Before I begin this, I want to say right up front that even at our worst, my husband Clark and I eat healthier than ninety-five percent of Americans.  We read the labels.  We never darken the doors of McDonald’s.  We stay away from most processed foods.  I would rather eat one piece of quality chocolate than a pound of inferior stuff.  (Clark disagrees with me on that one.)

I remember a ward hike long ago, when most ward members brought hotdogs and marshmallows to roast over the fire.  Clark and I ate peanut butter, banana, honey and wheat germ sandwiches on homemade, stone-ground whole wheat bread.  I had to open the sandwich to show the flecks of wheat germ to our incredulous bishopric counselor.  As I said, we did not eat typical American fare.

Even so, we had a houseful of foods from the supermarket.  We’ve been known to finish off the miniature candy bars that are left over from my Young Women lessons.  We both have a predilection for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  Clark has never met a sweet roll or apple fritter he didn’t like.  At our monthly game parties, we usually make a “cheez” dip because it’s just so easy, and we have purchased our share of packaged foods, even though we try to avoid ones with chemicals or preservatives.  I do my share of baking, and we always use white flour and white sugar.  We are not without culinary sin.

When I read Dr. Stan Gardner’s article on the link between inflammation and obesity I wondered if some of my own health problems would be improved if we followed Dr. Stan’s eating advice — stay away from white flour and sugar, and eat only fresh and natural foods.  Clark was also intrigued, so we decided to embark on a month-long experiment to see if we could notice any differences that would make such a big lifestyle change worthwhile.

We decided I would keep a food journal to keep track of our progress.  If you don’t write these things down, you won’t remember if any changes have been made.   We chose July 5 for our starting day because it was the day after the Fourth of July, and all that holiday eating would be behind us (including our traditional tri-ward pancake breakfast that is not known for its healthy food).  Here are some of the more interesting entries from that journal.

Monday, July 5 — I awoke with all sort of virtuous intentions, only to learn that Clark had no plans to start our new eating program today.  He wanted to get past the “July 4th weekend” first, but his weekend also included Monday because he had that day off.  

I was more than ready to get on the new eating program.  My joints are so inflamed that any movement causes pain, and I often have to give myself a mental pep talk for several minutes just to stand up.  (The reluctance to move is so great that on numerous occasions I have sat through a leg cramp because it was less painful to endure the leg cramp than it was to face the agony of standing up.)  In addition, my body feels as though it’s slowing down.  I feel as though I am a human clock, slowly grinding to a halt.  What happens when the clock stops?

But Clark was right.  There was food in the refrigerator that needed to be consumed or thrown away.  We ate the leftovers, and now we’ll be ready to start our diet tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 6 — Our first day.  Everything went fine.  Wouldn’t you know it, though, the person who brought dessert to our ward book group brought in a Boston cream pie from Costco.  There are few desserts that tempt me, but “anything with custard” is at the top of the list.  I virtuously drank a bottle of water while everyone else dined, and I wouldn’t let Britt leave any leftovers to tempt Clark and me.

Friday, July 9th — Although I buy five-pound bags of butterscotch candies to pass out to people at the temple, I rarely eat any because they always make me hungry.  About a year ago, a temple friend gave me some chocolate-flavored See’s Little Pops for my own private temple stash.  I carefully finished off my last Little Pops last Friday so I wouldn’t be tempted this week.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, she brought me a whole bag of them again tonight.

  I’m beginning to sense that dealing with kind friends may be the biggest challenge of this new program!

I’m not throwing these candies away.  They’re really good, and they have sentimental value because the person who gave them to me had to go to import them from the West Coast to get them for me.  They’ll stay in my temple locker for the duration.  Once my body is working again, maybe I can afford myself one of these tiny candies a week.  

Saturday, July 10 — Some days are miracle days.  Today’s miracle was in the organic section of the supermarket.  Looking in the freezer, I found a loaf of “the original flourless bread.”  Made by Food for Life, it doesn’t appear to have anything in it to hold dough together.  (Ingredients: Organic Sprouted Wheat, Organic Sprouted Barley, Organic Sprouted Millet, Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Lentils, Organic Sprouted Soybeans, Organic Spelt, Filtered Water, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt.)  It is called Ezekiel bread, because it is based on the recipe that the Lord gave Ezekiel and commanded that he eat it for 390 days ((see Ezekiel 4:9).  It is available in several different flavors, including cinnamon raisin.  

I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding bread because bread always makes me sick.  Today, I invested $3.99 in a loaf of it.  We had sandwiches, and the angels sang.  I didn’t get sick at all.  The stuff even tasted good, in some part because we’d had the foresight to toast the bread first.  I’d trade all the food we’ve given up for the ability to eat sandwiches again.  Life is sweet.

The organic mayonnaise we brought home was not worthy of the bread.  That problem is easily solved.  We used to make our own mayonnaise in our health food days.  We can track down the recipe and do it again.

Another real find at the supermarket was the plain rotisserie chicken.  We’ve always purchased the flavored variety.  Today I realized that the plain rotisserie chicken is just that — “Ingredients:  chicken.”  It wasn’t even salted in the cooking process.

Monday, July 12
— Yesterday we had to go to the instant care facility to have doctors treat Clark’s “spider bite,” which turned out to be a full-blown case of cellulitis that was spreading across his stomach like wildfire and couldn’t have waited until Monday.   Today I went in for my quarterly chest x-ray, only to get a call from the pulmonologist saying there’s something new going on in my lymph nodes and I need a CT-scan and a bunch of blood tests.  Clark looked at me, sighed, and said, “Yesterday I got a life-threatening infection.  Today, this.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe all those preservatives in our food were keeping us alive?”

Wednesday, July 14 — Tonight we bottled catsup.  The recipe was terrific, but it was a little sad to see that 17 tomatoes yielded only three pints of catsup.  On the upside, we rarely don’t eat catsup directly.  We only made it as the basis for barbecue sauce, cocktail sauce, and French dressing.  We’ll be able to use it in baked beans, too.  The catsup tasted terrific.  Next time we’ll make a double batch.

Thursday, July 15 — Today I realized that I feel better now without taking ibuprofen than I used to feel after taking ibuprofen.  There’s a lot less joint stiffness and pain, and we’re only a little more than a week into this.  I’m impressed.  I mentioned this to Clark and he said, “That reminds me.  I haven’t taken ibuprofen since we started this eating program.  I’ve forgotten to take it.”  He used to take it every night before bed.  I guess he doesn’t need it anymore.

Friday, July 16 — I realized something last night.  When Clark and I turn out the lights at night, he customarily faces the window and I lie facing him.  It’s been our habit for a long time that once the lights are out I pat his side until he starts snoring.  He’s a quick sleeper, and it usually takes thirty seconds or so.  This week, however, I’ve waited and waited for him to start snoring so I could stop patting him and go to sleep.  It seemed as though it was taking him forever, and usually I’ve been falling asleep before he did.




Last night I was awake for awhile, and my patting arm was getting tired.  I couldn’t imagine what was keeping Clark awake, so I asked him, “Are you having trouble getting to sleep?”  My question woke him up.

He hasn’t had trouble getting to sleep.  He’s just stopped snoring.   He was snoring because of the food he ate?  Amazing!

Monday, July 19
— We just got back from three days in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  I had mixed feelings about going because we were only a week and a half into our new eating program and I didn’t want to mess anything up, but the temple is closed for summer maintenance, and it was now or never.

We decided that we were going to do the best we could but not be neurotic about eating.  We did take a toaster and butter and a loaf of our sprouted bread to make toast and honey to supplement the free breakfast provided by the hotel.  For dinner, we ate at some of the Amish restaurants in the area.  The Amish are famous for their “plain” food.  We hoped in this case “plain” meant “without nasty chemicals.”

We also wanted to buy some Amish bottled food, on the theory that it was bound to be healthy.  Although we looked, we didn’t buy.  If the food we saw was any indication, the Amish are big shareholders in the sugar commodities index.  Everything had sugar in it.   What happened to good, old-fashioned honey?

For the most part our experiment was quite successful.  I got sick on Sunday night (apparently my chicken and mashed potatoes dinner had something nasty in it), but as soon as the food was out of my system I felt better again.  That was a huge relief.  I’d been afraid if I cheated once I’d go back to square one and would have to start over.  It’s great to know we can still travel without messing everything up.

Also, Clark did not start snoring again, even though we were away from our own food for three days.  Sweet.

I was able to get around better this weekend than I have in years.  The only way I can describe it is that I didn’t feel so heavy.  That doesn’t mean I feel as though I’ve lost weight. Rather, I’ve spent the past few years feeling as though twenty-pound weights were tied to each arm and leg.  I feel as though those weights have been removed.  I’m much more flexible, and it’s easier to navigate from one place to another.  The only exception was Sunday night after dinner.  I got up to walk across the room and staggered the way I used to.  What I put in my mouth apparently makes a huge and immediate difference in my health.

As soon as we got home from Pennsylvania this afternoon, we went to Whole Foods for the first time in years.  I’d hoped we could find lots of wonderful things there — things that weren’t available in other stores in our area.  Isn’t that the whole point of Whole Foods?

Other than finding a barbecue sauce made with honey instead of sugar, the trip was a bust.  Whole Foods may carry food that’s less unhealthy than the food at the other places where we shop, but you still have to read the labels.  “Pure cane sugar” is still sugar, and “unbleached enriched white flour” is only marginally better than the bleached stuff.  We’d been eating unbleached white flour for decades and had gotten sick on it.  We hoped for better fare from Whole Foods, but flour and sugar were ingredients in almost every label we read.  Plus, the prices were much higher than Wegman’s.  I don’t think we’ll be going back there on a regular basis.  

Moral of the story:  You don’t need to have a Whole Foods in your home town to be able to eat well from the supermarket.  That’s nice to know!

Wednesday, July 21 — We went out to eat with a friend yesterday.  It was a hamburger place that serves hamburgers made of Angus beef.  I expected the experience was going to be pretty healthy (especially considering I took two pieces of our sprouted grain bread to use as the hamburger bun), but then we got onion rings.  Just that little amount of white flour made me sick.  Plus, Clark snored on Monday night.   Apparently we’re going to have to toe the line more when we go out to eat.



Saturday, July 24 — I didn’t have any setbacks this week, but there weren’t any improvements either.  This made me question whether the doctor who told me I was allergic to all grains may have been right after all.  Oh, I hope she was wrong!  Nevertheless, in the spirit of full experimentation, I have gone off all grains for four days, starting today.  That means none of that lovely flourless bread, none of the corn on the cob we’ve been eating like there was no tomorrow, and no rice.  
Oh, is this a bummer!  I was so excited about eating sandwiches again, and we had just purchased an old-fashioned popcorn popper that we were really enjoying.  We’d had tacos, too, using the organic taco shells I gave Clark for his birthday.  
After three more long days, I’m going to evaluate how I feel and then start adding things back.  If there’s no difference, my life will be a lot happier.  If there is a difference, more sacrifices are up the road.
On the upside, we’ve been talking about going through our cabinets and getting rid of all the foods we aren’t eating anymore.  This will give us tons of room for our small appliances, and the kitchen should be a lot more organized.  One can hope.

Today’s trip to the supermarket was depressing.  I’d gotten in the habit of filling my office refrigerator with string cheese and apples to get me through the day until I could go downstairs to eat.  Last week I bought some organic apples (which, truth be told, didn’t taste nearly as good as the apples I’m used to). This week I tried to buy some more and was told Wegman’s is all out of organic apples until the fall.  There were shelves and shelves of all varieties of regular apples, but nothing was organic.  And I’ve read several places that just about the most toxic thing a person can eat is an apple that has been grown with the traditional pesticides.  It’s either organic apples on this eating plan or nothing.

Sunday, July 25th
— Clark was unpacking our suitcase last night from last weekend’s trip, and out came the bottle of ibuprofen.  This reminded us that neither of us had taken ibuprofen in the past week, and we hadn’t even missed it.  I’ve taken at least eight ibuprofen a day for years, just to allow me to get up the stairs.  Haven’t needed it this week.

My mental celebration was premature, however.  I virtuously ate a yam instead of having corn with my salmon for dinner today, and I got sick for the first time since last Sunday night.  Yam is certainly not a grain.  It’s a pain in the neck, trying to determine what my body wants.

Monday, July 26th — Although today was only day three of the four days I’d planned to go without any grain, we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant tonight and I ate the tortilla chips.  When we sat down to eat, there wasn’t a joint in my body that hurt.  When we got up, my knees were in a goodly amount of pain.  I don’t know if it was because of the corn, or if something else caused it.  (I can get sick with a change of weather.)  This is a process of trial and error.  Right now I’m in a period of observation.   Maybe eventually a pattern will emerge.

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