Q: Why don’t I eat the Standard American Diet?
JLJ: Beginning June 1, 2012, because of several chronic health conditions, I stopped eating a variety of foods. Many of these foods are still commonly touted as healthy, however current science is proving they can harm rather than help our bodies. Today, by changing the way I eat, most of my symptoms have been eased or eliminated, giving me hope that I’m on the way to healing my body. With the approval of my personal physician, I adopted this lifetime eating plan from a combination of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet and the Perfect Health Diet. These lifetime eating regimes are often referred to as “Clean Eating”. (Another good resource on the harmful effects of certain foods, including grain, is the book Grain Brain.)
Q: So what exactly do I eat?
JLJ: I continue to adjust my diet, as I am still learning what foods my body does and doesn’t tolerate. For example, although I have been off of all dairy (breakouts and rashes improved dramatically), I will eventually reintroduce just butter to see if my body reacts to it favorably.
Generally, I eat organic grass-fed and finished beef; free-roaming chicken and their eggs; fish (in my case, wild-caught sockeye salmon or sardines); pork; colorful vegetables (raw, fermented raw or cooked, and drizzled with chicken fat, rendered lard, beef tallow, or cold-pressed olive oil); whole fresh fruits; sprouted nuts and seeds; coffee or loose-leaf tea; fresh spring water; an occasional alcoholic beverage (in my case, red wine); and fresh baked, organic grain-free muffins that, currently, I make from sprouted organic quinoa flour.
As you may have noticed, there is no soy on that list. There also are no grains, white potatoes, sugar/sweeteners (see below for more on sugar/sweeteners), or as I mentioned before, dairy. (Update: As of December 23, 2015, I began incorporating organic white potatoes and organic, sprouted rice (or organic rice crackers) back into my diet, but only about two times (at most) a week. Sometimes, for example, I don’t have rice for months at a time. See “Safe Starches, The Perfect Health Diet.
For cooking and baking, I currently use organic coconut oil or fat from organic, pasture-raised animals or free-range chickens (these fats do not oxidize when heated, which is harmful to the body.) Although I do eat organic fresh or frozen unsweetened whole fruit, I for the most part limit my intake to two or three servings a day (sometimes I do splurge); current thought is that even too much natural sugar can wreak havoc with the immune system.
Q: No Sugar/Sweeteners, ever? (Added this Question/Answer on July 20, 2016)
J: I do allow myself a tiny amount of sugar/honey, but only if it’s in one of four items. One is an organic lunch meat that has added sugar that equals less than 0 grams per serving. I allow myself to have up to three servings of this a week (but I usually only have it two times in a week). Often I don’t have any for many months at a time. Less frequently, I also allow myself to have added sugar/natural sweeteners if it is in baked beans or bacon/ham/breakfast sausage. When purchasing these at a store, I make sure I buy an organic brand with a low sugar content (September 21, 2017 I found a breakfast sausage with 2 grams of sugar per serving of three sausage links). With the baked beans, I add a lot of water to dilute the sauce, then drain the beans thoroughly, so there is just a hint of the flavor/sauce remaining. Also, I have ordered bacon in a restaurant (a few times over several years). Bacon or ham usually has some sort of a sweetener, and if the bacon/ham/sausage isn’t organic it also has unhealthy preservatives–which is why I don’t order it in a restaurant very often. As for buying the organic bacon/ham/sausage, it’s only occasionally. Often, many months to a year or more can go by before I might buy it again. So, as you can see, I do let myself splurge a bit, but in a minimal manner. Otherwise, I don’t add sugar or sweeteners to my food or beverages (baked items, salad dressing, tea, etc.). When dining at a restaurant, I order items without sugar/sweeteners in/on them (no sauces, no salad dressing, etc.–I bring my own dressing). When purchasing items in a store, I buy items without sugar added.
Q: Was it difficult to change to this way of eating? Have I always been a health nut? Do I think other people should be or want to be as skinny as I am?
JLJ: Yes, no, and of course, no!
I definitely was not a health nut. I smoked one and three-quarter packs of cigarettes a day before I quit at age 28. I chewed 20 pieces of bubblegum in one sitting. My breakfast was donuts and coffee with cream and sugar. Lunch was a hot dog or reuben sandwich, potato chips, diet Coke, and dessert. My go-to grocery store was Seven-11 . No wonder I had developed asthma.
During my 40s, I began to cut back on my sugar intake, but not on breads and pasta. I thought I was being healthier, because more and more I also was switching to only whole grain and organic foods, and I was exercising three times a week. I was fooling myself, though, as even whole-grain carbohydrates quickly turn to sugar in our bodies. So, believe me, I understand how gut-wrenchingly difficult it is to switch to this new way of eating, especially if you are like I was all of my life and are predominantly a sugar and bread/pasta lover. When I reached my lowest point in 2012, I had skin rashes, styes, chest pain, a chronically inflamed bladder, and asthma that had sent me to the emergency room four times. I realized, if I didn’t make a big change I would only keep getting sicker.
Today, although I still have more healing to do–and I am still tweaking my diet–I know I’m much healthier than I was. Yes, I happen to be skinny (it seems to run in my family). But no, I don’t think your healthiest you should look like my current healthiest me–or anyone else. None of us should have to feel like our healthiest bodies are not beautiful because they do not conform to someone else’s idea of beauty or health.
Q: Do I follow the 80-20 principle (eat a clean diet 80 percent of the time).
JLJ: No. I try to eat this way 100 percent of the time, for one simple reason: I don’t want to be sick anymore. I say “try”, because as vigilant as I am, there may be times when at a restaurant or a friend’s home that I am accidentally given an item I’m not supposed to eat and I’m not aware. But as for knowingly cheating, I don’t. Early on I tried cheating a few times and my body punished me in spades!
I also have made significant changes to my beauty and personal-care routines. Through this blog, I will share it with you.
Here is to each and every one of us becoming our healthiest selves possible–physically, mentally, and spiritually! ~ Janis Lyn Johnson