I haven’t posted a blog in a bit, waiting for inspiration to strike…rather than following the “how to be a successful blogger” advice, which is to produce a little bit, very frequently. I have to say, I would rather wait between posts and give you something that I think could really be useful than some of the hastily thrown together blogs I have seen around.
Anyway, since it’s January, I thought it would be a good time to address that ever-present January topic: dieting. I have decided to relegate all dieting to the ash-heap since even the very word makes me cringe. You could say I have been around the dieting block many times in my life, and I finally feel that things may broken through on this particular obstacle in my life, so naturally I want to share it with you.
As some of you know, I was raised on the hippie organic gardening homestead with no TV and definitely no TV dinners, sodas or junk food (except for rare birthday or vacation binges). Probably this is when the sense of deprivation set in, because not only did I want to live in the suburbs, but of course, I would have readily traded in my whole wheat bread for the white bread bologna sandwiches in the Donny & Marie lunchboxes of my friends at school. Sigh, the grass is always greener. I was a normal size all the way through school, although like many women growing up in America, I thought I was fat. Add in my odd name, odd parents, smart but not beautiful self-perception, and I had a minimal dating experience and a classically cultivated case of low self-esteem.
In college, of course, your new-found freedom often results in choices that can be destructive whether it be through excessive alcohol consumption, poor food choices or crappy relationships, all of which I can say I whole-heartedly embraced. It’s nice to be able to reinvent yourself, “where nobody knows your name;” it’s actually a good thing to make good grades, and you are exposed to a broad variety of people compared to the rather homogenous small town from which I came. The freshman fifteen shortly followed although at that point, it was still shed easily enough. Unfortunately it was the beginning of the yo-yo cycle, gain and lose a million times until your poor body finally gives up and starts really putting the breaks on easy weight loss.
In the late 90s, I discovered the low carb approach and successfully lost weight on the Atkins diet. It made sense that sugar, bread and potatoes were the enemy and at that time, artificial sweeteners were the panacea of low-carbers and thus started a wicked diet soft drink addiction. After all, you were skipping the sugar and calories, all must be well with the world. During this time, I also had a love-hate relationship with exercise. Whoever decided to replace natural activity exercise with gym memberships, aerobics classes and endless running, I think still needs to be taken out back and well, whatever.
About that time Ob/Gyn residency struck. You have to understand that most ob/gyn residents are overachiever adrenaline junkies with bad attitudes from chronic sleep deprivation. The problem is we are led to believe this is normal in order to be successful in a truly toxic profession. Everything is “emergency, danger, stat section, hemorrhage” coupled with 100 hour work weeks (this was before they dropped it to a mere 80 hrs). When you have had 2 hrs of sleep and you’re drinking your 5th Diet Coke and grabbing “crap of the day” from the cafeteria, is it any wonder that I totally derailed my physical health, burned my adrenals like there was no tomorrow, and gained more weight than ever in my life? Now that I understand the complexity of issues I was torturing my body with, it all makes sense. At the time, I just felt like a drained, fat failure. However, I did manage to meet my husband and conceive a baby and breastfeed him through all this mess, but that, of course, was yet another drain on my poor hormonal system.
Having seen the toll it was taking on our family, as my husband was, wait for it, an INTENSIVE CARE fellow, we made the decision that I would stay home for the year he was finishing up before we were to move to start our “real jobs.” I felt it was only fair to our oldest son since I had had him smack in the middle of that tortuous situation. There was some amount of recovery during this time since I was getting more regular sleep and had at that time been turned on to Diana Schwazbein, MD, who happened to have been Suzanne Somer’s endocrinologist. Her book, “The Schwarzbein Principle,” made the most sense of any diet book I had read at the time (and believe me, I read them all). Her focus was that you should a variety of real, whole food in order to heal your body. And in the midst of all this recovery, I got pregnant again. Both of those first two pregnancies, I had flunked my first glucose tolerance test but passed the second (blood sugar reading 1 hr after the nasty, sugary glucola has to be less than 140). I had absorbed enough low carb knowledge to understand that this was not a good sign.
Once we moved to start our careers, we made the decision that I would not immediately go back to obstetrics since we now had two small children and he had the privilege of being the only pulmonary/critical care doctor in our area (translation: long hours/bad schedule). We didn’t want to subject our children to both of us being gone all the time, so I set up my outpatient gynecology practice. Not delivering babies enabled me to have more time to read and study and thus began my journey into bioidentical hormones. From there I naturally embraced the concepts of healing and nutrition, supplements and balance rather than symptom control and disease management.
Through all this I was still having trouble with my weight and finally got fed up and joined Weight Watchers. My grandmother had been a life-time member of WW, and me and my mom have always dabbled in it (can you say generational curse). I was successful and lost about 30 pounds. It did bother me that in order to achieve the “points” you were allowed, you ended up consuming a lot of Frankenfoods/diet this or diet that and that I was usually hungry, making me once again, obsessed with food. Wow, with WW, you could work in ice cream cones and all sorts of other crap as long as you stayed in your points. The other program, core, was supposed to be the healthy one, except that you couldn’t have any fat or protein; flavorless and you’re still hungry. So what happened? Naturally, I got pregnant! Great, I figured, I just lost the weight, this pregnancy should be a breeze. Except that I was diagnosed, full on this time, with gestational diabetes! I was shocked and dismayed, and although I never had to take insulin and actually had my smallest baby (7 pounds even), I could not believe the ominous implications this had for my future glucose tolerance.
During this time, I was really seeking healing from the Lord and I think if it had not been for Him, I would have given up. After all, here I was dispensing medical advice and couldn’t seem to get any breakthrough with myself. Fast forward through two hellacious years of stress and yup, another baby, and I was really at my wit’s end. I just kept praying for a breakthrough, and God told me two things. The first thing He said was “homeostasis,” which I thought was odd because I hadn’t really thought about this concept since some of my basic science days. Homeostasis is when the body self-regulates and auto-adjusts itself to maintain the status quo, medically-speaking. The second thing He said was, “Do what you would do for your patients.”
The first concept I had observed in my practice. I had some patients who were obese and had medical problems and yet their weight stayed the same, year to year. I also had observed the patients who were “doing everything right,” dieting and exercising, sometimes every day, and yet their weight stayed the same, much to their frustration. The second concept I readily embraced. I had been testing my hormones for awhile but this time I did everything I could get my hands on, and what do you know? I was deficient in a lot of things, vitamins, minerals as well as still having adrenal issues. So I started really upping my intake of vitamins/supplements according to the problems I uncovered. It was at this time, that for the first time ever, I was able to kick my addiction to diet soda. I wasn’t a purist, I would have one every once in awhile, but it really amazed me that I could truly be satisfied with other things, especially water. I also noticed that my sugar cravings were really improving. I had always been a chocoholic (although I did prefer dark chocolate) and so this was surprising.
Also about this time, on one of the low carb blogs I read, I ran across Matt Stone, a nutritional researcher and all-around sarcastic non-conformist. Except what he was saying made sense to me and harkened me back to the words of Dr. Schwarzbein…heal your body with real food. One of his comments on the low carb boards piqued my interest because he was making the point that rather than making carbs be the bad guy, why don’t we fix the metabolism so that it works with ANY type of food. After all the Japanese eat prodigious amounts of carbs and are thin…at least they were until introduced to a Westernized diet. He also was a proponent of the High Everything Diet (aka HED). His thesis was in order to heal the metabolism you actually needed to eat a high calorie, high fat diet (natural fats, not the crap fake hydrogenated fats made by man), dumping sugar, but especially fructose, which he and other researchers were beginning to see was actually inducing insulin resistance, Type II diabetes, and obesity. I also believe this is a key to the “homeostasis” theory: without real whole food, basic hormonal balance, adrenal health, vitamin/nutrient sufficiency, and thyroid support, the body is literally in stasis and won’t budge until these areas are addressed. Ignore every person who tells you, “Eat less and exercise more.”
Also about this time, my husband and I started a series on a talk show through our church called the Bible Medicine series. The idea is that you use Biblically-based concepts for approaching medical conditions and ailments. When you look at the diet of the Bible, of course, there was nothing else but whole, natural foods. Then man got involved and started creating foods chemically, start mass-producing food using tons of pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified plants. Yes, God created sugar cane but the process of turning it into the refined, addictive white powder was a “man-plan.” God created corn but it took man to turn it into high fructose corn syrup, which may be one of the single most metabolically destructive products on the market today. In addition, you cannot ignore spiritual or emotional factors that can lead to overeating or other eating disorders. I had to pursue my healing for those feelings of rejection and inadequacy that had plagued me for much of my life. Some people have been physically or sexually abused which is a root cause for their eating issues. Sometimes comments by friends or families can trigger significant psychological barriers. Maybe you had a terrible trauma happen in your life and eating problems followed suit. I know that nutrition can only get you so far. I don’t believe you can divide the mind, soul, body or spirit and with any medical problem, you must seek healing on all these levels. Rejection, fear of man, fear of failure, fear of abandonment, trauma, abuse, all can fuel addictive behavior and impede physical health and wellness. Pursue inner healing so that your physical person can follow suit.
So what did I do? I pursued my complete healing, and gave my body what it needed to function according to the way it was created. The “homeostasis” concept was that if you did not give your body what it needed in terms of whole, natural food and treatment of deficiencies or beat it like a dead horse with excessive exercise, it would not work to do what you wanted it to do, it would only do what it could to “maintain” and survive. The diet part? I started eating more, more food in its natural, whole form, especially a lot of natural fats like butter and coconut oil. I dumped sugar, hydrogenated fats, anything artificial that I knew Jesus wasn’t eating…and I embraced that food was my friend, not my enemy. And once I did that, the pressure was immediately off. I didn’t think about food all the time, I enjoyed my food when I had it, I was not constantly scrounging around for a snack because I was satisfied with my food. I have embraced the slow food, local food, support of small farmers movement because I think that is how we are intended to eat. We had a garden this year, the hen-house is built, we know enough farmers to buy grass-fed beef in bulk. We are the process of de-sugarizing the house and gently letting the kids know that sweets are to be rare, rather than regular. And with 8 weeks to go in this pregnancy, I have only gained 9 pounds, rather than my usual 30 (while eating all the time), and my 1 hr post-prandial blood sugar this time was an incredible 87! I am not some bastion of willpower, but rather I finally started giving my body what it needed the whole time, and the results are truly rewarding. I know that when the baby comes, I will focus on nourshing myself so my baby has the best breastmilk he can have, and not worry about some crazy crash diet or ridiculous exercise program to lose weight. So maybe you will join me in dumping dieting, and pursue your complete wholeness and wellness for 2010.
For help in these areas: I recommend Matt Stone’s website and blog, www.180degreehealth.com, www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com, as well as www.schwarzbeinprinciple.com, www.westonaprice.org, www.jordanrubin.com
For Christian counseling/understanding spiritual roots of disease: “The Bondage Breaker” by Neil Anderson, “A More Excellent Way” by Henry Wright