brooks-brothers-navy-print-shirtdress-pearls-2012
At Brambles tea room on Fifth Avenue South in Naples, Florida, 2012. (They have beautiful, tasty salads here.) My friend in the lavender sweater set has lovely, classic style. I hope one day she will let me show at least some photographs of her! (The Brooks Brothers shirtdress is a go-to staple of mine.)

 

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.)

GAPS-Diet-Book

GAPS Diet Book

Perfect-Health-Diet-Book

Perfect Health Diet Book

Grain-Brain-Book

Grain Brain Book

 

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.

Naples-Beach-Hotel-Orchids-2013
Admiring the gorgeous orchid display at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Naples, Florida, May 2013. Until I saw this photograph, I had no idea that I matched the lobby décor. How funny! This Brooks Brothers sweater set is such a pretty color of green (which I’ve paired with a white Ann Taylor pencil skirt).

 

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.

Janis-Lyn-Johnson
I gravitate to belted fit and flare dresses, like this one I wore for Easter brunch with my husband, brother, and mother.  No matter what your body type, this classic creates the look of a small waist and long legs. Who doesn’t want that?

 

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.

80-20 Principle

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

32 comments on “Healing Chronic Health Issues: What I Eat and Why”

    • I have had a chronic cough for over 15 years. The last doctor I went to said I had a form of asthma and put me on an inhaler and a nebulizer. Neither of these worked for very long. I still cough. I also have acid reflux and am on Nexium which isn’t really good to be on. Do you think this diet might help me?

      • Hi, Beth. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with a chronic cough like that. I had so much healing of both my asthma and heartburn symptoms by following the combination of GAPS and the Perfect Health Diet, so there’s a very good chance you might, too. Sometimes a chronic cough can even be due to reflux, I believe. Of course, I don’t know if that’s your issue, but if you want more details about what I talked about in my blog post, check out the links on my blog to both of those sites. Or google your symptoms along with the words GAPS or Perfect Health diet. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you might try going off dairy for, say, a week or even longer, and see if that helps any. Dairy seemed to be a major culprit for me. You also might want to consider cutting back on sugar a lot. Please keep me posted. Sending prayers for healing. 🙂 Hugs, Janis

  1. Gosh.. I am so in love with this blog! I’m not sure I fit in, though, because I’m not very wealthy and so cannot afford the foods you’re talking about or much of anything else in this blog, but I do know how to shop. I need to change my diet because I have health issues too. I’m the other end of the spectrum with a really fat body, but for the same reasons. I love to eat pasta, bread, and loads of sugar goodies. I love fashion, colors, design, and am an over 55 writer who raised my autistic son first before concentrating on my career, so I’m catching up. I just wanted to say Janis, that I love your style and look forward to learning a lot from you! I’m Liz, and I’m also from Texas, and noooo we’re not southern. We’re TEXAN here in San Antonio! Never let anyone fool you about that! (Although, that said, in East Texas, they consider themselves southern, and do seem to be to me, because of their weather, their historic plantation background & aristocratic style, and their love of the south.)

    • Elizabeth, I am so sorry your son got autism. He is very lucky to have a mom who loved him so much to even put aside her own career to take care of him. I can’t tell you how much I admire you. I know raising children is challenging, but raising a child with a serious illness must be overwhelming, heartbreaking, and terrifying. My heart goes out to you. I’m also sorry you suffer some health issues, but I’m happy to hear you are now turning to taking care of yourself and getting healthy. I can’t say enough about the two nutritional programs I follow–GAPS and the Perfect Health Diet. I hope you find your own best healing program(s), too, whatever they are. As for budget and whether you fit in here, I think if you try to eat clean (no sugar, no junk food, no packaged foods, no grains, only pure butter and not margarine –just whole foods like our great grandparents ate), then you will be able to relate to what I talk about health-wise, and it will do a lot for your health. For example, when my husband and I travel and stop at highway fast-food places to eat, I choose a salad and use my own homemade dressing I carry with me everywhere). As for my style, I agree that a number of the items I wear are from somewhat pricey stores (i.e., Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, J. McLaughlin’s, Lilly Pulitzer, J. Crew, Tory Burch, Michael Kors). But what is great is that I have gotten most/many of them from places like Marshall’s or T. J. Max, which sell designer clothing, often from a past season, but for as much as half off and more–or I’ve gotten them on sale directly from the individual store. You are also right about the fact that, if you know how to shop, you can get alternatives/similar items at much less cost. From your “Southern” comment, I see you watched my Monograms video (hee, hee, hee)! Thank you sooo much for clearing up my confusion. I never knew that about East Texas! So, considering I only lived in east coast Texas cities for a total of 4.5 years (age 0-2.5 and age 7-9), I guess I am Texan by birth and southern/British by ancestry. Good to finally know! Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and your kind compliment. You sound fascinating (mother, writer, Texan!, fashion/design/color lover). To Your Good Health and Cheers! ~Janis

  2. Hi Janis
    Great to hear that you’ve turned your health around with a clean food diet. I am a fan too and have eaten so for the last five years. Here in Australia we don’t have as much factory farming and our dairy is mostly freerange. I am horrified when I see what makes up the American diet.
    I was drawn to your bog because I love your style and now that I am nearing retirement I feel I could use a make over in style to embrace a more relaxed but chic look. You are inspiring. I look forward to reading and watching.
    Cheers
    Meg

    • Meg, thank you for commenting! I’m fascinated to hear how different it is in Australia regarding the factory farming and free-range dairy…and our typical American diet. I did not know that. I’m so happy you like my blog and can relate to the health aspect as well. Congratulations on eating clean for five years! You must really have seen a difference in your health! I so appreciate your support. Cheers to you! ~Janis

  3. Hi Janis,

    I too, love your blog! You seem to be a beautiful woman, inside and out! I love your style and you are helping me find my own. I’m a 56 year old homeschooling mom of seven and my style hasn’t changed much in over 30 years. Now that my children are getting older (my oldest is 32 and my youngest is 11) I only have three left home to homeschool and my budget is getting a little better so I can spend a bit on myself.
    I’m also enjoying reading your health posts. I love to work out and eat healthy and try to do the best I can on a budget. I’ve been on and off dairy and wheat for three years and find if I behave myself then the arthritis in my fingers gets better, whereas if I go back to wheat and dairy, they act up. So I enjoy your posts to get some inspiration of what you eat, too. At some point would you share your muffin recipe? I searched on line but could not find it and cannot find sprouted quionia flour.

    • Sue, I am in complete awe of you. How amazing that you are a homeschooling mom of seven!! It is fascinating (and frustrating and scary) how our bodies speak to us when we eat something they don’t like, isn’t it?! Boy they let us know! How wonderful that you have discovered what eases the arthritis in your fingers. I’m so pleased for you! Thank you for letting me know you want the muffin recipe. I will keep that in mind. Thank you for visiting my blog and for commenting! To your great health! ~Janis

  4. I admire you for the radical changes you did, for me is very hard to quit sugars. I just lost 25 pounds but is hard.
    I enjoy very much your blog and you reside in my favorite city!!!!

    • Eva, losing 25 lbs is so much to be proud of. That must have taken great discipline. It took me many, many years of trying to quit (about 9 or 10) before I was finally able to do it. And oh my goodness, as I was trying to do it in the beginning, I whined about it. I was miserable. I also must have been misarable to be around!! Maybe try cutting back just a little here and there and one day, before you know it, you are off of all sugar. Take it one day at a time. Thank you for your comment! Here’s to your health! ~Janis

  5. Love your videos, Janis. You are an inspiration!! You adapt all the trends to suit the chic over 50s, what an achievement. my

    My imagination is overflowing with ideas , thanks to your easy to follow styling advice.
    Thanks a million!!

    • I’m thrilled you like my videos, Bridin! Thank you! I so appreciate you watching them – and taking the time to leave your nice comment. ~Janis

  6. I’ve just come across your YouTube channel and now your blog. I love that more ‘older’ women (I don’t think of myself like that, do you?) are getting out there and proving we’re still alive and have only got wiser!
    I wonder if you’ve come across Mimi Kirk (she’s on Facebook, mostly, with some interesting podcasts around too). She’s raw vegan, but her journey is interesting as she has a long history of family ill-health. Her change has been gradual. Now at 79, she’s a real inspiration.
    Looking forward to more JLJ!
    Mx

    • Maggie, thank you for telling me about Mimi Kirk. I didn’t know about her! She does look very interesting, and I look forward to following her! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to comment. ~Janis

  7. I too have begun to “clean up my act” regarding what I put into my body. I began to get health issues as soon as the menopause was over and oestrogen was no more. Intolerance to certain foods, allergies…all sorts of odd complaints have reared their heads. I so agree that eliminating certain food stuffs (dairy, gluten and sugar in my case) really does help a lot. Thank you for your wonderful Blog Janis, I love it and so look forward to connecting each time.

    • Oh my gosh, yes, Linda, menopause (and for me even peri-menopause beforehand) seemed to kick in additional issues I had not had before. I got a rash on my face that would not quit, it seemed, but by religiously sticking to the diet (and continuing to further tweak it), it did eventually go away (it took two years). It’s great to meet someone else following a similar kind of eating plan. You understand how challenging it can be to give up all those food groups, and yet how rewarding it is when the symptoms finally, finally start going away, making it all worth while! ~Janis

  8. I, too, follow Perfect Health Diet. Or I should say I TRY to follow it. Some of my health issues have been greatly reduced. As time goes on I find it more and more difficult to stick to this eating plan but I keep trying. Thanks for the inspiration!!
    I love all of your clothes!

    • Wow, Lisa, it’s so nice to meet you. You are the first person I’ve been in contact with who has even heard of it. It really is a major lifestyle change, isn’t it? You know, what keeps me on it is the fact that I get symptoms within 24 hours, some within 15 minutes, that are awful. I just can’t go back to that life again. I was so scared I would never get ride of any of it. I wish I could have known about this way of eating and switched to eat back in my 20s, long before I had all the health issues, but it took me going through all the years of symptoms, I suppose, to convince me to do it and stick to it as best as I can. I feel your struggle!! Bless you, sweet girl!! Hugs ~Janis

  9. LOVE THIS: 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.

    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for taking the time to read this section of my blog and for commenting!! It means so very much to me. What a wonderful world it would be if we all held each other up and nurtured and encouraged each other to love our healthiest bodies — whatever shape and configuration we are! Cheers ~Janis

    • Laura, Hi! Thank you! I’m so happy you found me on YouTube. With such a large sea of videos, it’s a wonder anyone finds anybody! I appreciate you taking the time to look around my blog and comment, too! Cheers ~Janis

    • Hi, Anna, sure. Thank you for asking. For one serving (I eat a large salad), I use 3 Tablesppoons organic extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar, 4 pinches pink Himalayan salt, 12 grindings organic black pepper. That’s it. If you like garlic, you can add organic dried garlic granules to taste, too (available in spice section of grocery stores). Also, here’s a post I did about it last year.http://jljbacktoclassic.com/archives/2066
      Thank you for visiting my blog, Anna! Cheers ~Janis

  10. Hi Janis–I also have been mostly clean eating for several years for health reasons. I am wondering whether you might share your recipe for quinoa muffins. And how do you sprout the quinoa and nuts/seeds (or do you buy them that way)? Thanks!

    • Hi, Suzanne. Thank you for letting me know you’d be interested in the recipe. I will keep that in mind. I used to soak/sprout my own nuts, but switched to buying them since it is so much more convenient. As for the seeds, I also buy them already sprouted. Thank you so much for visiting my blog! ~ Janis

  11. Amazing! I love your blog, youtube, and instagram. You are a huge inspiration. I stumbled upon this entry today right after reading a book regarding asthma. My mom has an asthma for three years and I am trying to figure out the way to cure this illness. I believe healthy lifestyle plays a huge role just as you have mentioned in your blog. I am wondering whether you have eradicated your asthma for good and if you have taken any antibiotics for It? The book I read argues that asthma patients suffer from bacteria called Chlamydia pneumoniae in their lungs and recommends to take azithromycin (antibiotic) for twelve weeks. I am wondering whether this is a way to go? Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Hi, Gerlee. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I’m sorry about your mom. It must be awful for you to have to witness her suffering from asthma. Have I eradicated my own asthma for good? As long as I stay away from sugar, most grains, soy, and dairy I have no symptoms. So, for me, it must have been an unhealthy digestive track from eating these foods. I was on antibiotics quite a few times, including when I was hospitalized for the asthma and also later for sinus infections. If anything, I would say, those made my situation worse because they also destroyed the good bacteria in my gut. I think dairy was a big culprit for me. I remember feeling a heavy chest after I drank milk. I wish I could tell you exactly what’s causing your mom’s asthma, and therefore what would heal it, but I can only tell you my own situation. Going off of these foods is a good place to start, at least. Hugs ~ Janis

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