Thursday, January 31, 2013

Food, We Just Couldn't Stop Thinking About It

For those who have never seen The Ultimate Dog Tease, do yourself a favor and take the next two minutes to watch this adorable video:

Though we were not obsessed with cat food, we were obsessed with food. Is obsession with food really a bad thing? Or does it depend on the type of food? Live to eat or eat to live...could it be both?

To give you some background on us, Michael and I met in January 2005. A few weeks into our dating relationship, I invited him to eat dinner with my extended family at a local Texas steakhouse restaurant to celebrate the birthdays of two family members. Picture about 20 people sitting around multiple tables pushed together, reading the menu, and hearing my new boyfriend order the "small" sirloin - a two pound slab of steak...with a side salad, baked potato, and roll. Not to mention the slice of birthday cake that was to be soon consumed as dessert. My dad's cousin - the family jokester and one paying for everyone's dinner - naively teased Michael that he "better eat every bite since I'm buying" if Michael wasn't capable of consuming such large quantities of food.

But I knew better.

You see, on our first date, we had a lovely evening playing pool and getting to know one another. Around 3:00am (we were night owls back then), we got hungry and decided to stop by McDonalds for a snack. A little too feminist-minded back then, I started to get a little offended in thinking that Michael was ordering for me when he walked up to the counter and ordered: two double cheese burgers, a McChicken sandwich, a large french fry, and an apple pie. But then he turned around and asked me, "Did you want anything?"

So back to the steakhouse dinner with my family, I knew without a doubt in my mind that he would eat every bite...and likely be hungry later that evening (all of which effectively earned him the nickname "Steak-eater" from my dad's cousin). So I knew the life of "vat-cooking" as I like to call it that I was getting myself into. Tripling and quadrupling recipes became a normal thing for me.

We got married in May 2007, and I continued to learn how to cook massive amounts of food to satisfy my fast-metabolism hubby. Over time, we strove to eat healthier. We were always concerned about health, because each of our family histories was sprinkled with various forms of health conditions. But we didn't really know what healthy-eating meant.

Until the fall of 2012.

After spending nearly two years trying to conceive a child, and having no such result, our hearts were in just the right place to receive a message that would forever change our lives. A couple at church told us about a documentary called Forks Over Knives that talks about a plant-based diet. We decided to check it out from the library and had an open mind while watching it.

As researchers by day, we greatly appreciated the mountains of scientific research and decades of clinical studies that went along with their opinions on what an optimal-health-diet looks like. As I mentioned, we were always concerned with eating and being healthy, but before watching this documentary, we were operating under misrepresented information. We thought to be healthy, one must follow the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. Proper portions of dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains were necessary for optimal health. You drink milk because you need calcium. You eat meat because you need protein. Right? Right?!

Wrong. The USDA is an organization that advocates for farmers. Great, no problem with the need for that organization. But should the organization advocating for farmers also be the organization responsible for telling the American people what to eat to be healthy? The USDA has been largely funded by corporate food and beverage companies that are heavily invested in dairy and meat products. So if USDA scientific researchers were to find that eating a diet largely containing dairy and meat was not healthy, wouldn't it be a conflict of interest for the USDA on what to tell the American people to eat and not eat?

And we have nothing against medical professionals in general. But is the best strategy of helping people one that consists of merely treating symptoms rather than the root cause of a health issue? We are advocates for informed consent, meaning that we believe it is the medical professional's responsibility to tell the patient what it takes to be healthy. For example, let's say I was overweight, had high cholesterol, and went to my doctor. Now, there are two approaches to solving this health condition: lower my cholesterol via diet or take a statin-drug. At this point - even if the patient has no interest in changing their diet - it is the doctor's responsibility to tell the patient all of the possible ways to lower cholesterol. Not just giving them the pill. It wouldn't take that much time to say, "Look, you have high cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. There's a special diet that has been scientifically proven to lower a person's cholesterol within just a couple months, and prevent/reverse many other health conditions including cancer. You can find out more about it in the documentary Forks Over Knives and I'd be happy to tell you more about it if you want. Or you can take this statin drug that will artificially lower your cholesterol, but comes with the following side effects [list them]. Which option would you like to pursue?" It may very well be the case that 9 out of 10 people will say, "Just give me the drug." But at least the patient was fully informed.

The Forks Over Knives movie also shows scientific and clinical studies that explain how our bodies do not need as much calcium and protein as most people think. Eating a whole foods, plant-based diet allows a human being to obtain all the nourishment it needs, without the need for supplementation and without causing chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, there has been scientific evidence to show that eating a diet composed of dairy and meat helps to "turn on" the cancer-promoting cells in your body, whereas a whole foods, plant-based diet "turns off" those cells.

What about family history and genetics? This documentary supports the idea that genetics seem to play a much smaller role than what many people may think. Sure, there are genetic conditions that no amount of healthy eating can prevent or reverse. But there are many health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, that can be prevented, stopped, or reversed by eating an optimal diet. In other words, you may possess the genetic predisposition to develop type I diabetes, but if you eat an optimal diet (like the one recommended in the movie), your symptoms or the onset of diabetes itself may be greatly reduced or prevented. Stated another way, what you put into your body several times a day has been shown to have a much greater and more powerful impact on your overall health than what your genetic code and family history say.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we take seriously the verse in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."

So after watching the Forks Over Knives documentary, we turned to one another and said, "Let's try this." We decided to begin on October 28, 2012 and try this diet for one month and then decide from there how we felt about continuing. Well, after about two weeks of beginning this diet, we both felt so much healthier, more energetic, and free of some previous symptoms that we both decided we'd like to continue eating this whole foods, plant-based diet for the rest of our lives.

Yes, my meat-loving husband actually wanted to change to this diet. My sweet-tooth self wants to continue eating this way. Had you asked us a year ago if I thought we would no longer eat dairy or meat, I would not have believed you. But once we received the knowledge that Forks Over Knives presents, we just couldn't ignore it. We couldn't pass it off as a fad-diet. We are called to care for the bodies God has given us, and we feel like this diet is the best way to honor them.

As with most couples going through infertility, we had lots of blood work taken throughout the two years of trying to conceive, so our last CBC was taken in September 2012 - just before starting this change in diet. After about 2.5 months of being on the diet, we had our blood tested again to see if the diet made any difference. We also took note of other health improvements since beginning the diet. Here are the results:

  • Lost 10-15 pounds 
  • Looks extremely lean, muscular, and fit 
  • Experiences quicker and greater muscle growth with less effort than before 
  • Has a faster recovery in between workouts 
  • Feels more energetic and mentally focused 
  • No headaches (previously got several a week) 
  • No longer taking any vitamins or supplements 
  • Formerly had high blood pressure in the 150s/160s over 100s. Now has normal readings: 119 over 58 
  • Cholesterol went from 208 to 156! 

  • Lost between 20-30 pounds 
  • Lost several inches around my waist, hips, thighs, and arms 
  • Looks toned and fit...Michael says I "look like a physical trainer"...*smile* 
  • Feels more energetic and mentally focused throughout the day 
  • No headaches anymore (I was getting several a week before) 
  • No irritable bowel-like symptoms at all (sorry if that's TMI, but previously I would experience IBS-like symptoms a few times a month) 
  • Hormones in the process of balancing out naturally 
  • Increased cervical mucus (vital for conception, and was something I was always trying to improve with herbs/supplements, but nothing worked!) 
  • No longer taking any vitamins, supplements, or hormone-related medication. My well-rounded diet allows me to get all the nutrients my body needs, naturally. 
  • My cholesterol went from 138 to 113

We of course recognize that not everyone will choose to adopt this diet. We respect your choice. We hope you can respect ours as well. This blog is going to be our personal journey and a source of information for those who have an interest in eating a healthier diet. Beyond that, we want this to be a Christ-centered pursuit of optimal health.

If at any time you desire to receive more information than what is presented in this blog, we would love to talk more with you. No, this is not our full-time job. We simply have developed a passion for helping others strive for optimal health, because we have witnessed first-hand how it has benefited our own lives. Thank you for reading!