Two years ago I wrote about my experiment with trying The Master Cleanse, which is a radical way to lose weight and/or cleanse your digestive system. As I said back then, I did it on a whim (and don't recommend it to others) but learned a few useful things. Such as: * Most of my unhealthy eating habits were based on mental cravings. * My body knows what it needs, and if I supply it then the cravings go away. * Eating healthy foods requires more thought because there are less "fast food" options for healthy food, and 99% of the advertising and marketing is for crappy food.
The problem for me was that, while I learned those lessons on the Master Cleanse diet, I didn’t learn how to incorporate healthy eating into my life. So I quickly returned to my bad habits. And my weight kept creeping upwards.
I happened upon Kathy Freston’s interview on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago, and heard her talk about her book The Lean. The idea is that to make a real shift towards healthy eating you have to “lean” into it. The name of the book is based on that principle. I got the book and started applying the principles, and found it incredibly easy to do (unlike The Master Cleanse).
Every day you do something new and healthy, only after reading Freston’s explanation of why the new thing is healthy and helpful. Freston is an excellent writer; the book is devoid of the usual stern finger-wagging. She imparts good information that’s easy to incorporate and she’s often funny in describing the process.
For example, Day 1 is about drinking 8 glasses of water. Day 2 inspires you to eat a hearty breakfast (something like steel cut oats with walnuts). Day 3 is about learning to eat one apple every day. Then Day 4 you learn to snack on nuts instead of junk food. Those four things were enough for me to make the shift.
After a week of basically doing those four things I lost my cravings for junk food and sodas. I don’t even crave meat, which is weird because I loved meat and couldn’t imagine ever giving it up completely. My weight is dropping, but not quickly. Which is fine since I can see that I’m learning how to keep it off, so once it’s down to the right level it’s likely to stay there.
In addition to reading The Lean, I also read The China Study. This book was brought to my attention by a Wall St. executive whose youngest daughter read it. She became a vegan after learning about the importance of nutrition in avoiding major health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The Wall St. dad is not the sort of fellow to lightly take up the vegan lifestyle, but the book convinced him to go vegan. So, I was curious enough to read it (it was referenced once or twice in Kathy Freston’s book). The book is easy to read, but will shock you. Fortunately, I had already made significant changes to my food intake. If I hadn’t read The China Study I’d probably be tempted to go back to eating meat once in awhile.
Some people will dismiss these books and the information that they put forth. I probably would have too, except that having done The Master Cleanse I was made aware of what it feels like to be free of mental food cravings. Our minds are the ultimate gate-keeper when it comes to new information. Right now, my body is telling me what it likes. Weirdly, meat and cheese aren’t on the list.
I have no doubt that nutrition plays a pivotal role in personal health, more so than genetics and environmental factors. Food is our staple fuel, and if you put bad fuel into your engine for twenty or forty years, it’s going to have a corrosive effect. The number of overweight Americans is staggering (66%), and steadily rising. Obesity is at 33% of the population, and that’s rising too.
I was bordering on being overweight. And this despite doing yoga regularly. Why? Because I was steadily consuming a lot of bad fuel. That’s changed without a lot of effort and in a very short time.
Now, I feel as good as I’ve ever felt in my life. And the only thing I’ve had to do is pay attention to what I eat and make strategic shifts towards different foods. The shift isn’t hard because there are lots of good foods that are healthy and taste good. Will I never again eat a piece of meat or partake of dairy products? No, but it won’t be a common occurrence. I don’t crave things any more, so it’s been amazingly easy to drop the unhealthy stuff.
What I crave is being healthy and feeling good. And now I’ve found a way to satisfy that craving.