Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diet Du Jour

Last week I spent several days surrounding the death of my step mother driving long distances, planning and performing a memorial service, and eating loads of comfort food. Both my wife, my father and my sister were with me for the majority of meals.

My sister recently got back to her pre-baby weight. My niece is 19 months old now. Sister is a daily walker and has been quite successful with Weight Watchers point counting in the past and is currently using an online menu/budgeting service with a light option.

My father is counting calories and has lost about 50 pounds. He has also been highly stressed for several months as my step-mom's health declined. He typically fasts for one 24 hour period a week, for spiritual/religious purposes more than physical, I believe. He has been driving an average of 4 hours a day for months and doesn't do any regular exercise to my knowledge.

My wife has been in a state of transistion for several months nutritionally as well. She's taking a cake decorating class which leaves us with lots of extra chocolately sugar bombs laying around the kitchen. Her activity level has waned during the summer months because she hates the high humidity and extreme heat of the Florida summer. We've also been dealing with tropical style lightning storms every day for weeks. I think she's done some Zumba on the Wii a few times, but we don't even like that during the electrical storms.
My step mom passed due to a major cardiac incident. She had bypass surgery 3 years ago "preventatively." She was also dealing with a challenging lymphoma on the lung and dependency on a ventilator. As with all my health pursuits, I try to be smarter than my predecesors and/or learn from their mistakes. I really need to make myself more heart healthy and lung healthy. Likewise, most of my health pursuits start at the grocery store.

It was a mind blowing week for food- seeing all these perspectives from people I know, love, and trust- they're some of the smartest people I know! My sister told me that Weight Watchers basically allows as much fruit as you want, with no points against you. She and I both downed some serious watermelon, bananas, and grapes during the trip. My wife made several wonderfully tasty comfort foods, like sheppard's pie and lasagna. I tried to eat lots of fruit at least one meal per day- I even blended some watermelon into some juice so I didn't have Breville withdrawals. The wife/sister/Tom trip to the grocery store was full of various types of foods at all levels of "healthy."

So now I'm back home and looking again at my daily habits. Calorie counting counts, no doubt. Fruit makes me feel light, fresh and energized. Fat and refined sugars do not- as proven by a couple of breakfasts this week that involved biscuits and creamy sausage gravy and sticky buns, fried eggs and bacon. I've been watching a bunch of Youtube videos about raw food vegans and that's starting to make a lot of sense to me too.
Practical application time- I'm thinking about Mono-eating- specifically bananas, apples, or plums, for 3 separate meals. I was doing really well at having a daily leafy green salad for a little while- I miss it. I've been eating eggs for breakfast daily for a couple years now and still feel like it's more beneficial than harmful, because it's my primary source of protein and it keeps me grounded first thing in the morning. Food grouping-wise, the eggs and coffee route is great, especially considering that I'm not giving up coffee anytime soon.

Financially I'm super broke this month, but that is looking up with the wifey's new job, so my produce fetish can be realized again at the local farmer's market sometime real soon.We got some BOGO arugula at Publix yesterday which is one of my favorite leafy green foods. That's a good start- Love it!

Food Stuffs

Food and nutrition are constant fascinations of mine. I need to summarize what I've learned about the basics over the past couple years, because it really shouldn't be as hard as most folks make it.

There are 4 kinds of nutrition- Protein, Carbs, Fats, and Micros (vitamins and minerals). The Micros help the body use the three Macro nutrients effectively. The brain functions primarily and best on glucose (sugars.) Muscles and tissues at the cellular level are built out of proteins and fats while being fueled by carbs. Water and Fiber are also key components of food, but are primarily modes of transport for the other components.

Plants have the most Micros and Carbs. Animals have the most Protein and Fat. Humans seem to be able to assimilate the protein and fat that are in plants more efficiently than those found in animal sources, meaning less energy consumption and consequent stress on the body overall. The total diet should include more plants than animals, for optimal nutrtion and digestive health.

Refined foods are higher in calories and lower in nutrients. They also frequently contain high levels of salt or added fats for preservation and flavor, respectively. Both are harmful to the body in the amounts used in standard food stuffs.

Weight management is simply a balance of calories in and calories out. Food eaten vs. activity and exercise.

Different parts of the GI tract break down different types of foods. Protein is broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach while sugars are broken down in the mouth and small intestine. Fiber and water exchange happens in the colon. The liver and gallbladder break down fats and the pancreas secretes numerous enzymes and hormones to digest carbs.

Application of heat to food, better known as cooking, breaks down nutrients, enzymes, chi and fiber. Foods that can be consumed raw and whole contain the most nutrients, enzymes, chi and fiber (found only in plants). The body digests one food at a time best- aka monoeating. Monoeating whole, raw foods as soon as they are picked from their source plant are the most vital, potent, and nutritive. There are animal derived foods that can be eaten raw, whale fat for the Inuits, for example. In those cases, the freshest meat from the kill, while it's still pumping blood through its tissues, would be "healthiest."

Balance is the key. American's typically eat way too much protein and fat, from animal sources, and put undue stress on our bodies in the process. We also eat complicated foods with multiple macros that don't combine well, creating an overall acidic, malnourished, overfed, and overworked state of chronic disease.

Once a person understands these basics about what is happening, it's all a matter of finding the appropriate balance of foods of the right types, in the right proportions, with the right preparation, for the lifestyle of the eater. That's where science of nutrition becomes art.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spiritual Healing- Foundation in Jesus

I've been avoiding this topic because there is so much ambiguity and discord in this line of thought about healing. I haven't found the "right" book (aside from the Bible) or the "right" speaker on the topic yet, who resonates completely with what I believe regarding spiritual healing. If I'm going to use this blog as my journey, I should post when I stop to see the sights along the way, right? I don't have to know the final destination to learn from where I am.

My highest goal in this life is to be like Jesus. A huge portion of his ministry on Earth was healing masses of people with his bare hands, according to every account I've ever read. There was that time a lady touched the hem of his robe and was healed as well- so just His presence was adequate to provide healing. Stories involving Jesus healing the sick are usually framed in terms of casting out demons or recognition of faith.

In Mark chapter 5 are 3 examples of healing in a row. The first is a casting out of a "Legion" of demons from a man into a herd of pigs. As a massage therapist in a very mainstream clinic, a "Demoniac" who cuts himself and lives in a cemetery most likely won't ever make it onto my table. For practical application purposes, I'll skip over him for now. The second story is the aforementioned lady touching Jesus' robe and receiving healing. People may come to me because of my reputation for healing in a transcendent or unique way, but I'm probably useless to them if I don't even aim some willful, intent of loving touch in their direction. That only leaves one more chance for me to emulate my Teacher- example number 3:

"35 While He was still speaking, they *came from the house of the synagogue official, saying, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?” 36 But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, *said to the synagogue official, “ Do not be afraid any longer, only [m]believe.” 37 And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and [n]James and John the brother of [o]James. 38 They *came to the house of the synagogue official; and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing. 39 And entering in, He *said to them, “Why make a commotion and weep? The child has not died, but is asleep.” 40 They began laughing at Him. But putting them all out, He *took along the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and *entered the room where the child was. 41 Taking the child by the hand, He *said to her, “Talitha kum!” (which translated means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk, for she was twelve years old. And immediately they were completely astounded. 43 And He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this, and He said that something should be given her to eat."

If someone approached me with this scenario, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands on her, so that she will get well and live,” soon followed by, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the Teacher anymore?..." my faith would go out the window. My first reaction would not be to say "Do not be afraid...only believe."  So clearly that's my first hurdle- remembering that the power and authority of Jesus is infinite and far outside our established, earthly boundaries. I can hear Morpheus in the Matrix lecturing Neo about the laws of physics within an artificial construct, "Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? Do you think that's air you're breathing now"

"The child has not died, but is asleep." How literal was Jesus being? Did He see it, feel it, or experience it with some other sensory input? Did God the Father tell him while he was healing the hemorrhaging woman? Was Jesus feeling so much vital energy coming from His own faith, fasting, and prayer that healing this little girl was simply a commanding sentence away and He knew it? Was He on such a high spiritual plane of existence that he was capable of understanding that the girl was already healed and whole in the Kingdom of Heaven and that this was but a blip on the proverbial radar? Was this another example of demon possession and Jesus saw the demon leave as soon as He walked in? To me, all or part of each of these are completely plausible.

The only physical action He took was taking the child by the hand. From this I take a couple things. First, keep it simple. The body is a healing machine which is connected to far greater powers than are visible. Sometimes it just takes a loving nudge in the right direction with a reminder of what we are supposed to be doing. The Healer, in this case, brought great power, insight, and spiritual connection into the room with Him. It only took the simplest of actions to convey that power into the recipient.

I know Jesus was into prayer in solitude, fasting, walking, simplicity, and freedom from arbitrary social or financial regulations. The traditional Chinese theories of energetic, some would say spiritual, healing also rely on some of these tenets. My next step is to examine some of these components and see where they fit into my life and practice, so I can continue to be a disciple of the best Teacher I know.