Friday, January 12, 2018

Food Choices, Food Addiction, and Using the RI Method

About three years ago, I wrote how the RI Method helped me to stop overeating in many situations. For about 16 years, not counting the time I was pregnant, I've maintained a 45 pound weight loss, followed by another 15 pound weight loss more recently.

I decided to adopt a vegan diet in September of 2000, mainly for ethical reasons (being married to a vegan helped, too). As I read various books about veganism, I was shocked to learn how the vegetarian diet I had followed for several years did nothing to benefit the lives of farmed animals. Plus, I learned that a vegan diet also offered health benefits, specifically a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) vegan diet that eliminates processed foods such as flour, sugar, and oils.

While I understood the benefits of embracing what's commonly called an "SOS-free" diet along, and steering away from refined food products, putting it into practice day in an out was difficult. I could eat this way for days or weeks until tempted by a vegan "treat." Yet I managed to stay at what I considered a decent weight for my height.

Over the years I studied this way of eating (WOE) more and more, and I learned that not only could a WFPB diet help me keep my weight in the normal range, but it could possibly help me eliminate or at least decrease what we in RI call nervous symptoms: depression, anxiety, wild mood swings -- all of these and more! Going vegan had helped ameliorate these, but they still interfered with daily functions and I had frequent setbacks. But along with regular exercise (a brisk walk) and practicing the Recovery Method, I might have a chance to eliminate those annoying nervous symptoms and function better.

I slowly gave up eating highly refined foods, starting with processed oils. I learned how to cook without using any oil and minimizing my use of salt. I studied food plans that helped people go sugar, oil, and salt (SOS)-free. Some encouraged eating more complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes and rice, and others emphasized eating more leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, romaine lettuce, mushrooms, and some focused on adding  nuts and seeds, but they all eliminated added oil and refined foods from the menu. They also strongly suggested either cutting out sugar or reducing its use.

I usually committed to one of these plans and followed it for days or weeks at a time, only to give into my cravings for sugary foods, usually soy lattes and chocolate or homemade baked treats. But even though I was still eating sugar once in a while (and sometimes more than once in while), I noticed that when I ate fewer refined foods, my nervous symptoms didn't interfere with my life quite as much. I still had lowered tones and anxiety, but the symptoms didn't get so bad that I couldn't function in daily life. 

In July of 2016, I joined a program known as UWL or "Ultimate Weight Loss." Run by two amazing people --  Chef AJ, who is a vegan chef, author, and much more, and John Pierre, a fitness trainer to celebrities, author, and animal advocate -- this program promotes eating whole vegetables, fruits, grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes as well as regular exercise, meditation, and other healthy habits.  I learned soon after joining that I am a caffeine and sugar addict. Yep, I had followed a vegan diet for years and even an oil-free diet, but it still included coffee, sugar, and salt. It took me more than a year, but I finally stopped drinking coffee and eating sugar except for what exists in whole fruits. Since then, I've increased my energy level and my mood has stabilized even more than in previous years. This program was able to help me eliminate the use of sugar, oil, salt, and refined food products when other programs, including well-known ones you've probably heard about in the media and Internet and make millions of dollars a year in sales, could not.

I still use the Recovery Method every single day. Without it, I couldn't "do the things I fear and dread to do," like get up earlier in the day to exercise (move my muscles) or bear the discomfort of withdrawing from caffeine and sugar. I "control my muscles" when I feel tempted by a formerly favorite food product while shopping in the market and don't put the product in my cart, and I "remove myself from a temper provoking situation" by avoiding the aisles where these products are stocked. And when I have inevitably eaten a food that is not optimal for my goals, I spot the fearful temper and drop the judgment against myself for my own mental health.

Some people in UWL report that within days or a week of starting the program they have more energy and fewer headaches or whatever it is they're suffering from. I have to remind myself over and over that "comparisons are odious and should be avoided." For me, it took several months before I had enough energy to make it through the day without wanting to stop on the way home from work for a cup of coffee.

I'd never tell anyone to give up coffee, sugar, oil, and salt, or whatever is they enjoy eating and drinking, but I do know that for me, stopping these products improved my nervous symptoms. It's up to you to decide what works best, but I'd suggest eliminating these products for at least 30 days to see if you have any improvement in your symptoms. At the very least, check out Chef AJ's Ultimate Weight Loss page to see how the program works. Another program that people find helpful for weight loss but includes a tiny bit of sugar and salt is Dr. John McDougall's program. He also promotes a WFPB diet and has many free resources on his website.

Whatever you decide to do (remember: "decide, plan, and act"), endorse for reading this (it was longer than I planned) and for making a business of your mental health. Thank you for being group-minded enough to read this. I hope it helps you on your journey to good average mental health and great physical health!

(P.S. - If you stumbled across this blog and have no idea what I mean by the "RI Method" or the Recovery program, please visit Recovery International for a comprehensive explanation of the program.)
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