I had the unsought opportunity to do a great deal of reflecting about food while losing the better part of lunch and breakfast last week. Amidst the nausea and vomitus, at least some digested thought emerged along with undigestedeverythingelse. Among those realizations were the theory of rahulian weight loss and ethics of 1st world vs. 3rd world meat consumption.
So it doesn’t take much brainpower to know that if your food gives you digestive issues, you’re gonna lose weight. Though I’ve definitely had some issues on that front, this is meant to highlight another problem I’ve faced while in India: carbs infinitum.
In the U.S., about 30% of my calories come from fruit, 20% from nuts, 40% legumes, and 10% from everything else. The macronutrient breakdown is roughly 22% protein, 44% carbohydrate, and 34% fat. The carbs are all low glycemic index, meaning they digest slowly.
So far in India, 70% of my calories come from carbs, 10% from protein, and 20% from fat. The carbs are all high glycemic index, meaning they digest fast. Allow me to explain more thoroughly…
When I first got to India, I was struggling with the idli-idli-dosa-intensiveness of the South. For the non-Indians, idli is a spongy flying-saucer shaped puck of rice and dal flour. For simplicity sake, let’s call this mixture soylent white.
The genius of soylent white is that its contains all 9 essential amino acids that humans require.
The evil secret behind soylent white it is that EVERYTHING is made out of it.
Idli= steam boiled, UFO shaped soylent white puck
Dosai= skillet fried, paper thin soylent white “omlette”
Utthapam= skillet fried soylent white “pancake”
Oppam= a name people invented to feel like they weren’t eating soylent white (i.e. I can’t tell the difference between this and utthapam)
Vadai= deep fried soylent white balls
So here’s my problem: if I eat as much soylent white as I need to keep my weight the same, all the high glycemic carbs make me sleepy after each meal. After meal siestas are simply not an acceptable byproduct of hunger for me, so I eat less. And I lose weight.
Another weight related complication: in the U.S. I got roughly an hour of exercise a day. Here I’m sedentary. While biking along the streets is fun, its not possible to get to a cardio-useful speed without seriously risking your life either because of crazy traffic or noxious vehicle fumes. Unlike many, exercise actually keeps my weight up, so no exercise means less weight.
So how much have I lost? I think around 15 pounds so far… yikes!
Besides mosquitos, the other proof of an evil force in operation within the universe is the American Meat Industry. The nickel-tour history lesson is that increased mechanization of agriculture increased grain yields such that the market price was virtually nothing. Many evil geniuses recognized that if you feed grains to animals and then eat the animals, you can use up a whole lotta grain and thus keep the price >$0. The invention of the refrigerated rail car is what finally made meat take off in the U.S.
Among the primary reasons why the first world meat industry is evil because of resource usage. Incredible amounts of grain, water, and petroleum are consumed that in some sense represent a theft from those who desperately need these for their survival.
Things are different in the developing world. Since animals mostly wander around and eat bits of things fallen here and there, they don’t take away any resources from people. Rather, they capture resources that people can’t access by eating bugs, dropped food, agriculture waste, etc, drinking non-potable water and so forth.
In the first world, eating meat reduces the overall food supply available to humanity. In the developing world, eating meat increases the overall food supply available to humanity (in cases where animals are not farmed).
That being said, I’m not about to go out an become a carnivore. I still have issues with the killing involved, but for so many people who barely get enough calories to get by on, I think they’re totally justified in killing animals to survive. If push came to shove, I’d do the same.
For now, there are tons of vegetarian options (read: soylent white) to keep my stomach full, even if most of them mean that I need to take a nap afterwards 🙂