Pushing Forward

2 07 2012

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I’m in the midst of a 5 day challenge…cut my portions by a 1/3rd and exercise like a champ. This weekend I went a bit off the rails. Ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream last night. Stupid for sure, but it’s the first time I’ve done it in months and months.

I’ve decided that I’ll be going back to the doctor for a full blood workup and physical by mid-September. That will be about exactly a year since I got sick. Good motivation to stay on the straight and narrow. I’m totally despise going to the doctor but it will be good to see where my numbers are at and if my general help has improved.

Progress has been slow but I’m in this to win this. I will absolutely get there!





Trying a Wholistic Approach to Weight Loss

9 06 2012

For years I’ve thought about using acupuncture or some other healing art to assist me in losing weight. Now after losing nearly 70 pounds, I finally feel more ready to begin exploring forces outside of my own control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a fan of going to a doctor’s office but I realize that this battle with weight often feels bigger than me and getting a bit of help might not be the worst thing to do at this point.

Because I’m a bit neurotic, the search for an acupuncturist becomes a complicated process. Sure there are tons of qualified people out there, but I wanted someone who had extensive experience. I wanted someone who is preferably Chinese. I wanted the Chinese medicines, herbs and teas. I wanted someone with a broken English accent. I know this is faulty thinking. Maybe I’ve watched the Karate Kid too many times but my criteria made the choice seem like a more authentic one for me.

Upon the recommendation of a colleague, I found and called a practitioner who was able to see me that same day. I had called several other practitioners before this but was not getting any warm fuzzies. The fact that this gentleman could see me the same day made it more difficult for me to be able to allow my nerves to get the best of me and back out.

For me, going to a “doctor’s office” is an anxiety producing event. When I walked toward the door of the office I read a posted sign with several rules. I was to take off my shoes and turn off my cell phone. The act of becoming untethered to my cell phone for any length of time is also quite anxiety producing. It’s the era that we live in. I always need to feel connected. The reality though is that smart phones leave us unconnected from each other a great deal of the time.

Before I knew it, I had been ushered into the space where I would receive the treatment. I spoke with the practitioner about some chronic but generally dull pain I had been experiencing for years in my left ankle as well as a new pain that had been developing over the last few months in my right shoulder. We also spoke about my weight loss journey so far and how he might be able to assist me in moving forward.

Before I knew it, it was time to disrobe and get on the table. This is also anxiety producing. At over 300lbs, this body is not ready for prime time yet.

The practitioner began working on my right foot as a way to ease my shoulder pain. I offered that the pain was likely the result of the way I sleep as I tend to sleep on my shoulder with my arm curled under my pillow and wedged up against the headboard. He remained quiet and I felt that maybe he was not accepting my hypothesis. I have since come to learn that in some Asian healing arts practices, shoulder pain is most often an indicator of a major stress build up.

With needles inserted and electrical stimulus pulse applied, the practitioner turned off the lights and left the room for a period of time. I was left alone with the sounds of the ocean mixed with a separate recording of American Indian flute. I wondered if my American Indian tattoos had inspired him to play this for me or if it was just by chance. Either way the sounds and the needles seemed to lull me off to an extremely relaxed state in no time which is really impressive given how anxious I had been feeling. I was not tired or sleepy but my mind did produce some interesting peaceful images. It reminded me of a very lucid dream. Every once in awhile I would come back to reality when my right hand unexplainably moved on it’s own, most likely the result of being a human pin cushion.

Before I knew it, the practitioner had returned and it was time to work on my ankle. I advised that my podiatrist had told me that because of the repeated sprains and strains to my ankle since the age of 18, a very large bone spur had developed and my entire ankle would need to be scoped so that the tendons could finally snap back into place and heal. I advised that I had also been told that my ankle had aged to about that of a 65 year old despite my only being 35 at the time. My practitioner laughed at this assertion and seemed to indicate with his facial expressions (although he said nothing) that surgery would probably not be necessary. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part. I’m not completely sure.

The practitioner pushed on the exact spot on my ankle that often gives me pain. When strong pressure is applied it really hurts and I had all I could do to not sit upright and scream. Then he inserted one needle on the top of my foot near my toes and said “pain gone now” and pressed again. And it was! For the first time in 19 years my ankle was completely pain free. It felt absolutely normal. Tears began to well up. I couldn’t believe the instant difference.

The practitioner then began to add needles in a large circle around my stomach. I felt the tapping on the tops of the needles but never any actual pain (it’s very different than getting a needle at the doctor’s office). He also put needles in my arms and legs. One needle in my right leg definitely gave me an unpleasant sensation and sent a wave of something not nice down my leg for just a second and again briefly when it was finally removed later.

I also received very tiny needles in my right ear. some of these were painful but not for too long. They were covered with medical tape and I was told that I would keep them in until my next visit. These too would help with stress relief, pain relief, metabolism boosting and food craving control when massaged at least five times a day for 30 seconds each. Again the lights went out and my relaxed state returned.

At the conclusion of my visit I was told that acupuncture is not a panacea for weight loss. It will only assist in it. The hard work still belongs to me if I want to see results.

I was then given a “diet” plan for a three day caloric restriction type fast (essentially eating 1/3 of what I typically eat). This begins today. It will be difficult because I’m already eating considerably less than I had been before going plant based. After the three days, I would return to a diet not unlike what I have been doing already. No dairy, no grease, no excessive oils, low carbs and no processed foods. I also was given Chinese root tea and other herbal supplements to help with metabolism and fat absorption.

It was a very interesting experience and I’ll be going back twice this coming week. My only hope is that my insurance will get onboard and start picking up most of the tab as it is not at all cheap. I do fear that the treatments will become too cost prohibitive and I will need to stop before I’ve received enough of them to truly make an impact.

For now though I am feeling good. The shoulder and ankle were a bit sore a few hours after the session and the pain comes and goes still. Unless I become overly tired it generally remains duller and shorter in duration than it had. I expect that these issues will need more time to resolve. I’m skeptical about acupuncture’s ability to fix my ankle pain in a lasting way. This isn’t western mind. I’m definitely willing to give it a try though. I certainly cannot argue with the pain free moments in the office. That experience still amazes me.

The ear needles are neat. For some reason they make the whole right side of my face feel like it’s open (as if a piece of my skull is missing). It’s hard to find the words to explain it any other way. It’s a neat sensation. And yes my cravings have generally been in check although I’ve had my moments. We’ll see how it goes. One of the needles hurts when i massage it. The thought of having needles just stuck in my ear for days is not particularly comforting but its not stopping me from giving it a shot either.

This is an exciting new phase in my adventure. I’m interested to see where this road will lead. I definitely believe that western medicine can be beneficial but if we limit ourselves only to that, I think we miss an awful lot.

If you’ve used alternative methods to gain relief from pain and/or assist in weight loss and would like to share your experiences post a comment or email me: johnnysized@gmail.com





Andrew Weil, M.D.

19 04 2012

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For nearly 15 years I have appreciated the wisdom and knowledge of Dr. Andrew Weil, an American author and physician. I like him because he is willing to incorporate alternative modalities into mainstream healthcare. He has been named one of Time Magazines top 25 most influential people in America and one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. He’s also a big man who looks a bit like Santa Claus which endears me to him quite a bit.

So it is with great interest that I follow his musings on Facebook. So do 93,000 other people. He was recently at a Health and Nutrition Conference in Boston and shared these interesting thoughts online:

“according to the CDC, half the cases of chronic disease in the US are diet-related.”

“From the morning session of the Nutrition and Health Conf. in Boston: Consumption of soybean oil (usually labeled “vegetable oil” and common in fried foods and cheap baked goods) has risen 1,000 percent over the last 100 years – a worrisome trend for American health.”

And this shocking fact:
“Running four miles daily, for seven days, burns the calories of one fast-food meal.”. Reason enough to stay away from that stuff.
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Follow Dr.Weil on Facebook at Facebook.com/DrWeil

Follow me on Facebook at Facebook.com/thejohnnygee

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Getting Off Oil

24 02 2012

The lifestyle change to plant based foods has taught me to trade things I thought I loved for the things that my body needs. Giving up animal sources of food was a little difficult and although I do crave a juicy steak from time to time, I’m managing. Giving up sugar was hard for the first few days but now I don’t even think about it. I see things like soda and candy and they look like poison to me. (Donuts for some reason, still look wonderful!) Dairy was probably the biggest challenge because of my love of cheese. I still do miss it but I can’t argue with how I feel, and how I feel is better than I have in 15 years which is really saying something. In a way, a plant based diet is like finding the fountain of youth.

The problem I’m having now though is that after 46 pounds, the body is starting to level off with the weight loss. I’ve switched my diet up here and there, added some additional exercise but still I’m not seeing much weight loss. I think I’m struggling with plant based fats. I love seeds and nuts. A 3.5 ounce bag of pumpkin seeds contains nearly all of my recommended fat intake for the day. I can polish a bag that size of in a few minutes. I probably eat a bag of those every day or two. Pistachios have also become a big snack food around here. I’m realizing that a lot of my plant based fat is coming from these two things every day. But the majority of my plant based fat is coming from olive oil.

I’ve started reading up on olive oil and in so many ways its not the health food that it has been marketed as. It is total fat. There are 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving. Pound for pound, it contains more fat than butter. It’s also heavily processed and often cotains chemical additives. The reality is, its nearly impossible to find a pure grade of virgin olive oil in your supermarket, especially if you are buying it in clear glass or plastic (as sunlight breaks pure virgin olive oil down). It only has trace amounts of vitamin E and many or the purported benefits of olive oil can be gained from the foods I am already eating. To top it off, it is only heart healthy when compared to other kinds of fats. And no, other oils do not seem any better for you as the nutritional values appear to be about the same. I’m not a doctor, but what I’ve been reading lately would seem to indicate that my heart would be healthier without it altogether or at least in vastly smaller quantities. I have used about 36 ounces of it in my salads and cooking in just the last several weeks. I’ve never consumed so much olive oil as I have been recently. It’s a lot like taking several scoops of ice cream, dumping them onto your salad and asking why you’re not losing weight.

So this will be the next step in this process, severely cutting back on plant based fats and eliminating olive oil all together. For sautéing, I will try veggie broth and see how that goes. For salads, I tried using 3 parts balsamic vinegar and two parts dijon mustard (mixed together then drizzled) last night and it rivals any dressing I’ve ever gotten at a decent restaurant. It is so much better tasting than an oil and vinegar dressing.

It’s true, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ve never eaten this way before and admittedly, I’m not well educated on these things but I’m trying to get there. I feel ike all of the plant-based fat intake has been slowing my progress down and so I’m going to tweak my regiment a bit and see what happens.

“Every mouthful of oils and animal products, including dairy foods, initiates an assault on these [cell] membranes and, therefore, on the cells they protect. These foods produce a cascade of free radicals in our bodies especially harmful chemical substances that induce metabolic injuries from which there is only a partial recovery. Year after year, the effects accumulate. And eventually, the cumulative cell injury is great enough to become obvious, to express itself as what physicians define as disease. Plants and grains do not induce the deadly cascade of free radicals. Even better, in fact, they carry an antidote. Unlike oils and animal products, they contain antioxidants, which help to neutralize the free radicals and also, recent research suggests, may provide considerable protection against cancers.” – Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.





A Delicious New Take on Soup and Salad

19 02 2012


I’ve been eating an awful lot of veggie wraps lately and they have been delicious.  I’ve enjoyed all sorts of variations of peppers, bok choy, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, lettuce and sprouts.   Here’s a pic  of the veggies that were going into one of my recent wraps.  Doesn’t that look fabulous?!

The wraps themselves have been high in fiber while low in fat and calories.  But my weight has leveled a bit and I need to switch it up and get some more variety this week.  I’ve recently got a hold of some wonderful plant-based cookbooks that are giving me some excellent ideas.

In the northeast US right now, it’s fairly cold.  And nothing beats the chill like a nice warm homemade bowl of soup.  I’m looking for something different though and I think I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes:  Broccoli Rabe  Soup!  I don’t know what it is about Broccoli Rabe but I am just absolutely crazy for the stuff.  Through the course of last week, I ate three heads of it.  I know, I just said I need to switch it up, but I’m not letting go of my Broccoli Rabe!   I’m going to add carrots and onion chopped very finely, lots and lots of garlic, mashed white beans as a thickener and then add some seasoning to my veggie stock. I’m going to let that simmer for a few hours and then add trimmed and chopped broccoli rabe!  I imagine you could substitute  escarole, spinach or kale if you prefer one of those.

I’m also going to make a Roman-Style Marinated Broccoli Salad.  It’s really quick and easy.  You take a package of broccolislaw (big time saver), add 3 chopped plum tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and season to taste.  Combine, sprinkle with a bit of parsley  and then refrigerate for several hours.  This will be a really nice side salad to that soup.

I can’t wait to make these.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Pics to come!





What’s in a Water?

18 02 2012

I used to drink quite a bit of sugary drinks.  I loved Coke, Gatorade and often had a few energy drinks each week.  It amounted to a ton of extra sugar being added to my diet on a regular basis .  When I got sick, I tried to cut the sugar I was drinking out and although I did have a sugary drink from time to time it was much less than I had been.  in the last seven weeks though, I’ve had none.  Other than occasionally putting coconut milk in my Cheerios, It’s been nothing but water.  As a healthy treat from time to time, i’ve been drinking Clear Splash flavored sparkling water beverage.  It reminds me of soda and the nutrition facts label is perfect.  33.8 ounces, zero calories, fat, sodium, carbs and sugar.  This stuff is perfect.  Or so I thought.  Last night I sat down to enjoy a bottle of this stuff and I did something I hadn’t done in the last few months of drinking it – I read the ingredients:

Carbonated water – fantastic!

Potassium Citrate –  used to regulate acidity of foods, especially soft drinks.  Because it helps make urine alkaline, it’s also beneficial in shrinking the size of kidney stones and fighting minor urinary tract infections.  It seems generally safe although much of it is produced in China where standards for making these sorts of ingredients are far less than they are in other parts of the world.

Natural Flavors – Blackberry Apple, that sounds good.  But dig a little deeper and you find that “natural flavors” can be any combination of thousands of naturally derived chemicals put together in a lab by flavorists.  The FDA has found them to be safe but sometimes when mixed they can be volatile to our body.  Because companies are not forced to list them, we have no idea what we are actually ingesting.  In many instances artificial flavors can actually be safer because naturally occurring harmful byproducts (sometimes like arsenic) found in “natural” flavorings can be removed.  But in reality, both natural and artificial flavorings are most times a mystery to the consumer and it is best to steer away from them completely.  Thats not an easy thing to do.  You will find “natural flavors” labled on an awful lot of products, including those that are labeled as “Natural” and “Organic”.

Aspartame – a potentially carcinogenic sugar substitute.  It can kill up to 55% of the beneficial gut flora in our bodies, is bad for our teeth, can promote obesity and has been found in some studies to be addictive.

Potassium Benzoate – a chemical preservative used to block some bacteria,  molds and yeasts.  When exposed to light and heat and the presence of vitamin C (of which there are trace amounts in this water) a cancer causing by product, Benzene, is formed.

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So I guess I won’t be buying this stuff anymore.  I was looking for healthy carbonated water and it turns out there is a whole lot of other things swimming in this bottle.  Lesson learned – sugar free, calorie free, fat free does not equal “healthy”.  While nutrition facts are important, they do not tell the whole story.  It is always important to also check the ingredients.

 

 





Salad Queen – The Coming Revolution in Fast Food

15 02 2012

I drive an awful lot. Between my commute, all the driving I do at work and in my personal life, some months I drive nearly 4000 miles. It’s a lot of time on the road. In the past, fast food has ben an unhealthy but quick meal solution. It is readily available nearly everywhere a person goes. What isn’t available though are real healthy choices that are low in calories, nutrient rich, organic and not processed. We have no real fast food alternative to Burger King. What we need is Salad Queen. This would be a place where vegetarians, vegans and anyone looking for a healthy meal could stop and get a quick, nutritious bite. I know by the time I get this idea off the ground, someone will already be doing it because it is a no-brainer. This is the sort of business that will make money hand over fist. If you build a Salad Queen, they will come. You don’t need to be Nostradamus in order to see that in the next 10 years or so there will be something like Salad Queen nearly everywhere you go.

And while we are talking about healthy, delicious, nutritious, organically grown food – this is a good time to consider the following article by a blogger friend of mine about using human waste sludge as fertilizer. While this is a local problem in my area of northeastern Pennsylvania, I can assure you it is done all over the world. It’s another reason to consider paying a little extra for organic food. Who wants fruit and veggies with traces of antibiotics, birth control and other interesting left overs found in them?

give this a look:

http://www.neighborsofeaston.com/wordpress/archives/2658








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