My week started off at Yoga early one morning. My weekend was busy with plans for my husbandʼs 40th birthday. The time change made it extremely difficult to get up to exercise, and the night before I did not sleep well. One of my habits I have not kicked is waking up and doing the classic 2 a.m. in the morning staring into the refrigerator like it’s filled with all the answers to my thoughts routine. I am behind in my studies, and I have been spending more time trying to learn some new technology and not concentrating on what really matters: the great material from my Integrative Nutrition class. You know the old Ross Dam book, Be Here Now? I was way ahead of myself. My husband loves meditation and yoga. His degree was in psychology, and he loves different philosophers. I actually created a Yoga/Beach/Hippie theme for his birthday weekend. He is much better at being in the moment than I am.
As I peered into the refrigerator, four different kinds of plant-based protein bars waited patiently for me to sample them. I ate two of these precious bars at 2 a.m. and the other two at 6 a.m. when I left for my morning yoga class. I stretched out my yoga mat in preparation for the class. My yoga teacher has become a friend of my husband and me. He actually is a musician/singer and he played music at my husband’s party this past weekend. He had a very popular song in the 90ʼs. He contributed some funds after our party to a great local organization that supplies first responders with tools to save people who may have overdosed from drugs. The reason I am talking about this will all make sense later on in this post, so keep reading.
My yoga teacher always emphasizes proper posture. I had a baby 15 months ago, and if you remember, I am in my 40s. My favorite exercise has always been running. I realized after having Baby Ainge that I really needed to get back in touch with my body. I found sitting at a desk for 17 years in a corporate job was not the best for my shoulders and hips. I am sure many hours of running was not helping my posture, either. My yoga teacher asked a very simple question: “How does your core feel today?” My wonderfully thought-out response was, “I donʼt feel anything but the four protein bars I ate in the last eight hours.” Did those words just fall out of my mouth? Where was my refrigerator when I needed her? My yoga teacher then replied, “Not all plant-based protein bars are created equal.” Wait, what? I thought we were just talking about my digestion. Have you ever heard the saying, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear?” Siddhartha, or the Buddha, was allegedly the one who said this great phrase. It’s a perfect saying for when we are talking about individual change.
After I finished my yoga class, I went back home and dove deep into my nutrition topics for the week. This week’s theme was about a study done by Neal Barnard, M.D. If you have a chance, please read some of his studies, especially the ones in which he discusses genes. The brief comment that my yoga teacher had made made sense when I started reading more about the extreme effects that different ingredients found in our food can have on our bodies.
In one study, Dr. Barnard discusses taking 64 women and putting them all on a low-fat, vegan diet. All these women are post menopausal and experience an overall feeling of being stuck. They are told to follow this certain diet, with no exercise, eating as much as they want within these guidelines, and do this for 14 weeks. When the 14 weeks were over, the average weight loss was 13 pounds from these 64 women, and they continued to keep it off or lose more each year following. The weight did not come back, which is atypical after following a very restrictive diet. One of the women was able to loose 40 pounds and stop all of her diabetes medication. She even had less discomfort from arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is linked to foreign protein in the body.
How does Dr. Barnardʼs low-fat, vegan diet work? One word: fiber. Plant roughage makes you feel like you have eaten a huge amount. It switches off our appetite and makes us feel full. On this diet plan, you are eating no animal fat and less vegetable oil. In his studies, he found that people’s metabolism was ramped up by an average of 16%. Typically when a person has a slower metabolism, it’s because fat builds up in the cells. Diabetes II happens when insulin canʼt get into these cells because fat is blocking the way.
Now, let’s talk about car insurance—or rather, about a study Dr. Barnard did with 2,500 Geico employees. He put them all on this same diet. His low-fat, vegan diet had similar results to the one with 64 women, although it was a learning process. He joked that the first week of this program, the cafeteria advertised a quarter pounder vegan burger with bacon for $5.99. Through some awareness, education, and inspiration, the Geico employees started getting the same amazing results as the women from the study before.
This brings me to the main question on everyone’s minds. If there is a healthier way to live, why don’t we all just throw out all the bad foods? It seems simple enough! Well, Dr. Barnard talks about another study that has to do with that. At the University of Michigan, doctors administered naloxone, an opiate blocker, to patients. Afterwards, foods with chocolate in them seemed less appealing, if at all. Not to mention, there are chemical compounds found in cheese that are very similar to morphine. What’s essentially going on in our bodies is that when we eat sugar or cheese or meat, there is an opiate release (like a runner’s high) in the brain, which then releases dopamine. The dopamine tells us, do whatever you just did again; I like it! People are addicted to food. It can be just as difficult to give up as a drug.
This is where I come full circle back to my yoga teacher and friend who supports a local program for drug addiction. The first responders in our area are given a supply of this miracle drug to help people who overdose. It actually happens to be the same drug that was administered to patients in the University of Michigan study on chocolate and cheese. Although the results are not as immediately devastating, not only are we dealing with drug addiction, food addiction is real as well. So I wanted to tie this in to help us understand why, if there are real solutions to food-related disease and illness, it is still so difficult for many of us to break free of the tight grip that life-threatening food has on our lives.
What I want to say is: I am on this Journey with all of you, too, and I am ready for my Teachers! Who are they? Could they be you?
If you would like an easy way to get started on a diet like this one to help you combat the spread of diseases such as diabetes and fight addiction, check out this free 21-day meal plan from Dr. Barnard himself! http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome/mealplan/week-1
(Cheese and chocolate study article: http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/barnard_food_seduction.htm)