How I Lost Weight and Reclaimed My Health

I’ve been asked by many people how I lost weight and stopped getting sick and suffering from allergies all the time. The short answer is that I took a college research class and decided to make the focus of my research proper nutrition in order to avoid the major deadly diseases, such as Diabetes and Cancer. The following is an outline I made during my research, and contains the information I use to inform my approach to nutrition.

This is not a diet in the sense of diet being a short-term restrictive plan. This is an entire approach to food as the source of life and nutrition, a way of thinking and living. It took a little while to get the ball rolling, but I’m loving eating this way. It doesn’t take nearly as long to re-train your palate as I had thought. I spent 35 years eating desserts, but now they taste like chemicals to me. I’m thrilled with that. Eating real food is extremely rewarding, and eating garbage no longer is.

The main source of my information is at www.mercola.com, Dr. Joseph Mercola’s research information page. These are notes from his Beginner Stage Nutrition Plan and various other articles of his, including some information I gained from outside sources. There is so much more great info out there, but this is a great start.

At this site, you can see Dr. Mercola’s food guide pyramid, radically different from the mainstream, disease-causing ones we’ve been seeing for decades. I printed this picture from that page and put it on my fridge to help me plan my eating habits.

Note: I did not change the information to my own words, and this is not a document I turned in to my teacher, so I wasn’t trying to prevent plagiarism. Most of it is directly copied and pasted for my own personal use. So many people have asked me for this information I decided to just put it online for everyone to see. Also, when I copied it here from Word, the formatting didn’t stay in its original form. I decided to share it anyway. Please excuse the appearance in that regard.

For you local folks in the Antelope Valley, CA, if you shop at Ben’s Corner on Avenue L just east of Costco, they sell grass-fed meat (fed some grains the last four months in order to lend fat at the end), and as much as possible they buy their produce from small farmers, which means less chances of GMO and less pesticides. The produce is usually bought from suppliers who let the food ripen on the plant, which means it tastes like it should. The difference between grocery store produce and Ben’s is pronounced. I always say it tastes like my childhood.

1. Eliminate wheat, gluten and highly allergenic foods.
a. However, oats, rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, flax and amaranth are usually safe in regard to gluten.
i. Avoid corn (not a veggie but a grain). It’s hard to digest and can contain mold toxins, which in 1/3 of people can cause cancer, heart disease, asthma, M.S., diabetes and more. Most American corn is GMO which is harmful on so many levels. Avoid foods with corn in the first 5 ingredients.
b. Highly allergenic foods to avoid include wheat, white flour products, barley, rye, kamut, teff, spelt, soy, couscous and pasteurized dairy (he recommends raw dairy, not an avoidance of dairy).
i. There is a difference between raw milk and raw milk intended for consumption. Research here carefully first: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/17/mark-mcafee-interview.aspx then use this finder to locate raw milk products locally: http://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/california/#ca
2. Limit sugar – especially agave and fructose. Sugar is literally addictive – the more you eat, the more you crave. It triggers opioid release in the brain, the same way heroine does.
a. Sugar is a far more dangerous influence to your health than cigarettes.
b. Over-consumption of sugar (especially fructose) leads to insulin and leptin resistance, which appears to be the primary factor in obesity as well as many, if not most, chronic and lethal diseases, including cancer. Avoid sweeteners in general, but at the beginner level the following are okay in strict moderation: honey, rice syrup, beet sugar, maple syrup, and molasses. They all contain high levels of fructose, so use very little if any at all. Dr. Mercola recommends eventually working up to an Advanced level which does not include consuming these sugars.
c. Agave syrup is very highly processed and toxic, despite claims that it is natural.
d. Fructose literally feeds cancer cells. Total fructose should be kept below 25 grams per day. High fructose corn syrup is more harmful than table sugar by far. Because fructose contains no vitamins or minerals, it must rob them from the body in which it is assimilated. Fructose is only safe when it’s found in fruits that contain all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals to properly assimilate it as a rich nutrient for human consumption. Fructose raises uric acid levels, which can wreak havoc on blood pressure, the cardiovascular system in general, insulin production, and kidney function. The link between fructose and uric acid is so strong that you can actually use your uric acid levels as a marker for fructose toxicity. In other words, you can check your uric acid levels to determine your sensitivity to fructose. This is a greater threat to heart disease than total cholesterol. It increases blood levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which may increase the risk of heart disease.
i. Fructose doesn’t raise blood sugars significantly, but it raises blood serum triglycerides significantly. Its digestion is very low, and it must rob ATP energy stores from the liver for complete internal conversion into glucose and acetates.
ii. Fructose is the dietary ingredient that turns on a switch in the body which causes cells to accumulate fat.
iii. There are high levels of fructose in cane sugar, date sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, fruit juice, molasses, maple syrup, sucanat, sorghum, turbinado, agave (highly toxic), and honey.
iv. Most of the energy from fructose is stored as fat.
v. In fruits and veggies, fructose is combined with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all of which help moderate the negative metabolic effects of the fructose they contain.
e. Sucrose is found in almost all processed foods. It is part glucose and part fructose. Because it contains no vitamins or minerals, it must rob them from the body in which it is assimilated. Dextrose (pure glucose) does the same thing, but glucose can be used directly by every cell in the body and is far safer than the metabolic poison fructose.
f. Regular table sugar has the same amount of fructose as high fructose corn syrup (about 50%). The rest is sucrose. Same with raw or natural sugar.
g. Dextrose (aka glucose) is the energy form we were designed to run on. Every living thing runs on glucose. If you are healthy you can use dextrose sparingly. It’s only 70% as sweet as sucrose, but since it contains no fructose it’s much safer. (Combined with fructose, it becomes dangerous!! in insulin-compromised people, so avoid altogether!)
h. Honey decays teeth faster than table sugar, and has the most calories of all sugars. What enzymes or nutrients raw honey contains are destroyed in heating to give it a clear appearance. Eating raw honey has health benefits that may outweigh the risks, depending on your health needs and risks. Use in moderation only if you’re healthy.
i. Xylitol has so far been deemed safe for use by humans, even diabetic patients. Sorbitol and Mannitol, however, accelerate tooth decay, especially when combined with other sugars. They can cause digestion problems and may be carcinogenic.
j. Blackstrap Molasses is made from the “liquid leftovers” of processed table sugar. It does contain small amounts of iron, calcium and B vitamins, but this token “good” is offset with 65% sucrose content. Sorghum molasses loses its vitamin and mineral content in processing, and contains 65% sucrose.
k. Maple sugar or syrup contains 65% sucrose content. Processing leads to contaminants, including lead and formaldehyde.
l. Malt syrups – most elevate blood sugar/triglyceride levels, and most have significant amounts of glucose, maltose, and corn syrup added to them to make them sweeter. Such formulation creates a blood serum response similar to sucrose, and robs the body.
m. When checking labels for sugar, if unsure about the sugar content, check carb content. Unless the carbs are from above-ground veggies, they may represent sugars that alter insulin levels.
n. The illustration at the end of this document shows how carbohydrates and sugars affect health.
o. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
i. None of the sugars mentioned above are as toxic as artificial sweeteners. They have more adverse reactions than all other foods and additives combined.
ii. Acesulfame potassium (Acesulfame-K) is an artificial sweetener too.
iii. Artificial chemicals like MSG should be avoided too.
p. Dr. Mercola suggests using Stevia (the whole herb, not just parts of it mixed with other things, which hasn’t been proven to be safe as of yet) or Lo Han. He recommends liquid forms of Stevia that come in flavors like French Vanilla and English Toffee. However, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, so as to not be used to tasting sweetness (and therefore craving it).
3. Healthy treats – Recipe for safe, healthy chocolate candy saved as separate document.
4. Carbohydrates
a. Carbs provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose or sugar. There are simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs are sugars (i.e., candy, fruits, baked goods) and complex carbs are starches (i.e., beans, nuts, veggies and whole grains).
b. Carbs are not essential for survival, and the Recommended Daily Allowance is ZERO. Inuits don’t eat carbs at all. HOWEVER, Dr. Mercola does NOT recommend a zero carb diet. An ideal diet includes healthy carbs – just not nearly as much as the average person consumes. Grains and vegetables contain carbs, but most grains should be avoided. Veggies slow the conversion to simple sugars and decrease your insulin level. Grain carbs increase insulin levels and interfere with the ability to burn fat.
c. Reduce or eliminate all grains, beans and legumes in this phase, and restrict sugar/fructose intake. The higher your insulin level, the more ambitious your carb-elimination should be. (Find out your insulin level at http://www.mercola.com/Nutritionplan/index.htm#factor1)
i. Dr. Mercola advocates a small amount of grains because despite the sugar danger, people don’t function properly without at least a small amount. See top of this document for safer grain choices.
d. If eliminating all gluten grains and limiting fructose to 25 grams or less a day does not reduce insulin overload, consider eliminating spelt, barley, amaranth, millet, oats, rice, quinoa, teff, potatoes and corn.
e. Regardless of insulin level, avoid bread, pasta, cereal, bagels, potatoes, chips, pretzels, waffles, pancakes and baked goods. If you decide to eat pasta anyway, cook it al dente (crisp in the middle still) to help it break down into sugar less, causing less insulin release and reducing weight gain from it.
i. Potatoes raise insulin beyond reason in most people. If you have no problems with weight, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, they can be used with a protein meal. Avoid commercially prepared French fries, which are extremely toxic – they contain 100% trans-fatty acids that are heated way beyond safe levels.
f. Avoiding grains frequently causes weight loss. One reason is the stabilization of leptin. A diet high in fructose and grains causes the sugar to metabolize to fat, releasing surges in leptin. Over time, too much leptin causes resistance, which makes you hungry longer and store fat more. It also increases visceral fat, causing more hunger and fat storage, creating a repeating, worsening cycle – one that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.
g. Good fibrous veggie sources of carbs include: apples, grapefruit, any veggie (the more color the better), and dark green leafy veggies such as spinach. Good starchy sources of carbs include: brown or wild rice in moderation, yams, and bananas. (Choose greener bananas because they have less sugar and more fiber.)
h. Coconut flour can be used to replace regular flour in recipes, but one egg must be added per ounce of flour to replace the effect the gluten has on the finished product.
5. Raw food: at least 1/3 of all food should be raw. (Veggies should be the largest part of this.)
a. Valuable and sensitive micronutrients are damaged in heating. A lot of overeating is due to lack of nutrient content in foods.
b. Cooking at high heat creates harmful byproducts.
c. Sunlight is stored in the form of biophotons in the body, which control complex vital processes. This sun energy comes from exposure to the sun via the skin, and from eating raw foods. The fresher they are, the more they contain.
d. Juicing is a helpful way to supplement attainment of this goal. For more info see: http://www.mercola.com/Nutritionplan/beginner_carbs.htm (Lesson 3)
6. Eat more produce.
a. Your personal nutritional type dictates how much is healthful – not everyone should have as much as everyone else. Listen to your body – less health issues are a sign you’re getting it more right than not. http://nutritionaltyping.mercola.com/
b. Keep veggies fresh.
i. If you can’t eat organic, rinse non-organic veggies in a sink full of 4-8 oz distilled vinegar for 30 minutes. (I use cleansers from the Whole Wheatery.)
ii. Vacuum pack the veggies as much as possible to reduce the natural release of ethylene gas from the veggies. This increases shelf life, keeping them fresh longer.
c. All veggies are not created equal.
i. Good salad greens include red and green leaf (not iceberg, which has no value), romaine and spinach. The greener the veggie, the more nutritious it is.
d. Highly recommended veggies: asparagus, avocado (actually a fruit), beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chicory, Chinese cabbage, chives, collard greens, cucumbers, dandelion greens, endive, escarole, fennel, green and red cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce (romaine, red leaf, green leaf – NOT iceberg), mustard greens, onions, parsley, peppers (red, green, yellow and hot), tomatoes, turnips, spinach, zucchini.
e. Use sparingly due to high carb levels: beets, carrots, eggplant, jicima, winter squashes. Avoid potatoes altogether.
f. Organic: When you can’t buy all organic, at least know the general pesticide loads to help determine which products you should place organic preference upon.
i. Most pesticides: peach, apple, sweet bell pepper, celery, nectarine, strawberry, cherry, lettuce, imported grape, pear, spinach, potato.
ii. Least pesticides: broccoli, cabbage, banana, kiwi, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mango, pineapple, avocado, onion.
iii. Ben’s Corner in Lancaster buys from smaller, more ethical farms as much as possible, reducing exposure to higher loads of pesticides and GMOs.
7. Proteins: most would benefit from lowering their intake (depending on nutritional type)
a. Proteins are essential nutrients to building, maintenance and repair of body tissues, including skin, internal organs and muscles. They are made up of amino acids, 22 of which are considered vital for health. The body can make 14 of them, but the other 8 are known as essential amino acids, and must be obtained from diet. Although there are many sources of protein, only animal sources provide complete proteins (meaning they provide the eight essential amino acids).
b. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Cage-free and pastured (free-range) is preferred, as are dark orange yolks. Light yolks are a sign that the chickens haven’t had their natural diet of pastured grass and insects. Eggs do not cause cholesterol to increase. But don’t eat cooked eggs daily because you can develop an allergy to them if you have them more than five days a week. (The way to eat them raw is to only eat pastured and organic eggs, which are generally salmonella-free, even when they are raw.) Avoid Omega-3 eggs, which come from hens fed poor-quality sources of Omega-3 fats that are already oxidized (and they don’t stay fresh as long).
c. Pasteurized cheese is allowed in this phase, but drastically reduced in the next. Raw milk is preferred – see note on first page. Also, low-fat dairy products are densely packed with sugar and carbohydrates, and should be avoided.
d. All meats are allowed in this phase, but nitrate-free meats should be used when eating lunch meats. Organic chicken is a good source (dark meat for protein types). As for red meat, choose lean, grass-fed.
e. Whey protein is a good protein source.
f. Nuts and seeds are a good protein source—raw is best.
g. All soy is allowed in this phase, but soy is not healthy. It can weaken the immune system and impair thyroid function. In future phases, only fermented soy products will be present, like tempeh, miso and natto. Soy also provides estrogen, which can be dangerous, especially to men.
h. All fish and seafood are allowed in this phase but are progressively eliminated in later phases to prevent seafood contamination (such as mercury). In the meantime be very careful because contamination is rampant in ocean, lake, stream and even farm-raised.
i. Watch bean and legume intake. Beans are a good source of protein, but not complete proteins. So, you’ll need additional proteins in the meal if beans are the primary protein source at that meal. If you don’t have a problem with insulin, beans are okay, but not otherwise. They are complex carbs, so they can still contribute to increased insulin. Also see beans suited to your blood type at: http://www.mercola.com/forms/beans_legumes.htm
8. Fats: it’s the type that matters, not the amount.
a. Saturated fats (SF) are found in animal products like butter, cheese, milk, etc. Also in some tropical plants and veggie oils like coconut, palm and palm kernel. Coconut oil is very healthy and is the cooking oil of choice because it is far less damaged in the heating process. SF do not increase heart attack risk. Healthy SF from high quality, minimally processed sources provide energy and building blocks. SF slow absorption so hunger is satiated longer. They act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. SF are needed for the conversion of carotene to Vitamin A, mineral absorption and many biological processes.
i. Not all SF are equal. There are more than a dozen types, but we mostly eat three: stearic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid. Stearic acid (cocoa and animal sources) has no adverse effect on cholesterol, and get converted to the monounsaturated fat (see below) called oleic acid, in the liver. Palmitic and lauric acid, however, do raise total cholesterol. BUT they raise the good more than the bad, so they are still beneficial, and actually lower the risk of heart disease. Sources of healthy fat include: avocados, butter from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw dairy, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts and seeds, and grass-fed meats.
b. Monounsaturated fats: olive oil is the best, but avoid canola altogether.
c. Trans Fats form when vegetable oil hardens (aka hydrogenation), and can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. They have been linked to heart disease and other chronic illnesses repeatedly, and are major artery-cloggers.
9. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats: the ideal ratio should be 1:1 but it’s commonly 15-50:1 with the wrong oil in the lead.
a. Omega-3 fats improve cellular response to insulin and other messengers, and repair damaged cells. They reduce the risk of many degenerative diseases such as cancer. They increase energy and ability to concentrate, increase resistance to common illnesses such as cold and flu, and help pregnant women avoid premature births and other common complications. A supplement is very important for average Americans, due to insufficient amounts in the diet. It’s only found in krill oil, fish oil, cod liver oil, flaxseed, walnuts, and a few other foods. However, the most beneficial form contains two fatty acids (DHA and EPA), both essential to fighting and preventing physical and mental diseases. This form is only found in fish and krill. Unfortunately, fish all over the world are highly contaminated now. If taking fish oil or cod liver oil, normal dose is one 1,000 mg capsule, with 300 mg of EPA/DHA for every 10 lbs. body weight. One teaspoon equals about 3 1/2 capsules. The dose can be reduced for healthy individuals in summer climates with warmth and sun exposure. (Much of the time we won’t need as much!)
i. Krill oil is a more concentrated source, with more benefits than the other sources (from antioxidants to not causing burping). It is the best source for preventing the oil from oxidizing before integration into cellular tissue. The more astaxanthin it contains, the better (anything above 0.2 mg per gram to prevent rancidity). Too much krill oil can be harmful too. The same signs of not getting enough can return if getting too much. See: http://www.mercola.com/Nutritionplan/beginner_fats.htm if need be.
b. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory (not a good thing) and contribute to insulin and membrane resistance, altering mood and impairing learning and cell repair. To avoid Omega-6, avoid all vegetable seed oils. It is also found in corn-, soy-, sunflower-, and other oils. Soybean oil is one of the most harmful ingredients in processed foods.
10. Some basic how-to tips for weight loss
a. Eating higher quality foods is important, but not enough for losing fat weight. To fuel the body’s natural fat burning engine, eat smaller meals more frequently. Work toward 5-6 small meals a day, with protein and carbs combined in each, and about half of your calories coming from healthy foods like avocados, coconut oil, butter, eggs and animal fat that is not heated at high temperatures and is organically and humanely raised.
b. To get the most from your fitness routine, learn about the timing of meals in reference to wake-up and bedtime, and your workout time. Learn about macro-nutrient totals (optimal percentage of carbs, proteins, and fats in each meal). Use good sources of acceptable proteins and carbs. Determine your nutritional type at his website (for free).
c. Eat in the right order to improve meal satisfaction, reduce the need for snacks, and reduce food cravings.
d. Many protein types should eat their meat first. Carb types should eat their veggie first. Mixed types should eat them together.
11. Beverages
a. Water: makes up over 70% of our body’s tissues and is vital to nearly every body function. The color of your urine is the indicator for how much you need (not the standard 8 glasses per day, since one size does not fit all). Very light yellow is right, except in the case of peeing out vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which turns it bright yellow after taking it.
i. Let your thirst be your guide & spread your water consumption throughout the day. We can only process about a glass per hour, so the extra will just flush out without benefit.
ii. Water should be filtered to remove chlorine and fluoride and arsenic, as well as drugs that end up in the water supply through flushing them down the toilet – most filtration plants aren’t designed to remove them. Most bottled water is 40% regular tap water, which contains many contaminants.
iii. Lemon juice flavors water and normalizes pH level. However, using it all the time can lead to becoming allergic to it.
iv. Distilled water should be avoided because it leaches minerals from the body! It also has the wrong pH, ionization, polarization & oxidation potentials. It doesn’t remove VOC’s and DBP’s. The fluoride is still present. It draws chemicals and metal contaminants from whatever it’s stored in. Although it can draw toxins out during a short-term detox program, the negatives outweigh the positives.
v. Water filtration recommendation: carbon-combination filters (he has a Pure & Clear filter). Reverse osmosis removes most impurities but creates acidic water and strips the body of necessary minerals. Use a filter on the shower head to remove chlorine – this exposure could be even greater than drinking it. (SO, don’t chlorinate swimming pools! Use safe alternative.) If you have a water softener, divert the water away from the kitchen to a reverse osmosis system.
vi. Storage: One-gallon cloudy plastic (PVC) containers release chemicals into the water. Polyethylene is safer and doesn’t make the water taste as bad. However, glass is best for water storage, including portable water bottles (except in the case of a 5-gallon glass bottle which would be dangerous).
b. Other beverages
i. Caffeine has clearly been associated with pregnancy complications and should be avoided by all pregnant women.
ii. If you struggle with insomnia or anxiety, avoid all caffeine.
iii. Juice contains large amounts of sugar. Read labels and count the sugar/carbs into your 25 gram per day max fructose allotment. It’s best to avoid juice altogether, consuming your fruit whole, as the fiber in the fruit will impact your sugar levels less.
iv. Avoid all soft drinks! They are a potent contributor to many health challenges. One example: every can you drink of soda per day increases the risk of obesity by 60%.
v. Alcohol: beer, wine and distilled spirits are all allowed in the beginner phase, in moderation (ie, a 5 oz. glass of wine, a 12 oz. beer, or 1 oz. of hard liquor with a meal). Be aware that these count as carbohydrates.
12. Supplements: through proper nutrition, most of the nutrients we need can be obtained from wholesome organic food. Of the many supplements, these two generally top the charts.
a. Beneficial bacteria: 90% of the genetic material in our bodies is not our own. It’s from the bacteria that are primarily living in the gut. They outnumber us about 10 to 1. They are hugely beneficial to promoting immune system, resisting infections, helping digest food, promoting absorption of nutrients, helping detoxify heavy metals and chemicals we’ve been exposed to, balancing the nervous system; and they are an important source of neurotransmitters, B vitamins and vitamin K2. They also help control the yeast and bad bacteria that coexist in the gut. Optimizing gut flora is one of the most profound health strategies you can implement. Eliminating sugars, grains and processed foods is a powerful first step. In the beginning phase, a high quality, high potency probiotic supplement is the easiest. It’s far more beneficial to use fermented foods like fermented vegetables, when you’re ready.
b. Vitamin D is not only necessary for strong bones, it is the only known substrate for potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance steroid hormone that serves multiple gene-regulatory functions in the body. The cells in our body need vitamin D to address nearly every kind of stimulus they receive. Optimizing vitamin D can help prevent as many as 16 types of cancer, as well as reduce the risk of many other major health problems and diseases.
i. It’s found in food like milk, eggs, and fish, but we only get about 250-300 IU daily from diet alone, which is not enough to maintain optimal levels. Safe sun exposure and a healthy (non-synthetic) supplement are two options for getting more. A good supplement would be natural vitamin D3 and NOT vitamin D2. Don’t get too much. Not all sun exposure allows for vitamin D production. Sunlight is made up of about 1500 wavelengths, but the only one that makes the body produce vitamin D are UVB-rays upon unexposed skin. UVB rays will only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is above an angle of about 50 from the horizon. When it’s lower, the ozone layer reflects the rays, still allowing the UVA-rays through. More info on sun and supplementation at http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/beginner_supplements.htm
c. Cinnamon is a superfood, and it helps to regulate blood sugar as well.
13. Avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
a. When introducing a lower sugar diet, large amounts of insulin take several days to balance out to meet the lower demand. In the interim, the high insulin levels may cause dizziness, confusion, headaches and fatigue. Eat every few hours at first to avoid this temporary side affect. Have some protein and a veggie to stabilize blood sugar.
b. Even after initial adjustment, it is wise to eat 4-6 meals a day. Eating more frequently normalizes cholesterol levels, and adrenal production of the body’s stress-relieving aid, cortisol.
c. Plan meals in advance to stay consistent with this nutritional plan. Find at least 10 good recipes you like to keep variety, interest, and commitment alive.
14. Lifestyle Changes
a. Learn the difference between physical food cravings and emotional ones. If you crave sweets or grains because of emotional challenges, try http://eft.mercola.com/ or some other intervention. Maintaining negative thoughts and feelings about yourself while trying to physically improve yourself is not only a huge stumbling block, but actually a brick wall.
b. The greatest enemies to physical health are a negative self-image and high stress. For any new diet to succeed, emotional barriers must be overcome. (As it is commonly said outside of this arena, you can’t change your behavior without exposing its roots.)
c. “Intermittent fasting” is a helpful strategy for weight loss. See: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/05/04/fasting-effects-on-human-growth-hormone.aspx
d. Vary your foods – it’s important not to have the same food every day of the week. However, if the food is uncooked and good to consume for your metabolic type, this is less critical.
e. Get a good night’s sleep. Between 7-9 hours is best for most people. Avoid before-bed snacks, especially grains and sugars. Sleep in the darkest environment possible. If a night light is needed for bathroom visits, a red spectrum light is minimally disruptive to melatonin levels. As for the alarm clock, use only red LED lit ones to reduce melatonin production. Keep the room below 70F. Finally, body systems, especially adrenals, do most of their recharging between 11pm and 1am, so get to bed earlier than 11.
f. Minimize unnecessary use of drugs, and seek safe and effective alternatives when possible. Especially troublesome are antibiotics, anti-ulcer, birth control pills, estrogen for menopause (unless you’re having hot flashes) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
15. Exercise
a. Exercise is a key player for controlling your blood sugar and normalizing your insulin levels. It increases sensitivity in insulin receptors, making insulin more efficient – thereby requiring less to be produced. Normalizing your insulin levels is the most important factor for optimizing your overall health and preventing disease of all kinds, from diabetes, to heart disease, to cancer, and everything in between. Inactive adults who add a few hours of exercise each week may cut their risk of developing a pre-diabetic condition known as insulin resistance syndrome, even if they don’t lose weight. As the population is eating more and exercising less, increasing numbers of adults and children are developing the syndrome, which results when a person loses the ability to use insulin effectively. The syndrome can develop into type 2 diabetes and increase the risk of heart disease if left untreated.
b. Glucose is burned for up to 24 hours after exercise. Higher intensity exercise even burns extra glucose stored in the liver.
c. Just 10 minutes of BRISK exercise leads to beneficial biochemical changes that are still measurable an hour later.
d. Traditional Aerobic Cardio is being traded in for Peak Fitness, which is far more beneficial and requires less time investment. Relatively short bursts of high intensity exercise can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits of doing hours of aerobics. 20 minutes of high intensity exercises two or three times a week only really involves four minutes of intense exertion. Doing more than that is counterproductive, though, as the body needs to recover between sessions. See: http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/beginner_lifestyle_changes.htm (Lesson 4) and http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2010/01/15/What-Should-You-Eat-After-Your-Workout.aspx (scroll down to right section) and http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2010/06/26/10-minutes-of-exercise-yields-hourlong-effects.aspx

The Church

On Sunday our associate pastor John Navarro spoke about growing bitter over the loss of the old ways of being the people of God, aka the church. I was more than a little uncomfortable in my seat as he spoke.

He was talking about people who get caught up in using the Bible alone as a means to approaching God and the Christian life. They throw out the Holy Spirit, and interaction with our Lord, and only soak themselves in the printed word. It’s all about knowing the right thing, believing the right thing, saying the right thing, demanding the right thing. But walking with God through his spirit, centering our lives around and through him, letting him move in and have his being within us, all are discarded as extras, or even as dangers.

I did not get to the place of yearning for the early church ways in that way at all, but I did get there. Am here today. Years ago, I had a Matrix moment in which I was offered two pills. One would open my eyes to a far different reality than I had known, and one would keep me seeing the world the way I currently saw it. I shouldn’t have eaten the eye-opener. But I did. And I saw that the church had come a long way.

John said that the early church was an infant, that she has come a long way in maturing into what she is today. He said that to want for infancy (ie, the early church ways) would cause us to be stubborn and religious, which would birth in us bitterness and resentment.

I don’t see it that way at all. I think the church is more like the church at Laodecia than a mature bride. I think the “American” church in general, with exceptions I’ll quickly admit to, has replaced son/daughter-ship for a business model, and love for law. I think she’s lost the potential for deep community through the routines she’s established, and replaced being the family of God for being a group of like-minded gatherers in the name of a God the people don’t necessarily fellowship with outside of Sunday’s four walls.

However, I am bitter and resentful. I didn’t get here the way he described in his sermon, and “here” isn’t exactly the “here” he was referring to, but I am so bitter, so resentful.

I just erased several paragraphs I wrote in the last half hour detailing all I mourn over, because I know the cost of thinking the way I do. Not just the cost which is the pain that comes from my screwed up way of seeing things, but also the cost that comes from people who are the exception, or else just wish to be, who are angry at me for thinking the church has grown lukewarm and disconnected.

So, what should I do? I am trying to form deeper connections and be the change I want to see. Unfortunately, I have suffered a major blow this summer. I am working through it, and what it has revealed to me about myself, in therapy. (My previous, and very hip, pastor used to praise therapy so often, like a cheerleader for the cause, I can’t help but feel a little cool admitting I’m getting help.) I cannot be the change I wish to be, except for in small bursts here and there, which is exactly what I complain the church is doing.

For heaven’s sake, perhaps the bride of Christ has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxious/Ambivalent Reactive Attachment Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder like I do, and I just need to lighten up and give her the same grace I need for myself. Get over what’s missing because even I can’t bring it to the table.

I’ve been spending more time in silence and solitude with God, with and without the printed word, with and without song, with and without prayer, with and without listening for who-knows-what he might say to me, if anything at all. I have been loving my family better. I have been a better school teacher. I have been a better home-maker. And thank God, I have been a better wife, perhaps the hardest task I put myself to, even though my husband’s love apparently knows no bounds.

When people say, “we are the church,” they aren’t kidding. Really, like it or lump it….

I am the church.

The Old Man… Again

A few years ago (when this blog was full of posts that have since been deleted due to a major turn-around in my life), I wrote a post about the “Old Man.” I was stunned at that time to find myself in a position of having to lay down a toxic self, and become renewed once again by God. It wasn’t my first turn-around, and I hadn’t expected to ever make one again after the one that was my first.

In my youth I had had many small turn-arounds, but it wasn’t until I found myself pregnant and abandoned at age 18 that my life took a complete turn from one way of living to another. Naively, I had the feeling at that time that that turn-around was going to be the only one in my life. I never anticipated having to stop in my tracks again, and go through a serious overhaul of my life. I believed that walking with God fervently would prevent such a thing in the future. But it hadn’t. I discovered that walking fervently with God isn’t as easy as I thought it would be when I first set out to do it.

So, back to a few years ago when I first blogged about the “Old Man.” I had thought I was on fire for God and moving along steadily in his will for me, when suddenly I had to turn around and face what my life had become… and a lot of it wasn’t very pretty.

Today, thankfully, I am not making another such overhaul. Yet I am reflecting on the idea of laying down part of myself, the “Old Woman” as it were, as I adjust to some recent changes in my life.

I really thought, when I was young and unseasoned, that unless a person completely backslid away from God and into a life of worldly, or otherwise selfish pursuit, they wouldn’t again have an “Old Man” to lay down. I really thought there was a black and a white, an on and an off, a with-God and a without-God, so that if I chose to walk away from him I’d develop a self to lay down, but otherwise, I wouldn’t.

That has so not been the case with me. I suspect it’s not the case with anyone. After all, they don’t say the church is full of hypocrites for nothing. We know the most gracious, merciful, loving entity in the world, we fill our hearts with him and sing his praises and seek to spend our lives with and for him, and yet we continue to fall on our faces in sin and shame. We hurt people, we say mean things, we drink too much, we swear, we lie, cheat and steal, and we watch rated-R movies (my husband and I rarely do that, but we have seen many… we just watched Gladiator with the kids last month for educational purposes, and we’re not ashamed!).

So, today, as I wonder aloud at having to lay down some pretty large parts of myself, I am thinking about that “Old Woman.” May she rest in peace, and never return. May her corpse fertilize the field she lies in, and bring about beautiful flowers and grasses and seed-bearing fruits to grace all who come near. May the memory of her bring spring rain upon the field, making it grow stronger and more beautiful, even if it is in the form of shed tears. May her memory bring renewed humility and sensitivity to this heart of mine, enabling me to love more carefully and genuinely from here out. And may her sacrifice prove to be the oil that flows over me, anointing me further unto the Lord than ever before, cleansing me and healing me, as I become a more whole woman, and human being in general.

Thank you, God, for never leaving nor forsaking me. You truly have my back, even as you live in my heart. How beautiful are you.

The Bible in Order

I’ve been reading the Bible Chronologically for the past several months. I began with a list that I found online, which was one of many which generally followed the same rough order as one another. I read the Message and the Archaeological NIV. In the NIV, I have access to historic notes and timelines that I haven’t found in other Bibles (though I’m sure they’re out there to be found).

Anyway, I’ve had to make several adjustments to the list, because it’s not really chronological. None I have found online are. For instance, Ezekiel doesn’t begin after Jeremiah ends. It’s just not reality. And Jeremiah is far from chronological within itself. It zizgags and jumps forward and backward all through time.

So, does anybody have a good reading plan worked out? I just got to Ezekiel and realized I need to go back and plug it in to the timeline in earlier places. I’m tired. I’m just not sure I’m up to it anymore.

Dangerous

I was told today that left unchecked I would be dangerous. At first I was angry, but then I realized it’s true.

Eugene Peterson said

Expect hostility when God is at work. And expect it to come from where you least expect it–among the leadership of the religious status quo.

I recently became disheartened and prematurely ended my planned “Much Like the Life Jesus Led” series. Ironically, the thoughts on my heart today are precisely what I had in mind when I set out to write the series.

What would it be like to live much the way Jesus did? It would be dangerous.

Jesus put others before himself, even loving people who were dead-set against him.

He shared freely with those in need.

He even shared freely with Romans who had legal authority to humiliate the nations in submission to them by demanding they carry their packs for a mile, even if the Roman had a donkey to do it for them (in other words, people who weren’t really in need). “Turn the other cheek” and “Walk the extra mile,” according to Erwin McManus, were radical statements made by Jesus to his followers, encouraging them to go beyond what was asked because in this way they remained truly free even in a country oppressed by a foreign ruler.

Jesus relied on God to provide for his needs. He was a skilled worker, yet even with careers we need God. Jesus was in tune with that need and relied on God whole-heartedly, making conversation with God foundational to the direction his life went.

He didn’t store up for himself many material possessions. He lived simply, close to the earth, and close to God and people.

He was loyal to God even before his own family.

He was humble and generous, and served freely. From washing his disciples’ feet after they had entered a house with dusty feet to providing wine for a wedding which had prematurely run out, he blessed people by serving them.

He taught us how to forgive, and to care deeply for others. He said we would be known as his followers if we loved one another.

He lived and taught the laws of love and grace; lived and taught the ways of the God of love and grace.

He reveled a good story, and told many. He enjoyed good food and taught us how to throw a feast in his honor, in order to remember the joy set before us. And he taught us that what we do matters, in this life and the next. That he will return to renew all things, not fry them and make everything in the here and now suddenly meaningless.

He was known as the friend of sinners because he actually lived and moved and had his being in community with hookers and thieves and others the religious community would have nothing to do with. He didn’t just go to a meeting hall once a month and ladle soup out for them, although I imagine that would not be beneath him to do. He actually lived with them. Ate in their homes, assumedly invited them into his own. They were his people, and by that fact they became the best people they were capable of being. In his presence, they could become who God had created them to be, even if outside of his presence they had a lot of baggage that would make them seem unworthy of his company.

He lived and died sacrificially.

He was bold and daring.

And he was dangerous.

None of this is safe. None of this is prestigious or without risk. He loved Judas Iscariot, trusted him as part of his inner circle. Look where that got him. He was ostracized by the religious leaders of his day because of his radical grace. His family thought he was bonkers. He was hated, scorned, and eventually beaten and hung, denied and abandoned by most of his closest companions. And he has the audacity to ask us to take up our crosses and follow him.

Left unchecked, I would be dangerous. It wasn’t said as a compliment. And I’m not sure I deserve to take it as one, because it was said about my potential, not my reality. Left unchecked I do gravitate toward this kind of life, and when I do I find myself blocked in some way or another because of the great danger of it all.

It begs the question: what’s more dangerous? Living Much Like the Life Jesus Led, or choosing not to so as to keep the peace with those who find security in the safety of the system?

The Have-Nots

Actually, I have to say one more thing about living Much Like Jesus Led. And again I’m quoting Brennan Manning. It’s been a good season reading his books, including “A Glimpse of Jesus” which I quote below.

In any society, secular or sacred, where the haves don’t share with the have-nots, the Kingdom of Satan reigns. The presence, the Word, and the dream of Jesus Christ are neither real nor operative. They simply do not exist….

The etymology of the word compassion lies in two Latin words, cum and patior, meaning “to suffer with,” to endure with, to struggle with, and to partake of the hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, and broken dreams of our brothers and sisters in the human family. Commitment to Jesus Christ without compassion for his people is a lie. “The life of Jesus suggests that godlikeness means to attain a compassionate life since God’s heart is apparently thought by Jesus to be compassionate,” argues Donald Gray. “To show compassion is to be like God, like Abba. To show compassion is to be like Abba’s son.”

Something to think about is a podcast I heard from Wayne Jacobsen some time back, about the Keeper and the Kept. He stressed the importance of giving in such a way as to not keep the receivers down, while keeping the givers elevated. The kind of giving that perpetuates a feeling of inferiority, of dependence, isn’t what what Jesus had in mind, and isn’t some beautiful design for human living by God.

As I take up my paintbrush and make my life into something beautiful, as I lend paint to others in order to help them do the same, may I ever strive to help them on the path to becoming more, not staying less.

The Risk-Takers

This will probably be my last post in the Much Like the Life Jesus Led series. I didn’t take it where I had intended, because my own life is frustrated right now in this very sense (and has been for a few years now). Brennan Manning writes in “A Glimpse of Jesus,”

The risk-taking disciple, who dares to listen to his feelings rather than to the pontifications of authority or the clamor of the majority, may quickly find that his inner convictions do not resonate with the vox populi. He finds the situation unnerving to himself and disturbing to the palace guard. Though Abraham Maslow might describe him as “unique and idiosyncratic, alive and creative rather than phony,” the nervous disciple finds little solace in the eulogy. He is pretty damned frightened about swimming upstream–his security blanket of respectability has been snatched away….

The risk-takers who listen to the Spirit speaking through “the intelligence of their emotions” are ready to chance something, fully aware that the history of Christian spirituality is not consistently one of obedient conformity, however much some savants choose to view it that way…. Their dream, insofar as it comes from the passionate uncertainty of the Spirit, is contagious for some and delusional for the vociferous, lockstepping majority. The Scriptures testify that the innovator invites trouble…. Heads shake, hallowed traditions are invoked, nonhistorical orthodoxy is extolled, and the guilt-tripping begins….

Soon the risk-takers find that they are traveling in bad company. The historical Jesus was no outlaw, and nothing in the gospel lends support to the notion that he was a maverick harboring a grudge against the world, the law, or the authorities. Still… Jesus listened to another voice, sought his spiritual direction elsewhere, and seemed unafraid of what people might say about him or what people might do to him.

For the last few years I’ve enjoyed relative safety in the tight cocoon of risk-less Christianity. The company I’ve kept has been nearly 100% Christian. The parties and other social events I’ve gone to have been nearly 100% Christian-sponsored and Christian-filled.

And it’s been bothering me.

I miss getting the same criticism as Jesus did for the company I keep. I miss sitting in my old friend Sanie’s living room and talking to a room full of gay teens and young adults about my experiences with the Spirit of God. I can still see their engaged faces, listening to me as I spoke from my heart about a God who does not hate them after all. The criticism I received from others in the church hurt, but Jesus didn’t tell us to take up our miniature golden crosses on fine chains around our necks and follow him. That’s not the cross, but merely a symbolic reminder of it. Yet, it’s far easier to heft only the imitation, which is so weightless and pain-free we put it on and largely forget we’re even wearing it.

In today’s reading of “Reflections for Ragamuffins,” Brennan Manning says, “Compassion, the ability to suffer with the hurt of another, is an essential Christian quality.” I miss taking time to sit with hurting people and listen to them, offering little to no advice other than specific ways I’ve found helpful for drawing near to Jesus.

I miss the words of a dear friend who was once something of a father figure to me, when he said,

You are a pioneer and a radical.

I’m not a pioneer or a radical anymore.

For years I struggled with conflicting desires to be a mother and to be something greater, more world-impacting. I couldn’t reconcile the two images of life I had in my head, the two dreams that competed for priority. Now that I’ve stepped out of danger for so long, and had time to evaluate my life past and present, and re-imagine my future, I’ve come to realize they aren’t conflicting dreams. I’m not just a parent who raises good people, to hopefully raise other good people, and so on. I’m a woman of God who is raising a new generation of Jesus-followers, and as such I’m not just here for them, but we’re here for us and others. They’re integrated ideas. Integrated dreams.

And it’s kinda perfect that I recently began listening to the Mosaic Podcast series by Erwin McManus and his co-pilot Hank Fortener. McManus just wrote a book called “The Artisan Soul,” which is all about being purposeful in what kind of life we’re living, because as created beings by a creative God, we’re not only artwork, but also artists ourselves.

I’ve had on my nightstand a quote I picked up in a book several months ago. I didn’t quote the author of the book, I simply typed this:

Be poets. Make something of these words I’ve spoken to you. Make a life, epic and poetic. And make it beautiful. Make it a work of art.
–Jesus

That’s what I want. I want to be the artisan of my life, together with the Artisan of my life. It’s a little oxymoronic, and I think I like it better because it is.

It’s funny, I had in mind a fairly organized, regularly-updated blog series about the life of Jesus and how to live much like he did. It surely didn’t turn out that way. Then again, I never have been able to successfully keep my resurrected savior all wrapped up neat and tidy within my limited capacity. For that I’m truly thankful.