I wish I could say that true lifestyle change happens quickly and easily, but I can't. What I can share is what has worked for my husband and me. We've made lifestyle changes that resulted in our losing weight and reducing our percentage of body fat significantly. More importantly, we feel better! The surprise for us was that weight loss wasn't our intended goal when we began changing our eating habits. Yet, that has been one of the results of our TLC. So, if this has you a little intrigued, please read on.
It's import to note that the first part of this plan actually is a relatively well-known diet. However, I can't stress enough the importance of viewing this initial diet phase as the beginning of a larger commitment to establishing healthy exercise and eating habits for the long term. Perhaps, the very words habit, commitment and long term may feel a little intimidating at first. After all, a diet implies doing something finite, maybe for several weeks. However, a lifestyle commitment is a permanent change, and this can seem overwhelming even to the most determined and well-intentioned of us. That being said, the only way to keep weight off permanently is to make permanent changes.
My oncologist and functional medicine physician, Carolyn Matthews, recommended that I do the Comprehensive Elimination Diet. Perhaps you've heard it called the Detox Diet, or the Anti-inflammation Diet. They are all similar. She explained that current research suggests that bolstering the immune system could be beneficial in fighting cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, "patrolling cells of the immune system provide continuous bodywide surveillance, catching and eliminating cells that undergo malignant transformation. Tumors develop when this immune surveillance breaks down or is overwhelmed."
A food or chemical sensitivity can cause the body's immune system to kick in. When the immune system is overstimulated, or is in a state of chronic response, a variety of adverse health conditions can occur (Linus Pauling Institute). One or several of these conditions might be familiar to you: constipation, GERD, asthma, sinus problems, irritable bowel, psoriasis and eczema, just to name a few (Tom Malterre, MS, CN). The Elimination Diet helps detect what foods might be irritating the body and causing an immune response, through a process of removing specific foods and food categories from the diet.
According to the information Dr. Matthews provided me:
"The main rationale behind the diet is that these modifications allow your body's detoxification machinery, which may be overburdened or compromised, to recover and begin to function efficiently again. The dietary changes help the body eliminate or 'clear' various toxins that may have accumulated due to environmental exposure, foods, beverages, drugs, alcohol, or cigarette smoking ...this process is generally well tolerated and extremely beneficial."
I'm not going to sugar coat it. The first 21 days are challenging. That's why I suggest that you might want to consider discussing this with your family, or enlist the help of someone who can be your buddy. It will definitely improve your chances of success. I couldn't have done it without my buddy. It's also recommended that the timing of when to start the diet be carefully considered, because dining out or traveling during the first 21 days can increase the difficulty.
Another important point to mention is calorie consumption. Remember: for weight maintenance the formula is calories in = calories out. We haven't intentionally restricted our calories. Still, my husband has lost 28 lbs and counting! This is occurring because we are now eating more nutrient dense foods and feel fuller, so sometimes we consume less calories than we need for weight maintenance. Just the elimination of empty liquid calories will allow you to consume calories from more nutritious and filling foods. You can calculate your caloric intake needs at the Mayo Clinic's site here. Last, but not least, everyone is different so your response to this program will be unique to you. Remember, before beginning any new diet or exercise program you need to check with your physician.
I hope I haven't discouraged you by discussing the above details. I can assure you that if you stick with the first 21 days you will feel better. I know I do. After the three weeks of elimination are complete, you will be well on your way to a True Lifestyle Change that will lead you to permanent weight loss and improved health. So, are you ready to begin? The link to the Comprehensive Elimination Diet my doctor gave me is here. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health also has a 6 page handout here, with very user-friendly tables of information.
Final thought: Don't you deserve a little TLC? I look forward to hearing your success stories!
Update to this post 9/12/10 - Once you've completed the initial elimination phase you will begin the process of adding foods back into your diet. This is where the TLC really kicks into gear. If you're in need of further direction, check out the Eat More, Weigh Less post here that discusses a nutrition plan recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. This plan is basically a continuation of what you have already begun in the Elimination Diet with the exception that you will begin adding grains, dairy etc. back in if you had eliminated them from the start. It outlines the steps and strategies that will help guide you through the process of choosing foods that are less energy (calorie) dense, but more nutrient rich.This type of nutrition plan is a win/win. Here's to improving our health through good nutrition!
National Cancer Institute, Immunity and Cancer - http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/understandingcancer/immunesystem/Slide32
Zar, S., Food Hypersensitivity - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2036.2001.00951.x/full
Linus Pauling Institute - http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/ss07/inflammation.html
Malterre, Tom, MS, CN, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook
Mayo Clinic calorie calculator - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/calorie-calculator/NU00598