Exercise. Eat well. Be healthy. Simple enough.

I followed these basic rules for years. I ate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, chose lean protein sources, avoided sugar and refined carbohydrates, and exercised regularly.

By some measures, this was clearly working: I had stable body weight and composition, good cholesterol and blood pressure, good cardiovascular endurance and physical strength.

All good, right?  

Actually, no.

What those tests couldn’t reveal was how I actually felt. I had an angry digestive system, inflammatory skin condition, oscillating energy levels, and awoke exhausted many mornings. My doctors prescribed powerful pills to calm my gut and steroid creams to calm my skin. 

For a “healthy” guy who made “healthy” choices, I didn’t feel so good. 

* * *

Around this time, my wife brought home a library book for me that prompted several conversations and further research into nutritional cleansing. Based on this reading and research, I created a modified food-based cleanse to: (1) be sustainable for a period of time, and (2) provide sufficient nutritional / caloric intake for my activity level.

I used super nutritious juices and smoothies to replace solid food meals at breakfast and dinner.  These liquid meals allow the digestive system long periods of time each day to rest, which many consider an absolute pre-condition to healing.

I read about acid vs alkaline promoting foods and their effects on inflammation. I experimented extensively with a variety of organic greens (including kale, chard, dandelion, etc) and vegetables, nutrient rich and low-glycemic fruits, and other ingredients such as ginger, lemon and cinnamon. 

I realized that many of my “healthy” food choices in the past were not actually creating health, but inflammation and other ills.  A salad, for example, is or isn’t healthy depending on what’s in it.  During the cleanse, I eliminated a number of foods and drinks that I now knew not to be health-promoting.

Because my cleanse was calorically and nutritionally sustainable for me, I enjoyed a four week period where I actually re-discovered what “healthy” really feels like. My angry stomach became a peaceful one. My quality of sleep improved dramatically. My skin condition cleared ... And all this without any medication.

* * *

Once I became familiar with what “healthy” felt like in my body, I was much better able to discern which foods and ingredients worked for my body and which didn’t.  Importantly, some foods and supplements favored by health and wellness experts, just did not work with my system. Knowing what healthy feels like also tells me what un-healthy feels like when I eat or drink something that knocks my system off track.

Some of my favorite discoveries:
  • Organic kale, swiss chard and other dark, leafy greens are now among my favorite foods.  They form the base of many of my meals and not only bring great nutrition but seem to powerfully reduce acidity. 
  • Yams, raw nuts, berries, olive oil, avocados, are all in my new favorites.
  • Juices and smoothies can be used to replace a solid food meal or snack even when not pursuing a formal cleanse to give you super nutrients while being very kind to your tummy. MindBodyGreen has lots of great articles on the subject, and I’d highly recommend Kris Carr’s work and recipes.
  • Experimenting a bit with snacks focused on only single / individual foods (e.g., just apples, carrots, cucumbers, nuts, or carrots vs mixing lots of different things together at once), can tell you a lot about what may be hidden in your diet that causes problems for your digestion and health.  Since many of us consume meals with so many different foods, beverages, and ingredients mixed together, it’s hard to know which ingredients affect your body in which ways.  Some of your favorite choices, might not actually be your friends.
  • Be careful of supplement-based cleanses. Organic, nutritious, whole foods (and juices) trump pills and powders in my book whenever possible.
I am not a vegan or vegetarian ... yet. But, I do know how amazing my body feels when I go for stretches with all plant-based foods.

Learn what "healthy" really feels like for you.  It’s one of the best gifts you’ll ever give yourself.

Next time ... what “healthy” exercise feels like!


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