After the gift of health for sixty years, I’ve come to discover how what you eat can determine the way you feel. Bottom line: less carbs and sugar can help you live better without missing a thing.
For weeks now people have asked me, “Have you lost weight?”
Or: “Is something wrong? You look different.”
And the answer is…all the above. I have lost weight. I had a health issue back in early September with blood clots in my lung, and since September 15…yes, I do look different.
The issue, according to friend and chiropractor, Dr. Kreg Huffer, was simple inflammation…something he had hammered me about for the better part of two years. And I’m going to share some symptoms for the sake of familiarity, because some of my issues are no doubt your issues, too.
One, my joints ached, just like yours. I’m seventy now, and for years everyone had told me what to expect. Once you pass 50 you’re going to start feeling worse, and you’re going to feel pain.
But I never suspected the source of that pain, despite people, like Huffer, who told me exactly what was wrong.
Others told me what I suspected, and what I wanted to believe. Having spent years playing baseball, and later officiating, I took a lot of foul balls off the mask while calling balls and strikes in the minor leagues – whiplash, and probably a few concussions, given what we know now about head trauma. Fast forward thirty years, the now-painful years, and the MRIs didn’t lie. My neck and shoulders are a mess. My upper spine doesn’t look like yours.
Ever heard the term arthritis? Of course you have, as you sit there and read while reaching for the Ben-Gay jar. In my case, it was my hands and wrists that caused me the most concern…because I type a lot (obviously), and the inflammation in my hands, and wrists had reached a point where 80 words a minute had become 40, and with a lot time lost to fix the numerous errors.
I have always gone to chiropractors, even during my years in baseball. There was a time when I had one in almost every city, just in case.
And like you, for years I’ve carried that bottle of Ibuprofen – Motren, the 800 milligram variety – because it provided quick relief for inflammation and pain. But I also found that Motren, the past couple of years, didn’t work like it once did. Huffer, and his team, finally got my attention.
“You have to eliminate the inflammation through your diet,” he told me this past August. “You need to try Stemnomics (a modern concept that harnesses ancient methods to enhance the production and utilization of stem cells in your body, thereby allowing the body to heal itself).”
What Huffer and assistant Leisha Elchert call ‘Stemnomics’, others have practiced for years under the more-common heading of ‘the Keto diet’, a method of changing the body’s eating habits and nutritional requirements. As a lay person to all this, I won’t bore you with data. But what I will tell you is what Huffer and Elchert told me: “Quit eating junk (carbs), and feed your body ‘good fats’ to build up a better energy inventory for your body.”
When your hands and arms hurt as much as mine you reach a point where you listen…like a drowning man who finally reaches for a life preserver. The first thing I had to do was learn to eat ‘good fats’, which sounds like an oxymoron because we’ve been programmed our entire lives to avoid any kind of fats. So I had to learn…the difference between ‘good’, and ‘bad’ fats.
Bad fats consist of your daily lunch of fast food – carbs and sugar.
Good fats consisted of things like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and pure (and I mean, pure) butter, like the Kerry brand that’s imported from Ireland. Don’t even think about margarine, because eating that is like putting anti-freeze in your gut.
You ingest these things for a period of about six weeks while at the same time giving up things like bread…breakfast cereals…potato chips…Cheetos…sugar…and ice cream! The first week isn’t easy, but not because you’re hungry. You’re just impatient, and when you’re impatient the first thing you do is eat.
And I quickly learned that there’s no such thing as “all things in moderation” when it comes to what you eat. You either eat clean, or you eat dirty. And when you change the culture of ‘what’ you eat, and ‘when’ you eat, the change is dramatic.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t eat steak. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the healthy things you’ve always eaten. But this is what I learned.
In six weeks I literally consumed a gallon of virgin olive oil, actually drinking it out of the jug it came in. Olive oil is a good fat. It tastes good. And it was easy for me. I’ve always liked it.
I had no issues with eating Kerry butter by the tablespoonful, or in coffee, because I grew up with my grandmother churning her own butter, made from fresh dairy. It was sweet, and tasty.
I’ve always loved avocados, and guacamole, and avocados are one of nature’s best source of good, healthy fats.
SURPRISE! As I left the carbs behind, and began to rely more on the above (while eating the same good, healthy proteins) I began to notice a difference…IN MY HANDS! The swelling decreased, the pain lessened, and my flexibility improved. I had also dropped ten pounds, from 218 to 208!
After about four weeks Elchert told me that I needed to ‘fast’ once a week for a period of 24 hours. It wasn’t that tough to do. And the point of fasting for a day was to help the body build up to a longer, more sustained fast yet to come – five full days!
Three weeks ago I looked at her and shook my head over going five days with nothing but water and some minerals. The idea…was for the body to rely on the good fats that I had stored in my blood system. I did some daily monitoring of blood glucose and ‘ketos’, because in Huffer’s terminology, the goal here is to reach ‘autophagy’, a term that means your body has reached a balance between blood glucose and keytosis, thereby eliminating toxins that flush out through the blood, while creating healthy natural stem cells that promote healing throughout the body.
That may be too simplistic. I don’t know because I’m not a physician. But I was the same kind cynic as you are, sitting and reading this, and thinking it can’t possibly work.
But it did.
My experience: The first three days without eating weren’t so bad. The fourth is a challenge. The fifth is an actual revelation. The body does kick in and begins to live off the good fuels you’ve stored up. My energy spiked, the pain in my hands was suddenly gone, and the part you probably noticed…I lost an additional eight pounds during those five days. In total, I had dropped from 218 to 192, wringing wet.
On the fifth full day I discovered something else.
When I went back to eating I no longer wanted to eat mashed potatoes and gravy…or a donut in the morning. Rather, my system craved things like avocados, raw yogurt, and many of the things listed on what’s popularly called ‘The Mediterranean Diet’. You can look it up, but it’s heavy on natural fruits and vegetables. I can still eat meat, or pizza, or the occasional Skyline 3-way, but I find that the morning after I eat like that I want to get back to my new desire for simpler foods. Here’s another benefit. Because I’ve changed how I eat, I haven’t had heartburn, or digestive issues, for two months.
I did gain back five pounds when I got off the five day fast. But ‘something’ changed. I no longer want what I used to eat. And it’s not a fight, or a diet at this point. You simply eat what your body tells you ‘it’ wants. And when I recently got my yearly physical – blood work – I found that some of my numbers were actually better than the previous two years.
You might think about this today, while you load up on turkey and dressing, potatoes and all those starches and carbs. No doubt, I’ll eat some of it, too. But I know, that as soon as I do, ‘something’ is going to kick into auto-correct. The new fuel source is going to take over – the one that made me feel better, the one that helped eliminate the inflammation – what the rest of you call arthritis, I suppose.
So yes, I lost weight. But less IS more, as they say. A lot more.
I don’t hurt anymore, and it wasn’t that tough!