You Are What You Eat

Secrets of ChampionsTM Healthy Living -“Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food.” ~ Hippocrates

Over the past three weeks I’ve been detoxing from sugar, dairy, soy, corn, gluten and caffeine.

The first 48 hours I walked around in a funk, this close to an ugly crying jag. I was listless and felt like something the cat dragged in but I was determined — determined — to not cockblock myself as I embarked on this road to recovery.

The back story:

For the past twenty years, I’ve been fighting my way back from abdominal surgery and several types of pharmacological intervention used to treat it.  They depleted me in ways I am only just beginning to understand. One of the medications I took caused me to gain twenty five pounds in one month. In addition, in my mid-twenties, I was given multiple rounds of antibiotics to treat some creeping crud-like lung infection I got in New York City the first winter I spent there, in a shabby apartment without heat. All of these ‘interventions’ killed off most of the good flora in my gut. As a result, I got depressed (which I was prone to anyway). And, as a result, I went on antidepressants (which helped until they didn’t help). And, as a result, I lost all libido and desire to move, exercise, walk, get dressed, or function. For several years in my early thirties, I rarely showered or even changed my clothes.

This all happened on the heels of the experience of the first man I ever loved dumping me, and in quick succession, landing a plum job working for NPR. Imagine hearing your old lover’s voice playing on the radio everywhere and you might have some idea of my state of utter fuckedupness. 

So, I started to eat to comfort myself.  A lot.

And before I knew it, I was sixty pounds overweight. I have remained in this state for nearly twenty years now, despite trying the Zone diet, the Paleo diet, the low-fat diet, Dr. Phil’s diet, Oprah’s trainer’s diet and the Atkin’s diet. The Atkin’s diet worked great until I started to eat any regular food or carbs. I lost thirty pounds on it, but once I stopped following it to the letter, I regained everything I lost and then some.

Doctors told me to exercise and ‘eat right,’ but I had no energy.  Zero.

The problem was, I felt crappy.

Not just a little crappy, either. Completely craptastic.

Still, no one seemed to know that the answer was in what I was eating.

Turns out, I am allergic to gluten, soy, and  corn. Refined sugar sends my blood sugar through the roof and then drops me in a heap on the floor. Everything in the typical American diet contains these ingredients. Everything. To top it off, I was also extremely deficient in magnesium, something that apparently affects as many as 80% of Americans, and makes you feel like you’ve been hit by a semi.


Heal Thyself

Each morning since embarking on this diet, I’ve completed the same ritual: water the tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, basil and squash plants,  fill up the water for the birdlets, take vitamins and make a breakfast consisting of a breakfast smoothie (rice protein, almond milk, half a cup of frozen organic fruit, 2 tbsp. ground flax seed, 1 tbsp of flax and boreal oil, and one tbsp of almond butter), along with a cup of hot water with lemon, and a cup of green tea.

Then, I sit down to eat and watch the grackles, wrens and doves that frequent my backyard to drink and bathe in the bowl of water I leave out for them each day.

Once I finish breakfast, I do my morning prayers, check email, dawdle for a bit on Facebook, write, read the news, and work on grading and checking the progress of the students in my summer course. Soon I will be teaching again full time (fall), and these solitary open hours will be filled with more teaching and grading, but right now I am enjoying the process of grounding myself in a body that has needed my care for longer than I care to admit.

After two days of feeling pretty horrific despite the pure organic diet, filtered water, and herbal tea, on day three, I woke up and the sunlight seemed brighter. Everything was aglow. I was coming alive again after a long, long, long respite.


Waking Up Alive

Fast forward three weeks.  I’ve lost ten pounds, as well as 4 inches off my waist and three off my hips. In addition, I ride my exercise bike (formerly a clothes rack) for 3 miles a day now. (Starting out, I could only ride for five minutes.)

I eat every two to three hours.  At mid-morning I have another smoothie (if hungry) or a cup of organic vegetable broth or a handful of nuts. I do the same in the afternoon around 3 p.m. I eat approximately two cups of chopped greens and other veggies (mushrooms, carrots, ginger, bok choy, rainbow chard, kale) along with 4 to 6 ounces of organic chicken or wild caught fish and half a cup of brown rice for both lunch and dinner.  No bread. No sugar. I have a piece of fruit for dessert if I want, but no packaged food, no sauces, no junk, no processed food whatsoever. Simple. I’ve also been taking magnesium (life-saver), a multi-vitamin, fish oil, probiotics, and 2000 mg of vitamin C each day. I wake up each day without coffee. (I had a cup yesterday and I enjoyed it, but I plan to have no more than one or two cups per week moving forward.) I’m avoiding soy, corn, and all gluten. Permanently. I am going to eat a very small amount of dairy in the form of Greek yogurt (plain with fresh fruit) and a little half and half for that coffee. It is not cheap to eat this way, but I realize that I am making an investment in myself and my life by eating well.

At 53, I have to do it now or I never will.


I saw the future and it wasn’t pretty.

What prompted this awakening was a trip to the doctor with a friend. She was having an x-ray and a mammogram while I waited in the waiting room, then we were going out to lunch.

The waiting room was an ocean of miserable, fat, sick, huge people with canes and walkers and oxygen tanks. Some of them weren’t much older than I am. I don’t know what it was about that particular moment, but suddenly, I saw my future. I remembered the final 15 years of my father’s life where he was repeatedly hospitalized for a laundry list of problems — everything from cancer to diabetes to heart disease to vascular problems — most of which could be attributed to his weight and to what he chose to eat. I don’t want to follow in his footsteps — as much as I love him. I don’t want to spend all my time going to the doctor and taking prescription medications and complaining about my ailments.

These days, I love opening my refrigerator and seeing all those leafy greens, all that beautiful fruit, all the color there. I love feeling my legs getting stronger and stronger as I push myself to ride my bike harder and to do more. I love seeing my waist getting smaller. I love feeling alive and present in my body again.

I’ve been away from her too long.


Author’s Note: I used The UltraSimple Diet Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman for my detox diet.  My experience with the diet has been overwhelmingly good, but it is my experience.  It may be different for you. Please consult a medical professional and be sure that what you are doing is right for you.

© 2013  Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved

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