Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 40: Are you in Denial About the TRUE State of your Health?

Today is Day 40 of my juice feast: it's official. I am now a middle-aged Juice Feaster. :)

Actually, my "true" middle is in five days...but we all associate 40 with midlife crisis and it's such a nice, mature, round number....

Forty is also about the age that people start noticing health issues. Granted, it's starting earlier and earlier these days, but even those who have been able to skate through life slender and healthy due to genes finally find that their lifestyles start catching up with them. The bulge in the tummy, middle-aged spread, cholesterol and blood pressure going up...diabetes diagnosis, heart attacks, allergies, cancer, etc,. etc.

What's amazing, is the collective denial that this somehow just "came out of the blue" and hit them out of nowhere as if it just suddenly happened.

My mother died at age 61. A week before she died, she was diagnosed with emphysema. She had been smoking since she was a teenager--over 40 years. Her father died from emphysema, her step-mother and husband both had lung cancer and emphysema which killed them, too. And yet, she never quit. I will never forget her words when she found out she had it:

"I don't understand. One week I was fine and then BAM. I was having trouble breathing."

I was thinking, "Mom?!? What do you expect? You think this wasn't growing inside of you all these years??

As a nation, the collective trance that once gripped people about smoking has been broken and it's no longer socially acceptable. Doctors used to be seen in ads promoting cigarettes. Nowadays, no reputable doctor would be caught dead in one of those ads.

And YET. The new collective denial is about FOOD.

"A little bit in moderation won't hurt."

"It's in my genes."

"I need my protein."

"Dairy is one of the four food groups" (while eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's)

We have a massive disconnect between what we put into our mouths and the state of our health or lack thereof. We compare ourselves to our other unhealthy neighbors and don't think we are doing so bad....

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has helped heart attack victims with diet and lifestyle changes reverse coronary blockages through using a plant-based low-fat vegan diet.

What's compelling about Dr. Esselstyn's work is his clinical evidence SHOWING the disease reversal though MRI's. One of his colleagues who was a 44 year old doctor had a heart attack and the blood vessel that was blocked was called the "widow maker" because it was in an inoperable area of the body. By using a plant-based diet, he was able to show an actual reversal of the blockage in this particular artery.

What's really compelling, however, it that this type of blockage takes YEARS TO DEVELOP.

That means, that as a 44 year old man, this blockage no doubt started in his 20's if not earlier. Notice what Dr. Esselstyn says to corroborate this in a recent interview: (you can read the whole interview here:

Let me ask you a question that we health enthusiasts get asked all the time when we insist on no meat, dairy or oils: How do so many people seem to thrive on conventional diets? You look at athletes, movie stars and so many others whom we know and love who are not obese, who have lovely skin, beautiful figures and handsome builds who live on the conventional diet. How do you account for that?

Our culture worships the young and beautiful. We look at the diets of our sports heroes and movie stars doing commercials for Burger King or Pepsi and we want to emulate them....and yet, Farrah Fawcett died in her early 60's from colon cancer, which is known to be implicated in meat eating, there have been recent reports of some rock stars having heart attacks, and even sports heroes have gone vegan like Mike Tyson.

But even exercise alone will not bring about health. It may bring about fitness, but notice was Dr. Esselstyn has to say about this:

You focus a great deal on the plant-based diet. But what about the other factors of health — exercise, rest, productive activity, emotional poise? Where do they fit into the scheme? Can you do just one without the other?

 I think we need to reframe how we view that "cute" little pudgy toddler or that teenager with acne that may be rail-thin now, but will balloon up to over 200 lbs (I've known a few that that's happened to) by the time they are 30. And giving cookies and candy to a crying child to soothe them. Why not a hug instead? Instead of ice cream trips to Baskin Robbins for entertainment, why not bike rides in the park or trips to the swimming pool?

Going to McDonald's as a teenager or ordering pizza and eating Snickers bars IS THE VERY  LIFESTYLE THAT SETS THE STAGE FOR HEART DISEASE, CANCER, AND DIABETES LATER IN LIFE!!!

Granted, high fructose corn syrup and sugaring drinks like sodas, Starbuck's and candies and chips all play their role. One can still be "vegan" or plant-based and be eating all those foods and not be healthy....

However, we need to come out of the collective denial between cause and effect and connect the dots...

And "just a little bit" DOES hurt. We've got to realize that if something needs to be "consumed in moderation" then it is HARMFUL TO US and shouldn't be consumed at all. By consuming it in moderation, we're just giving the body a chance to heal the damage caused by that substance. Notice what Dr. Esselstyn says about his stance on moderation:

In your talk at YSU, when someone asked whether you were saying that they had to avoid all meat, dairy and oils, I recall you responding with the question, “How close do you want to get to the cliff?” What did you mean by that?

 Well, in other words, let’s take the example of somebody who says they understand that certain foods are going to be harmful. And now the question that they ask is how much of the harmful food can I eat and not have my heart attack until I’m 70 or 80 rather than at 40 or 50, or maybe I will just get a mild amount of erectile dysfunction. Maybe I will just get a small heart attack. Maybe I will get a small stroke. Why would you ever want to knowingly ingest something that you know within minutes may ravage or injure the lining of your artery? It’s those accumulated gifts which eventually lead to things like dementia, stroke, heart attack, erectile dysfunction, and so forth

Why do you campaign so strongly against meat, dairy and oil?

Making fun of being overweight in teenagers is not the issue. Their self-esteem is not even the only issue. The REAL issue should be redefined as: forget their college education for a second, and forget wanting grandchildren:

What are you doing to set them up for a long life and healthy future NOW by emulating positive eating habits and teaching them the importance of exercise??? Because, if they don't have their health, you might be raising your grandchildren some day, or taking care of your sick child again, only this time it will be in the cancer ward or coronary unit.  Or worse, perhaps you may not even be around to take care of them....what legacy will you leave for your child so that they can actually enjoy the fruits of their college education and see their grandchildren grow up?

I've seen parents of today putting soda in their children's baby bottles. It's a regular occurence to take their children to McDonald's to get the "toy" in the Happy Meal or play in the McDonald's play land.

And we can't use "genetics" as an excuse and play fatalistic here. Genes only get an expression if they have the environment to do so:

What about heredity as a determining factor in disease? I am sure you know that many people are convinced that if their mother had a heart attack, or if they have a history of cancer in their family they are doomed to suffer the same fate? Is this true?


There might be a genetic predisposition if you continue to eat the same foods that your parents and grandparents did who have those diseases. But it’s clearly been shown time and again that when you make these types of significant changes, you can modify markedly genetic expression. And this is what is so powerful about the type of plant-based nutrition I advocate. Despite the fact that you may have had all the males in your family dead of heart disease by 55 or 60, once you start eating plant-based and you are not eating any of the building blocks of heart disease or are going to harm your delicate endothelial lining of the artery, you are beyond that. You are not going to have this problem. I mean, this is so vividly shown by the epidemiological geographic studies. For instance, heart disease is virtually nonexistent in the rural Chinese, the Papua Highlanders in New Guinea, Central Africa and the Tarahumara Indians in Northern Mexico. But as soon as they are exposed to Western civilization, they start getting our diseases. There was a magnificent study done by T. Colin Campbell from Cornell, who perhaps is one of America’s most prominent nutritionists. When he did the China Study, he was able to clearly show that in communities and villages in China, just as soon as they begin to Westernize, you begin to see the emergence of Western diseases which they previously did not have there

We can find more creative ideas. Notice what Anne Osborne does for her son Cappi every morning for breakfast:

You can see other fun plates she does for Cappi here:

The point is: we can make eating healthy and exercise fun and enjoyable. We don't have to let fast food companies and Pepsi commercials define what fun is for us. Make your own memories. Define the course of not only your own life, which by the way, you're staying alive well into your 9th and 10th decade of life healthy is a beautiful gift you can give to your children, but for your progency as well.

Okinawa Japan has shown us it can be done. Eating a mostly plant-based diet with some fish added, they have the longest life expenctancy in the world. The older generation has been known to have a 120-year old mother riding her bike while her 100 year old daugher tends her own garden. Sadly, McDonald's is there, too, and the younger generations are losing this legacy.

This trend can be reversed. Vote with your feet and your dollars and go on Amazon and buy some new vegan recipe books, shop at your local organic farmer's markets and relearn some old bad habits. It's not too late to reverse this trend and you are never too old.

This year give the gift of health to yourself and your family. Because YOU are irreplacable:

I think that exercise is a wonderful bonus and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. But there is no question that food trumps it all. For instance, there was a recent study looking at German marathon runners who were ages 55 to 58 who had run at least two or three marathons the previous year. These are all slender, well-conditioned, well-muscled senior athletes. And when these 100 marathon runners were carefully studied, 90 of them already had evidence of cardiovascular disease despite this brutal exercise schedule. In other words, they were muscularly fit but they obviously had already begun to develop significant cardiovascular disease that was identifiable by this type of testing. So the reason that our book and our program emphasizes nutrition is that even patients who cannot exercise can gain tremendous benefits. I recall several of my patients in our earlier study that previously had strokes in addition to their heart disease. They were unable to exercise, but over the next 20 years in no way were they precluded from enjoying the same wonder benefits of the nutrition changes that they made despite the fact that they were unable to exercise. I have also observed that people who get into a cardiac rehabilitation program involving compulsory exercise and compulsory meditation and then a significant food change, it’s apparent that there seems to be a very high rate of what we call recidivism. People just don’t stick with it. Each of us has within us just so many behavioral modification units, and I want to be sure that, in terms of the outcome, there is the opportunity for maximum health. I want them to emphasize the food aspect because it’s very clear and we can make that message an absolute wonder they can understand and not be obfuscated by saying, “Look, if I take another extra few laps around the track I have entitled myself to a hot fudge sundae.” That just doesn’t play out.

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