And Then, You’re There

Maybe a milestone is easy for me to miss, which seems contradictory, as I hold it in high regard, a true moment of significant development. Yet, such a moment did occur this past Thursday but it was not until Black Friday that I noticed.

Like many Americans who gave thanks this past week, I have food allergies/sensitivities that require some adjustment to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal: stuffing made with gluten/yeast free bread, organic apples and freshly ground sausage; organic sweet potatoes, green beans, and cranberries; no salt, no refined sugar.

When I woke up on Black Friday feeling not only fine but wonderful, I became suspicious. I had been careful with my meal preparation and ingredients yet I anticipated a bit of a reaction to the amount of carbohydrates I had consumed. There was none. 

Thus, it may have dawned as a Black Friday like any other–I am not given to participating in the holiday season gift frenzy—but it became  the day I realized that 26 months of fastidious eating habits had finally returned my digestive system to a state it has not known in decades: harmony.

When I first began eating gluten, yeast, dairy, soy, and sugar-free in August, 2010, I learned as I ate, which I soon discovered meant being precise in my eating and foregoing a lifelong habit of eating to please any particular craving that appeared. On Black Friday, 2012, I reaped the rewards of overcoming carbohydrate cravings, giving myself and my taste buds a new life.

New life is not really an exaggeration for I left behind all I had known—my well-worn, conditioned ways of living–for the freedom of the unknown–shed of past and future in favor of the present—a path that unfolds only moment by moment. Here, I trust my heart over my head–there isn’t room or need for any baggage–an open heart travels light.

In the early days, there are sugar cravings in as many forms as there are thoughts: a very dry, vodka martini shaken so hard that slivers of ice float on its surface evaporates into a cheese-dripping, twice-baked potato melting into a milk chocolate fondue for pound cake and strawberries. They are mirage, part and parcel of the past, ultimately powerless in the realm of the present.

In 26 months, the past has had its way with me. Sometimes, rather than giving into the image, I tried a “substitute,” seeking sugar in all the wrong places, always sorry the next morning and often, sooner. The taste of sugar always seemed just beyond me until I stopped reaching into the past. The last time I ate ice cream, I felt as if I were eating raw sugar from a sugar bowl. For the rest of the day, I could not brush my teeth enough, and the next morning, I had a hangover.

So, being able to eat apples, bread stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes in one meal without an immediate or delayed reaction is a milestone. And, I have continued to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers without any reaction, without any weight increase. In fact, for over a year, I have maintained a 50+ pound weight loss and for the last six months, my total loss has stayed right at 68-69 pounds.

My constant companion on this path has been steady weight loss, from the first day 26 months ago. Of course, my forays into the dark side of sugar always resulted in some kind of temporary weight gain but for the first time in my life, losing weight was not an effort.

My exercise is modest–mostly walking–although yoga is now playing a more active role. And while I would not have thought it possible, I truly enjoy eating a varied regimen of green, leafy and low carbohydrate vegetables, a few legumes, nuts/nut butters, infrequent fish/poultry, almond milk and now, some fruit.

Most of the digestive system resources are quite imprecise on how long it may take to return to what I call digestive harmony. Occasionally, however, I found this general guideline: it takes one month for every year the digestive system has been out of balance. In my case, 26 years of digestive disharmony is plausible, but more than anything, it is baggage from the past best left leaning against the Black Friday milestone. Soon, none of it will even be a thought.

Getting Physical

Sjogren’s Syndrome has had my attention these last few days. Sjogren’s affects gland secretion, which means there is a general dryness throughout the body. It is often in the company of lupus so it’s been a joint effort. However, I’m happy to report that I have remained more in the moment than not and am simply working through my symptoms—dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue–as they make themselves available. It is intriguing.

In examining these two autoimmune issues, I focus on what is occurring throughout my physiology rather than considering cause and effect. This began two years ago when I walked away from traditional medicine, and with a little knowledge of quantum healing, I began creating a diet for myself that would not make me sicker. I needed a distraction and food, which had been such a comfort, seemed the logical choice.

It was a no-brainer to eat whole foods and eliminate processed/refined products but I discovered I could not tolerate all whole foods, especially carbohydrates. Ultimately, I stopped eating yeast, gluten, dairy, and soy but mostly, I stopped eating almost all sugars, including fruit. I ate meat and still do, infrequently, but I receive more than my required protein amount from almond butter, plain goat’s milk yogurt, eggs, broccoli and even almond cheese, just to name a few sources. I quickly discovered that getting enough protein is not an issue.

Mostly, I found myself engaged in an experiment for health and not a diagnosis for disease. My physiology became my laboratory. As my sugar and high carbohydrate intake dropped, my joint pain began to decrease. Yet, not all sugars are equal. For example, I tolerate apple cider vinegar but no other. When I discovered that apple cider vinegar is a main ingredient in Eden’s Organic Brown Mustard, I finally found my condiment. This mustard is a marvelous addition to any sandwich.

Bread proved elusive until I learned of Paleo Bread—almond and coconut are my preferences—yet another source of protein for me. While the bread is expensive,  a local health food store is providing me a great discount. The bread is a significant source of fiber, contains no refined starch and is extremely low in carbohydrates. Yes, it is an acquired taste but like my ever-changing physiology, my taste buds are not what they were.

I discovered that change at my 60th birthday dinner. The waiter brought a complimentary birthday chocolate sundae, which I ate because it was my birthday and because I wanted to see what reaction I would have. Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the taste–too sweet, too much. For the next few days, that taste stayed with me, mostly in the form of carbohydrate cravings. No one is immune to the physiology of them.

In response, I ate more almond butter and drank more chamomile tea (with Stevia) until my physiological system evened itself out. By the way, the only natural Stevia that I know of is SweetLeaf; all the others have either sugar or a sugar substitute in them. Every time I meet up with sugar, intentionally or no, my physiology alters significantly. This may have been true all my life or not. Doesn’t matter.  I discovered a connection.

In quantum healing, perfect health is an ideal, of course, but its heart is “…the junction point between mind and matter, the point where consciousness actually starts to have an effect” (Deepak Chopra). That junction point is when “…quantum healing moves away from external, high-technology methods toward the deepest core of the mind-body system. This core is where healing begins” (Chopra).

My experimenting with nutrition is only the beginning of my understanding quantum healing. Mine is an undertaking that many question to which I can only respond that for the first time in 30+ years I have a connection to my body that is not external or chemical. It is right for me. I still have Sjogren’s and lupus symptoms–no worse and perhaps no better–I haven’t paid attention to degree of discomfort for I have been busy in my physiology laboratory.

“The healing mechanism resides somewhere in this overall complexity, but it is elusive. There is no one organ of healing. How does the body know what to do when it is damaged, then? Medicine has no simple answer….A man-made drug is a stranger in a land where everyone else is blood kin. It can never share the knowledge that everyone else was born with” (Chopra).

Yet, I am not unrealistic, either. I do not believe I will attain the health of a sexagenarian who has generally taken good care of her emotional and physical needs. I was not that person for 58 of my 60 years; I am only that person now. Thus, whatever healing emerges is from an awareness born of the mind-body connection. For me, it is about appreciating the incredible complexity that is my physiology and doing everything I can to support my body in its never-ending quest to provide me health. I am much more careful in how I live.

Our physiology communicates mainly through pain or discomfort but it is in the examining of the communication that we gain a broader perspective of our physical self. Physically or emotionally, we do not operate well on deprivation. No living organism does. Quantum healing is going beyond physiology—cells, tissues, organs, and systems–to that mysterious “junction point between mind and matter” where healing begins.  It is intriguing.

(All Deepak Chopra quotes excerpted from Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, New York: 1990, Bantam Books)