Saturday, March 31, 2012

Week 4: Food and Me, Watching Old Habits Die

Just coming to the end of Week 4 on the new meal plan.  I have definitely settled into it.  Ten pounds have dropped away.  My sinus/allergy problems are completely gone.  I feel energized and strong.  No food cravings at all.  Best of all, my accupuncturist yesterday told me that my tongue looks 100% better than when I started with her a month ago.  She says it looks like the tongue of a small child in terms of health.  I have no idea what that means, but my body knows that things are better.  I am happy to continue with this new lifestyle for as long as it takes - my goal is to get off of high blood pressure meds, and never need them again.

It has been interesting to watch how my old habits still operate, even though they are not driven by food cravings any longer.  I still have the urge to stop at bakeries, to scout out the best mocha-chai, to drive across town for a chocolate croissant or a gordita.  But I'm watching this with the awareness that it is simply about long-ingrained habit, not about actually wanting those things.  It's just "what I do" when I have time on my hands.  So I've been doing other things with my time.  For example, I've become a Pinterest addict and can spend happy hours looking at beautiful art work, photography, and other great things on-line and creating albums of what I like best.  It is fun, inspiring, and free.  There are other new habits I'm working on, like writing and making art, going to the gym almost every day and trying new classes, and striving to be the best grandma ever.  Life is definitely good!

That's all for now. Got to go make my breakfast smoothie!  Yum!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week Three of Eating Well

I'm calling it Eating Well, because along with everything else I'm reprogramming the way I normally think about food.  I'm into the third week of this, and feeling terrific.  My intention is to continue this particular "cleanse" for six weeks, then gradually start adding back in some foods, one at a time.

Here are some of the details.

What I Eat:  Fruit, vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, fish, lean chicken, beans (such as kidney beans, garbanzos, lentils, etc.), some nuts, seeds, avocado.

What I Don't Eat:  Refined sugar or flour, glutens, white rice, pasta, potatoes, dairy, eggs, citrus (except for lemons), oils (except for olive oil), nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers), peanuts, red meat, caffeine, alcohol, and anything containing more than 5 ingredients (processed foods), preservatives, additives, coloring, artificial sweeteners.

It sounds brutal, and it did to me at first too, but really there is more than enough to eat and I don't feel hungry.  I think it is because my blood sugar is under control for a change!  All the "don't eat" things are known allergens that cause inflammation in some people, so the idea is to remove all of them for a period of time and then reintroduce them gradually.  This gives the body a chance to heal any inflammation or illness, and then to find out if any particular food is problematic.

I make a big broth twice a week, using about 20 vegetables: a variety of root veggies, green leafy veggies, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, seaweed, shitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and seasonings.  I can drink this broth any time, day or night, and it is full of minerals and vitamins.

For breakfast I have lemon juice in hot water, followed by green tea and then a big smoothie made with frozen berries, 1/2 banana, rice protein powder, ground flax powder, almond butter, and  water.  It is yummy, nutritious, and filling.

The rest of the day I just eat various combinations of vegetables, brown rice (1/2 cup) and the other things available.  It is easy.

This program recommends evening baths with epsom salts, and baking soda in the water (1 cup of each).  This helps to detox through the skin, and it is very relaxing and warming before going to bed.

I'm taking a few supplements:  fish oil (or some Omega 3), a multi-vitamin, magnesium, and a liver cleansing herbal combination.

And I'm feeling pretty terrific.  No aches or pains, no tiredness, no bloating, lots of energy.  I'm trying to read a lot about nutrition as well.  Have been studying a book called Living Beyond Organic and it is very eye-opening, lots of information about enzymes and how the digestive system works.

So that's my story, and for now everything is going well.  It is the first time I can remember eating differently with a focus on my health instead of on losing a few pounds.  It is completely different!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

You Are What You (Don't) Eat

I recently read an article in Harper's Magazine that has started a tsunami of change in my life.   The subject was something I'd never really thought about before, fasting for health or, as the title suggests, Starving Your Way to Vigor.  Apparently sages from Plutarch to Pythagoras knew about the benefits of fasting, and a handful of recent scientific studies have corroborated this.  They say that giving the body a rest from food allows it to turn its attention to other matters, such as cell repair, detoxification, etc.  The author went for 19 days drinking only water, and told a lot of similar stories.  I knew that was not going to happen in my world, but a seed had been planted and was rapidly sprouting!  Everything in the article resonated with me like the pure ring of a struck gong! I couldn't get it out of my mind, and I read a lot of stuff that passes through my mind like wisps of smoke, without leaving even a trace the next day!

I began at once to change the way I eat, by simply letting go of sugar, flour, and many other "white" foods.  It was a start, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  Been there, done that, got the T shirt.  Lately I've been concerned about an array of health problems.  After a lifetime of perfect blood pressure, about 4 years ago I suddenly got high blood pressure and have had to go on medication for it.  My cholesterol levels, while still healthy, have been creeping up.  In the last year I've had a lot of sinus problems, forcing me to use a steroid nasal spray that I hate.  Then about 2 months ago, my kidneys started showing small signs of distress and weakness.  Each time, there have been more prescriptions suggested - a cascade effect, where all systems seem to be breaking down, slowly but surely.  I've always had a weight issue, but this late in life I had resigned myself to it if I can stay healthy.  Obviously that isn't happening.  So my motivation is to fix what can be fixed rather than medicating what can be medicated.  I hate taking drugs!

My partner, Daniella, has had remarkable success in staying off of statins for high cholesterol, thanks to the expert suggestions of an herbalist who put her onto some excellent supplements.  She suggested I contact this woman and ask her what she could recommend for me.  She immediately wrote back to first buy a book, The Ultra Simple Diet, by Dr. Mark Hyman.  I'd never heard of it, but I got it right away and began to read.  And the same evening I got the book, we turned on KQED TV and voila! - an hour and a half program about this diet and this doctor!  I felt as if I had fallen into some kind of vortex!

In short, the premise is to simplify your diet for 7 days (to start), eliminating all the foods that are known to cause allergies in anybody, so that meals are simple and very "clean" and free of additives, etc.  One of the basic theories of the book is that being overweight is a symptom of underlying health problems, often masked for years while the body is falling apart.  The clean diet deals with toxicity and inflammation, and allows the body to rebuild some of the systems that are in trouble.  There's much more to it, but that is the basic idea.  The more I heard about it, the more I became convinced that this was for me.  And so I began to prepare myself and my kitchen for something new!

It has now been 19 days since I stopped eating sugar and refined carbs.  It has been 4 days since I started the Ultra Simple Diet.  I am feeling pretty terrific!  My sinus problems  have completely cleared up and I've stopped using the meds for that.  My energy level is surging.  Weight is coming off at a reasonable pace. And I have no food cravings and don't feel hungry on this food plan.   Best of all, I'm motivated.  Here's what I'm picturing:  keeping at this food plan for another 6 weeks, going back to the doctor in 2 months, having the blood work done, and seeing her reaction to how much better I am!  Then figuring out how to keep it that way!