So, it AIN’T diet and exercise, folks. Not in the way we’ve BEEN TRAINED to think about it. A calorie is NOT a calorie is NOT a calorie. Please read the above article for your health’s sake … we ALL need to be aware of this. Not that all of us are overweight (but most of us are, sadly) yet it’s a good bit of information to have for a lifetime of good health.
I am reflecting on the article, Always Hungry? Here’s Why, posted Friday on the NYT Opinion page, by Robert Ludwig and Mark Friedman. It would be helpful to read the article to follow my post, but not absolutely necessary.
I’m glad to see this information finally finding it’s way into the broader media. Sarah, my daughter and a Naturopathic Doctor, (and her contemporaries) have been teaching this for years – in fact, it was the theory they were taught at NCNM in the last decade.
This information puts into perspective why it’s such a “battle” to lose weight and to keep it off. It really is a question of “what we eat” as well as the calories we consume. Proof of the point: a year ago in October I went on a very specific diet to deal with IBS/Colitis (the result of an antibiotic I was given three years earlier, and never regained a normal gut flora balance). I was not thinking of losing any weight, even though I was about 40# overweight at the time. I was much more concerned with not having to live always knowing where the nearest bathroom was!
This is not a “diet” that is found in most of your conventional medical literature, nor “prescribed” by conventional practitioners. In fact, my gastroenterologist recommended exactly the opposite diet – give up all vegetables and fruits (he said to take a multivitamin) and eat nothing but refined carbohydrates and animal proteins! I actually thought he was kidding – and said so leading to a very uncomfortable moment in his office. I took his information, went home and began my research. (Needless to say, this guy is not my doc any more.) What I found was something called the SCD – The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and its variants, The Paleo Diet, Primal Diet, and others.
Among other things, it eliminates all refined carbohydrates (and in my case ALL grains of any kind), ALL sugars (except honey, which we metabolize somewhat more slowly than other forms of sugar), and a litany of other foods. It does not limit calories, since many people with long-term bowel issues have a tendency to be underweight (not my case, unfortunately). The “litany of other foods” is not relevant to this discussion, since they are specific to my personal digestive issues. It is important to note that unlike several popular diet fads, it does not eliminate all carbohydrates. We need carbs for good health. Just not in their refined forms. Pretty much anything white is out (cauliflower excepted) as is anything sold in a box, package, jar, or can! The sugars and additives are in damn nearly everything! The mantra is “Whole food, whole body, whole health.”
The good news: In addition to feeling VERY MUCH better in a very short time (two weeks, with continued improvement in the coming months and the cessation of all symptoms), over the first six months of adhering to this way of eating I lost a total of 30#. That was a completely unexpected outcome, since I hadn’t drastically cut my calorie content (just changed the source) and I did not increase my exercise routine (such as it is or isn’t). Another surprise was that I felt “better” in a multitude of other ways. I had far less inflammation in my joints (early arthritis at my 67 years young), the slight edema (swelling) in my hands and ankles at the end of the day was completely eliminated, and my mood (which I thought was pretty good) stabilized even more and I felt GREAT!
The bad news: When we went to Mexico last November, I ignored my dietary guidelines, and ate what was there, including plenty of refined carbohydrates/sugars – and Key Lime Pie, a food group in and of itself. We ate out a lot! I was “hooked” again, since sugar and refined carbohydrates have an addictive attraction (they light up the same pleasure areas of the brain as cocaine! Oreos more addictive than Cocaine and Heroine).
When we returned, I didn’t get back on my routine. Bread (whole grain, but bread, nonetheless), sugary snacks, lots of carbs. I wasn’t even eating a lot of “junk” food … but lots of the wrong stuff for me! Of course my digestion was a mess; but the other outcome was that ALL of the weight I had lost came right back – and FAST. MUCH faster than I lost it. In less than 2 months! And the other benefits I was experiencing went down the drain as well. A bit moodier, edema, headaches, and joints that ache to beat the band! And needing to know where a bathroom was. Holy crap, Batman (literally)! Time for reform.
Why it took me until two weeks ago to return to eating the way I need to eat for my health I’m sure I don’t fully understand. It has a lot to do with the addictive quality of the refined foods. It takes a decision, a willingness to set an intention to BE HEALTHY NOW. So, I am feeling better, losing weight – already, and sleep better at night. I have evidence, from my year of good eating, to know I can create good health through good eating.
The way I eat is not “difficult” nor challenging. However, it does mean cleaning out the panty of all the junk food in your cupboards, not eating out as much, certainly not at fast food restaurants, and preparing mostly home-cooked meals. I know this is a quandary for those of you who have full time working households, or live alone where cooking meals “just isn’t very interesting”. It’s not about willpower … we know that. It’s about setting an intention of wanting to live healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives, and feel good along the way. Most of our bodies will put up with the abuse we hand them for a long time, but NOT indefinitely. Ultimately things break down, joints become worn with all the extra weight we ask them to carry or the inflammation caused by triggering foods,, hearts get weak, our endocrine system becomes trashed, cancers take hold, autoimmune diseases set in.
Will some of these things happen even if we ate a “perfect” diet, walked 5 miles a day, meditated for 30 minutes every morning, and made peace with our past? Of course. We WILL age, we will die. That is a process and it is a certainty. But we have a lot of choice about what it looks like, and how we will fee. Yes, we live longer these days. The question is will we be just be OLD longer (managing our symptoms pharmaceutically but not really living in true health), or will be vibrant, happy, and have a sense of well-being on into our last days? I don’t know what my ultimate choice will be. I choose in and I choose out. It’s a bit of a roller coaster. But, for today, I am choosing in.
To you good health,