The best "diet" for 2013

Here I am, 2 days after Christmas, and I've already been to the chiropractor twice. Too much time spent hunched over boxes and bows, wrapping up bits and baubles for the family? Probably. Too much time spent falling asleep in the glider with the baby because I'm so exhausted from all the parties, food preparation and holiday planning? I'm sure. Too much time spent just minutes after that falling asleep on the floor of my older son's room while HE falls asleep in his big boy bed? Most definitely.

But it's not just the muscles and joints in my neck that are grossly inflamed. I'd bet $100 that at least one of my internal organs is suffering from:

  1. Too much alcohol (I usually only have 1 glass of wine or less per day, and with all the festivities you can add a bloody Mary, martini and champagne into that mix)
  2. Too much sugar (Christmas cookies, anyone?)
  3. Too much fat (red meat, butter, cakes and bars, etc)
  4. Not enough exercise (like, at all)
  5. Not enough restorative sleep (see above)

And unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that inflammation in the body can lead to a whole host of diseases and maladies, not just a stiff neck and a hangover. So it came to me in the shower this morning, as I struggled to reach above my shoulders to shampoo and condition my hair:
If there's one diet out there that we should ALL stick to — the be-all and end-all of diets, and I just mean "diet" in terms of what you eat, not what you eat to lose weight, although it will surely happen if you try this one —  it's the anti-inflammatory diet.
What's that, you say? I've never heard of that one before. It doesn't have a catchy name, like the South Beach diet, or something recognizable and trendy like Atkin's or low-carb anything. And most of us, when we hear the words "anti-inflammatory," probably think of a pill to pop, like Aleve or Zantac.
So I did what I do most often when I have a question about anything in the world — I Googled it. And to my pleasant surprise, Dr Andrew Weil's website came up as the first two links. I couldn't be happier. I trust this old man who looks like a gnome. He's a genius. He's like the Santa Claus of healthy living.
Suffice it to say, this has led me to create big plans for 2013. Last year my New Years Resolutions list was about a page long, but it included things that will carry over next year like "Be more patient" and "Use gazelle-like intensity to stick to the budget each month." You know I've been off the diet wagon for some time now. But this is...different. You see, inflammation can cause, well, take a look:

  • Acid reflux
  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Dry eyes
  • Edema
  • Emphysema
  • Eczema
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gingivitis
  • Heart disease
  • Joint pain
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson's
  • Psoriasis
  • Sinusitis
  • Tendinitis
  • UTIs

None of those "itises" and "emas" are good for you, as I'm sure you know. But it's hard for us to associate inflammation with sickness and disease because, unless you have a swollen toe or a red eye, you can't SEE the inflammation. It's easy to ignore. It's like shoving all your junk under the bed and in the hall closet before guests arrive instead of really dealing with it. And if there's anything I want to do MORE of in 2013, it's dealing with my issues instead of ignoring them. That goes for mental, emotional, psychological AND physical health.
So what is the anti-inflammatory diet? If you didn't click on Dr Weil's site already, do so now. This link will take you to a revolutionary food pyramid that actually includes things like dark chocolate and red wine. Yeehaw!
Print yourself out a copy, read through the notes and then put the illustration on your fridge or kitchen cabinet. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Done? What's that? Your printer is out of paper? Seriously, if you need to go to Office Depot to get some, it's worth it. I'll be here when you get back. Do NOT stop at Starbucks on the way.
Okay, all set? It's interesting, right? A food pyramid that includes supplements, "Asian mushrooms" (heehee) and oolong tea? This is so me. I am SO into this.
If you're going to be that guy and you're really not going to click over to his site and the printable pyramid, I'll give you the lowdown. Because I'm a nice person.
The basics: 4-5 servings of vegetables per day, minimum. Now, I know this is the one we all struggle with. But do something radical. Roast off a batch of yummy root vegetables on Sunday to heat up and eat with your breakfast all week. Fold some onions into your eggs; shred some carrots into your soups at lunch; put peppers in your red sauce with dinner. There ARE creative ways to do this. Buy the vegetables and if you're even the least bit thrifty you'll start to look for ways to use them rather than letting them go bad. Next up: 3-4 servings of fruit per day, maximum. It can be a lot easier to get those fruits in, but don't go overboard. Excess fruit is really like excess sugar. I know, it stinks. 3-5 whole and cracked grains per day (think quinoa, oats and rice), 2-3 servings of al dente whole-wheat pasta per week; 1-2 servings of beans/legumes per day.
Moving on up to the healthy fats, get 5-7 servings a day and keep in mind these are SMALL servings. Often measured in teaspoons and tablespoons.
Fish and seafood (WILD CAUGHT!): 2-6 servings a week. Okay, if you can't find/afford wild caught, I think most doctors would say farmed is better than nothing. I think. Don't quote me on that. Whole soy foods, 1-2 a day. Unless you're like me and you're allergic. I'll be honest again here and say I'm not sure if there's a good replacement for that. I'd LIKE to find a holistic physician to help guide me through this, so keep your eyes and ears out for an upcoming post on my search in the southwest suburbs. Cooked Asian mushrooms, like shiitakes, you can eat in unlimited quantities.
Other sources of protein, like lean meats and plain yogurt: 1-2 servings per week. I know this can sound shocking to meat-and-potatoes people, like the men in my family. But this type of diet really is better for you. Healthy herbs and spices (garlic, ginger, turmeric, etc) you can eat in unlimited quantities; white, oolong and/or green tea should be consumed 2-4 times per day, take your vitamins and supplements daily, of course, and then top it all off with a glass of wine or two per day (organic red is best; don't start drinking if you don't already consume occasionally) and healthy sweets like 70% dark chocolate or unsweetened dried fruit 1-2 times per week.
I could so do this. And I will. Because, you see, this is not some faddy diet or trendy way to lose a quick 2 lbs before New Year's. This is a lifestyle change. A focus on the power of a plant-based diet. Focusing on food as fuel, health and nutrition. There is just so much to be said for this style of living.
Print out the pyramid and read through the notes if you haven't already. This type of dietary change will keep so many illnesses at bay, it's a wonder doctors don't prescribe more meal plans than they do antacids and cholesterol meds. If you have any questions, fire away! And do something else radical to get started off on the right foot this New Year's: Don't polish off the potato chips as a sort of last supper; THROW THEM IN THE GARBAGE. Go to a morning yoga class on the 1st instead of lazing around, hungover. Take care of your body. That's one thing no one else can do for you.

Filed under: Healthy living, What to eat

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