Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What do I eat?? Anti-inflammatory, Vegan, Gluten-free, Sugar-free, Oil-free....and yet, YUMMY!

In the last four years as I've lost nearly a 100lbs I've learned so much about food & its effect on my body. Over time, my food plan has morphed into the anti-inflammatory, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free program that it is today. But to get to that specific a point, it has been quite a journey! I'm not telling you that everyone has to eat this way--in fact it is much more restricted that Dr. Esselstyn's actual plan (gluten, sugar & anti-inflammatory foods are ok). 
~I just want to share my own experience--take what you like and leave the rest.~

Before starting Dr. Esselstyn's program I had already made some major changes in my eating habits:
1) Three plus years ago, I gave up cheese because I couldn't eat 1 serving without eating the whole thing! I already did not eat milk because when I was in high school a doctor removed it from my diet to relieve chronic sinus infections (and without the milk, those sinus infections ended!)
2) About 7 months ago, I gave up refined sugar (in every form--esp. high fructose corn syrup), caffeine, other dairy fats (including sour cream, etc) and gluten (wheat products) on the advice of my sponsor--I didn't think I had any issues with these, but I discovered:
            1st:   that all of them are HIGH INFLAMMATORY foods
            2nd:  I was shocked to discover there is sugar in EVERYTHING (frozen chicken breasts, spaghetti sauce, salsa of some kinds, canned soups, etc)
            3rd :  After the initial highly painful withdrawl period (a one week headache that totally made me want to quit--thank God for program support!), I was amazed at how much energy I suddenly had.  I was so much sharper at work and I didn't get the afternoon "fuzzy brain" any more!
3) Over the last year, I had purposefully begun eating mostly "ANTI-INFLAMMATORY" foods and avoiding "INFLAMMATORY" foods.  I capitalize those words because I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference this made in my daily pain level!!  I herniated a cervical disc (a disc in my neck) a year ago in a car accident and it gave me a wicked case of TMJ and significant daily pain for 8-10 months).  I wasn't able to do my usual rehab exercises for my back (chronic degenerative joint disease, herniated discs, sacroilitis--and yes, I'm only 34!), so then my back kept "going out."  A mess. BUT NOT ANYMORE!  

I'm going to devote a whole blog post to what these ANTI-INFLAMMATORY foods are and why this helps--seriously go buy Jessica Black, N.D.'s book: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book!  I don't know her personally so I don't have any reason to promote it, but this awesome book--especially the chart on p. 42-43 of what foods to eat and what foods to avoid is SO worth the $12 purchase price on Amazon! The Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Jessica Black, N.D. (Amazon link)

Ok, so that is what I did BEFORE--now, I do all of that, and we follow Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Diet (with a side benefit of it preventing cancer &stroke as well as reversing diabetes, hypertension and obesity!).  

I'll talk more about the "why" for this diet in a later post but here is the "what."

We don't eat chicken, beef, pork, eggs, dairy, fish or added oils.  Here is the direct explanation of the diet from Esselstyn's himself:

"Here are the rules of my program in their simplest form:
• You may not eat anything with a mother or a face (no meat, poultry, or fish).
• You cannot eat dairy products.
• You must not consume oil of any kind—not a drop. (Yes, you devotees of the Mediterranean Diet, that includes olive oil, as I’ll explain in Chapter 10.)
• Generally, you cannot eat nuts or avocados.
You can eat a wonderful variety of delicious, nutrient-dense foods:
• All vegetables except avocado. Leafy green vegetables, root vegetables, veggies that are red, green, purple, orange, and yellowand everything in between
• All legumes—beans, peas, and lentils of all varieties.
• All whole grains and products, such as bread and pasta, that are made from them—as long as they do not contain added fats.
• All fruits

p.5, Chapter 1: Eating to Live, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease
So there you go...from the master himself.

So what the heck DO we eat? TONS of stuff--and guess what, much to my surprise I really don't miss the meat!  I'll share more of my menus in later posts. Also, The Healthy Librarian's Blog also has a nice sample menu for 10 days on Esselstyn's plan.

The part that is the worst for me is the olive oil!  I'm not going to lie--I'm not perfect and I'm still working on that part.  But overall I have cut that consumption down from about 3 tablespoons per day (somehow I was still losing weight!) to about 1 tsp every 4 or 5 days.  I know I'm going to keep craving fat until I eliminate it completely (like with my other "trigger foods" i.e. cheese, sugar, gluten, etc), so I'm praying for a little willingness on that.  

But like with everything in my life these days, I fall back on the classic "one day at a time!" and make an effort to be gentle with myself.

I've discovered through my 12 Step Program that my overeating illness is spiritual, physical and emotional disease.  My food addiction that ballooned me up to 268 lbs (likely higher b/c thats only my highest weighed point) was more than JUST the food--in later posts I'll talk some about meditation, stress management & good sleep hygiene as a necessary part of the healing process.

Next time:  The Plan for the Blog:  Using Food to Heal Can Change Your Life

Coming up:  

  • Recipes: Soups Galore: Butternut Squash, Split Pea & Lentil-Barley!
  • PAIN:  How to Treat Everything from Arthritis to Fibromyalgia With Food!
  • Recipes: Applesauce (sugar free!!)
  • Why Disability Can Be a Scarier Threat Than Death...

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  1. Thanks for the info, Cat! Ive been having a few issues lately that could be attributed to what Ive been eating. And since I quit smoking 2 months ago, no time better than the NOW to start refining my diet. Thanks again!!

  2. Thank you David!!! Isn't it amazing how powerful food can be on how we feel--I learned that one the hard way!!

    Major congrats on the quitting smoking--that is HUGE & VERY hard!! By making that choice you just erased on average 10-20 years of disability in the future!!!

    I'm glad the info helps--I'm going to be posting this week on how exactly I figured out which foods effected me or not--that will be in Pain: Part 2 :-) Hope you check it out too!:-) I definitely recommend that Anti-Inflammatory book I cite above--its a big help, far beyond that table:-)


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