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Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Shape-Up: Day One

As Healthy Eating Specialist for Whole Foods Market, in North Wales, PA, I am hosting a Seven-Day Summer Shape-Up, a gentle and easy-to-follow "cleansing" program. Today is the first day of the program.

Day 1: Monday, June 23: Avoid all wheat, dairy, processed sugar, alcohol, and grains. Drink plenty of clean, purified water.

Today and tomorrow will serve as a gentle preparation for the somewhat more rigorous challenge of eating only fruits and vegetables for three days. The purpose of today's restrictions is to ease the burden of digestion and reduce the amount of circulating insulin in the blood stream.

You might already feel an intuitive sense of how avoiding foods like wheat, dairy, processed sugar, alcohol and grains can improve your digestion. Anecdotally speaking, this is the diet I've followed everyday for ten years--with the addition of wine--and I've experienced profound physical and emotional benefits.

I credit this diet--and the addition of bacteria-rich fermented foods--with essentially healing the symptoms of three chronic auto-immune illnesses: Raynaud's phenomena, fibromyalgia, and ulcerative colitis. I've never taken any medicine for any of these conditions. I've treated all of them exclusively with this diet.

If you're seeking evidence beyond my own anecdotal account, I suggest spending some time today reading the available science on gluten (and here), dairyprocessed sugar, alcohol, and grains.

Beyond digestion, however, reducing your circulating insulin levels might offer the most profound benefit. Many people do not know that insulin is a hormone that exerts a powerful effect on the human body. If you're interested in learning more about insulin's effects on health, I suggest reading "Always Hungry? Hear's Why" or any of the abundance of available science.

"This is an adventure" ~Steve Zissou [Photo source: Parabola]

How Not to Be "Totally Hosed"

As I wrote last week, a "cleanse" can certainly offer physical benefits--including improved digestion, weight loss, and clarity. Yet the primary benefit might just be how the experience can change your perceptions about health and wellness.  If you are participating in this program, now is a perfect time to ask yourself a simple question: How do I feel right now?

This program will help you see, with clarity, how your food choices influence your mood and energy. This is partly about what you eat, yet it is also about how you feel about what you eat.

So ask yourself this question each day over the next seven days. Note how your feelings change (or evolve). And try, as much as possible, to be attentive to this change.

In this regard, I find the words of the late, great writer, David Foster Wallace apropos. Here is a famous passage from Foster Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005:

"As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

Foster Wallace's advice hear speaks precisely to our goals for this program: learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think...about your food choices; being conscious and aware enough to choose...what you eat and how you construct meaning from the experience of eating.

So, again, how do you feel? How do you want to feel?

Tonight's Dinner: Spiced Grill Sweet Potatoes, 1/2 Roast Chicken, and Pan-Seared Zucchini

I developed a version of this sweet potato recipe about nine years ago for Whole Foods Market. At the time, I was desperately missing wheat and grains and seeking sustaining and joyful alternatives. I'll be making this recipe tonight. I will also be eating a 1/2 roast chicken and pan-seared zucchini (recipes here).

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), scrubbed well
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon  
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cover potatoes with cold salted water in a large pot, then bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly resistant when pierced with a sharp small knife, 5 to 7 minutes.

Drain well. When cool, slice potatoes lengthwise.

Mix together salt, spices and apple cider vinegar; add oil in a slow stream. Brush this mixture on sweet potatoes. Grill potatoes on a lightly oiled grill rack over medium heat, until grill marks appear and potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Open Emails!

If during the program you have any questions, please take advantage of the "open-email policy": email me at sethpollins@gmail and I will try to return your email within a few hours. Or please feel free to leave a comment below!