Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Self-control is a resource

So I've been reading about this for awhile, self-control takes a mental resource we have in limited supply.  So stop beating yourself up when you run out, and I have some tips for when it is in short supply.

Avoidance instead of self-control
If you are constantly in situations where you have to exercise self-control, then you're going to run out of self-control eventually.  So modify your environment and habits so you don't even have to exercise it.  Get the garbage out of your house, or at least out of your sight. You might need to enlist the cooperation of those you live with, but I assure you this makes everything much easier.

Perhaps one can substitute one bad thing for something either not-so-bad or not-at-all bad.  This is my reasoning behind using non-caloric sweeteners (rarely).  I'd be much better for me to have a tasty, sweet treat that avoids sugar or high fructose corn syrup that would send my blood sugar to the moon or damage my liver.  As my years eating low carb have progressed, I have come to rely on these sweet treats less and less, but they were very useful for me to make the transition to a low carb lifestyle, versus a temporary low carb diet. 

Other things, those that fall under the, "Better than the alternative" could be something like very dark chocolate.  It has a little caloric sweetener in it, but overall it's quite low if you get the 70-85% cocoa solids.  And it is usually extremely satisfying for those who love dark chocolate.  The bitterness takes a bit of getting used to, but most of us end up liking it.  In fact, I had a commercial chocolate bar awhile back and it tasted very weird to me.  I could barely taste anything chocolate in it, sure it smelled like chocolate but it was way too sweet, cloyingly sweet!  I wondered why I ever liked it.

There have been other things that seem to soothe the craving beast.  Bacon, chicken wings, a bowl of hot chili.  A "burrito bowl" at Chipotle (without rice, maybe keep the beans, depends) with a big dollop of guacamole.

Maybe "treats" restore some of the will-power reserve.  But I also think they can be misused.  You can set up brain circuitry to start expecting treats on a regular basis.  So don't abuse them!


Freakonomics blog
Making choices impairs subsequent self-control
Association for Psychological Science (2009, April 7). You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from You Wear Me Out

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chili -- Breakfast of Champions!

Long ago when I was attending the Eastman School of Music -- or the Eastman Pool of Mucus, as my brother called it -- there was a little dive diner next door that had chili that was really hot and wonderful.  In upstate New York, it was a great thing to have in the morning if you happened to have some time to consume breakfast.  So I often had this chili that would make my eyes water and truly warmed me up in every respect.  Ever since then, I've come to accept that chili makes a fine breakfast.

But sometimes these little nuggets of realization you glean from life experiences get misplaced like treasured sweaters that go missing.  And then when you stumble on them again, you are overwhelmed with nostalgia and you swear allegiance again to the long lost item.  I have such a sweater!  Truly I do.  I bought it probably nearly 25 years ago, maybe more!  It has a massive neck that you fold over and over and it drapes nicely and it has bat-wing sleeves!  And it is a vibrant maroon color.  I love that thing.

I also love chili for breakfast!  I have been eating quite a lot of chili since I adore it so much and I bought a huge pork shoulder, probably 12-15 pounds.  I brought it home, cut it into large chunks and put what I suspect are 2-2.5 pounds in ziplock bags and stuck them in my freezer.

I'm going to share the recipe I use, I got it from the low carb forum.  However, as is my way, I often make it from memory and forget some of the spices or simply make it easier by leaving some out.  Lately I use 1/4 cup chili powder, a generous amount of cinnamon, cumin, allspice, either cayenne pepper or pepper flakes, and 2-3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder.  If the cocoa sounds odd, let me reassure you it doesn't make your chili taste like chocolate, it gives it a deep, rich flavor that is sensational.  I might use dehydrated onion if I'm not fresh onion enabled.  Oh yes, add the vinegar, I forgot that this last time.  I like the sharpness.  I use 1 can of tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes.  I don't bother with the beef broth.

Then I cook it all in my lovely enamelled cast-iron pot for a very long time over low heat until the pork is nice and soft.

The last time I made this I cooked the pork cubes sous vide for 12 hours or so at 145, then finished in the pot.  It cut some cooking time off, if you don't count the sous vide time!

Tastes great but it's always better the next day.

Oh nearly forgot my optional things.  Optionally, you could add some soy beans (look for them in the bean section in your health food store), if you really like beans in the chili. They add very, very few carbs. Or you could use a can of kidney or black beans.  They're not strictly low carb or paleo but one can divided over about 10 servings is a pretty small addition.  And I always like getting a bean or two, they seem like such a treat.