T H E 6 T H F L O O R

Life in 6 Land

T H E  6 T H  F L O O R - Life in 6 Land

3 Years Plant Strong

3yearsToday makes it 3 years plant strong after making what some was called “extreme changes” in my life. The decision to take control of my health was unlike any other challenge I had undertaken. At 42 years of age, I was feeling overweight, rundown, sore with aches and pains, constant migraine headaches. Since turning 40 I had undergone two knee surgeries and I wasn’t the same person I was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago before taking that road less traveled on my journey to health.

I have a coworker to thank for getting the ball rolling (read Live to Eat) recommending the documentary, Forks Over Knives. After viewing this documentary I was left stunned. I didn’t know what to think, everything I thought I knew about nutrition (like most Americans) was not what it was. Many of the foods I enjoy under the guise of “health” had been promoted by conglomerates like the beef and dairy industries in order to profit not to maintain health.

FOK moved me, so much so that on the day before Halloween I made the decision to get healthy and stopped consuming foods that were making me sick and fat; meat, dairy and added oils. Many thought I was crazy and didn’t understand the reasons for these changes. In fact, many didn’t really care to listen or show interest in getting healthy. I happened upon Dr. John McDougall and my life changed. It wasn’t easy at first, as I had to learn nutrition all over and forget the inaccuracy I was fed growing up about food groups and what many Americans fail at, moderation.

Removing all meat from this way of eating was an easy decision, but wasn’t done for ethical reasons. This was the first step in a long journey to health. Cooking with added oils was challenging, as the first question I asked myself, “how am I saute my veggies?” Little did I know a small amount of water or vegetable broth works wonders and provides a real food taste instead of oil laden flavor. Dairy was the third part of the equation. As it was I didn’t drink much milk and rarely ate cereal but had never had milk alternatives; soy, almond, hemp or rice. In the end cheese would be the one “food” I missed. I struggled with not eating cheese to the point I would use that fake vegan shit, which was probably more processed and worse for you than dairy cheese.

Through it all I was able to overcome some early challenges. I made a commitment to my health and started recording everything I ate. While I wasn’t counting calories I was tracking food for my benefit, in order to see trends and provide a visual record of where I started and the goal I wanted to achieve. I purchased and read The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. It was these words that reinforced what I had seen on FOK. The program sounded easy and I saw no reason I couldn’t follow it and be successful.

When I started the program I weighed 219, at times I had tipped the scale above 200 pounds, but at my physical on December 27, 2011 I weighed 216 pounds and had a total cholesterol (TC) of 264 mg/dL, which had continue to rise the previous 3 years. To think it wasn’t my pants and shirts getting smaller, but me getting larger, in part due to the fact of my poor eating habits at work and home. The health problems I faced were being fed by the dairy, meat and oil I continued to include in my diet.

It was a sign of good things to come when I weighed in on the day of my physical over 20 pounds down from where I was when I started less than 30 days ago. At the start of December I weighed in at 190 pounds and my clothes were fitting. The more impressive number I swooned over, the fact I dropped 64 points in my TC! 64 points! I was shocked and amazed that doing nothing but changing the way I ate could make such a powerful statement. It was this real world experience I required that let me know I was doing the “right thing!”

Like man who had just found Jesus, I thought this was my savior. In some regard it was, if I had not made wholesale changes in my life I would continued down that destructive road to deteriorating health. As it was I had turned my health around and I was beginning to reap the rewards and feel the benefits.

Since that day in 2011 I have learned valuable information regarding nutrition. I have connected with many individuals whose health, at one time, was worse off than I was prior to beginning. I have tried many new plant based recipes that I never knew existed, found new and exciting chefs I turn to on a daily basis. People like Julie Marie Christensen who promotes a “protective diet” Chef AJ who cooks “unprocessed” Susan Voisin who’s foods are fat free and vegan and Cathy Fisher “who has straight up good food,” just to name a few. I found I can still sink my teeth into oil free, fat free pizza thanks to Mark Sutton.

Since reaching my target weight of 175 pounds that is where I have remained (+/- 3 pounds). It’s been amazing that it actually gets easier to eat and those foods you thought you would miss, you don’t . I have no problem going to a BBQ without grabbing a slab of meat, burger or dog. No longer do I favor cheese on my pizza. Potatoes have been a godsend and is a cornerstone of this way of eating. Unlike meat, potatoes satiate my hunger. I don’t need to feel guilty eating a few pounds of potatoes a night, unlike choking down that 16 oz. steak I used to desire.

Vegetables and grains now make up my core meals, it’s not all salad, all the time. I would end up being very hungry if it were. My body now thrives on carbohydrates (goes against everything the Paleo crowd promotes) daily. I have learned how to scrutinize labels for ingredients I don’t want to eat. No longer do I (try) eat foods with additives in them. It’s amazing what the FDA approves to be used in food, my body is better for it as I won’t trust the government when it comes to how I eat.

While I would love to say a plant based diet is for everyone, sadly it is not. There are many who will swear how they eat is “healthy” or “clean” and they know how to eat in moderation. That’s great! Enjoy your food and all the best as it relates to your weight and health. While I do promote a plant based lifestyle, it’s not exclusive or better than any other diet, I just know how my body has healed itself and thrived in the past 3 years. The journey has been amazing. I look forward to improving my life as I get older.

The 6th Thought: No Mo’ Potatoes?

The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need.

-Michelle Obama (source)

Is Michelle Obama really that uneducated when it comes to nutrition? How can she claim that too many potatoes are being consumed by women and children? Cite some sources for me please. Maybe I should introduce you to Dr. John McDougall, who would not agree with your statement. I think it’s a great idea to include potatoes in the WIC program. Potatoes do not make you fat. Eating potatoes prepared in oil or slathered with butter will lead you down the road to obesity. All it takes is a bit of education when it comes to nutrition and you can learn what you should be eating. Don’t hate the potato. “This conflict over the potato shows how backwards ideas can become when money is at stake” (source).

potato_nutritionIt’s unfortunate that misinformation and myths continue to make media headlines. Many Americans rely on meat for protein and dairy for calcium, while potatoes are nothing but empty calories and fattening. The potato has been a staple of civilizations, first being cultivated in South America as far back as 13,000 years ago. Spanish conquistadors brought the potato back to Spain in 1570, where it slowly spread through out Europe. “The most dramatic example of the potato’s potential to alter population patterns occurred in Ireland, where the potato had become a staple by 1800. The Irish population doubled to eight million between 1780 and 1841 — this, without any significant expansion of industry or reform of agricultural techniques beyond the widespread cultivation of the potato” (source).

Butter Better?

butter_betterLast week I posted a link on Facebook from the UK Daily Mail, Why Are We Fatter Than Ever?. Take a moment to review the graphs and associated data. There are a combination of factors that see obesity and health related illness, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease (CHD), on the rise. It’s not surprising all are interrelated as obesity is a factor in both diabetes and CHD.

Back to my post, which drew a smattering of comments from friends and acquaintances on the topic with a varied level of understanding in nutrition. Now, I am not a nutritionist, nor do I play one, even if I happened to stay at a Holiday Inn Express, but a comment caught my eye in response to some who said, “I feel like crying. I LOVE butter. Excessive amounts too. The response was “No, grass fed cow butter is good for you.”

Now, I have nothing but the utmost respect for my friend who responded with the “grass fed” comment and in some regards there is probably truth to be had eating “grass fed”  or “free range.” I made the decision to stop eating meat, favoring to go to the source and eat the grass, so to speak. I had to chuckle a bit as “grass fed” ranks up there with the term, “clean eating.” This was something that would require further research into, yet I didn’t think I would stumble onto this “superfood” while dabbling on the Internet.

The Business Insider carried the same graphs as from the UK Daily Mail site, titled What’s Wrong With The Modern Diet? As I read their commentary on the graphs, I stopped at number five.

5. People Replaced Heart-Healthy Butter With Trans-Fat Laden Margarine.

butter

The graph looked straight forward as “the “war” on saturated fat was an increase in margarine consumption.” But it was this comment, “Grass-fed butter actually contains nutrients that are protective against heart disease (like Vitamin K2), therefore the advice to replace heart-healthy butter with trans-fat laden margarine may have done a lot of damage (24),” which led me to Authority Nutrition.

Based on my reading, the individual in question does not have a nutritional background, but is a medical student and personal trainer, who “has spent years reading books, blogs and research studies on health and nutrition.” Doctors fail to make the grade when it comes to nutrition. “Thirty years ago, only about a third of medical schools required a single course on nutrition. That number has since dropped to only 1 in 4…No wonder doctors get failing grades in tests of basic nutrition knowledge about diet and heart disease, our #1 killer. More disturbing, the percentage of medical instructors that think this deficiency is a problem has also dropped over the last decade” (source).

Before I get well off topic, let’s handle the “grass fed” comment. Authority Nutrition has a piece under ‘Healthy Eating’ titled, “Grass-fed Butter is a Superfood For The Heart.” My heart stopped or so I thought. Butter is now good for your heart? I just had to research further. I found another top 10 list of superfoods and at #9, raw organic grass-fed butter. Understanding there are high quality nutrients, such as vitamins (D, E and K2), as well as trace minerals, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), “healthy” fats like omega-3 and omega-6, as well as Glycospingolipids (protects against infection) and Wulzen Factor, which ensures calcium remains in your bones and isn’t leached in joints and other tissues.

Still butter is fat and commercial butter must be at least 80% fat (source). I still hear the written words echo in my head from Dr. John McDougall, “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” At what point do the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to food, like butter? For all the “superfood” qualities it possesses it’s still 3200 calories/pound. A level high enough for weight gain or an inhibitor to prevent weight loss. Again, the words of Dr. McDougall are present, “people love to hear good news about their bad habits.”

There is no escaping the fact you are ingesting pure fat into your “healthy” body because it’s now labelled as a superfood. Many require butter on a wide variety of foods, I was this way just 2 years ago, but realized all this salty, fatty substance did was mask the true taste of food. Butter is still high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It’s other SUPER qualities; good at clogging arteries, super yummy, super addictive, super fattening.

As an option, I will still choose the safe and healthy way to get my EFA (essential fatty acids), in natural packaging such as starches, vegetables and fruits. “Here they are found in the correct amounts in protected environments surrounded by vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals to make them balanced nutrition. If you desire higher concentrations than are present in these foods then you will want to include more nuts, seeds, and soybean products in your diet” (source). I will continue to bypass butter, as it’s not better for me or my health.

Obsessed with Eating Healthy

obsessed_with_foodEating healthy isn’t easy, but it’s not as difficult as some make it out to be. The media (here and here), as well as physician Steven Bratman and clinical psychology will have you believe otherwise. Bratman “coined the term “orthorexia nervosa”  to denote an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating” (source). I do have an obsession to be healthy, but I find nothing unhealthy about the decisions I make and the foods I eat. Call it what you will, but in no way am I “obsessed with the “perfect diet” and the cleanliness of food, eating on a highly regulated regime” (source). In fact I don’t believe I have ever termed how I eat, “perfect.” Nor am I better than anyone who doesn’t agree with how I eat. That won’t stop me from discussing it, as I am obsessed with eating healthy.

“People love to hear good news about their bad habits” (source) says Dr. John McDougall.

They’re Thinking: “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Look at me, I’m still alive. Life would not be worth living without my favorite foods: beefsteak and banana cream pie. Plus I have read chocolate, cheese, and wine are good for me

I understand: I was once at the same place myself. I could not see past my own dinner plate. I once believed pizza and milk chocolate sundaes were great sources of protein and calcium. I now know that this is untrue. More importantly, because I now eat differently, I see the world from a new viewpoint. As I walk by a table surrounded by overweight diners, the cause of their conditions is obviously the spread of rich foods set before them. A U-turn in your thinking can cause you to become drastically different—trimmer, younger, happier, more functional, and less medicated—too” (source).

Still no amount of data, scientific study or physicians and nutritionists will convince people to change how they eat, in the name of health. People refuse to give up their “favorites” even if they are slowly killing them. Cancer, obesity and heart disease probably wouldn’t stop some from continue to dine on their bacon, butter and fat laden meals.

Eating healthy has consumed my life the past 2 years, but that’s a good thing. My blood work numbers, appearance and health are a testament to the power that food has when it comes to your health. Prescription drugs are no longer part of my daily regime. No longer do I walk into the closet only to find my pants are getting smaller, when in reality my ass is getting bigger. Physical activity level has never been higher, as I work towards my first 2014 goal of accomplishing a 50k, something I would NEVER have considered just 2 years ago.

So call me what you want; obsessed, compulsive, crazy, stupid, vegan, vegetarian, plant based, deficient, extreme, impossible, fanatic, the results don’t lie. My health has flourished and will continue to do so based on MY food decisions. So if being obsessed with healthy eating is a disorder, I hate to think of the disease and illnesses of those following a Western pattern diet.

Perspective

perspectivePeople are passionate about a variety of things, from sports teams to politics and religion to the food they consume, this should come as no surprise. Social media seems to draw the best and the worst out of people, as I’m sure many have read via the many outlets, from discussion boards and Twitter to Facebook. For as many comments supporting a topic, there will be just as many opposing it and providing alternatives. I guess that’s what makes the Internet a great place, when individuals can share ideas and comment on topics they have in common or debate issues at hand.

Scrolling through new posts on a plant-based Facebook group I ran across a topic that asked, “Where can I find the number of people who have benefited (so far) from McDougalling?” McDougalling, for those readers new to T6F, is the term associated with an individual who follows the teachings of Dr. John McDougall, who promotes a starch (plant) based way of eating while excluding meat, dairy and added oils in your diet. I still consider myself a McDougaller for just over 2 years now, which has seen a dramatic improvement in my health. Over the course of this journey I have learned about nutrition and the role it plays for building a healthy body.

The thread seemed to get derailed rather quickly as a debate flared up about a plant-based way of eating being a “sacrifice” regardless of the positive results many have experienced. The comments and ensuing discussion had nothing to do with the numbers the original poster was looking for. However it started me thinking about the change in my lifestyle; was it a sacrifice or a choice?

Prior to changing my diet in October, 2012 I knew the food I was eating contributed to my increasing weight and myriad of health related issues. While I wasn’t as sickly as some who turned to Dr. McDougall for answers, I struggled with a growing list of pains that I had no relief for; migraine headaches, foot problems, an increasing cholesterol, side pains and joint issues. The documentary Forks Over Knives was the revelation I needed to approach nutrition and take control of what I eat.

While I feel I made a choice to exclude foods that promoted disease and obesity, in the thread, Vikki makes a great point. “In the beginning it does feel like a sacrifice. But once you start seeing results, once the weight starts coming off and the test results improve and you can get off the drugs and you can quit worrying about heart disease and diabetes and, and, and, it no longer feels like a sacrifice. Now it feels like a reward.” That was exactly how I felt.

Sure there were yearnings at times for cheese or the smell of BBQ had me salivating for a nice steak, but the longer I went without being tempted to these foods, the better the results. Weight continued to fall off, the problems I had, started to disappear and I saw an amazing decrease in my total cholesterol (total of 134 points). My doctor couldn’t explain it other than to say my decision was “extreme” and that I could “not have long term success.” Instead of saying a plant-based way of eating is a sacrifice it’s the perspective from which you view it.

For many of my friends I communicate with using social media, friends, those I see regularly and co-workers, many tell me they could not do what I have done. Many could not sacrifice their vices; meat, cheese, cooking with oil, fast food or alcohol in the name of health. From my perspective I have done what I felt was required to in order to take control of my health and improve how I feel. While around me I see many more feeding on a handful of medication, increasing in weight and not doing anything to better themselves. Why not? Why sacrifice your health?

Many of these people must be happy in some aspect of life, maybe being healthy doesn’t mean fueling your body with good food, instead letting the industrial medical complex and big pharma protect you from disease and heal you when sick. All the time continuing to eat a Western pattern diet “characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugary desserts, high-fat foods, and refined grains. It also typically contains high-fat dairy products, high-sugar drinks, and higher intakes of processed meat” (source). This usually leads to pleasure gained from the fats, sugars and salts this diet is guilty of.

The thread continues, “since you’re apparently ignoring the obvious “pluses” to unhealthy food, I’ll point out the obvious: The added effort of shopping and preparation is a sacrifice in and of itself. The act of eating healthy food healthfully (taking time to thoroughly chew food that has substance) is another sacrifice. The lack of fats, sugars, and salts has an an undeniable effect on flavor.” Yet the madness doesn’t stop there. “One does not have to be “intensely” suffering from withdraw to:

  • realize the implications of never being able to eat out
  • never eating food prepared at a friend’s house,
  • awkward dinner parties with friends who eat differently
  • always having to plan meals ahead,

having everyone you know look at you silly when they’re having pizza, and you’re having a baked potato and squash. It’s not ALL about personal satisfaction from eating bad food.”

Shopping, it’s not for everyone and based on my most recent trips to the market many don’t care what they eat as baskets are piled high with CRAP: carbonated junk, refined sugars, artificial sh*t and processed foods. That must be a hell of a decision standing in the frozen section debating which frozen meal to get.

Food preparation can be challenging, especially if you have no talent in the kitchen. I will consider myself fortunate that I had some basic skills that have only improved, spending more time cooking healthy food. The first book I purchased to support my lifestyle change was filled with simple recipes. It’s not as simple as popping in a frozen dinner into the oven or opening a bag from Taco bell. How difficult is it to bake a potato or yam? Heat some frozen veggies? Boil water or vegetable broth for a soup base? Sorry, some effort must be made on your part to cook.

Eating foods free of fats (or low in fat), sugars and salt doesn’t have be like chewing flavorless cardboard. Many seem to have that misconception. I can understand many foods I cook would taste bland, due to the fact your taste buds still have a penchant for fatty, sugary and salty foods. My wife reminds me this time and time again when I share a new dish with her. This fact alone could deter individuals early on and see them regress back to a Western pattern diet, sacrificing their health solely in the name of flavor. Yet from my perspective, I don’t feel I am sacrificing flavor in the name of health.

The implications of not being able to eat out, go to parties or feel awkward at parties should not be a reason to avoid healthy eating. I don’t see this as a sacrifice at all. There are very few restaurants that serve healthy food. Take the time to learn about nutrition and see just how unhealthy many restaurant menus are. In the rare times I have eaten out, I can order a baked potato and steamed vegetables and be satisfied. If this makes you feel awkward, sorry that’s on you. Don’t worry about what I am eating. Usually my way of eating becomes a topic of conversation and I share nutrition information I have learned. I expect no special treatment when we RSVP to a party or visit friends for dinner. Why should I?

Healthy eating is not a sacrifice depending on your perspective. When I made the decision to change my lifestyle and eating a plant-base diet I chose not to fuel my body with meat, dairy and added oil. I did not want to keep these foods that feed illness and disease in my diet. Why sacrifice my health? The decision to change my way of eating was one of the best decisions I have made. I have no regrets, regardless of perspective.