Sunday, July 29, 2012

Diet and Weight

Every morning, I get on the scale to see what might have changed with my weight.  For the past 3 months, its been holding steady at a constant 180 lbs.  For my height, it's an ideal weight with a BMI of 23.  I'm somewhat amazed and pleased at this because I'm not really restricting the quantity of what I eat and only doing some moderate exercise.

When I was working, my weight steadily climbed up to a max of 235 lbs.  Then on my doctor's orders, I changed my diet, got into some serious long distance biking and dropped my weight down to 195 lbs.  When I retired 4 yrs ago, my weight had slipped back up to 205 lbs and I was still biking but not the super long distances that I had been doing.

Then 2 yrs ago colitis hit me and my weight plummeted due to lots of problems with my bowels and bad reactions to drugs.  Some of the major drugs for colitis didn't work for me, so as part of getting the colitis under control I explored making some major changes to my diet.  My doctors told me that food doesn't cause or cure colitis, but I was convince that certain foods seemed to make things worse for me at times.  I kept food logs and paid a great deal of attention to how my body was reacting to food.  I also did a lot of reading, research and learning about food and how the body handles food.  I read a ton of material on diets, nutrition, foods, and how the gut works to see what might help the colitis.  I learned much more than I ever expected.  For books on diet and food books, I read the following - Breaking the Viscous Cycle, The Omnivores Dilemma, Eat to Live, The Paleo Diet, In Defense of Food, The Unhealthy Truth, Wheat Belly, and The End of Illness.  I also watched the video - Food Incorporated, which was very enlightening

Some of the key things I learned are ;
  • Much of the food we eat today has been changed thru hybridization, monoculture, and genetic modification.  In some cases, we're eating food with molecules that were never around when the Makers designed our bodies.  Coincident with the changes in the food have come alarming increases in food allergies and food related health issues because the body can't handle these new molecules
  • The fast food industry drives the beef and poultry markets.  Much of the beef and poultry and are fed antibiotics because they are raised in such filthy conditions. When we eat beef and poultry, we're also ingesting these antibiotics and what ever else these animals were fed.  Antibiotics kill off gut bacteria which are critical to proper health
  • When wheat is cross bred and hybridized it forms new genetic characteristics.  Today wheat is genetically different than wheat that was grown 60 years ago.  Much of the wheat we eat today has been bred to a size and shape to facilitate harvesting, and not for taste or health. 
  • Wheat is so cheap to produce, it is in everything.  Take a walk in a grocery store and most of the isles carry wheat based foods.
  • Our bodies convert the sugar molecules in wheat (amylose and amylopectin) to glucose faster than any other sugar.  Wheat has also been shown to be addictive (that's why you can't stop eating slices of pizza or bread).
  • Our guts are loaded with 100's of strains of bacteria.  These bacteria and vital to helping us digest food and to maintain and health immune system.
  • Science has yet to determine all of the micro nutrients in food.  Food science has focused on the major nutrients in food such as fats, proteins, and carbohydrates along with major vitamins.  But science has yet to determine the micro nutrients in food.
  • When you eat more of a plant based diet, your body should be getting all the necessary macro and micro nutrients it needs.  Also, when eating a plant based diet, you don't need to restrict quantity in order to limit weight gain.  You can eat as much as you'd like and your weight will eventually reach a level that is right for your level of activity and food intake.
Based on what I learned and what I experienced with my body, I made the following changes to my diet;
  • I switched to a more plant based diet and try to eat fruits and vegetables at every meal.  I also buy organic food whenever I can and avoid non-organic meats.  I costs more but worth not having a disease or food related health issue that impacts your life.
  • I don't eat fast food, snack foods, candy, sweets, or junk food.  I also don't drink any soda or fruit juices (which are mostly sugar in some form).  I use local honey as a sweetener.  I love sweets but they cause fermentation in my colon (gas, bloating).
  • I avoid foods with sulfites or high sulfur content.  Sulfites are used in most processed foods to inhibit bacterial growth.  Sulfites are banned in fresh food but allowed in processed food (go figure?)  Sulfites and high sulfur foods (commercial soup stocks, wine, beer, red meat, onions garlic) cause my colon to become inflamed and cause bleeding.
  • I follow a modified paleo diet.  This is the food that the hunter gatherers ate in the paleolithic period.  I include rice in my diet (which is not part of the paleo diet), because it is very gut friendly for me.
  • I avoid milk and any dairy that has lactose.  Lactose now causes me to have loose stools.  I can eat aged cheese and homemade yogurt that has the lactose "cooked" out.
  • I don't eat wheat based food and have gone gluten free.  I don't think the gluten bothers me, but rather the amylose sugar.  Wheat I eat wheat, my colon becomes inflamed and it causes constipation.
  • I avoid alcohol.  It causes inflammation and bleeding in my colon.
  • I don't eat foods with carrageenan.  Carrageenan is a food additive made from seaweed and used as a thickener in ice cream, puddings, frosting, and toothpaste.  Carrageenan causes inflammation is used to induce colitis in lab rates.  Its also a known carcinogen.
These changes helped settle down my colitis symptoms.  They didn't cure me or make my colitis go away, but rather they helped me avoid making a bad situation worse.  The changes also made me feel better.  If I happened to eat some fast food or junk food, I notice that I feel real lousy the next day.  The biggest change came from giving up wheat.  Prior to going gluten free, My weight was at 190 lbs.  Within a month of going gluten free my weight dropped to 180 lbs and that's where it has stayed.

So, in trying to deal with my colitis, I got my eyes opened about what's in our food.  Some of it is pretty scary and I'm convinced that many current health issues are related to our diet.  I ended up eating a much more healthy diet, but not one that I find limiting.  Sure, ice cream, cookies, or come cold beer would sure taste good but now I know what it will do to me and for me the reactions I get just aren't worth it.  It would take me several days to recover from eating a couple slices of pizza.

The diet changes also got me down to a perfect weight.  I no longer have the other issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides like a had when I weighed 235 lbs.  My doctor says I'm in great health other than the colitis, which is under control with some basic drugs and supplements.    I can attest that the old adage -we are what we eat, is so true.

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