Tara’s the doctor and the expert.I’m the writer.
I’ll share what I can and then I’ll need to have her fill in the details – and probably correct some details too.
Over the last two weeks we’ve made some changes to our diet that resulted in each of us losing about 8 pounds each.This is somewhat shocking to me as weight loss has been a struggle over the last two years for both of us – and these changes, to be bluntly honest, I expected to actually pack on the pounds.
I also need to confess that these diet changes have not eliminated everything we’d like to eliminate.In this two weeks we’ve eaten pizza at least twice and we’ve had an evening bowl of ice cream (home made) in the range of 7-8 times.Let me just say, there’s no sense of deprivation occurring here.
First, a little history.
We’ve experimented with a variety of beyond diet reviews throughout our marriage.In the earlier years the goal was to find a diet venus factor that helped us feel better mentally and physically.Most of my life I’ve tried to gain weight, not lose it.
When we first met (I was 30, Tara 25) we enjoyed going for walks through neighborhoods in Portland.I’d experience complete energy lapses where I felt like I needed to stop and lie down on someone’s front lawn.I think I appeared healthy at that time, but I didn’t feel that way.
We tried numerous diets, including Eat Right for Your Blood Type, The Maker’s Diet, and a number of others that I don’t even remember.The results were mixed.
When we first moved to Sedona I developed a skin condition.Doctors diagnosed it as ring worm.I applied hundreds of dollars worth of topical treatments and later took medication that made me feel rotten, foggy headed.This lasted for six months.
What I discovered at that time was that whenever I ate any sugar, wheat, or product containing processed corn that I itched INSANELY almost immediately.This was good for causing me to *not* want to eat Redneck Tailgate foods.What I could eat were meats, milk, veggies, yogurt without sweetener, fruit and nuts.
Since I’ve never had a taste for veggies, it was convenient that Tara worked in the juice bar at the local health food store during that time while studying for her boards.I grew to crave those juices.To be clear these weren’t typical Jamba Juice concoctions or bottle of Ocean Spray, but instead juices that might contain fresh carrots, apples, greens, etc.
Eventually we discovered that my skin condition wasn’t ring worm at all – it was an allergic reaction to the juniper in the Sedona environment.Most people sneeze – I get a skin rash.As long as I ate well, the itching was at a minimum.Also note, the eventual cure for my condition was Ozonated Olive Oil thanks to the good Dr. Hutton of Sedona (olive oil infused with ozone) applied topically.
After Tara left that job and Rachel was born we both experienced our first weight gain together as a married couple.This was a stressful time and again my overall health went south.That craving for juices hadn’t left and I had a realization that I loved the taste of raw veggies (some of them anyway), but not cooked.
That was the start of the raw food diet for us – something we’ve done off and on to varying degrees over about six years.The longest we ever went at nearly 100% raw was nine months.During that period, in 2006, my weight was 164 lbs at its lowest.I was a big believer in the diet, primarily for the mental clarity and physical energy impact.The difference isn’t minor – it’s dramatic.
I had two problems on the raw diet however.The biggest is social – food is a big part of social interactions and you become acutely aware of that when you can’t eat anything with others.I also found that people are remarkably – REMARKABLY – offended, somehow, by this diet.
There is truth there however and I felt the proof was in the results.
The second problem was that I still had a craving for meat.To be honest, I don’t like eating meat. Ethically it bothers me.If I had to go out and kill my own food I don’t think I could / would do it.That just feels out of integrity to me, like it’s not something that’s right.Maybe I’ll feel differently one day, but that’s what I feel now and have always felt.
Now, the common argument against a raw vegan diet is that I had a need for protein but I don’t believe that’s accurate.The largest, strongest animals on earth are not meat eaters.Elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes – they don’t eat meat.Where do they get the protein?Well protein is the building block of cells – all cells.Protein is abundant in plants, but not if you cook them.Cooking changes chemistry; sometimes that’s good but usually it’s not.
Pasteurization of milk, for example, turns milk into an entirely different substance.Cooked milk is not, chemically speaking, milk.As a result we lose the true health benefits – and actually consume a product that is unhealthy to most.And there’s more to that story too.
Anyway, the raw food diet was important enough to us that we seriously considered – even invested money – in moving to a proposed raw food community being developed in Ojai, California.
This was much more than a fad to us – it was a lifestyle commitment, at least to me.
The other thing with that diet is temptation – it’s everywhere.A cookie doesn’t lose its appeal;nor does pizza or a BBQ sandwich or donuts.
Whenever we’d cheat on these things, like with my skin condition, the punishment for that transgression was nearly immediate.The result would be a headache, symptoms that resembled being drunk (except not at all fun), and intestinal distress.
I’d meet with a mastermind group once per week at a local Mexican restaurant and on occasion I’d cheat – for the rest of the lunch I’d be foggy headed, like I’d had a few too many beers, and later I’d develop a severe headache.It truly had the same effect on my body as drinking hard alcohol would.
Challenges around the diet increased as our family grew too.It’s just a lot of work for Tara.And gradually we began opting for quicker, easier meals that lead into falling away from the diet more and more.
Oh, and one more problem – expense.Our food bill on the raw food diet was 20-25% higher than normal.For our family we were spending $1000-1200 per month on food.
As we moved away from the raw food diet my weight, for the first time in my life, began to balloon. My weight increased from 164 in late 2006 to 202 by Aug 2009.And I think it’s important to stress that aside from nightly dates with Ben and Jerry and the occasional Domino’s pizza that our diet was relatively, even radically, “healthy” by typical American diet standards.
In August 2009 we went to Hawaii.I knew I didn’t look great, but I didn’t think I looked bad either.Then I saw pictures of myself at the pool and I didn’t like what I saw – I had become the fat, hairy, bald guy at the pool.
After seeing myself in action, I took action: I went back to eating raw, even going with a radical version of the diet called the 80/10/10 by Dr. Graham.
I also began working with a personal trainer.I’d set an initial goal of losing 15 pounds in six weeks; I lost just 5.That’s not the entire truth though, and getting at the entire truth is the goal here.My body fat did drop from 24.9% to 19.7% meaning that I’d actually lost 11 pounds of fat and gained 6 pounds of muscle.
After that six weeks I again reverted in my diet and stopped working out.If only I’d kept doing what I was doing it’s possible over six months that I would have lost up to 44 pounds of fat and gained 24 pounds of muscle transforming myself into a beast.J
I’m sharing this because that, and what happens the next six months, are important with regard to exercise.
My work with the personal trainer never involved using more than 8lb weights.In most workout sessions no weights were used at all.
My trainer, Paul Burke, is a former NFL tight end and has trained many NFL stars.He composed workouts that simultaneously burned fat, built balance, flexibility and strength while being low impact.
It’s called Functional Performance.
To be honest there were times I felt like I could, and should, work harder.Not that these workouts didn’t push me – they usually did – but my thinking was that if I was going to get my money’s worth then I should walk away feeling like I was going to puke.
I now understand the logic – actually brilliance – better than I did at the time.
After the training with Paul ended I was inactive again for two months before joining a health club.
What’s interesting is that I did these workouts more frequently, with greater intensity . . . and I saw zero change in my weight and body fat percentage.In fact my body fat actually increased.
That was discouraging and I’d remain stuck in this place for over a year, regardless of what I did.
I was eating a mixed diet at this point – usually raw for breakfast and lunch and then whatever for dinner.Oh, and Ben and Jerry came back too but then again Ben and Jerry have always been frequent guests.
But I don’t think this had much of anything to do with diet – not exactly.
I think these high intensity workouts did two things –
1.They made me tired.Most of the rest of my day, after these workouts, and the day after I was *less* active than normal.
2.They made me hungry; the workouts increased my appetite.
My conclusion is that high-intensity is good for building strength and endurance, but it’s not good for losing weight or building muscle.It’s probably more accurate to say high intensity is not good for weight control – because when I was young I over-trained too, hoping to gain muscle, and that wasn’t the result I achieved.I could do 80 plus pushups consecutively when I was 17 – but I was thin as a rail at 147 lbs and seemingly never able to gain weight.
Dr. Graham writes about this in his book.First, overtraining does increase appetite. He states that it’s a catch-22 and you cannot lose weight that way, unless you starve yourself. Second, it’s not the workout that causes growth, it’s the rest and healing period.Without adequate rest and healing a body will not respond to physical training and thus becomes sick trying.
In other words, training actually tears the body down.Rest is when it heals and grows.
Anyway, it’s taken this backstory to get us to where we are now.
Here on the farm I’m much more physically active than I was in Sedona.I feel stronger than I ever felt there – but my weight hadn’t changed. I have probably traded a little fat for a little muscle but the difference isn’t going to make much difference in the eyeball test. (BTW, I’m not that obsessed with my looks – I don’t really care if I look Fabio good – I just don’t want to look James Gandolfini bad)
BTW, I think it’s important to note that weight is only a number.My goal isn’t to be a thin 164 again.164 with 15% bodyfat isn’t the same as 164 with 5% bodyfat.At the same time I remember when I was in high school thinking that if I could get my weight up to around 164 that I’d transform myself into an athletic stud.LOL.That might have been true if I’d gained 17 pounds of muscle, but not 17 pounds of fat.
Tara began revisiting research by Weston A Price.He was a dentist who studied the dental health of people throughout the world.What he found was startling.
Dr. Price discovered that certain cultures had nearly perfect dental health without dental care.And these cultures had common diet traits.He also found that when specific changes were made to the diets of the cultures that dental health quickly deteriorated.
He believed, and I agree, that dental health was an important indicator of overall health.Future health problems could be predicted based on current dental health condition – and it had nothing to do with brushing.
He also did research – or maybe it was his foundation in later years – on ancient human remains.The finding were again startling.
Maybe you’ve learned that our ancestors had stronger bone structures.It was also found that dental health of most of our ancestors was excellent – again without brushing, fluoride treatments,or Crest.
Analysis of bones found that our ancestors ate a diet of primarily meat.We know this by comparing bone densities of our contemporaries.Meat eaters have a bone density nearly 4 times greater than the bone density of vegetarians.(But don’t assume anything quite yet meat eater.)
Yes, I hate to say that because it directly contradicts something I’d fight for.
And the cultures found in the highest health in contemporary times . . . meat eaters too.
But – and this is what requires all of this buildup and explanation – it’s not the meat and animal products of our times in modern America.It’s something different altogether.
I highly recommend watching films in the vein of Food, Inc.I never knew what our store bought cow ate.And I didn’t understand why it’s important.Those films do a much better job of explaining everything than I can do here – at least as far as why the system is the way it is, which can be summed up as “lots of cheap food is better for the businessman than good quality food”.
In America offering “lots for cheap” makes money – see Walmart.
All supermarket cows are fed a diet of corn.This is because corn is cheap (being subsidized by the government), you can fit 100 times more cows in the same space as if they ate grass (which is what they’re supposed to eat) and it makes them fat (meaning more money from the same animal since they sell by the pound).
OK, sounds great.
Except that corn makes cows very, very sick.It makes them so sick that they must be given antibiotics to keep them from dying before they can get to market.It makes them so sick that even on antibiotics they couldn’t live beyond about six months on that diet.
Could you possibly imagine eating anything that would kill you within six months?
So the goal is to feed the cow as much corn as possible, as fast as you can, propping it up with antibiotics so it lives long enough to make it to market, fat.
In other words, forget mad cow disease – all of our meat supply is sick and diseased.These cows are sick.This is the real reason that we need extreme food handling laws and why eating meat and dairy products result in human disease.
What we should be eating, in good health, is poisoned.
However, since American doctors have yet to embrace the idea that diet has any real impact on health (have you seen the food served in Ayurveda Clinic in Kerala?!) how can we expect anyone to correlate that to our meat supply?
A piece of meat is a piece of meat, right?Well, not if we really believe that we are what we eat.
Further, because these animals are not free ranging and healthy they are not rich with the nutrients we all need for good health – such as vitamin D.Why does our milk need to be fortified with vitamin D when it should be naturally rich with it?
Why is it *illegal* to buy raw milk, for human consumption, when milk is naturally sterile and as close to a perfect food as nature can offer?
Because of poor conditions and poor raising – plus the desire to extend shelf life.
A healthy product has been turned into an unhealthy product because it’s profitable and nobody knows the difference.
Here’s a spot where I need to learn more and maybe Tara can fill in the blanks.
In my lifetime an agenda has developed that basically says “Fat is the cause of most human health problems”.Over the last 20 years we’ve seen an explosion in fat burning foods and low-fat foods on the market and yet the country now has an obesity epidemic.
Is fat the problem?
I have believed it was and most people do.
Well, it seems that fat isn’t the problem.In fact, Tara’s research is suggestingthat the healthiest things we can eat are foods high in quality fat.
We’re not talking about deep fried Oreos or donuts here.J
We are talking about taboos such as whole milk, butter, bacon, eggs, etc.Except that “milk” isn’t really milk, butter is laden with growth hormones and nutritionally deficient, bacon is full of nitrites and store bought eggs pale in comparison to the farm fresh, free range eggs we’re enjoying.
That’s what we’ve been eating – while cutting out a lot of the processed grains and sugars.
Side note: Many low-fat and fat-free dairy products have non-fat/low-fat dried milk added to them to improve the flavor.The problem is that dried milk has been proven to be a cause of heart disease; not because it’s milk, but because the milk is oxidized through processing.You’ve heard anti-oxidents are good for you?Well, oxidization of food is very, very unhealthy and we need anti-oxidents to counteract them.Don’t consume anything with dried milk in it and you’d be surprised by what that includes.
Now the lingering question on my mind is: Isn’t this unhealthy?Isn’t my cholesterol going to go through the roof?
Again, research suggests that depends on the source of the foods and how they were raised, fed and treated.
A GMO tomato grown in chemical fertilizers in a green house isn’t as healthy, nor does it taste as good, as an heirloom tomato grown naturally in your own garden – not even close.Tomato’s from the store are just as nutritionally devoid as is beef, milk or eggs, from the store.
Both might be called tomato, but they’re not the same thing. As the guy who gets to pay the food bill around here, I hate to admit that out loud but it’s the truth.
The primary point here is this: much of what we’ve been lead to believe is unhealthy is in fact, healthy.And it’s even more healthy if you attain it from a better, more natural source.
Cholesterol – Tara just enlightened me on this “evil killer”. Cholesterol is a bandaid of sorts that operates in our blood stream to help heal problems within the body.
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. LDL is often referred to as “good cholestrol” and HDL as “bad cholesterol”. In reality, each is like a vehicle that is sent out from the liver, or back to the liver. LDL is sent out for healing purposes. And HDL is sent back when the problem is taken care of, or more cholesterol was sent than needed.
Cholesterol is a good thing used by the body to heal itself. Its presence is not the problem – it’s an indicator that there is a problem within the body that the body is attempting to heal.
Therefore cholesterol medication does succeed in lower cholesterol levels but that can be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The underlying condition causing the body to move cholesterol for healing purposes still exists – there just isn’t any cholesterol left to help resolve the condition.
Heart disease – I’ll need this one explained to me again. But here’s my best first crack. Heart disease was not a significant health condition until the early 1900s. In fact it was so insignificant that it wasn’t even studied, with research at that time focused on the real killers of the day such as tuberculosis.
The change in the 1900s began with the introduction of artificial – or man made fats such as are included in margarine. Wait a minute? Weren’t we told to eat margarine instead of butter because it’s healthier for us? Well, I guess that wasn’t exactly the truth. The truth is it’s cheaper to produce than the real thing and the way to sell it is to suggest that plant-derived fats are healthier for us than animal derived fats.
So our current diet looks like this for breakfast –
Two slices of bacon
A serving of grits with butter on them
A small glass of whole milk
A spoon full of peanut butter
Beef or chicken stew
Green beans cooked in bacon drippings
As a snack I might eat a handful of cashews or almonds.I love Cuties – those little tangerines.
And Tara occasionally makes a treat that includes milk, molasses and raw egg yokes in the blender. Very tasty, energizing and filling.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of food, but it’s plenty.
Now, weight loss is great but I also want to stress in the backstory I talked about a desire for better overall energy, physical recovery and mental clarity.
I spend most of my time working – either here at the computer working on my Internet business or outside doing relatively physical labor like chopping wood, digging and moving land.My strength and energy are good – eating the occasional processed food, like pizza, negatively impacts that.
Mentally I’m clear and focused.I’m not foggy headed at all.I’d have to attribute that foggy response mainly to processed goods, especially wheat.
The main thing here is that I want to communicate is that health is an important thing to us and so we’ve done a lot of research – well, Tara has done the most of it – before jumping into anything.It would be ideal to have a before and after blood test, although I think Tara and I are both pretty convinced at this point that blood cholesterol levels actually have little to do with diet.
We just watched a National Geographic documentary, for example, that correlates plaque build up in baboons to stress related to positions in the pecking order. Baboons at the top of the order have clean arteries, while baboons at the bottom show serious arterial build-up. A study of humans working for the government in the UK corroberate that finding.
And as I hope I’ve made the point, “milk” isn’t always milk.And we cannot claim with certainty that a food is bad without investigating how that food came to market.
Weight loss alone shouldn’t be the goal because that can, and often does, come at the expense of good overall health.The goal should be a healthy weight with optimal mental and physical function.
I have not experienced some of the additional health benefits Tara is claiming with this change in diet, some for obvious reasons.
She has had eczema on her hands for nearly a year and that has cleared up.Her skin feels noticeably softer and smoother.She also reports no PMS symptoms.She’s sold on the diet changes.
This is not a well-planned, carefully edited document.Like I said, I will confirm facts with Tara and I’m sure she’ll have an entirely new level of information to share.I’ve always wanted to do something like and it’s just naturally happened.
Personally I think the long-term diet, for me, is a combination of what we’re doing here *and* more raw foods.That’s why we moved to Tennessee, so that we could have plenty of land and a favorable climate for growing most of our food – especially fruits and vegetables.Who knows where this is going and we’re trying not to be attached –
All the best to you, John