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The big New Year’s "diet" post!

29 Dec

Disclaimer – I’m not a doctor or a dietician. If you need medical advice, please consult with a doc or RD.

With 2012 about to arrive in a few days, odds are that you are probably thinking about going on some kind of diet. First of all – I hate the word “diet”. It’s misused in my opinion. “Diet” is what you eat daily. It’s what goes in your body daily. That said, what should your diet look like as of January 1, 2012?

-Eat lean proteins, a variety of vegetables, some fruits, good fats – all from whole food sources (more on that later).
-Avoid processed and/or refined foods and other toxins.
-Drink water and lots of it.

It’s that simple…or is it?

The above is a good starting guideline. Of course, most people seeking to “diet” want an exact plan – can I eat this? what about that? how much do I eat? how do I know if I’m eating too much? It’s best not to over-think this stuff. TAKE HOME MESSAGE: THERE IS NOT A ONE SIZE FITS ALL “MODEL DIET”! Sorry to disappoint.

This is where “it’s not that simple” comes in.

We are all pretty unique. You can follow some general guidelines and they may work very well for you, but I will almost guarantee there will be a plateau. This is when you start to discover what does and does not work for you. THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL OR DIET – IT TAKES TIME AND EFFORT TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS. Even most who have gastric bypass surgery gain at least some of the weight back. Don’t ride the fad diet rollercoaster. I get it, you want to be thinner, more cut, look better naked – we all do. But don’t you also want to be healthy inside? Being healthy inside requires a healthy lifestyle (part of which is having a healthy diet).

So, what can sabotage a healthy diet besides bad friends, dessert and that little devil on your shoulder? Autoimmune diseases, medications, food allergies, digestive issues…the list goes on. Don’t give up hope! Understand that you have your own unique issues to work through. Now may be the time to see the doc and get a little blood work. Did you know that too much Omega-6 in our diets can cause inflammation, this wrecking “diet” efforts? It’s said that a great number of us has some form of gluten intolerance. What if eliminating gluten was all you needed to do to cross the plateau? It’s well-known with women that certain forms of birth control cause weight gain and water retention. What if crossing the plateau was as simple as changing forms of birth control? Do you really need milk if you are lactose intolerant? Are you active or sedentary? You’ll have different needs depending on your answers. Everything we ingest and do has an effect in and on our bodies. If you haven’t noticed, the systems in our body do not work independently from each other. You want to feel good (and look good), don’t you? And for the last time, please get an unrealistic image out Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie out of your head – It does nothing but sabotage your efforts! Be the best YOU can be!

Back to whole foods, and not the store that takes your entire paycheck each week. Whole foods are non-processed from nature edible items. Is a Twinkie a whole food? Ummm, no. What’s even in those?!?! How about canned green beans preserved in sodium? Nope, not that either. Neither are the cups of yogurt with fruit in the bottom. Neither are Egg Beaters. Vegetables and fruits from the produce department, cuts of meat from the butcher, eggs, raw PLAIN nuts…you get the picture. Twinkies, not whole food, head of fresh broccoli, whole food. I suggest shopping with a local farmer or farmer’s market for these items. You’ll get the freshest whole foods available. Extra bonus if you care about the environment – eating local is far more eco-friendly. You should only be eating foods that are in season. P.S. – local farmers often jar extra crop like tomatoes to be used in the off-season. Extra, extra bonus – you are giving back to the local economy by putting money in that farmer’s pocket, rather than the big businesses that supply grocery stores with sub-optimal foods and with home offices in BFE. Extra, extra, extra bonus – you aren’t at risk for the variety of fun and potentially life-threatening bacteria that end up in mass-produced foods. Just Google “2011 food recalls” and see the lists that come up. This stuff is sitting on our grocery store shelves!

You can take all the knowledge above and stop there if you want, or read on for more fun blabbering…

This is how I eat: I eat only local whole foods. I follow what some would call a lacto-Paleo diet. Fresh veggies and fruits (esp. leafy greens – my favorite!), grass-fed, no hormone meats and dairy (I try to use dairy sparingly due to it’s tendency to produce an inflammatory response), raw nuts with nothing on them, water, coffee, tea, some alcohol (mostly red wine), eggs. I don’t eat anything refined or considered a processed food. I make my own energy bars (it’s pretty easy to be honest). I do not eat wheat or other grains (grains are a touchy subject, but most are genetically modified and processed to get in their store-bought form. Grains also can elicit some bad digestive issues and being someone with a history of digestive problems, I want to avoid feeling bad. In addition to other digestive issues, I was extremely hypoglycemic and I no longer struggle with that, despite having to go without food for long times on occasion). Sparingly, I use 72% or higher dark chocolate in recipes, as well as coconut milk and flour. I don’t measure my portions. I NEVER “cheat”…if someone is “cheating” on their diet, then they aren’t using the word diet right in my opinion. I don’t feel deprived of anything – I didn’t have a Christmas cookie or any other dessert this year, nor did I crave all of the above. I love cooking. It can be super easy – steam some veggies and grill a piece of chicken, or it can be complicated gourmet cooking that keeps me in the kitchen for hours. I don’t like to eat out much because I find the chef at home is far better than most in restaurants! 😉 I feel great and look great eating this way. This has been a culmination of baby steps and lots of tweaks to my diet. No, I don’t know what it’s like to struggle with my weight, but even I have seen some pleasant body composition changes. I believe eliminating wheat/grains and beans have had the most effect on me. I don’t get gassy and I don’t retain water – at all. I have some recent blood work to show that this dietary lifestyle is working good for me.

The same diet probably won’t have the exact same effects on you. The point is to use the starting point way above (that list of what to eat), make it your lifestyle and if you still aren’t where you need/want to be health-wise, look at other changes you can make.

It’s THAT simple!

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I swear I will continue the last post, but first, this post:

6 Oct
I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to share with a wider audience:
Steve Jobs and why I am scared: That procedure Steve Jobs describes in the Stanford commencement speech (insert the endoscope into the esophagus, through the stomach and into the pancreas to get pancreatic cells) – I had that procedure. It’s called an ERCP.
I was 19 or 20 when it was done. At the time, I had bouts of acute pancreatitis for unknown reasons. Don’t know if they were checking for cancer, but they were trying to find the reason that a person so young would suffer with a disease that usually strikes long-term alcoholics.
Several similar procedures would also render docs clueless. My mom and I rationalized with the Gastro-specialist that the cause may be my diet – high in refined carbs, low in fat and protein. That’s what the diet fat was those days. “You’ll lose weight by eating low-fat, hidden sugar cereal, a plain baked potato or spaghetti with only marinara sauce!” Gosh, I wish I had known then what I know now about food.
Anyway, this is when I first started learning to cook. It took years of learning to cook, learning what may cause pancreatitis symptoms and so on. It was when I discovered a lifestyle of clean eating or whole-food eating. But by then, my gall bladder had started failing. The pancreas and the gall bladder work hand-in-hand in digestion, but you can live without a gall bladder (you need the pancreas). Don’t know if that was caused by diet also, but one would think that if diet cause the pancreatic problems, it could have caused the gall bladder to fail. Let me tell you, a bowl of Kashi cereal or rice would set off the typical gall bladder attack pain…forget the fats that “they” say causes that pain. Shocking, I know. That stuff is supposed to be good for you, right?
Now, I’m not one for surgery. I don’t believe anyone should have surgery unless it’s a life or death situation or every other possible avenue of treatment has failed. Other avenues were failing for me and it was beginning to look like a life or death situation. During one attack in which I was pretty sure I was dying, I went by squad to the ER. My blood pressure was 190 over something like 120. My pulse was also very high (if you don’t know already, I’m the walking dead when it comes to heart rate – it’s so low, it created a panic situation in the hospital when I was in for a stay prior to the gall bladder surgery). Yet, they couldn’t diagnose the problem that night.
It wasn’t until the latter hospital stay, mentioned above, that the problem was detected. Hallelujah! Don’t you hate it when you know you have a medical problem and medicine can’t prove it!? During the 45 minute consult with the surgeon, he emphasized how serious my pancreatic problem was. It would eventually stop working and I would die. The pancreas is a little bastard of an organ. I opted for the surgery. I continue a very clean, whole foods diet, currently eating mostly under the Paleo model (animal protein, nuts, other good fats, few vegetables and fruits for carbs and no non-veggie carbs). Again, what “they” say about the inability to eat fat after the removal of a gall bladder has not been true in my case.
Am I saying that Steve Jobs had cancer from his diet? Absolutely not. Nor am I saying that I would have had pancreatic cancer if things had continued on with the acute pancreatitis attacks. More than likely, I would have died from chronic pancreatitis. Hearing Steve talk about the procedure reminded me of this serious medical issue that I had and all the steps I took to overcome that issue. I guess that, like Steve, I’m a fighter and I don’t accept that fate I’ve been handed. I hope that you all have learned at least one lesson, if not many from Steve Jobs – live and enjoy life to it’s fullest, don’t accept pain and suffering – overcome it, and grow from what you have learned. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones, as I am, thankful to have good health.