A Parable

A little girl stopped to watch a craftsman carving a huge mass of wood at the county fair one day. After several minutes had passed she asked him, “Mister, what are you carving that wood into?”

“Why, this is going to be a magnificent dragon when I’m done with it,” he replied.

A few days later the same young girl returned to the fair and was shocked to see not a dragon, but a small butterfly carved into what small bit was left of the once-majestic tree. Surprised by what she saw, she asked, “What happened to the dragon you were carving?”

With a tear in his eye the craftsman answered, “In the dark of night some rascals came and hacked away at my beautiful creation. Taking what they left behind, I was able to carve this small butterfly instead. She’s not as big as I had intended her to be, nor as radiant, but she is beautiful, and still very precious to me.”

With that, he applied his finishing touches, set down his tools, and gingerly picked up his little butterfly and carried her away with him, holding her close to his heart with all the pride of a dragon master, and enough love for that small butterfly to give even a mighty dragon the gift of flight.

From Fear to Love

I’m reading Henri Nouwen’s book Spiritual Formation. I’m loving it. It speaks to my soul like very few other sources do. I’ve been reading along, finding validation for the strange and unique ways I see God and the world, and have put it down a few times in frustration because I feel so alone in it all. But yesterday I read something that helps me see more clearly, maybe, why I keep experiencing this frustration.

I would not have said to you two days ago that I live in fear. Yet, after reading the chapter entitled “From Fear to Love,” I am seeing that I not only live in fear, but frankly I’m terrified.

I’ve been so hurt by the ways others have argued my inclinations, beliefs and passions away as being foul or otherwise wrong/misplaced, that I rarely, if ever, show anybody what is truly in the heart or mind of me for fear of one more invalidation or rejection or angry response.

I’ve been so hurt by friendships I ruined so badly I had to burn the bridges between myself and them, only to leave behind deep, festering wounds in their place. I’m unwilling to open up on a deep level again for fear of having to rip my heart out once more.

And here is Henri Nouwen saying, “As long as our sense of self depends on what other people think about us and say about us, and on how they respond to us, we become prisoners of the interpersonal, of that interlocking of people, of clinging to each other in a search for identity; we are no longer free but fearful.”

I’ve not been free for many years. I’ve been fearful. I’ve been terrified.

Nouwen continues to say, “The challenge is to let go of fear and claim the deeper truth of who I am. When you forget your true identity as a beloved child of God, you lose your way in life.” He says the solution is to live steeped in the Spirit of God, through praying at all times and breathing the breath of God each moment (what I practice as centering), and meditation on the Scriptures. These spiritual practices coupled with the disciplines of “hospitality, spiritual friendship, contemplative prayer, community forgiveness, and the celebration of life” are the way to moving “from the house of fear to the house of love. And as the psalmist proclaimed, we can ‘dwell in the house of the Lord forever’ (Ps. 23:6).”

I’m trying to lay claim on this insight by dwelling with God in awareness of who I am AS HIS BELOVED. My identity crisis of the past several years seems to be constantly blinded to this one foundational fact: I am his beloved. Whoever else I am or am not, I am his beloved. If I can only get beyond the PTSD and see that despite the pain and hurt that keep me in terror, I am beloved by the one who made me and celebrates me when nobody else does, maybe I can experience once again the joy of the Lord, and enjoy this beautiful gift of life he has given me.

Perfection as Compassion

In Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child, he points out the time when Jesus asked us to be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. The word translated perfect is actually about being compassionate. Be compassionate, the way the father, the creator whose image we were made in, is compassionate. He gives the example of having been asked by an evangelical, while serving in the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network in New Orleans, what the posture of the Christian community ought to be toward the gay community.

His response was to cite the parable given by Jesus about letting the weeds grow up with the wheat. If we tear out of our community what we perceive to be weeds (note, I said perceive, for even Manning says we cannot know a person’s motive), we will tear out the wheat right along with it. When we presume to stand in God’s judgment seat, rather than his mercy seat, we do great damage. Ironically, after Romans 1, which includes a discourse by Paul against all kinds of sins, including sexual sins, he says we therefore have no right to judge anybody. Why would he say that unless he believed we all fall short of the glory of God just as much as we all have hope in being saved by him?


I’m reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning. There’s a section in here that says so clearly what I used to try to convey so unsuccessfully. I used to frequent what others considered to be the dark corridors of human society; I was part of a community that other Christians I knew wouldn’t go anywhere near. I was really part of that community. I wasn’t there to just share the gospel and then leave. I wasn’t an outsider in their midst. They were my friends, and I was part of their lives as they were part of mine. In the end, I didn’t leave because I fulfilled my mission among them–I never intended to leave at all. I left because my presence there was creating such a severe rift between myself and those who insisted I was wrong to be there that I found myself having to choose between them and my own family.

I find this passage from Brennan Manning to communicate so clearly what I failed to convey to other Christians at that time, that I can’t help but share it here, in this place where I occasionally step out of my shell and reveal a bit of what lies beneath the surface of me.

Brennan writes,

Because the shining sun and the falling rain are given both to those who love God and to those who reject God, the compassion of the Son embraces those who are still living in sin. The Pharisee lurking within all of us shuns sinners. Jesus turns toward them with gracious kindness. He sustains His attention throughout their lives for the sake of their conversion “which is possible to the very last moment.”

God never leaves us, never forsakes us, never gives up hope that we will turn to him and place our trust in his heavenly care. Even when we’re sinning, even when we’re rejecting him, even when we want nothing to do with him, he eagerly awaits our attention like a mother whose baby is just beginning to walk away from her for the first time. Why shouldn’t we, as the baby’s brothers and sisters, dwell with our mother and our sibling in this place? Who knows, maybe if the baby falls, we will be there to pick him or her up and redirect them to the care that awaits them, because of the trust we have earned as people of love and safety. Wouldn’t a parent’s heart rejoice at such love between siblings? Aren’t we all created in God’s image, all descended from the same breath of God as one another, part of the same creation he so lovingly cares for, and doesn’t he ask us to care for it with him?

Grandma Snyder

Grandma Snyder and Me in 2010

This is what I read at my Grandma’s funeral on February 14, 2015. I love you, Grandma….

My Grandma thought Disneyland was the happiest place on Earth. She was wrong. The happiest place on Earth was whatever place she was in at any given time. As a girl, I got to spend two weeks at a time, every summer, with Grandma and Grandpa. When Grandma used to take me to work with her, we would stroll down the sidewalk on Ventura’s Pierpont Boulevard, toward the tiny little corner market she worked in. I spent most of my time on the floor reading Archie comics, or sitting near her at the cash register talking her head off. I used to watch her in amazement, because every person who came through that door was like a son or a daughter, a niece or a nephew, a cousin or a dearly beloved friend. She somehow knew most of them by name, and would ask specific questions about how their lives were going. She didn’t just know them, either, she was positively thrilled to see them, each and every one–even the ones who were just coming in for the first time, or whom she had not yet had the pleasure of making a connection with.

Just as in every other environment I ever knew her in, she would smile and laugh all day long, yet she would also move right into the hearts of people and keep up with what was going on with them. Unlike people who are a walking party, always smiling and laughing but not necessarily connecting with people on a deep level, Grandma was first and foremost concerned with people’s hearts, relationships, and lives in general. The smiles and laughter just seemed to be an extension of her joy at having the opportunity to be near people. Her heart was so big, it was happiest when it was chock full of people to love.

Speaking of loving people, I never saw her shine so completely as when she took us to Disneyland every year while she worked there. She truly belonged there. She worked at the Plaza Inn, but she knew cast members from one side of the park to the other. She beamed at the sight of every single one of them, asking how they were doing, showing us off to them, smiling hugely and laughing boisterously the whole time. Every single one of them obviously loved her–they lit up when she came around like the children did when they saw the park for the first time.

She got to be part of the annual Christmas Candlelight Processional at Disney, in the singing Christmas tree that walked through the park in the parade at the end of the show. It was a huge deal to her, and we were honored to get seats several times to see her shine in that special way at Disney. The first time my husband got to join us on our yearly Disneyland excursion, he didn’t know her all that well yet because he and I were still dating. All through the day, he kept calling her Carol, even though her name was actually Norma. Well, I had no idea this was going on, what with my two year old keeping me busy all through the day. When we left the park that night, we were in the foyer at IHOP, waiting to be seated. She was facing him with this huge Cheshire Cat grin on her face. I was wondering what on earth was going on, when he called her Carol right there on the spot. I was like, “Carol? Her name is Norma! Have you been calling her Carol all day?!” He was so embarrassed, and admitted that he had been, and she just sat there reveling in the whole darn thing. She had wondered when he’d catch on, and had been enjoying the private joke the whole day long!

At my wedding, Grandma and Grandpa were escorted down the aisle by our goof friend, Mike. He had Grandma on his arm, and Grandpa behind, just as all of our parents and grandparents had been escorted in. Somehow, Grandma had gotten it in her head that our young friend Mike was going to try something with her. I have a picture of her on his arm, looking at him with her head tilted down, eyebrows raised, and knowing smile of warning. She talked about him for a long time after that, even though Mike was the quietest, most shy person in our entire wedding party–he certainly didn’t have eyes for my grandma, especially with Grandpa walking just behind. But she could never be convinced. She always retold the story with a huge smile, as if she was convinced she still had it, and that that young man had somehow known it.

Grandma and I practically shared a birthday, and she bragged about that fact all the time. She was so honored I came along near the time of her own birthday! We often had our birthday parties together, thrown by my mom. The funny thing is, despite her constantly bringing it up, always connecting with me over it, she would still confuse the actual date with other family members’ birthdays, year after year after year. She’d call 6 days early, confusing it with the number of her son, Vernon’s date, or a couple weeks late when her own birthday reminded her she’s missed mine. She’d always re-tell me how she would mix the dates up, and she would sing Happy Birthday to me in her sweet Snow White singing voice.

One year, I was already married with children, my mom already moved to Nevada, and Grandma was having a big birthday party for herself at her home in Twenty-Nine Palms. She invited me to be an honored birthday guest along with her. Her sisters came with many of their kids, and we had a party at the pool. Well, Grandma and her sisters, all looking very much like one another, sang and sang and sang the day away. They sang while laughing, they sang some sentimental pieces, they sang more while laughing, and they laughed while trying to sing lyrics they couldn’t quite remember anymore. There she was, shining again. It was beautiful. I felt like I was seeing her as a little girl with her sisters, in an era long gone by in reality, but not in her heart and memories.

When I was 11, staying with Grandma and Grandpa at their home in Ventura, I met a boy at the beach. Back then people used to use their phones to actually call people, so I got his number and would hide out in the guest room talking to my new boyfriend. I told Grandma he and I were going out. She asked me where we were going. I rolled my eyes and said, “No, Grandma, that’s just a figure of speech! It means he’s my boyfriend!” She said, ” I know that, I just want to know where you’re going.” I tried again, amused that she didn’t understand the ways of my generation, and she kept insisting, “I understand. But I still want to know where you’re going.” I finally gave up, and would wonder about that talk for years, before realizing her Cheshire Cat grin had indicated that she was seriously enjoying messing with me.

I still can’t quite figure out why, but Grandma and Grandpa loved me in a way that didn’t come easily to everyone in my life. You see, I was more than a handful. Grandma used to brag to me that her natural hair color was red like mine, even though she often had it dyed other colors. Well, I think I must have gotten some of her portion of redheaded spitfire along with my own, because there was way too much in me to contain in one teeny little girl body. One year when I went to stay with them, Grandma tried to serve me a plate of liver and onions. She sat there eating hers calmly while I exclaimed, “You are trying to feed liver and onions to a 7th grader?! How rude! I’m not going to eat that! Besides, my mom says I don’t have to eat yucky foods. She said when she was a kid you made her eat all kinds of terrible things, like Brussels Sprouts, and she will never make me eat anything like that!” She casually asked, “Have you ever eaten Brussels Sprouts?” I said no, and she asked, “Then how do you know you don’t like them?” She had me there, and I do like them, but I wasn’t going for that liver and onions. She didn’t force it, either. She simply said I could fend for myself, and I did.

When they drove me to the harbor to look at boats, I asked why we were doing such a thing. They said they were thinking about buying one, and I insisted they didn’t have the money to buy a boat, didn’t have the space to store a boat, and that I bet they didn’t even know how to sail a boat! I was loud, and I was proud. Naturally, I easily offended people. Not them. They just responded to my questions casually, as if they were talking to a fully reasonable human being, and never wavered in their patience with me. I suppose it serves me right that sometime in the near future of that event, Grandpa and Grandma, Uncle Mike and Aunt Ledeen, took me and my cousins out on a Catamaran. And it tipped over with us on it. I wasn’t the brightest kid on the block, because as I bobbed in the water terrified and having an all-out, and very loud, panic attack about the sharks that were certainly about to come eat us all alive, everyone laughed their heads off at me… because we were in a river. Despite that fact, I still couldn’t be convinced. They really enjoyed telling my husband that story later in life, and somehow it’s still just about the funniest thing in the world to everyone, even me. In fact, Grandpa requested I include this story in my sharing today.

Even weirder than my brazen tongue were the nervous ticks I had as a kid. Some years I had worse habits than others. One year, I would snort like a pig. I had no control over it, it would just happen, so after a few months I decided to nip it in the bud. How did I plan to do this? I would whistle every time the snort would come out of me. So here I am, probably about nine years old, maybe a little younger, sitting in the backseat of Grandma and Grandpa’s car, snorting and whistling randomly. At one point, Grandma casually turns around and asks me sweetly, “Why does my baby girl do that?” She wasn’t irritated, she wasn’t angry or frightened or annoyed, she just wanted to know. So I told her. I had no idea, but I whistled to defeat the snorting. She looked at me kindly, processing what I was saying, and then said, “Okay, I was just wondering.” As far as I remember, neither one of them ever brought it up again. They just accepted me for who I was. And they continued to do so over the entire course of my life. Just last Christmas, on the phone, they were telling me again that I’m special, and they didn’t want me changing who I am for anybody. Against all odds, and no matter how weird or rebellious I got as a kid, they always told me, usually with huge smiles and bursts of laughter, that I was a gem and I should be myself always. Somehow, who I am tickled them pink. It has been good to be loved by them.

Toward the end, my youngest son, Hurshel, connected with his Great Grandma. She said he has a smile like Jimmy Carter had when he ran for president, although I told her that Hurshel is much more like her than Jimmy Carter, in that he has more vitality and love for life than most people do. She agreed. They emailed back and forth, and were getting to know each other pretty well. He will always treasure that time he had with her.

Grandma spoke easily with me about the love of God, through many spiritual changes in both us. She always listened, always hoped, always loved me and my family. Some of her very last words to me were these:

“Even when the sun goes down it is still bright outside. That is what you do for me.”

Imagine If You Will

Imagine, if you will, a world in which it is common place to feed ourselves, and even our children, addictive, life-destroying drugs in low doses, flavored so as to appeal to the palate and keep them coming back for more. Let’s just say that we use the common dismissal, “it’s just this once” or “it’s not very often” over and over to the point, until which point when we look back at the end of our days we see it was, in fact, the norm. Imagine if the building blocks we put into our bodies are actually dead, devoid of benefit, and even worse, actually harmful. Let’s say the damage is not immediately apparent, so we continue in these habits for about 50 or 60 years until we realize the damage we’ve done now requires so much nutritional catching up, and so much detoxing, that it may actually be too late to reclaim the health we once had. What if more people die from this long-term, slow death, than any other means?

Certainly you’ve guessed by now that I’m talking about our world, and our addiction to sugars and processed foods, and the fact that more people are dying, in the United States, at least, from their diets than anything else. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, weakened immunity in the holiday sugar season (aka the flu season), and more, are all diet-related diseases. Studies are even beginning to point to diet as the most instrumental factors in Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis, among other diseases we wouldn’t necessarily relate to what we eat.

Now imagine trying to break the cycles. Imagine insisting your family only eat what will bless and build up our bodies for the good. What if everywhere you go, where the food preparation is outside of your control, your kids are being handed potatoes fried in oils nobody should eat, let alone after they’ve reached such high temperatures. Hot dogs on white bread. Hamburgers made from cows fed GM soy and corn, rather than the grass they were intended to eat. Dead (aka pasteurized) milk from GM cows (yes, there is such a thing now) fed GM corn and soy. Imagine seeing the house of God giving your kids candy, GM popcorn (90% of all corn and soy in the United States are GM), chips and soda on a weekly basis. I won’t even start on birthday parties, when I still can’t get out of buying my own children cakes laden with highly toxic levels of sugar, white wheat flour and food coloring, because their little hearts would break. I wish I had never started them on this crap diet we eat in this country. They’re already used to the life I led them into, even as I eat wholesome food nearly all the time and do my best to encourage them to do likewise.

I wish this country would wake up and start eating right. I wish I had given my kids a better foundation. I wish my body had a better foundation, although I thank God that along with all the garbage I ate as a child, I did eat loads of healthy foods.

Thank you for reading my rant. I feel helpless and hopeless and discouraged. It’s hard to have a strong conviction like this one and actually see it come to fruition. I control dinner 6 nights a week, but I’m not the only one who provides food for my family, and it’s impossible to keep only good stuff in here. I feel like I’m losing this battle. Is anyone out there having better success at turning the tides of the “American Diet” in their own families?

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