It’s been a rough couple of months. I’ve been out of town almost every weekend since the beginning of November, and sadly can’t remember the last time I went to my beloved farmers market.
Though the traveling was fun, I couldn’t be happier to ring in 2012 with a fresh start. I don’t diet or “cleanse” (I’ve yet to hear a scientific explanation of what that actually means), but I’m taking the first two weeks of January to eat extra healthy and recalibrate back to my regular happy self.
I have just three simple rules I’ll be sticking to. Of course my emphasis will be on eating lots of healthy vegetables, fish, legumes, pastured meats, fermented foods, etc. But to really get back on track I’ll also be temporarily eliminating the three most inflammatory (and weight loss unfriendly) foods.
Summer Tomato’s Health Recalibration
1. No sugar.
Everyone knows sugar is bad for you. And although I believe there’s a place for small amounts of it in a healthy diet, I’ll be living without any added sugar for the next two weeks.
If you plan on following along, I’d also recommend avoiding sugar substitutes. Calorie-free sweeteners have never been shown to assist with weight loss, and you aren’t doing yourself any favors by keeping your palate craving overly sweet foods. If you’re desperate for a little treat during this time, fruit is your best bet.
2. No wheat.
I typically limit my bread consumption to about once or twice a week, but for the next two weeks I’ll be going without it completely. Wheat is incredibly inflammatory and is associated with a huge range of health problems. Eliminating wheat and gluten, wheat’s main protein, for awhile gives your body a chance to heal from the damage done over the holiday season.
If you suspect you might be sensitive to gluten, two weeks might not be enough of a break to get you back to feeling normal. Four to eight weeks without it is what is typically recommended to test for sensitivity, so feel free to extend past two weeks if you’re troubleshooting health problems like fatigue, depression, arthritis or digestive issues.
I recommend avoiding all processed flours during recalibration, but you carbohydrate lovers still have lots of delicious options to get you through. I’ll be relying on rice, quinoa, potatoes and legumes to keep me from being a cranky low-carber. If you absolutely must eat pasta during the recalibration, there are plenty of good gluten-free options. Quinoa pastas aren’t too bad, and rice noodles are also usually gluten-free.
Keep in mind if you want to go fully gluten-free you should also skip barley. Oats don’t contain wheat gluten but are often contaminated during processing. Gluten-free oats are available at some stores.
Lastly, remember that soy sauce is made with wheat and contains gluten. A gluten-free option called tamari is an excellent substitute that basically tastes the same.
3. No dairy.
This one will be the hardest for me since cheese, yogurt and the occasional half-and-half do make regular appearances in my diet. However, dairy can make insulin regulation difficult and it can help to cut it out for a couple weeks.
Eliminating dairy products can help with other problems as well. Cow’s milk is the only food that is directly linked to acne. It can also be an inhibitor to weight loss, even in very small amounts. Like gluten, dairy can also trigger inappropriate immune responses, making it particularly problematic for people with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.
For milk lovers, I recommend almond milk or coconut milk as tasty substitutes, just be sure you get the unsweetened varieties. Here’s why I don’t usually drink soy milk.
I love me a glass of nice wine or a well-crafted artisan cocktail. I drink alcohol fairly regularly, and there is a good amount of evidence that it protects against coronary heart disease. Though there have been reports about alcohol increasing cancer incidence, the risks are typically mitigated by a healthy diet that contains plenty of folic acid.
So why do I recommend a two week break from the sauce? For starters, alcohol lowers your inhibition and makes it much harder to stick to the recalibration. It’s hard enough, you don’t need any extra excuses. The more important reason, however, is alcohol’s effect on your liver. Like fructose (the sugar molecule that is processed by the liver), alcohol promotes body fat accumulation and insulin resistance. For recalibration to be effective, you’ll need to be a teetotaler for at least two weeks. Sorry.
I started on January 1, but Monday January 2, is probably a more reasonable start date for most of you.
Who’s with me?