Saturday, January 16, 2010

Make the Connection

We were in a restaurant the other day, and I overheard a conversation at the table next to me. One lady was asking the other how a mutual friend was doing, and the response was that he had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. She then said that he had been fighting it for a long time, but had finally lost the battle.

This response was a perfect example of how disconnected we have become to our own health and well-being.

It is now pretty common knowledge that there is a direct connection between our Western diet of excess and most of today’s chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, just to name a few. There have been many studies over the years to back these ideas up, and yet we continue to overeat the wrong types of foods, somehow thinking it won’t affect us.

If that man the ladies in the restaurant were talking about had truly made the connection and fought the onset of diabetes, he almost definitely would not have “caught it”.

Our “normal” way of eating in this country is not normal at all. We were never intended to eat man made edible oil products, chemical preservatives, food coloring, gluten-laden, sugar-laden and fat-laden foods, and food with a shelf life until next Christmas.

If you are struggling to maintain your weight, or have been slowly increasing your weight over the past few years, you need to make the connection (and no, it is most likely not your genes, or your thyroid). If you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disorders, GI disorders, you need to make the connection (and no, you are not predestined to these conditions, you were most likely preconditioned through familial food choices). If you think you are eating healthy, but still feel fatigued all the time or get cold and flu’s easily, you need to make the connection (and no, healthy eating doesn’t mean you buy things at the health food store, or with the health check mark on them – many of these things are still filled with junk).

Here is the connection: There is a direct correlation between what you eat and how your body functions, in both the short term and long term.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 5 minutes, or 50 years, the fact is it will happen. Our bodies are so resilient to attack and can adapt to an incredible degree, which has helped us flourish on this planet for so long. But this amazing ability has also allowed us to treat our bodies horribly for decades, and although it might not look like our ridiculous food choices have an effect, there effect is profound and deadly.

Our bodies give us little clues along the way that we usually ignore. Hives, rashes, bumps on the arms and legs, acne, eczema, fatigue, poor sleep, excess weight, allergies, gas, bloating, arthritic pain, heart burn, depression, and the list goes on. These are all things that can occur or be exacerbated by the food choices we make. They are warning signs that we are not treating our bodies the way the need to be treated.

After years of dietary neglect, our bodies just can’t cope anymore, and begin to severely falter. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and no doubt many other degenerative processes like some forms of arthritis and bowel disorders are preventable.

We have all heard the warnings for white foods – white sugar, white flour, white rice and potatoes, and of course the zero trans fat crusades which are now underway. This is a step, and it is great, but it will not solve the weight issues nor chronic diseases we face. You can’t start making cookies with whole-wheat flour and brown sugar and think you are OK. These might have a few more nutrients than their white counterparts, but they are still junk foods that will bog down your system, set you up for inflammation within the body, and set the stage for degenerative processes.

If you are serious about taking back your health, and correcting the issues you currently have, while also helping to prevent the chronic conditions that plague our society, you need to make the connection.

You cannot continue the lifestyle you currently live, and expect this to happen. You can’t drink a green smoothie in the morning, then eat French fries for lunch, and wonder why you have a heart attack 15 years from now. If you never want a heart attack, you should never eat fries. Yes, I said never. Do you seriously think there is anything healthy left in something that you dip into boiling oil?

And why waste your money on a multivitamin if your system is so inflamed that you can’t absorb them anyway?

Another personal favorite of mine is the after-binge cleanse. You go on holiday and binge on all your favorite fat and sugar laden treats, and then go home to a three-day cleanse. I have done this myself, and it is ludicrous. That crap you ate will affect you on a cellular level for the next 6 months, no matter what you cleansed after. It doesn’t erase the fact that you filled your body with inferior fuel. A cleanse might be a good idea if you are about to embark on a new clean eating life plan, and want to jump start the process, but using it as a vacuum to allow you to eat garbage and then somehow nullify your indulgences is a joke.

Have you ever watched shows like “The Last 10 Pounds”? They go into your house, and throw out all the garbage in your cupboards. This is the only way to do it. Get rid of all the crap and don’t replace it. Ever. We have gotten to the point where we need to think of ourselves as addicts.

We need to make lifestyle changes, and stick with them. You need to eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. Enjoy lots of vegetables and moderate amounts of lean meat, legumes, plain nuts, seeds gluten-free grains and fruit every day.

You need to decrease your reliance on grain products. Whole grain cereal for breakfast, a low fat bran muffin at snack time, a veggie sandwich on multigrain for lunch, and whole-wheat pasta with tomato and meat sauce for dinner is probably a healthy sounding “diet” for some, but it is not. This much grain bogs down your system, and robs your body of important nutrients (due to the slowed digestions, and the fact that you don’t have room for nutrient rich foods when you eat this much gluten-laden food).

You need to exercise every day. I don’t care what you do, or how long you do it for, just consciously do something every single day. 10 squats at lunchtime, a 20 minute walk tomorrow, a flight of stairs the next day, a half marathon on Thursday. Don’t get hung up on the details, or you will never start. Everyone has time to do something, no matter how crazy your schedule might be, you just have to make it important enough.

Our lives have become so fast paced and out of our control, that we have almost become bystanders to our own existences. We just let things happen and then usually blame someone or something else when the walls start to fall in.

Take back your power. You can make your life anything you want to. Put your energy and intention into the things you want, and become a bystander to all the other garbage we are surrounded by.

Fill your body with clean fuel and it will run beautifully. Don’t accept anything less. When those leftover butter tarts are staring at you, admit to yourself that you are addicted, and walk away. Remove yourself from the situation. Grab some celery sticks, and think about your arteries with clean blood flowing smoothly through them. It is your choice whether to make that the reality, or to make your blood vessels inflamed, plague laden and sluggish.

Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity are your choice, but so is health. The question is how bad do you want it?

Make 2010 the year to create a your new lifestyle, one of prevention rather than provocation. It will be the toughest, most rewarding thing you could do for yourself, and it could just save your life.