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!

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