You have now read lots of science and logic. Hopefully, I have motivated you to make a change. The problem for some of us is that our behavior is not controlled by logic or science; it is controlled by feelings and emotions.
Change can be very difficult for some people and easier for others. Knowledge is clearly the key that can set us free from the vicious cycle of food addiction and self-destructive eating practices. If you are one of those people who finds change difficult, then let’s work together to lose the emotional baggage that could be interfering with achieving excellent health. You have to lose the fear of change and the fear of giving up the comfort foods that fuel your food addictions. Replace them with excitement about a more pleasurable and comfortable life driven by the results you will see as your body is transformed.
We must look to the big picture and focus on long-term results, not short-term recreational eating. Together, we can get rid of the on-a-diet mentality and move to becoming an expert in nutritional excellence. Part of gaining this expertise is learning some great-tasting recipes that you will love. You also have to accept that it takes time to allow your taste buds to adapt to this new way of eating. Be patient with yourself. It could take a few months to prefer this way of eating and for your taste buds to sensitize themselves to lower levels of salt, sugar, and oil in natural foods. Over time, though, you will find that you enjoy this style of eating every bit as much, and even more, than your prior diet. This becomes especially true when you see the physical results of eating food that is so good for you.
It is a good idea to have a meeting with your family members or other people you live with to explain your new diet direction and to ask for their support. Do not try to change their eating habits, but ask them if they can help you by understanding what you are doing and why. Perhaps they can read this book to help you stay focused on your new diet style and new health goals. If your loved ones feel that you aren’t trying to change them but are just asking them to respect, understand, and support you in your new diet plan, they may choose to make important changes toward better health for themselves.
Support is important. If you don’t have supportive family or friends, or a supportive local network, join my website membership at www.drfuhrman.com to help you interact with others who eat the same way. The connection with others is valuable. You will find you are not alone. Thousands of others are on the same path to good health and want to support you and share your life’s challenges.
Lastly, please don’t forget the personal rewards and sense of achievement you will receive from earning back your excellent health. This is a reward that continues year after year, a reward that multiplies over and over again when other people are positively influenced to earn back their health because of your example. You do not live alone on an island. Your health and well-being, and the positive message you radiate to those around you, affect your family, friends, fellow workers, and community, even your nation. Destructive eating may give you a momentary high, but the most pleasure in life comes from more meaningful achievements. Make the commitment to earn back excellent health, and soon you will find that healthy eating can be just as pleasurable. Every day on this program places you closer to improved health and a more rewarding and pleasurable life.
Six Essential Steps to Help You Reach Your Health Goals
Step #1: Make the Commitment and Write It Down
Keep track of your progress in a notebook. Start by writing down at least five reasons why you eat the foods you now do. Think of reasons why you should continue on your current course that has made you diabetic and is keeping you diabetic. This may sound like a silly exercise, but it is helpful for closure and clarity as you examine how you got to this point and how you plan to move toward health.
Then on the next page, write down the advantages of making a complete, firm, and irrevocable commitment to eating the way I am suggesting for the next twelve weeks. This means if you have diabetes, stay with the phase one dietary guidelines for the full twelve weeks. Allow time for your taste preferences to change, for your weight to drop, and for you to reduce serious health risks. Then, after the first twelve weeks, you can choose if it is the right time to make some small modifications to the program (moving to phase two) or to stay with phase one to maximize more gains. If the advantages are not immediately clear, take a moment and reflect on how your dietary habits are affecting you and everyone around you. What are the long-term dangers and consequences? This section will include why what you were eating was slowly killing you and what you hope to gain from this great change in food preferences and eating style.
Some people prefer to rationalize and protect their addictions. The desire to maintain these addictions has taken over their life despite the long-term health consequences. My guess is that these individuals did not get very far into this book. But the fact that you are still reading tells me you are ready. This step is very important because the rest of society eating the SAD will surely attempt to convince you otherwise. This notebook will prepare you for any internal conversations with yourself or any external conversations that may arise about your choices. It is the ultimate shield that protects you and enables you to confidently move toward health and a life that is not ruled by disease, medications, doctor visits, and fear.
The reason I chose twelve weeks for this firm commitment is because it takes us that long to change our taste preferences, learn new favorite recipes, and get in a rhythm of eating and enjoying this plan. Twelve weeks gets us past the stage of experimentation and into the realm of real everyday living. After twelve weeks, the health turnaround will be in full swing, and you will be seeing powerful results daily. Then it will be easy for you to feel and understand that this is a lifetime commitment to excellent health because this becomes the way we all prefer to eat and enjoy most.
After you have listed the advantages and disadvantages of your new diet style in your notebook, write down your commitment:
I, (your name), commit to a new effort of health excellence over the next twelve weeks of my life. This includes eating only the healthiest foods, learning more about how to prepare them properly, and continuing without excuses or distractions consistently for the twelve-week period. I will also exercise every day.
A commitment means that an excuse is not an excuse. There can be no excuses to break this commitment. Addicts always have excuses. They always have a reason or rationalization to explain why their lifestyle change did not work or was too difficult.
“It is too difficult a time right now”; “I had to travel on my job”; “I am invited to a wedding”; “My son smashed up the car”; “I am having trouble at work” are all common excuses. The reality, however, is that life is stressful and change is difficult, but a commitment means you do it no matter what. Do not try to do this because trying means you will accept an excuse not to do it. Instead, commit no matter what life throws your way and no matter how much effort it takes. Things that have huge value require effort. Giving it a try is the formula for failure. Moderation means failure. Great success means a significant effort is usually required. Doing it no matter what is the formula for success. It is the formula that all successful individuals use to achieve great results.
Step #2: Draw Up a “Business Plan”
Regardless of the scale of any venture, a business plan is an invaluable asset. It is a map of how you plan to achieve your goals. I believe a plan is essential for success. Let’s start by creating a weekly schedule. First work on the plan on scrap paper, and then write it in your notebook. The plan should consist of determining your food shopping days, what to buy and where, which days to do your cooking, what you cook, and what you plan to save as leftovers for the days you are not cooking. It should also include what days you exercise and what exercises you do on those days. All of these details need be part of your weekly planner. The more precise you are with the plan, the easier the follow-through as your days unfold. This step is essential for creating the important balance between your job, your diet, your exercise, and other details in your life. This plan will make sure this program is accessible no matter how busy you are.
Most people use weekends to do a big food shopping trip as well as their major weekly cooking. It’s a good idea to make a big pot of veggie-bean soup, a salad dressing, and a cooked vegetable. Then you have food to use as leftovers for the main part of the week. You may also consider doing another small shopping trip and a food preparation session on a smaller scale, perhaps on an evening you take off from going to the gym. Sometimes frozen vegetables or canned beans can be used so you can exercise instead of cooking one night. When writing your business plan, choose which recipes you are going to make and the foods you have to buy to prepare them. Now you have your diet plan for the week.
Write your business plan in the form of a weekly calendar so you can see when you shop, cook, exercise, and do other errands and recreational activities. Planning is essential for success. You have to plan to make sure this program fits into your life. You don’t always have to cook, but you always have to plan.
Step #3: Track Your Progress
Next, make a section in your notebook to track your medications, your weight, your blood pressure, your blood sugar, and your lab tests. Add an entry at least twice weekly documenting your progress, and include how many pounds away you are from your goal weight. Also write down the exercises you do and the length and vigor of the exercise so you can record your increases in exercise tolerance. This all will make it easy to reduce your medications at the appropriate rate and time.
It has been shown in medical studies that keeping a diet diary to record everything you eat helps with staying on a diet. This is not necessary for everyone, but I believe it is valuable to have the stats and details at your fingertips. Tracking progress can be a powerful motivator. Not only are you feeling better, more energetic, and losing weight, but also you have all the data to prove it.
Step #4: Make It Public
Now make your commitment public. Tell at least six people that you are making a radical change in your diet and your health. Tell them about this book, why you are making this commitment, and what you hope to achieve. Putting your commitment out in public makes it harder to turn back. Voicing your commitment to others makes it more established in your mind and makes it easier to resist the temptation of just eating your old way. It is common to receive a skeptical and discouraging response in return, sometimes even from your physician. That should only harden your desire and ability to prove them wrong. You are now in control of your life and your health. It is not up to your physician, friends, or family. Doing what everyone else does got you into this mess to begin with. Now it is up to you. You now know more than they do about getting healthy. You can do whatever it takes to earn back your health. Thousands of people have succeeded, and so can you. There is no turning back.
Step #5: Make Your Kitchen Healthy
Start by ridding your home of all unhealthy foods that you no longer intend to eat. Stocking your refrigerator and cupboards with the right ingredients for your diet and discarding the diabetes unfavorable foods is a major step. If you are living with people who cannot go along with excellent nutrition, separate the storage areas for your food. Use a different refrigerator for the unhealthy food or use a separate area of the main refrigerator. Get rid of or separate other food items as well. Put a big label on that section that says your name and Don’t Touch. Give your spouse or others you live with permission to offer you help if you need it. They have to be instructed, “Don’t let me eat the food that you are saving for yourself.” Don’t forget that if you are having problems committing to this program, it helps to talk with others who have done it and are doing it.
Stock up on plenty of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. Buy many varieties of dried beans. Also buy some canned beans. Look for brands without salt, usually available in health food stores. The kitchen should become health central. It is vital to have it stocked and ready to help you help yourself. Roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to work.
Step #6: The Exercise Prescription
It cannot be overemphasized that if you have diabetes, exercise is your prescription of choice. In place of dependency-inducing drugs, the proper medical intervention for this disease is to focus on the aggressive use of diet and exercise.
I always ask new type 2 diabetic patients, “How many days a week do you forget to take your medication?” They most often say, “Never.” Then I ask, “Why don’t you just take it sometimes?” They look at me like I am crazy. Then I say, “Which do you think is more important to your long-term health, taking your medication daily or exercising daily? The answer is exercise—it is much more effective and more protective of your future health and survival than the medication. If you want to neglect yourself or forget to care for yourself, then forget the prescription drugs, but never forget to exercise.” Too many people suffering from diabetic conditions believe that drugs are their savior. In reality, drugs can discourage us from taking the right steps toward good health, and the dependency on medication can be a downfall, not a savior.
Diabetes is a disease whose inherent causation is too little exercise and too much fattening food. The two key goals for anyone with type 2 diabetes are to get slim and fit. So why are more and more of us getting sick each year? As we discussed earlier, too many people are addicted to unhealthy foods and vicious toxic eating cycles. And too many are told by well-meaning physicians that diabetes is safely and effectively managed with drugs, not diet and exercise. Diabetics typically think (falsely) that their medication is life saving. They wouldn’t dare miss it. The truth is that doing daily exercise is the real life-saving prescription. I make this clear to my patients and emphasize, “From now on, never miss your exercise. That is so much more important. It is critical to your recovery. You must be physically fit if you are going to beat diabetes.”
In fact, according to large studies, diabetics who become fit can lower their risk of premature death by 40 to 60 percent depending on their body weight. One study, reported at the 2008 European Society of Cardiology Congress, showed that those diabetics who were highly fit had a 65 percent reduced risk of death in the seven years following the study compared to those with a low level of fitness. Performing daily exercise and building up exercise tolerance are the most effective ways to enhance survival—their results are not matched by any medications to any degree.
There is no excuse for not exercising. Time is not an excuse. If you have time to take a shower, brush your teeth, and go to the bathroom daily, you can put aside ten minutes twice a day to exercise. Poor fitness is not an excuse. Even bodily injury rarely involves the entire body, so you can usually do some kind of physical activity. Even people in wheelchairs can exercise. And if you have poor exercise tolerance, that is even more reason to start.
If your blood sugar is running high, get it down quickly; address this right away with what goes in your mouth and how often you exercise. You must de-emphasize the role of medications and address your condition head-on. If you did not have medications, if they had never been developed, what would you do to bring your glucose down? You would exercise more and eat less, a much safer and more effective option than medication.