Beach-combing Artist

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Everything you see in this ‘painting’ comes from the beach here at Seaside Park. It’s September, and the leaves are starting to fall. This picture captures the changing season. The colors are going from blue and green to gold and silver.

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The Path

This picture I made on the day my daughter’s divorce became official. I was at the beach when she called to tell me. She’s on a path of self-discovery. I had wanted to make a path picture ever since our trip out to Santa Fe, where she and I had walked on a little stone path in a park downtown. That idea came back to me.

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Santa Fe rock path

Ideas come from many places. I am attracted to patterns and textures in nature, and take pictures when I see something beautiful.

 

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October

October beach

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Preparing the background

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FOOD for Thought

TEA TALKS with ROBIN

0310150717-01 I just want to say before starting this post that there are 3 things my food is all about:
1) healthy
2) tasty
3) beautiful

I always start with healthy ingredients. No additives like food coloring, preservatives, or chemical substitutes. This means for the most part using unprocessed food, and making it yourself. The good news is that it’s easier than it sounds.
The tasty part is secondary, because I actually don’t use much in the way of seasonings. I learned a long time ago that simple food tastes good all by itself. I don’t need lots of sauces or dressings to make it yummy. But if you do, just add it yourself afterwards!
The third part is the beauty part. If you use whole foods, you’ll end up with something beautiful to serve, and arranging things to look elegant in a bowl or on a plate is an art-form…

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The Girls with the Grandmother Faces

I found this book in a box in Belgium when I went home to sort through the things I’d left behind three years ago. I don’t remember where I got it, but I hadn’t read it yet, and the cover looked intriguing and right up my current alley, so I took it with me on the plane back to the US. I’d like to introduce it to my over 55 friends, men included. Although it’s written especially for women, any one of us older folks can benefit from the ideas Frances Weaver writes about.

 

Right off the bat, I’d like to say something that has seriously stuck with me ever since reading it last week: We older women are no longer the center of our grown children’s lives! That was a bombshell. What? How could that be?? Frances tells the story of how after her husband died, she sold the big house and moved closer to her children, expecting them to gravitate around granny for all the holidays and vacation times. Wrong.  She waited and waited, and when all she got was excuses, she decided that it was time for her to live her own life, not theirs.

I have to admit this was a shocking and revelatory idea for me. A few days later I was visiting my daughter for the weekend and happened to spy her diary on the floor half under the bed. Against the chiding of my conscience, I picked it up and leafed through it, searching for any mentions of my name. Yes, I wanted to prove to myself how important I am to my daughter. I was expecting to read things like: My mom said this, and I was so inspired; My mom did this, and I was so inspired; My mom my mom, my mom…..you get the picture. I couldn’t find one mention of my frequent presence in her life, and realized that Frances was right. Thinking back to my own journals, how often was I quoting my mother or waxing poetic about her? Unless it was something extremely negative, she wasn’t in there very often. I had other things to write about. I was living my life, not hers.

They say we have to let our children go, spread their wings, fly the coop. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The best thing I can do for Emilie at this stage in both of our lives is to be that stable bow, and to encourage her to fly while I do the same! Having come to that realization, I understand her response to my recent FB post about being 66 and feeling so happy about my life. She said, “Mom! I want to be like you when I’m 66!” No sweeter words necessary!

Back to The Girls with the Grandmother Faces, A Celebration of Life’s Potential for Those Over 55: A second big takeaway is that when we are older and find ourselves with more time on our hands, we need to “get back out there among ’em, drop the safety net, and move on our own steam.” Here are a few more quotes along those lines:

“Our world has more for us to do than we have imagined. Until now, we hadn’t the time, but now that’s pretty much all we have….With our eyes and ears open, we can find new and marvelous things to do, then pass the magic along to other women like us.” She’s talking about going back to school, getting involved in community activities, travel during off-seasons, and taking advantage of all the many senior advantages available. One of the things Frances took up (at the age of 55) was kite flying. It became an obsession, and she found others who enjoyed it too, and has a collection of kites and kite-flying friends from all over the world. Who would have thought of that?

She’s speaking directly to where I am at these days- wondering what to do with my time? I’m getting the idea from her that before I go out looking for a ‘regular’ job, I should try my hand at something creative that I’m already doing and loving. The author’s story is just such an example. After she became widowed, she booked a thirty-day cruise. Never having traveled by herself, she felt the need to find out if she could. She had so much fun, and felt so good, that she began helping a travel-agent friend sell group tours in return for an agent’s rate, and created a temporary job for herself as tour director. Then she went back to community college, which included a move clear across the country, and took Creative Writing, Poetry, and Spanish. Finding that she liked to write, and against the admonitions of her less adventurous friends, she self-published the “Grandmother Faces” book. Shortly after putting copies in her local Colorado bookstore, she was invited by a Denver publisher to write a travel book for older single women (like myself), which she did. It’s called, This Year I Plan to Go Elsewhere. It’s on my reading list!

Next, she was interviewed on a nationwide cable channel, and somehow or another, the department of tourism in Malta invited her to spend a week in Malta, all expenses paid! She was subsequently hired by a cruise ship line to be a guest lecturer, and for the next 10 years traveled all over the world. Reading her story has been electrifying. It sounds like the perfect scenario: travel, creativity, writing and speaking, and meeting all sorts of people.

I’m not divorced or widowed, but I’m living alone per an arrangement that is working well for both me and my husband of 35 years. Both of us are having to rethink and recreate our lives, and learn to live what we have left of our lives in a satisfactory and inspiring way. We are each learning to make and trust our own decisions. Having no one else to blame helps. Creative living requires an amount of risk-taking, but what’s to lose? “One risk often leads to greater discoveries of our own capabilities,” Frances writes. That’s been my experience, for sure. I’m thinking of a recent risky behavior I embarked on when I responded to an add on Craig’s List looking for a backup vocalist for a local musician. Thrilled and terrified at the same time, I picked up the phone and made the call. We agreed to meet at the open mic a few miles down the road, and both signed up to perform separately so we could appraise each other’s musical talents before deciding to work together. I had no idea what he would look like, nor did he have a clue that I was 65. That in itself was one of my biggest fears – that he would reject me immediately because of my age. It turned out that his music was deplorable, and his personality not much better, and he left the bar without saying anything, which was a relief. On the other hand, I had a good set, and realized I can do this performance thing still, even at my ripening age, and I met a fantastic bass player in the process.

“Recycling ourselves means getting rid of whatever serves no useful purpose, whatever our lives no longer depend on. Recycling also means discovering the unused, still-new interests, options, and opportunities that did not fit the younger version of ourselves.” Yes! My parents are both gone, and I was lucky I didn’t end up being saddled with their long-term care as many boomers are finding themselves. My daughter is a grown woman, and has left the nest. She’s making decisions for herself, and I have been learning to trust that she can take care of herself now and doesn’t need me sticking my nose into everything. I’ve got my health, and I’m basically free at this stage of my life. I don’t want to waste the precious time!

I’d like to suggest this book to anyone who has recently found themselves facing a new phase in life, wants to make a new start and needs some direction, or is feeling old and tired and knows there’s more if they could just figure out what.  A final quote that sums it all up for me comes from Jane O’Reilly, New York Times, July, 1986: “The most important mission of a woman’s life is not to hold onto her looks. Our mission is the same as a man’s….to grow up.” Yes. And no one else can do that for us!fullsizeoutput_3938

 

My Winter Pause

From notes I wrote on Jan 14th, 2015

Joy and Momo

Joy and Momo

7:49am with Momo and Joy on Laura’s patio, Miami, FL

I’ve been at Laura’s since Saturday, when I drove in with a rental car, lugging all my stuff. It’s been 3 full days. Yesterday we made a plan to do two sessions, so it was a real working day. M took his study to the fish office, so Laura and I had the ‘garage’ all to ourselves. That’s what they call it. I call it the Healing Center, or Laura’s office.

The first session was approx. 3 hours. It was a re-assessment and going over and creating a new ‘charged area’ list. The second session was called ‘unblocking’ ~ you pick a person, place, or thing, and the therapist asks you a series of questions about it. For example: ‘Concerning ________, has anything been supressed? Has anything been revealed? judged? concealed? validated?’ It’s a process of opening little holes in the tangled web of our most difficult relationships. It’s like chipping holes in a block of ice so air can circulate. It’s work, and often exhausting, although you’re just talking and sitting on a couch or a comfortable chair.

Today I did a little clearing of my favorite part of the house~ the back patio. I hosed it off and scrubbed the floor and washed down all the outdoor furniture. I like things to be clean, clear, and beautiful, and the patio is where I spend most of my time. I can see the sky, feel the breeze, watch the wildlife on the lake, and be surrounded by beauty. It’s funny, I don’t want to go to the store with Laura to shop, or to the restaurant with them, or to the movies that’s a 40 minute drive away. I said “No, thanks” to all the invitations, and just stayed here at home, most of the time on the back patio with Joy and Momo (the elderly German Shephard and her cat friend). Momo’s lying here on the little table next to my chair. The tip of her tail is flicking, so I know she’s ‘feeling’ my presence. If I just make a tiny humming sound I can activate it. We’re tuned into each other.

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I like it here. I can think. I don’t want to get into a car and go out into that world out there. At least not right now. I’m enjoying the space just to be. I’d rather get into a kayak and go out into the world of nature. It’s peaceful, and quiet, and I connect.

Laura's lake.

Laura’s lake.

People pay good money to be in 78 degrees in January, sitting somewhere with their feet up looking out over water and sipping a cool drink. A huge added bonus is that there’s a cat here right next to me keeping me company. She’s a real companion, and I’m not alone at all. Even though it feels so much like a retreat, I’m calling it a ‘pause.’ Laura comes  by, drops in, and brings me a hot tea, or a Vicks Vapo Rub for my neck. We sit out on the davenport together watching the early morning light or the night sky in the evening, sharing stories of our lives. Then I close my eyes and drift off. She heads back inside, and I’m in my space again.

Sunset on the patio.

Sunset on the patio.

Today’s been our ‘day off.’ She made her own schedule, and I made mine. We crossed paths briefly when she was in-between yoga and a lunch date with her husband and a client. “Wanna come in my room and talk while I get changed?” she called through the open door. We touched base, had a good laugh about how well the arrangement we made is working out, and then she was gone again.

Tomorrow is another ‘work day’ and I’m enjoying the unscheduled-ness of today. However, I still made a to-do list. Structure always give me a framework to hang the time on. It wards off the feeling that I’m wasting it, which always bums me out. It also reminds me of jobs that I need to do: writing to my daughter and her husband, repairing the bra I gave Laura, filing down my new partial, making a pot of lentil soup, washing out my handbag and repacking so as to be ready for my next step. I like the feeling of being on top of things. Maybe that’s part of what I need to let go, but for now it serves me well.

On the patio looking out at the lake, I love the sound the coots make when they run across the top of the water, or dive beneath it. There’s always somebody chasing somebody out of their territory, and I never get tired of watching their antics. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this right now. In exchange for some cooking and cleaning, I have a bed with a pillow and blanket, a good book and a lounge chair overlooking a beautiful lake in sunny south Florida. Meanwhile, everybody else is experiencing a cold front, freezing temperatures, and other inconvenient truths. I’m glad, very very glad, to be here.

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Then why do I keep worrying in the back of my mind about ‘tomorrow?’

“Leave tomorrow for tomorrow,” says Patty. Think about today instead. It’s a blessing. Don’t be so quick to run off. There’s work here. And sometimes that means just listening to your own breath.

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OK. That sounds good. I’m taking a pause for some fresh air…

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Care-giving for Life

Passages

I usually learn best by observing, and then doing. I became a teacher in the actual classroom, not while I was studying. For me, caregiving is the same. I had a chance to do a lot of it this past year with my mom, and it was definitely on-the-job training. Every day brought some new lesson, and I got better at it each time.

While taking care of my mom, I also learned about the importance of self-care. Like putting the oxygen mask on first, I found that I needed to take care of myself if I wanted to be a good caregiver. It makes sense, but it’s easy to forget. In all the caregiver manuals I read, burnout is the number one thing that everyone warns against. Take care of yourself if you want to take care of someone else.

Another important lesson for a caregiver is to cultivate your social network. In her book, Passages in Caregiving, Gail Sheehy, who’s written about many of life’s passages, quotes several studies about the effect of friends on one’s health. Here are two that struck me:

“Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.” (Rebecca Adams, University of North Carolina)

“The best antidote to preserve the brain is an extensive social network. It’s how many people one knows intimately and feels comfortable confiding in.” (Dr. David Bennett)

I didn’t have to organize a social network for my mother. She already had one. She has so many good friends who love and admire her, and who dropped by to visit, take her out somewhere, or offer to help me with her care. When she went into the hospital I saw just how many of them there are, as they were all gathered in one place, bearing the most precious gift of all~ their time.

For me, it’s a work in progress. I have lived in so many places, and left many friends behind each time I’ve moved. I have to reach out much further than my mother does to make contact with them, and I often forget to or find reasons why it’s difficult. However, I’m seeing how important it is by the results I get when I do confide in people. By taking the time to build relationships gradually over time if it’s someone new, and staying in regular contact and sharing the ups and downs with family and old friends, I refresh myself, and find the support and encouragement I need.

I’ve always enjoyed writing letters, and always feel good when I do. It’s cheaper than a phone call, more personal than an email, and because of the time I have to reflect, it’s usually more sincere. Since I started consciously cultivating my social network recently, I’ve written about 15 letters. Sometimes, if I remember to, I photocopy them before sending them off. They seem so special, and I like to keep a record of what I said and to whom. They’re like journal entries, pages in my life, only better because they’ve been shared with someone else, not just me.

Self-care is a life-long work. We start out learning to hold our own spoon, brush our own teeth, and walk without assistance. Later, we learn to care for our thoughts and emotions. Eventually we can begin taking care of others in an effective and healthy way. The friends we cultivate become our social network, and provide us with the comfort, encouragement, and strength we need to keep on giving, not just to others but to ourselves as well.

“WHEAT BELLY” ~ by Dr. William Davis……. A diet-changing book for 2015

What Giving Up Wheat Has Done for Me – An Update 2 Years Later (May, 2017)

I haven’t taken an AFTER picture of my belly like I promised I would, but I can tell you the dimensions have decreased substantially: Since writing this post at the beginning of 2015, I’ve lost 20 pounds, and 8 cm from my waist, and 9 cm from my belly. I’m feeling and looking good! The post below is about a diet change I made and have basically stuck with (with a few relapses before joining OA eight months ago) which has become a way of life, and given me back my health. For anyone looking to make some similar changes, read my original post below. All the best in your quest for a healthier YOU 🙂

 

Books drop into my life unbidden. Someone is talking about a book they’re reading, or I see the cover on a coffee table or online, and it’s like, I’ve got to read that.

It’s a new year, and that’s always a good time to make a new start. I was thinking about what I could do, and suddenly, there it was, the inspirational book to get me going in the right direction, health-wise, in 2015: WHEAT BELLY, by Dr. William Davis. Thanks to Brenda for loaning it to me before taking it back to the library.

Wheat Belly

Dr. Davis’ basic claim is that the need for ‘healthy whole grains’ is “pure fiction.” This blog post is my excited and enthusiastic report about what I read, and how my body is responding to not eating wheat anymore.

I started 6 days ago~ no bread of any kind, no cakes or cookies, no chips, or tacos, or pasta. Have I forgotten anything? Yes. Lots of processed foods have wheat in them, so I’m reading labels now. I’ve decided to be careful, and vigilant, not because I have Celiac disease and experience the painful consequences of ingesting gluten, but because my unsightly wheat belly is an indicator of all kinds of potential problems that I will face if I keep going the way I have been. Like many Americans, I’ve been addicted to bread products in all their varied and wondrous forms, and I’m also overweight.

The book made sense to me. All I had to do was look down to recognize the result of my food choices hanging solidly around my middle. The research also scared me into action. I don’t want to become a diabetic like my sister, or have my toes amputated like my diabetic friend at the pool. He’s younger than I am, and I definitely recognized a wheat belly while we were sitting and chatting in the sun. I don’t want to have my knees or hips replaced like one of mom’s friend. She has a wheat belly, too. I know I need to take better care of my bones, joints, organs, and brain, not to mention all the other indispensable parts of me that I love and appreciate and don’t want to lose. I don’t want to eat food that leaches the calcium out of my bones, elevates my blood sugar and sets off an unhealthy chain reaction, throws the pH balance off, or sneaks past the blood/brain barrier and messes with my mind. As Dr. Davis points out, today’s genetically modified and hybridized wheat isn’t really the same food as our forbears ate. He calls it a ‘synthetic’ food, and after reading WHEAT BELLY, you’ll understand why.

I’m feeling inspired to have found a way to improve my health this year, and I’m already seeing the results of making a commitment to living wheat-free. After only 6 days I feel lighter, cleaner, and good about taking more responsibility for my constant companion, my body. After two days I had the best bowel movement in a very long time. Some readers will understand how exciting that is. I thought immediately that this is the beginning of a cleaning out process, and that I’m really onto something here.

The third day, I had a second helping of ice-cream with whipped cream on top, and I noticed that I didn’t feel good afterwards. No more seconds! On the 5th day, I didn’t feel good after a medium-size DQ shake, AND I had terrible smelly gas 😦 Whew! No more large ice-cream portions. Ice-cream is not a wheat product, so it’s allowed, but I’m starting to see what my body likes, not just what I think I want. I promised myself that next time I indulge in a coffee milk-shake at DQ, I’ll buy the small size and split it with a friend. That probably won’t be for a long time.

I’ve been feeling happy, in spite of the fact that I have no idea where I’m headed or what I’m going to be doing tomorrow or the next day. I left my home and my family, and I’m on the road, and that can be very scary. But it’s what I want and need to do right now, and having the boundaries of a clear eating plan removes some of the decision-making, and provides a sort of anchor, or steadying presence. I’m experiencing less mood swings, and in spite of the fact that my life is in a state of flux, I feel like I’m on an even keel~ I’m calm and happy, my mind is clear, my energy is good, and I’m not on drugs.

For anyone who knows me, that’s a big change. Of course, it’s not ALL about the wheat. I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself lately. But changes in fuel quality and quantity make a difference. I’m not experiencing any of my usual cravings for sweets, especially in-between meals or in the middle of the night. I feel satisfied for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch, just like Dr. Davis promised I would. Food is just not on my mind as much.

I’m eating raw nuts to make up for the breads I used to crave. I carry a bag of almonds with me in my purse, and if I think I need to eat and it’s not a meal time, I just pop a small handful into my mouth and chew on them. It satisfies, and does no harm. I’m using more vegetables when I prepare meals, and finding it’s easy to do. Also, keeping carbs like rice, oatmeal, and beans in the 1/2 cup portion size like Dr. Davis recommends, controls spikes in blood sugar, and I eat less in the process. Fruits are totally healthy, but should be limited because of their sugar content. All of that is fine by me. It’s about downsizing, in every way.

I weighed in at 191 pounds last week when I started ~ almost the heaviest I’ve ever been~ with a waist measurement of 106cm, and the belly 127cm. All I had in my suitcase was my tape measure from home in Belgium, so I’ll stick to centimeters. I’m going to keep track, and I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to my wheat belly in 2015.

I usually take copious notes from books that inspire me, but I don’t own, and are just passing through my hands briefly. It takes time, but then I have something to look back on when I want to re-inspire myself. It’s also a way to share key points with other people. The following excerpts are for the sake of anyone out there who is feeling stuck in a way of life that isn’t feeling quite right, and who is interested in doing something for their body this year. I’m not much of a scientist, so I left a lot of the biological explanations out~ to avoid all the extra copying~ and just wrote down the practical parts that spoke to me. One story in particular resonated with me. It was about a 61 year old woman who weighed 182 pounds, and decided to give up wheat. In 14 months she lost 55 pounds, and 12 inches around her waist. I’m 63, and equally overweight (I almost typed ‘overwheat’) and I have a very distinct wheat belly which I’d like to lose. But more than that, I’d like to gain a better and more healthy lifestyle to protect and preserve this totally wonderful organism that has been serving me so well. I like it the way it is, and I’m not ashamed about how I look, but I want to be healthier on the inside, so I can be around longer, and enjoy my life until the end.

Wheat isn’t really wheat anymore: According to Dr. Davis, “Wheat strains have been hybridized, crossbred, and introgressed to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions. Genetic changes have been induced to increase yield per acre~ more than ten times that of farms a century ago. Drastic changes to genetic codes have come at a price. Today’s bread bears little resemblance to the loaves that emerged from our forbears’ ovens.”

“The health profile of a wheat-deficient person: slender, flat tummy, low triglycerides, high HDL (good) cholesterol, normal blood sugar, normal blood pressure, high energy, good sleep, and normal bowel function.” What’s not to want about all that?

The author had a wheat sensitivity, and tested his body’s response to both the einkorn bread (the evolutionary predecessor of modern-day wheat), and modern organic whole-wheat bread. He ate 4 oz of each, on two consecutive days, and documented his blood sugars after consuming each. His starting blood sugar was 84 mg/dl. After eating the einkorn bread, it his blood sugar rose to 110 mg/dl, and he felt fine. The next day, after eating the conventional whole wheat bread, his blood sugar rose to 167 mg/dl, and he had his usual bad reaction~ nausea and a headache~ for the next 36 hours. The difference in his body’s response was a revelation to him. The book documenting his research about wheat and its effects on the human body and mind became a New York Times Bestseller in 2011, and it is my new wellness guide this year.

Genetic Modification: “The science of genetic modification has advanced. New strains can be genetically tailored to be compatible with specific fertilizers or pesticides…Incremental genetic variations…can make a world of difference. Take human males and females…the crucial differences originate with just a single chromosome, the diminutive male Y chromosome and its few genes… Public pressure has now prompted the international agricultural community to develop guidelines, but no such outcry was raised years earlier as farmers and geneticists carried out tens of thousands of hybridization experiments. Hybridization efforts continue, breeding new ‘synthetic’ wheat.”

The cost of carbs: “Wheat is a supercarbohydrate: Whole wheat bread increases blood sugar to a higher level than sucrose. Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a candy bar. The glycemic index (GI) of white bread is 69, the GI of whole grain bread is 72, and the GI of table sugar is 59. The GI of a Mars bar is 68, and the GI of a Snickers bar is 41 ~ far better than whole grain bread.”

“Wheat products elevate blood sugar levels more than virtually any other carbohydrate, from beans to candy bars… The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. That’s why eating a 3-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose doesn’t add to body fat, while 2 slices of whole wheat bread does, particularly abdominal or deep visceral fat.”

“Wheat is, in effect, an appetite stimulant. People who eliminate wheat from their diet consume fewer calories….A Mayo Clinic/Univeristy of Iowa study showed 27.5 pounds of weight loss in the first 6 months of a wheat free diet.”

In Celiac disease, the one conventionally accepted example of wheat-related intestinal illness, gluten protein provokes an immune response that inflames the small intestine, causing abdominal cramps and diarrhea…Wheat is also unique among foods for its curious effects on the brain, effects shared with opiate drugs. People who eliminate wheat from their diet typically report improved mood, fewer mood swings, improved concentration, and deeper sleep within days or weeks.”

Having read all of the above, I was already determined to give up wheat and lose MY wheat belly. Who wouldn’t want to feel better? Here’s more:

Schizophrenia and diet: “Dr. Curtis Dohan observed that during WWII, there were fewer hospitalizations for schizophrenia when food shortages made bread unavailable. More recently, a Duke University doctor described a 70 year old schizophrenic woman who experienced complete relief from psychosis and suicidal desires within 8 days of stopping wheat.” It’s inspiring to me to read about natural causes and cures to mental illness. When I was in college, I read a book that suggested fasting as a possible cure for mental illness. I immediately put myself on a 7-day fast, and turned my life around. I believe that what we eat affects us. Why wouldn’t it? It looks like we may have to learn that the hard way, though.

The blood-brain barrier: “Wheat polypeptides have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Once having gained entry into the brain, they bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind…wheat is therefore one of the few foods that can alter behavior, induce pleasurable effects, and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon its removal.”

“Wheat is an appetite stimulant, specifically the exorphins from gluten. Lose the wheat, lose the weight. Foods made with or containing wheat make you fat. Wheat over-consumption is the main cause of the obesity and diabetes crisis in the US.”

Americans are big, and fat. I realized that after living in Asia for many years and coming back home. It was a shock. And when I walk down the grocery store aisles, I can see why. Here are some statistics from WHEAT BELLY: “According to the CDC, 34.4% of Americans are overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) and 33.9% are obese (BMI 30 or more). Less than 1 in 3 are normal weight. Belly fat is created by bulging fatty internal organs. It is the surface manifestation of visceral fat contained within the abdomen, and encasing abdominal organs (liver, kidneys, pancreas, large and small intestines). Visceral fat is dangerous. The more visceral fat is present, the greater quantities of abnormal inflammatory signals released into the bloodstream. The list of health conditions triggered by visceral fat is growing and now includes dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Waist circumference is proving to be a powerful predictor of all these conditions, as well as of mortality.”

Visceral Fat: I wasn’t sure what the word meant, but I wasn’t in the dark for long. “In the human body, all fat is not equal,” write Davis. “Belly fat is a repository for inflammatory white blood cells (macrophages) and is in effect an endocrine gland much like your thyroid or pancreas. High blood sugar provokes high blood insulin. High blood insulin provokes visceral fat accumulation. Visceral fat is also a factory for estrogen production, stimulating growth of breast tissue. Increased visceral fat has been associated with a 4-fold increased risk for breast cancer.”

The average weight loss of a group of Dr. Davis’ patients who eliminated wheat from their diets was 26.7 pounds in 5.6 months. “If there’s no glucose-insulin cycle, there’s little to drive appetite and when appetite shrinks, calorie intake is reduced, visceral fat disappears, insulin resistance improves, blood sugars fall. Diabetics can become non-diabetics. Where there’s diabetes, there’s wheat. In 2009, 24 million Americans were diabetic. It’s the fastest growing disease (other than obesity). For every diabetic there are 3 or 4 people who are prediabetic. 22-39% of all US adults have prediabetes. More limb amputations are performed for diabetes than any other nontraumatic disease. Diabetes was formerly uncommon. Unhealthy weight gain is exceptionally costly. More money is spent on health consequences of obesity than on education.”

“The average American consumes 133 pounds of wheat per year,” according to Davis’ research. “That’s approximately half a loaf of bread per day. Goodbye to wheat, goodbye to diabetes. Diabetes should be regarded as a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.”

About the alkaline/acidic balance: “Vegetables and fruits are the dominant alkaline foods in the diet. Our natural body pH is 7.4. Acidosis, and its acidic pH, pulls calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate from bone to maintain the body pH of 7.4. The more protein intake from vegetables rather than animal products, the fewer hip fractures occur. Modern eating practices create a chronic acidosis that leads to osteoporosis, and fractures in 53% of women over the age of 50. A decline in bone density begins years before menopause, and is not due to a loss of estrogen after menopause. It is largely due to the chronic low-grade acidosis we create with diet, at any age.”

“Wheat is among the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, yielding more per gram than any meat. Sulfuric acid is dangerous stuff. Although the sulfuric acid produced by wheat is dilute, even in tiny quantities in dilute form it’s an overwhelmingly potent acid that rapidly overcomes the neutralizing affects of alkaline bases. Grains such as wheat account for 38% of the average American’s acid load. In one study, increased gluten intake increased urinary calcium loss by 63%. A chronic acid burden eats away at bone health. Remove wheat from the modern diet, replace the lost calories with vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, and the alkaline balance is restored. Wheat-free people consume 350-400 fewer calories per day. Hunger is curbed, and it’s easy to go for 5 to 6 hours between meals.”

The affects of wheat on the joints: “Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. Loss of cartilage resulted in 773,000 knee and hip replacements in America in 2010. The same imflammation that issues from the visceral fat of the wheat belly and results in diabetes, heart disease, and cancer also yields inflammation of the joints. The greater the degree of overweight (i.e. higher BMI) the higher the quantity of leptin within joint fluid, and the greater the severity of cartilage and joint damage. Losing weight, particularly visceral fat, improves arthritis. Cartilage cells are incapable of reproducing. If cartilage proteins, such as collagen and aggrecan, become glycated, they become abnormally stiff, making cartilage brittle and unyielding, eventually crumbling. Remove wheat and reduce joint inflammation, get fewer blood-sugar ‘highs’ that glycate cartilage, and shift the pH balance to alkaline.”

The diet: If you stay away from processed foods, you will most likely find yourself eating differently. I like to think of it as a REAL FOOD diet. If you can grow it, you can eat it. If it comes in a package, it’s probably got stuff in it that your body would prefer not to ingest. Real foods that make up the foundation of this diet are vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats (not processed), eggs, avocados, olives, cheese, and beans. Controlling the amount of starches, like rice, potatoes, and oats, keeps blood sugars in a normal and healthy range.

My Wheat Belly, Jan 2015

My Wheat Belly, Jan 2015

This is what a wheat belly looks like. Not very pretty, eh? I NEVER show this part of my body off. Hiding it drives almost all of my fashion choices. But I took some pictures of my body this past year, and it seems appropriate to show this particular reality here. Before and After shots are always so inspiring. This is the BEFORE. I will post an AFTER shot when there’s less to show, and more to report.

Thank you, and Bon appetite!

Tea, anyone?

Tea, anyone?