Monday: Brentwood, clinical practice
Tuesday & Thursday: Studio City, classes and sessions at private company
Wednesday: Yoga at Seminole Springs, 5:00 – 6:30 PM
Friday: Brentwood, clinical practice
Saturday: Agoura Hills, clinical practice
There are many approaches to health relating to diet and food, and it is a subject close to my heart (and gut). As a Chiropractor and Nutritionist, food is one of the things I talk to my patients about. Here are some of the things we discuss:
- The Gut/Brain connection: healing your gut, healing your brain
- Leaky Gut Syndrome: its symptoms and how to heal it
- The power of fermentation and probiotics
- Letting go of animal products and becoming vegan
- Going grain-free
- Going gluten-free
- Choosing organic food over nonorganic
- No sugar, no cancer
- Last but not least, weight loss
In my view, whatever you choose, an essential place to start is with an understanding of the basics of food. Knowing the mechanics of how what we eat is assimilated and digested, for good or bad, gives us the information we need to make healthier choices for ourselves and those we love. That's why I keep going back to a book written years ago. In The Zone, biochemist Barry Sears, PhD, talks plainly about food. What impressed me about it so many years ago was that it was science—biochemistry—not just another book on the latest fad diet. Concerned about his family history of cardiovascular disease, he wanted to get to the bottom of why his male relatives were dying before the age of fifty.
Sears began his research studying elite athletes. In athletics, The Zone is that feeling that athletes get when they are completely in that place of mastery, where all the hours of training come together into great performance—strength, focus, and skill. That is The Zone, and it was also his contention that all of us, athlete or not, could hit The Zone each time we eat. If we know and understand the science, all of us can reach The Zone and succeed in whatever we are doing. On the other hand, if you are hungry, tired, and have brain fog an hour after you eat, you are out of The Zone and have chosen the wrong food.
As George Mumford—coach of the Lakers and other elite teams—teaches, we can also reach The Zone by practicing meditation and mindfulness, writing, reading, creating—being still. There are many ways to hit and stay in The Zone, but without the proper balance of food (the biochemistry of our bodies), nothing will feel right. It starts by being still and making choices from that place of stillness.
Ask yourself: Am I clear and energetic for several hours after a meal or snack? If so, you are in The Zone. If not, read on . . .
The macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat—are the three main nutrients that our bodies need to survive, before they are broken down into smaller units for absorption. These three macronutrients should be in every feeding—meal or snack—in a particular balance, and this is where the problem lies. Most of us do not think about whether we are including all three at every feeding, or whether they are balanced or not. During the last decades, highly processed carbohydrates that quickly turn into simple sugars without the buffers of protein, fat, and fiber have been the focus of our meals. As a result, we have become overloaded with glucose, making us fatter and sicker. As a nation, because it is ubiquitous in every packaged food we eat, disguised in names we're not sure of, we have increased the amount of sugar we eat to 150 pounds per person per year. Many studies have shown that ". . . sugar is candy for cancer cells," feeding inflammation and increasing autoimmune conditions. Every time you eat sugar, you feed the hidden cancer cells in your body while you increase inflammation and gain fat.
According to Sears, our bodies are not "political" in terms of food; they are just looking for fuel and balance. Once food hits the tongue, the process of digestion begins, and our bodies don't care whether that carbohydrate is a banana or a Snicker's Bar. I would prefer to see more nutrition and less sugar in food choices, but as long as the nutrients are in balance, you won't gain fat. As long as you have a balance of macronutrients, you will be in The Zone—even if it's a candy bar.
Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars—glucose, fructose (a special case), or galactose—before they are used for fuel. If you eat a banana by itself, you will be out of the Zone—too much fructose, too little fiber, without the fat and protein to balance it. It's not political. If there is too much glucose (for example), and not enough protein and fat along with it, you will be out of The Zone, creating brain fog, inflammation, and weight gain. If glucose can learn to play nicely with the other macronutrients (fat and protein), you will be in balance . . . no problem. By the way, eating fat, especially healthy fats such as the fats in nuts, seeds, and avocados, will not make you fat—ever! It's the glucose you have to be concerned about.
Here’s the bottom line: If you want to be and stay at a normal weight, and more importantly, avoid illness and perform in The Zone, you have to learn how to control insulin. What is insulin, and why is it important in weight control? I'm going to tell you. Insulin is a hormone created, stored, and released by the pancreas, whose job it is to transport glucose calories to parts of the body that need the energy. In general, those energy calories go to the hungry brain first; whatever is left is transported to our muscles for stored energy.
Here is the important part: If you take in more glucose calories than your body needs (that is, if you overeat), the rest go to the fat cells for storage. Once they’re there, neatly tucked away (generally around the waist), it is insulin's job to keep them stored as fat, and it’s very hard to release that energy once stored. (This seems to be part of the Paleo background that our modern, sedentary, carbohydrate-guzzling bodies have not evolved from. We're still storing fat for a rainy day, so to speak, instead of using it for energy.) I repeat: Once those extra glucose calories are there, neatly tucked away in the fat around your waist, you will have a heck of a time getting rid of it. Insulin takes its job very seriously.
One day, you wake up and decide you never want to consume another animal; I've been there and struggle with this moral dilemma on a daily basis. Part of the problem is that, as a vegan, just because you have given up meat products doesn't mean that what you eat will be healthy. In fact, it is much harder to get the protein you need and stay in a balanced state (be in The Zone) when you leave out those rich sources of protein. It can be done, it's just harder. As a vegan, your challenge is finding your amino acids in lots of carbohydrates and trying to balance that with good fat, staying within reasonable portion sizes. This is why educating yourself about the Glycemic Index is extremely important.
“ . . . anything that grows in the ground, from spinach to lentils, to mangos, is a carbohydrate that will be broken down into simple sugars . . .”
There is a formula—the science of all this—that Sears describes nicely and clearly, and if you follow it exactly, as I did once to see what would happen, you will lose that fat around your waist and stay at a normal weight. Again, if you are a flesh eater, this will be easier. Following the formula will require that you understand what you are eating, paying attention to what, when, and how much food goes in every time you put something in your mouth. This isn't a bad thing, in my view; it requires that you pay attention (be mindful and still) when you shop, prepare, and eat meals and snacks, and that you educate yourself about the quality and balance of your feedings. It is learning appropriate portion sizes and the balance of macronutrients. It is my hope that, once you learn this, it will become a lifelong habit—a lifestyle change, as they say—and one that you will pass on to your family members, friends, and colleagues.
The formula describes the perfect balance of macronutrients you need every time you feed yourself in order to stay in The Zone. With this formula come recommendations that depend upon your age, gender, and activity level. This is important information that, once learned, you will never forget. The confusion of weight and weight loss will be over; whether you are making your own meals or eating in restaurants—you will know how to stay in The Zone.
Wouldn't this be a good thing to learn this year, once and for all? Now we know that our brains function best when our gut is healthy and balanced. Research tells us that when we leave out refined carbohydrates and include healthy, fiber-rich vegetables and lots of good fat, we will prevent the dreaded mind diseases of dementia and Alzheimer's and stop feeding cancer cells. Isn't it worth studying the Glycemic Index and learning the formula so that your future is one of health, not disease?
Interested? I have put together a nice little packet containing the formula, measurements to follow, and important facts about the Glycemic Index. And coming this year is a Webinar teaching the Best Habits that the Healthiest People follow. Call and come into my office to discuss the formula and learn this crucial information.
Risa Potters, DC, is a respected Chiropractor, Yoga Therapist, and passionate good food educator. Prior to becoming a Chiropractor in 1993, she studied with Joseph Heller—a mentor of Ida Rolf—and became certified in this groundbreaking form of bodywork and movement therapy. She earned certification as a Yoga Therapist in 1984 and an Exercise Therapist from UCLA in 1986. She continues to follow her lifelong interest in food and nutrition as an experienced organic gardener and member of the Slow Food movement.
"There is an urgency now, more than ever, to support people's empowerment in regard to their health. By learning how our bodies can thrive through bodywork, the practice of yoga, and a balanced relationship with food, most of us can heal and maintain good health without serious intervention, in ways that carry over into every aspect of life."
Come in for a winter session, and of course, referrals are welcomed and appreciated!