Four Weeks to a New Life

What can occur in four weeks?  The time from one full moon to the next?  A lot can change with your health.  And it really is not so hard to do.


Read on about changing what you eat over the next month.  Be ready for the 4th of July, or so.


Again, let me know your thoughts.

No Diet, Just Good Food


The fat loaf of supposedly healthy whole grain bread is staring at me like a baked temptress, calling out for the soft grass-fed butter to join her in luring me back. It’s just my first day of a new eating regime, and I’m already weak in the knees. It appears I have the discipline of Cookie Monster at Mrs. Fields. Later on in the evening after dinner, I’ll pine for a wedge of dark chocolate and a dram (or three) of single malt, so I have to tell myself “no” a few hours early to prepare my brain and my lips for disappointment.


What’s behind all this? Most of what we’re consuming as adults is killing us, at least slowly. Constantly and disproportionately bombarding ourselves with all manner of indulgences leads to both temporary bliss and long-term suffering. The problem isn’t so much that we consume alcohol, sweets, processed foods and simple carbs. It’s that we do it in ridiculous excess, like Takeru Kobayashi at a hot dog eating contest, but without the advantage of a hummingbird-like metabolism.


What’s most important is overall health that is realistically maintainable over a longer periods of time, rather than beating up your body with repeated changes month in and month out. In the month of February, I set out on an experiment rather than a diet. I didn’t want to be drastic; I wanted to set a basis on which a healthier nutrition plan could be maintained beyond the initial month. I was inspired by Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat To Live, in which he provides in-depth data and justification for eliminating sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods, even meat — and replacing them with high quantities of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Though I wasn’t planning on eliminating meat altogether, I would follow most of his guidelines (and cut down my meat intake).


I wanted to cut down on the things that cause chronic inflammation, which studies have found lead to serious illnesses: heart disease, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. If your daily diet consists of high levels of inflammation-inducing foods like sugar, trans fats in processed and fast foods, refined grains, potatoes, pastries, and processed meats, then it’s high time you took a good look at what’s going into your pie hole.


First, let’s explain what I was up against. I’m six-foot-two and a relatively steady 205 to 210 pounds, and have been for the past several years. I work out a few times a week, but nothing approaching Ironman levels. Weight training, running, body weight exercises and HIIT, as well as some yoga and the occasional punishing by Tony Horton’s P90X. I’m neither the most health-conscious person nor the least, but since I got married five years ago, I’ve been better with my nutrition — no longer pulling off damaging stunts like downing full slabs of dry-rubbed barbecue ribs with a pound of fries and a Diet Coke.


My first week out, rather than making huge adjustments to all three meals, I started modifying breakfast, my favorite meal of the day. Prior to the experiment, my usual morning started out with a couple of slices of wheat toast, two scrambled eggs and a cup of black coffee. It’s easy and I get fiber and protein with hardly any effort, but consuming fourteen slices of bread in a week just for breakfast seems excessive. I cut out the bread and instead ate homemade oat, quinoa, apple and banana muffins (no wheat) or steel-cut oats with unsweetened soy milk, a handful of blueberries and raw walnuts. And, like every morning, I downed it all with a large cup of dark roast black coffee with no sugar or cream.


Week 1 felt like a mild depression, not because I had anything to be depressed about, but because my system didn’t take to the suddenness of the new routine well — it’s one thing to cut back on one ancillary item like a glass of wine at dinner, but three major “food groups” made for a bit of an onslaught. We are quite emotionally tied to food, and I felt that. All that first week, around 2:30 pm, I would crave something carb-loaded. My mood by 3:00 p.m. was crabby and irritable. I wasn’t exactly surprised by the change, but that didn’t help much. I’d grab a handful of baby carrots and try to get back to work.


After seven days went by, along with six pounds and two percent body fat, my mood lightened. What was once a chore just a couple of days ago started to feel like an actual means to an end. And it wasn’t just about the weight loss. I started out far less focused on weight and more on overall well-being, and things had already changed.


Halfway through week 2, I felt downright crisp. Mornings were more focused since I had rested well the night before. My workouts felt more productive, and recovery actually started to feel easier. Sleep was now much deeper, and I awoke far less often through the night. I was excited about my new nutritional regimen and I felt like a guy getting out of several years stuck in a lousy relationship that I didn’t have the resolve to end.

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