I have struggled with my weight since I was twelve years old. And struggle is the operative word. I’ve struggled to eat the right foods because I am passionate about food and I have struggled to eat less food because food is my comfort and my security blanket. In the last thirty-eight years I have tried a myriad of diets, books and programs and none have had a lasting effect. About twenty years ago I read a book called When Food Is Love by Geneen Roth and it helped me to stop dieting. I began to focus on eating healthier food. I was assisted by my body which is very sensitive to substances and forced me to give up certain things. In 1984 I stopped drinking all soda, both diet and sweetened. In 1989 I had to stop drinking coffee, a quarter of a cup would have my head buzzing. (I did replace my coffee with black tea which is part of my current story.) A few years later I stopped drinking alcohol because half a glass of wine would put me to sleep. I joke that I’m such a light-weight I get buzzed at communion. None of these I would have given up willingly if the effects on my body weren’t so unpleasant.
The last twenty years have been a slow plodding progression towards healthier eating, letting go of foods that contain preservatives and additives, high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. For a long time I have shopped almost exclusively at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and farmers markets. But the weight remained the same, a good 40 to 50 pounds over the recommended weight.
This past January I called my doctor’s office. I was feeling discouraged and depressed. My 50th birthday was six months away and I felt old, gray, tired and irrelevant. I thought maybe the fatigue was from a new medication the doctor had put me on. When I called the office the receptionist put me on the phone with the physicians assistant. He listened patiently and then asked me what I was eating. I told him my diet was pretty good but I struggle with sugar, dairy and bread. He recommended a book, Clean by Alejandro Junger, MD. I looked it up on Amazon and downloaded it to my Kindle right away. The book contains a three-week detox cleanse that I highly recommend to anyone. It is also a fascinating explanation of how our intestines work to fight off illness and disease and the role our food plays in that.
In order to do the cleanse one must do a short “elimination diet.” Dr. Junger removes all foods that are known toxins and allergens; caffeine, alcohol, dairy, eggs, peanuts, nightshade vegetables, all sweeteners except stevia and dates, wheat and gluten grains and soy, beef, pork, shellfish, strawberries, banana, grapes and of course, anything artificial. Daunting, no doubt. For the last twenty years my day has started with a 12oz mug of black tea (2 teabags), soy milk and a heaping tablespoon of sugar. But I was desperate to feel better and it was only 3 weeks.
My experience with the cleanse was nothing short of miraculous. I immediately started to feel better, I had more energy, more patience, my mood was better. My energy stayed even throughout the day. I lost thirteen pounds in the three weeks on the cleanse. My joints were less inflamed and I was less achy. Once the cleanse was over I reintroduced the eliminated foods one at a time to see if I had any allergies of reactions. I was shocked to discover that both eggs and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers & eggplant) give me really bad stomach pains and headaches. Wheat makes me sleepy and foggy. Dairy creates a great deal of mucous for me. I have essentially stuck with the elimination diet since I finished the cleanse in March. I don’t have cravings for wheat, sugar or dairy, the three things I thought I would miss the most, though I occasionally eat them. I had a few bites of cake on my birthday or I sprinkle a little goat cheese on a salad. But I always go back to the elimination diet.
I was at the doctor’s on Friday and I have lost a total of 33 pounds. I feel really good and I really like the way I’m eating. I am finally, for the first time in my life, supporting my body in the way it needs to be supported. I recently saw a friend who commented on my weight loss. She said, “Is it that crazy way you eat, all organic and stuff?” Yes, it is and I’m hoping there comes a day when eating organic is the norm at not crazy at all. What I love about it the most (though weight loss and energy are really great) is that this feels like a life style change. I’m not looking to the end when I can “go off the diet.” I’m really enjoying eating this way and nothing is better than that.