|My neighbor took this photo of me this morning in our yard.|
From a family with endless variations of heart disease, raging diabetes, rampant obesity, stroke-inducing hypertension, crippling spine and bone disorders and myriad autoimmune disorders, its been a lifelong battle for me to be healthy, slim and fit. My genes are against me.
It hasn’t been easy. I started dieting at eleven, exercising at fifteen, feeling as if I were a hamster on a wheel, peddling faster and faster, never getting ahead of the curse I had inherited. For many, this is not an uncommon plight. Add raging hormones into the mix, and for many years, a long and healthy life seemed hopeless.
My wardrobe consisted of clothing in sizes 2-14, my refrigerator stocked with foods for the latest fad diet promising a solution that would make this preoccupation with food and exercise gone for once and for all. I have tried them all.
Somehow, I managed to stay relatively slim and moderately fit, but not necessarily healthy. In all these years, I consumed no fast food, no fries, no burgers, no fried foods, and very few sugary snacks or desserts. Constantly hungry, always craving sweets and struggling with portion control, I blamed it on a my own lack of willpower.
Over the past 40 years, I blindly followed the “government’s” recommendation to eat a low fat diet with “healthy” whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats in small portions. Nothing improved. I didn’t use butter, mayonnaise or salad dressing fearing too much fat. I ate six or more servings of vegetables per day and consumed plenty of fiber. Nothing improved.
My cholesterol and triglycerides were high, my HDL too low, my weight teetered back and forth, I experienced constant pain often feeling weak and unfit. Yet I continued to “work out,” never less than five days a week, often for an hour and a half at a time. I changed up the workout every month as “they” recommended.
I walked, I lifted weights with a torn shoulder and arthritic knee, I stretched and I tried yoga. A few years ago I invested in a BodyMedia device that I wore on a stretchy band on my bicep for two years, measuring all of my activities, aiming at a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Most days it registered 12,000 steps. But, nothing improved. NOTHING!!
So what? I was active, but my appetite increased the more I moved. Should I be eating even less and exercising more to get to a level of fitness that would bring me some relief? I was frustrated and stymied.
When I retired two years ago, I began spending most of my days when I wasn’t struggling at the health club, researching for a solution to the pain, the incessant hunger, the high blood sugar, and a failing exercise routine.
My legs felt like lead and walking in itself, became almost unbearable. How would I continue working out? Doing so gave me a few hours of pain relief when I was able to muster up a small surge of endorphins.
A year ago, I began to accept the reality that traditional medicine failed me and that I was doomed to a life in a wheelchair In desperation, I sought the help of renowned, local chiropractor, Dr. Jamey Antione at the Minnesota Disc Institute, whom I had heard was a miracle worker.
After reviewing my three MRI’s, indicating advanced joint disease, he suggested a treatment modality which included an inflammation-free diet. He was adamant that I quit consuming grains, all grains, handing me printed literature about the diet from the famed Cleveland Clinic.
I was eating healthfully, so I thought: lots of whole grains, no white flour, no sugar, organic vegetables, fruits and smoothies made with protein powder, bananas and frozen strawberries. I purchased most of our produce directly from an organic farm during the summers. It all seemed so right.
Eager to do anything to feel better, I began researching again, hundreds of studies, books, websites regarding anti-inflammation diets all of which led me to two life changing books: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and, months later to The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor.
Had I not meticulously followed the scientific research and resulting lifestyle changes presented so clearly in these two books, Tom and I would not be able to explore the world for the next many years. Already slim, I discovered I was “skinny fat”. Tom, sweetheart that he is, feeling burdened by some extra weight around the belly, followed along with me, subsequently saying goodbye to the debilitating symptoms of Celiac Disease and acid reflux.
Now, a year later, Tom has lost 30 pounds, I am no longer “skinny-fat,” instead feeling lean and fit for the first time. The pain is reduced dramatically, the cholesterol, triglycerides, are way down, the HDL way up (Tom has genetically great numbers. Lucky guy!), my muscles are more defined, my strength has increased 100%, I sleep better, I am never foraging for food an hour after I have eaten and no longer battling high blood sugar and hypertension.
Yes, it has been a huge commitment! Yes, saving one’s life is a huge commitment! While going low carb, we chose to go wheat-free, gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free and starch-free.
We don’t eat any processed foods or corn, rice, potatoes, pasta, cakes, pies, chips or any fruit but berries. We enjoy nuts, meats, healthy fats, organic, non refined coconut oil, non-starchy vegetables, coconut and almond flour treats.
We’ve learned “why not” of the foods we chose to eliminate by reading Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I could spend hours here explaining why not. I won’t get on the soapbox. I do that enough around my tolerant friends and family. If you’re interested, read the blog, then the book.
Then, the next miracle occurred in the search for great health. Months later, still frustrated with my seemingly useless exercise routine, I stumbled across The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor.
Everything changed. This book is not a book of an author’s opinion (nor is Wheat Belly). It is backed by 1100 research studies conducted by scientists at Harvard and other universities as to why our diet and exercise routine is not working and, the world is getting fatter and sicker than ever.
The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor provides the otherwise complicated studies (70 pages of references in the back of the book) to prove that “eating less and exercising more” is not working.
In bite sized, manageable pieces Jonathan gives us an exciting and easy read, driving the reader to immediately jump up and start the amazing workout routine that truly requires only 10 minutes, two times a week. Hard to believe! Backed by science! Endorsed by scientists at Harvard!
In the exercise world, it is referred to as HIIT, high intensity interval training. It’s a killer 10 minutes, I assure you, pumping your own natural under-used life enhancing hormones to run through your body producing a powerful euphoric and energizing sensation, lasting for days, working to grow and strengthen cells and muscles.
After only three short months of one 10 minute workout, twice a week, I am more fit, more muscular, in better overall condition than I have ever been in my entire life. My pants fit better, I breathe deeper, I sleep more soundly and I’m able to prepare for our upcoming adventure, able to haul my share of the heavy bags, an impossible feat only months ago.
The food portion of The Smarter Science of Slim by Jonathan Bailor has been easy for me. I had already cut out, what Jonathan refers to as “insane” foods. And, most importantly, I discovered that a vital element was missing from our diet, enough lean protein sources and non-starchy vegetables.
By adding a healthy portion of cottage cheese and green veggies to my protein rich breakfast, protein and veggies snacks and meals and enjoying a giant bowl of plain Fage Greek Yogurt with nuts and berries for dessert at night, I have increased my protein intake from a meager 50 grams a day to 160 grams a day.
I am a new person at 64 years old. If I wasn’t already slim, I would definitely be losing weight. Instead, I eat nuts by the handful to maintain my current weight. For the first time, my metabolism is increasing. I am now able to consume at least 25% more food, finally feeling full!
Many who read this will say they can’t give up sweets, bread, corn and potatoes. My life depended on it. It is not a struggle. I am no longer hungry. Nutrient rich food is satisfying the hunger I could never seem to fill.
When man roamed the earth foraging for food, he hunted meat, dug up roots, picked berries and nuts while exploring vegetation fit for consumption. Our bodies are destined for this way of eating. For example, it is no different from our dogs who, by nature are designed to eat meat. Give them cereals, grains and corn in their food and they too become sick, sluggish and overweight.
The topic of this blog will not change to the topic of fitness. It will continue to be abundant in the realities of mine and Tom’s everyday life as we leave behind everything and everyone we have known and loved for all of our lives, as we travel the world for years to come.
We are wiser. We are healthier. We are grateful. We are now able to travel the world hauling way too many bags!