Habits for Inflammation - Or Why I'm Only Eating Lamb and Zucchini


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3 Things I’ve Loved this Week

Test I’m taking: InsideTracker

I’ve used InsideTracker to measure a variety of important blood markers for several years. A 15-minute blood draw gives you a variety of panels – glucose, iron, testosterone and dozens more – that you can use to improve your health.

Book I’m Reading: Why We Are Fat: And What To Do About It

I used to work as a personal trainer and would always tell my clients, “Losing weight isn’t as simple as ‘eat less, exercise more.’” This national bestselling book explains why that is true and addresses a lot of the nutritional myths of the last century. It is concise, well-written and a pleasure to read.

I’m learning about: GAPS Diet

The GAPS Diet, the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, begins with eliminating all but a few ingredients and eating very simply for 3-12 weeks while the gut heals. (I’m exclusively eating grass fed lamb and organic zucchini with salt.) Then, week by week, you add ingredients back into your diet to see which (glucose, lactose, sugar, etc.) cause inflation. I’ll report back.

Habits for Inflammation

This is a vulnerable article to write because I’m still in the midst of this behavior change. Usually when I share a personal anecdote, I know how the story is going to end. In this case, I'm still in the middle of it.

But before I go into what’s going on right now, let me tell you a story from ten years ago during a year when I was studying ballet 40 hours a week.

Full-time ballet

At 29 years old, I studied ballet 40 hours a week alongside high school kids. It was a deeply humbling experience to train ballet full time alongside dancers who were 15 years younger and quite a bit better than me. I don’t necessarily suggest you try it!

Classical ballet is a judgmental dance form. There is a right right and wrong – and you are never doing it quite right. (The words "You clumsy oaf" still come to mind.)

During that year, one common critique I got again and again, was to bring my belly in. I was strong, fit and exercised every day - in addition to 40 hours a week of ballet. And my instructor would regularly shout across the studio, "Robin! Suck your belly in!”

It is only looking back that I can connect the dots. While my ballet instructor’s feedback was difficult to hear and had nothing to do with body fat percentage or posture, there was an indication of something deeper going on.

Habit: What do people often tell you? If you can hear past your own self-judgment, there may be some truth hidden beneath difficult feedback.

Work stress & caffeine

In the fall of 2020, I was living in a beautiful, isolated home in the redwoods in Northern California. My work had already been virtual but had gone even more so. I was spending 10 hours a day in stressful 30-minute Zoom calls building my company.

Some days, my belly would hurt so badly that I had to lean against my desk to suppress the pain. It took me perhaps longer than it should have to realize that the pain was caused by the excessive black tea I was drinking on an empty stomach each morning.

To get out of pain, I had to attend to my daily routine, step by step, in order to realize that the pain was caused by a combination of black tea and stress.

Habit: If you feel pain, pay attention.

When we are in pain, physically or otherwise, we suppress sensation. This is a survival strategy - it enables us to push through pain. If you're running away from a predator and sprain your ankle, you want to keep being able to continue running!

But we're almost never running away from predators anymore. Most often, pain is better resolved by paying closer attention to the underlying causes.

Fasting

At the beginning of the year, I started fasting. (Here’s a video about my first 5-day water-only fast.)

Though I had previously gone without food and called that “intermittent fasting,” it turns out that not eating because you are too busy working isn’t the same thing!

Through a handful of 2- and 3-day fasts, I worked my way up to several 5-day water-only fasts.

The body is capable of going without food for days on end and can do so while maintaining good health. A frequent concern – that you’ll become undernourished – is largely unfounded. The human body has evolved to flip into a state of burning fat for fuel (known as ketosis) and can subsist in good health for many days. Another concern is you’ll get “hangry” – that grotesque contraction of hungry and angry. As far as I can tell, this is the result of adrenaline and a lack of attention.

Habit: You can go without food longer than you think. Pick a day and don’t eat for one or two meals – but do so with attention. Your body is capable of so much more than you know.

GAPS Diet

Since I began fasting, I’ve become acutely aware of the impact of eating food that doesn’t suit me. I have six-pack abs and, baffling, eating a pizza distends my belly 3 inches beyond my waistline!

So I've recently embarked on the GAPS diet, which is the first diet I’ve ever tried. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet consists of eliminating all but a few basic ingredients and eating in only those few ingredients until the gut has time to heal.

I am beginning my GAPS diet with only grass fed lamb and organic zucchini, with salt. (I'm not perfect. Last night, I also ate half a pint of ice cream!)

Here are few lessons that I've learned so far...

Play more

I would never have guessed that I could survive on lamb and zucchini, alone. That’s because, while I love to cook, I’m always pretty outcome-oriented with my food. I eat for pleasure and for nutrition. I don’t play with my food.

Habit: Play with your food. Every once in a while try something ridiculous like eating lamb and zucchini three meals in a row! We don't get creative or ridiculous with our food very often. Play more.

Listen to yourself

When you pay attention, there's a profound amount of knowledge available from your body. Throughout every step of this journey, I can look back and recognize that there were cues and indicators if I was paying close attention. I am a big proponent of consulting with experts and doing your research. Ultimately, though, you are your own best expert.

Habit: Listen to yourself and how you feel as a result of a dietary or lifestyle change. Adjust accordingly.

Learning never ends

Whenever I learn a new discipline, I’m in awe of how deep the rabbit hole goes. My journey with inflammation goes back more than a decade and I’m just getting started!

I thought I had uncovered something radical and new when I started fasting. My first 5-day fast was a revelation! I'm currently excited by the outcome of eating lamb and zucchini (if bored by the diet itself). And I have no idea what comes after that.

Habit: Learning happens in layers. You can only learn the next layer by taking a step forward from where you are now. Begin from where you are.

As I’ve started down the next stage of my learning about inflamation, I’ve already noticed that my belly doesn’t hurt. And when I do slip up and eat some pizza, I notice the difference!

Whether you’re interested in losing weight, feeling healthier, or tackling any new habit, I hope you use this as a reminder to play more, listen to yourself, and give yourself the grace to learn.

Until next time,
Robin

Thanks for reading!

I appreciate you being here. Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback? Just rely and let me know.

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