Week One: Eight Weeks To Optimum Health

Well, I am finally doing SOMETHING about my health issues.  Something other than making the rounds of doctors and grumbling about how confused I am and how I don’t know what to do or where to start.  Which is what I’ve been doing for the past year  or so.

For those of you who have no idea what "health issues" I’m talking about, I wish I could point you to one post that would sum it all up, but there isn’t such a thing.  There are several posts that detail my journey, but that’s a lot of reading.  So the short version is, I have IBS, GERD, and gastritis (Google is your friend), and a variety of different symptoms related to each of the aforementioned (I love that word!) that come and go with no obvious provocation (oooh, the big words are just overflowing today!)

So anyway, whether or not Dr. Weil’s program cures me of my tummy troubles, at the very least, I will be healthier because of it.  And so will my whole family.  In fact, that is my biggest motivation to try the program.  Not only because it might lessen my stomach symptoms, but because it should make me healthier overall and more equipped to naturally fight off infection and other health problems that seem to be plaguing our society.  According to Dr. Weil, most bodies come with an 80-year warranty if treated right.  But because most of us don’t treat our bodies right, the warranty seems to be wearing off about 40 years sooner than it should.  Or rather, as he puts it, around age 40, the bill comes due.

I will post weekly updates about my progress, not only because it provides me with some accountability, but also because perhaps someone out there needs encouragement to make lifestyle changes that they have been putting off for far too long.

If you are that person, let me just tell you that I am NOT good at making changes, I did NOT get my fair share of self-discipline (ha! don’t you like how I shift the blame away from myself?), and I might even be a little self-indulgent at times (that’s sarcasm right there, yall).   Anyway, giving up coffee is probably about the biggest challenge my self-discipline has ever been handed.  I feel like I’m giving up a good friend.  I know, that’s 10 kinds of pathetic, but it’s the truth.

So my point is this.  If I can do this, SO CAN YOU.  I hate it when people say this, but
it’s TRUE.  And I suppose I’m getting a tad bit cocky here, because I’m
not even sure I can do it.  But I’m at least giving Weil’s program 8 weeks.  If, by
the end, I do not feel better and have the motivation to continue, then I can try something else. But I do believe that I will at least pick up some
better habits even if I don’t end up embracing the whole program.  And I’ve got to start somewhere.

Week One’s assignment was the following:

1) Start by going through your pantry and refrigerator to identify and discard common unhealthful foods.  Then he gives a list including oils other than olive, as well as any products containing margarine, solid vegetable shortenings, cottonseed oil, or partially hydrogenated oils of any kind.  I did this, except I did save my Crisco.  You know, so I can make those blueberry pies the husband loves.  But those are rare occasions.  RARE is the keyword here.

Also, any artificial sweeteners containing saccharin or aspartame and any products made with them.  Dr. Weil says that sucralose (Splenda) looks to be the most promising of the artificial sweeteners at the moment, but he still advises against it.  (This was not hard for me.  I detest artificial sweeteners.  They’re right up there with tea in my book.  Nosankyou!) 

Also products containing artificial coloring.  Again, I have an aversion to that crap already.  So, all in all, Assignment #1 was cake.  Made with natural cane juice, of course.  Ahem.

So, in summary, I can check off Assignment #1.

2) If you do not have any extra-virgin olive oil on hand, buy a bottle and start using it. I have it, and I use it.  Assignment #2, check!

3) Make a commitment to read labels of all food products you buy.  Then he instructs us to keep total fat intake to about 30% of calories, and saturated fat as low as possible.  And he adds, Do not buy products whose labels list more chemicals than recognizable ingredients.  I tried to follow these rules when I went shopping at Trader Joes last Saturday.  It’s definitely easier to follow the rules at a health food store, but I also learned that you can’t take for granted that just because the product is carried at the health food store that it is automatically healthful.  I still have to read labels carefully.

4) Start eating some fresh broccoli this week.  Check.  I love broccoli. 

5) Eat salmon at least once this week.  Check.  I love salmon.  I tried the wild salmon that he suggested (I got it at Trader Joe’s).  I think I prefer the taste of the farm-raised that I’m used to, but I can get used to this.

6) Start the combination of antioxidants that I recommend.  I did this.  I went to drweil.com and filled out their Vitamin Advisor questionnaire and ordered several of the vitamins and supplements they recommended for me.  They arrived on Wednesday, and that’s the day I started taking them.

As an aside.  These seem to be causing some, um, interesting discoloration in the loo.  Anyone know why?  I’m talking neon, people.  Sorry, I realize that’s way TMI.  Hi, Dad!  (My dad abhors potty talk.)

7) Try to walk ten minutes a day five days this week. I walked 40 minutes three days this week.  It would have been four or five days, but that head cold really had me down at the beginning of the week.

8) Begin to practice Breath Observation for five minutes every day.  This is the sort of thing that I tend to forget about.  I tried it a couple of times.  Meditation and breathing exercises bore me to tears.  Weil is a huge proponent of such techniques, but that’s where I don’t totally buy into his entire philosophy.  I’m sure it’s worth giving it a try, but you can probably sense my lack of interest and commitment.  I’ll have to see if he is any more convincing about the benefits in the upcoming chapters. 

I love that he tells you what to do and then gives a commentary afterwards, explaining the whys of everything.  And I love how he doesn’t just say, "eat salmon", but he also tells you how to prepare it.  So many times, these self-help books will tell you to add crazy stuff to your diet, like flaxseeds and alfalfa sprouts, but then they don’t tell you what to do with it.  Weil gives three different ways to cook salmon and detailed instructions about how to fix broccoli so that it doesn’t taste like the yellow, wilty stuff your grandmother used to serve you.

9) Buy some flowers to keep in your home, where you can enjoy them.  I didn’t do this.  I love fresh flowers and am not opposed to buying them, but with the money I spent last week on vitamins and groceries (healthy food is NOT cheap!), I just didn’t want to spend any extra for flowers.  But I do agree that having flowers around the house is a huge mood enhancer.  So maybe I’ll do that this week.  Or perhaps I’ll cut some roses out of my garden!

So, that’s where things stand right now.  Today I will read the chapter for Week Two, and I’ll update you next Saturday.  I’m anxious to see what other changes he suggests for this week.  Week One was quite painless.  Except for my self-imposed coffee strike.  But you already know that story.