But getting into an old habit of eating a familiar kind of food makes it hard to switch back to eating right, so in practice, every time I went to a conference or saw my family on a holiday I would be breaking my nutritional rules not only during the trip, but also for weeks or even months afterwards.

It was easy to convince my family to make allowances for my health, of course, and a few times I tried renting a house with a kitchen when I went to a tech conference, instead of eating hotel food. But the airplanes and airports always killed whatever progress these other efforts brought me.

However, I recently figured out a solution, and I got to test it today. I was in airports and airplanes from 8am to 9pm, owing to some travel snafus. Since the airports and airplanes had almost nothing to offer me which I could eat, I ate almost nothing.

It worked out fine. I ate a few bananas, a few grapes, and a few pieces of pineapple and melon. I also made a small breakfast at home of chickpeas, kale, and mushrooms.

Before I began eating the way I now eat, I could not last more than a few hours without eating. I got shaky, cranky, and queasy (coincidentally the names of some of Snow White's lesser-known dwarven friends). None of that happened today. In fact, most of the time I forgot all about feeling hungry.

I wasn't surprised by this result. In 2010 I did a little experiment where I did deliberate fasts, not eating anything except water for a day or two at a stretch. I did this because I had read that my style of eating promotes remarkably stable blood sugar, and that many of the symptoms people identify with hunger -- shakiness, crankiness, and queasiness, for example -- are not actually due to hunger at all, but to fluctuations in the levels of blood sugar, naturally-occurring toxic chemicals found in meat, and/or man-made toxic chemicals found in processed foods. My nutritional rules ban meat and processed foods.

In other words, if you eat the way I eat, you don't have to eat every day, and it's not a big deal. I did my short series of experimental fasts because after I read about this, I was very curious to discover first-hand if this was true. It was, and is.

This simple tactic of just fasting my way through the airplanes and airports thing means I can go to tech conferences again. I stopped going to tech conferences because I burned out on it -- I delivered at least 15 presentations at user groups and conferences in 2008, and exhausted myself -- but the reason I never started back up again was this dietary problem.

In 2011 I went off my nutritional regimen and gained a staggering amount of weight. I've gotten back on track with it, and lost around 20 or 30 pounds since my worst moment in 2011, but the point is that my health was more important to me, and tech confs were not worth the risk.

So, I'm pretty stoked about that, and may start going to conferences again.