September 13, 2012

A Closer Look at My Nutrition | My First Few Weeks with "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross)

It's been an interesting "food month." Last month I read a compelling book called "The Diet Cure" by Julia Ross, MA. director of Recovery Systems in Northern California. It was so compelling that I decided to test if I had a gluten insensitivity and went off gluten for a week. Today I'm reintroducing it to "see what happens." It just happens to coincide with a visit we're getting from our very own private chef—yes, you read right: I won a raffle at a local supermarket and a private chef is coming to our home tonight to prepare food using their special cooking equipment (which they'll of course try to sell us and I'll politely decline...but it'll be fun in any case :-)

About the wheat-free week, as I said on my Facebook page when I first decided to put this book into practice, "I'm not really a "diet" person—I buck the fads in favor of common sense & nutrition. That being said, I do have some "issues" I'd love to improve: extra pounds, joint pain, and occasional depression. The book I'm currently reading has me convinced that there's more than meets the eye to 'everything in moderation.' As a result, yours truly is now investigating her body's relationship with refined sugar & wheat (among a number of other substances)."

And it's true: I'm not really a diet person. But I have struggled with being anywhere from slightly to moderately overweight for a good part of my life. And many of my relatives have suffered from obesity and obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes or low thyroid on both sides of my family. So although I'm not attracted to fad diets, or crash dieting, I am very aware of what I put into my body and am a big health advocate. Most of my friends know that I'm an amateur herbalist and swear by my Nutritional Healing book for being able to get rid of ailments, like nixing colds with Vitamin C and garlic.

So it wasn't too much of a stretch for me to be convinced by Ross that there are eight basic nutritional imbalances that individuals can have which can affect their health—both physical and mental.  She asserts that by answering a series of questionnaires you can start to detemine which imbalances might be affecting you.

What were most interesting to me were arguments that sugar and refined grain products like white flour can be addictive. Ross discusses the brain's chemical reactions to certain food substances and why we can become "addicted" to foods that are actually adverse to our health—in a very similar way as we do to substances like drugs or alcohol. The chapter about re-regulating naturally mood enhancing brain chemicals through healthy eating (NOT undereating the right foods or overeating the wrong foods) was most fascinating to me. She also went on to talk about other imbalances that often go undetected, such as thyroid imbalances or systemic yeast overgrowth, which are harder to diagnose but that plague people all the same until they undergo comprehensive testing.

In my case, I decided to first cut out extra sugar—it seemed the easiest, fastest, and most important thing to try. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and I think it'll still be okay to consume it in moderation, just with more awareness. Toward the end of the first week, I cut out refined grains products—white flour and white rice—also, not as hard as I expected. The reason why it wasn't so hard was because I was making sure to consume a lot of protein, vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats. Ross believes that undereating/malnutrition is more common than we think and leads to a depressed metabolism. This is a tactic I never quite understood, or at least couldn't get to work for me, but I think it's because I wasn't eating enough nutrient rich foods.

I wasn't doing this for the weight loss effect, just for the health-enhancing effect—Ross believes that gastrointestinal upset and joint pain, two things I often complain of, can be caused by certain foods. But I didn't mind when, two weeks later, I checked the scale and saw that I'd lost 5 pounds.

This next week, I go off dairy, again, "to see what happens." I've gotten a skin allergy test before for hayfever allergens, and it came up negative for most major food groups, except a slight allergy to soy. But Ross explains that some internal adverse reactions to foods go undetected by the skin tests, which is why they promote the elimination diet approach. I like this approach in that it's learning a little more about my body, and I'm only doing one food at a time, not all at once. I especially like the unexpected effect it's had on my cooking—having to go a week without bread, pasta, or crackers meant I had to obtain a few more interesting grains for my kitchen like amaranth flour and make garbanzo flour patties. I made my own mayonnaise with a fresh egg from our chickens and olive oil, great because regular mayo is made out of soybean oil (and even better for how delicious homemade mayo is!). I also made Thai food for the first time in years to go over brown rice. Any excuse to spice up the action in my kitchen is welcome around here, and if it has the pleasant side effect of losing a few kilos in the process, all the better!

I'm a little nervous about the upcoming week without cow's milk because I am quite beholden to my dairy products—yogurt, cheese, kefir, etc—I love probiotics. But I got some goat cheeses to hold me over, and if the wheat-free week was any indication that depriving yourself of one food can lead to embracing several others, then I should be excited about what the week ahead has in store.

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