July is coming to a close. I set this month aside to seek God for the next chapter in my life. This is on the run-up to my birthday next month.
What is it about birthdays that makes us so introspective? We tend to look back on our lives and examine the wins and losses. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight we often see that our perspective on those things has changed. Some of our most heartbreaking losses—relationships, jobs, dreams—have lead us to unexpected joy and success. The things we fought so hard for often disappointed. At any rate, birthdays call for pulling out the past and searching for clues to the future.
The conclusion is that there are only two things I need to continue a successful navigation of this life on earth: God and myself. With these two resources, everything else can be provided. God is assured. He has promised never to leave or forsake me. One question I asked myself this month is how can I be a good steward of myself, working to maintain health, vigor, mental acuity, and emotional strength?
Since the advent of antibiotics and the availability of prompt emergency care, the infections and accidents that used to take our lives are not as much of a threat as they once were. Now, the experts tell us, it is our lifestyle choices that wreck our health and leave us vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Not only are these conditions life-threatening on their own, they form a deadly partnership with diseases such as COVID-19, pushing our bodies over the brink. I can make better life style choices to combat these issues.
In 2012, I gave up sugar and carbohydrates to encourage my R.N. sister in her new Ideal Protein business. It was a good move. Nutritional advice changes all the time. Many people swear by plants only and point to marked health improvements as proof. Low-carb and Keto folks claim their results came from giving up the grains and starches vegans praise. Both groups cite scientific and anecdotal evidence.
I am not a scientist, but I have some theories about this. First, I have another sister (three in all) who, when we were children would eat my peas and other icky vegetables and I, in exchange, would eat her despised meat. Our parents only knew the plates were clean and we each got what we loved. She now follows a strictly vegan diet while I am happier and more successful with some animal products. The takeaway for me is: listen to your body. And that’s what I do.
That said, no true health expert (i.e., one not paid by the food industry) ever said eat more sugar and processed carbohydrates. Nobody ever said, regardless of what they recommend you consume, that you should treat every meal like Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever we eat, our bodies have a limited ability to process food and forcing them to go beyond capacity on a regular basis takes its toll on other systems.
One change in nutritional science that makes sense is suggested by doctors like Jason Fung, MD. He proports that eating itself can be the culprit, particularly foods that are high in net carbohydrates because they trigger a release of the hormone insulin. He believes too much insulin circulating in our bodies is the true culprit of weight gain. He recommends fewer carbs and sugars and a shorter eating window each day. This is known as intermittent fasting or IF.
The question is, how do I believe I should eat to optimize my health and still enjoy my life? Where do I hit the mark and where do I need to improve? For me I believe the ideal eating plan would be:
- No sugar or highly processed foods
- Less than 100 total grams of carbohydrates per day with a goal of 50 net carbs. Net carbs are the total number of carbohydrates in food minus the fiber and sugar alcohol grams. Sugar alcohols include things like maltitol and erythritol. Sugar alcohols can cause intestinal problems and perpetuate the habit of eating sweets, so it is best for me to minimize those and other artificial sweeteners.
- Lots of low-starch veggies
- Some grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, wild-caught fish
- Minimal dairy
- Stick with a 16:8 eating window, which means 16 hours of fasting, 8 of eating.
My biggest struggle right now is finding the best 8-hour window for me. I am tracking carbs because those have a way of creeping up. Because of my long-term success with sugar, that hasn’t been too hard, but chips are my nemesis.
This is my plan. If you are interested in eating this way or finding another plan that works for you, be sure to do your own research and consider how God made you. I will say that when I ate a lot of sugar, it called the shots. The more I ate, the more I wanted, and felt powerless to say, “NO!” If you make only one change for your health, dropping sugar from your diet will make a big impact.
Being a good caretaker of my body means sticking around to do God’s work in the world. While He can, and does, use us in any condition, we are more ready to be His hands and feet when we are physically, mentally, and spiritually ready to engage in His mission.
I sense an urgency about this like never before.