The Winding Road to Body Wellness

Have you ever had an Aha! Moment ? A time in your life when you feel like the world revealed a HUGE secret that had been hiding in plain sight all along? For me, one of those moments happened right around my 50th birthday. I’d noticed my clothes were feeling a little snug and had decided that I was going to try yet another diet to help me loose a few pounds. On this occasion, I was inspired by the Paleo diet.  I knew my best chance of success was to start with baby steps, so I’d started by eliminating 2 things- sugar and wheat products- from my diet. Without realizing it, I’d made my first real step toward body wellness.

My Big Moment

I think I was on day 3 of this plan when I noticed something crazy. We had just finished dinner and I started to get up from the table. As I stood up, I noticed that something felt really… odd. I was leaning with both hands on the top of the table and I was using them to help me to ease myself up slowly, but something I had been subconsciously expecting was missing: the pain. That was my big moment.

Without realizing it, I had gotten to the point where I was moving like an old person, anticipating stiffness and joint pain in my hips and knees every time I stood up. Yet on that day, the discomfort I had grown accustomed to was completely gone.  I racked my brain to come up with any other change, beyond my diet, that could account for this change in my body and came up blank. I had made a change in my diet simply to try to lose a few pounds, but in just 3 days I felt years younger.

Both Acceptance and Denial Can Be Equally Harmful

The thing that was most eye opening to me wasn’t the impact this simple change had on my health, it was the idea that I had accepted and adapted to my discomfort without question. I guess I was thinking, that’s just one of the inevitable side effects of get older.  Part of the reason that I even made the connection is because I’m not big on pills. Since I’d dealt with the discomfort without resorting to any over-the-counter pain relievers, the positive effect the elimination of those foods had on me was pretty obvious.  But I couldn’t help but wonder, how many people start out popping an Advil or Aleve a couple of times a day to ease the discomfort, eventually resorting to prescription meds as the pain gets worse, and just accept this as normal without giving it another thought? It just took a little bit of online research before I discovered the true nature of what was going on in my body, and it wasn’t pretty.

Low Grade Discomfort Can Lead to Major Issues

When I dug a little deeper, I realized I was suffering from chronic inflammation.  I also realized how prevalent and widespread this condition has become, and how serious and concerning this condition really is. The problem is, it can take years before the worst effects and damage from this kind of inflammation becomes evident.  And it is a major contributor the top causes of death worldwide.

The Gift of Data

I am a little baffled by this. It was so easy to track down the source of my issue. All I did was Google causes of joint pain to identify my issue as chronic inflammation. Then I searched for foods that cause inflammation to see that refined sugar and carbohydrates were on the list. That also led me to a slew of articles that warned of the serious, deadly effects of chronic inflammation. For more on this, check out this article by Harvard Medical School.

Chronic inflammation is truly an epidemic. I just can’t understand, why isn’t everyone aware of this? Why aren’t the folks who publish the nutritional recommendations, like the food pyramid, yelling this from the rooftops?

Data Confusion

The biggest issues, in my opinion, are:

  • Researchers make some big assumptions which can be flawed
  • Research results can be very subjective and open to interpretation
  • Those evaluating the results have their own personal biases (and possibly, corporate sponsors)

If you are smart enough, simply by getting really creative in the ways you collect and interpret data, you could logically prove or disprove just about any theory. Unfortunately, big corporations are funding or otherwise sponsoring a lot of the research.

If you want a perfect example of how subjective data can be, consider all the diets out there. Many of the diets and healthy living plans are “backed by science” yet they completely contradict one another; For example consider the Atkin’s Diet vs. Vegan Diet. One diet promotes the health benefits of a high protein, high fat, low carbs diet while the other touts a meatless diet that is high in fruit, veggies and whole grain (i.e. high carb) to be the ultimate solution. And both claim to be backed by research and data.  It’s no wonder how frustrated and overwhelmed we’ve become when it comes to our food choices.

Long Term Results

A few years have passed since that aha moment, and while I don’t follow a diet that is 100% free of sugar and carbs, I have made a significant, long term reduction in the amount I eat. And even though I know that one change isn’t the cure-all for everyone that ails me, I feel so much better for it.  And yes, on the days I “cheat” my stiffness and discomfort returns; I view that as a good thing because it reminds me how important it is to stay on track.  That moment has set me on a path toward wellness and has had a profound change in the way I think about everything that I put in or on my body, and I am so grateful for it.

The Take-Away

If I had to choose just one thing I’d like anyone reading this to take away, it would be listen to your body. Don’t assume any discomfort is “normal aging.” If your body sends you a red flag, do a bit of research, make a change and listen again. Repeat the process until you find the answer that works for you. It might not be an easy change, but it could be life changing.