Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Nutritarian Lifestyle

In my last post I explained the health conditions that I’ve experienced over the past several years, which have led me to what some would consider to be a radical approach to treatment. As I said before, I have tried the spectrum of anti-inflammatory drugs. I am now attempting to treat Crohn’s Disease through diet and excellent nutrition. My goal today is to give you an overview of the diet plan that I’m following, and to set the stage for future posts by explaining what you can expect to see. So, let’s get to it.

At the end of August 2012, I was watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead when something clicked for me. I realized for the first time that my diet probably truly could be the key to unlocking better health and a better quality of life. Yes, I know…any idiot should know that. The thing is, my doctors have been telling me for years that my diet won’t have much of an impact on my symptoms. Of course they recommended healthy eating, but healthy eating instead of medication…never! Don’t get me wrong, my doctor is great, and I truly respect his opinions. But I don’t think they put a lot of faith in my approach to treatment. However, back in October I had some lab work done after I’d been on the diet for about a month, and the results were amazing. My lab work suggested that I was healthier than I had been in years! My suggestion to my doctor that it was due to my diet was met with skepticism and a small lecture on how far my meds have brought me. But I digress…

After watching that movie, I started to think that I might actually be able live a quality life, and live longer than I expected too. You see, folks, due to the high risk of cancer and associated side effects of my medications, I had come to a place where I truly didn’t expect to live into my 60’s. But something changed after watching that movie. And the more research I did the more hopeful I became. I discovered the book Eat to Live (ETL), by Dr. Joel Furhman. In it, he describes a paradigm shift. He described a way of thinking about health and nutrition that transcends diet trends. The jist of the diet is this: eat foods with a high nutrient per calorie density, foods like greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit.  The diet, the Nutritarian diet, is also low meat, dairy and animal products, and low salt and sugar. Processed foods (boxed, instant…goodbye Hamburger Helper!) These are some of the basics. For a detailed explanation, I highly recommend his book. However, I’m not here to sell any products or ideas. I’m just chronicling my journey, and so far, I stand behind this approach based on my own experiences with this diet. Dr. Furhman makes some recommendations based on certain health conditions or issues, and it so happens that a vegan diet seems to work best for most people with irritable bowel diseases. So following his principles, I launched my journey into this new way of living the weekend of Labor Day, 2012. This was no new diet; it was a new lifestyle. With my doctor’s permission, I began a juice fast (fresh vegetable and fruit juices, made right here at home) to help break the cravings and addictions of unhealthy foods, sugars and caffeine. My diet is as follows (including the ETL principles out lined above):
  • Vegan (except I do eat small amounts of local honey from time to time)
  • Low salt
  • No sugar
  • (Almost) No processed foods (unless I processed it myself here at home!)
  • Low caffeine
  • 90% green (at least that’s the goal)
  • Low starchy grains
  • Gluten free (as often as possible)
  • Organic when possible and affordable
  • Water and black and green teas to drink 

When people hear all of that, they look at me like I’m insane, or perhaps some sort of hippie. Well, so be it. That’s a small price to pay (figuratively and literally) compared to the physical and financial drain that traditional pharmacological intervention has been. And even if this doesn’t work to fully eliminate medications, my hope is that it will at least lessen the amount that I’m taking. After starting this diet back in September, within a month I was off all but one medication, and that medication is an infusion-based drug that stays in my system for months after receiving it. Also, when I started the diet I weighed about 176 lbs. I lost about 15 lbs. before I cheated my way through the holidays. In addition, I’d like to point out again that my lab work was proof enough that the diet was helping.

Before I wrap up today’s post, I’d like to make one last point. Many diet plans come with a built in “incentive” where you get to have a “cheat” meal or two every so often. My thinking as a therapist comes in to play here, but I don’t advocate for that approach. My experience tells me that for most people, if you leave yourself an open back door, an escape route, you’ll probably take it. Your commitment level isn’t likely to be enough for the long haul. I’m proof of that. I decided to “cheat” just before Thanksgiving, and that continued through Christmas. I could tell within a day that it was an unwise decision. Several symptoms resurfaced after that. So, bottom line…you’re either in or out. I've decided to go all in.

Here’s what you can expect to see me tracking in future posts: 
  • Weight:
  • Current Symptoms:
  • Energy Level:
  • Exercise:
  • Supplements:
  • Sleep:
  • Medications:
  • Meals: 

I may not report on each category every day, but most will be recorded. In addition, I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes from time to time to go along with the list of meals for that day.

That’s it for today. My next post will begin sharing the above information, and I’ll also provide an overview of some tips, tricks, and tools that make a dietary change like this easier.

What else would you like me to track and report?


  1. Thanks for post Leo. Didn't realize honey wasn't vegan. What do you mean by "90% green"?

    1. Hey Lance. I didn't initially realize honey wan't vegan either. I did a little digging around on the web and there seems to be a bit of controversy on this issue. Technically, it is an animal product. A lot of animal rights advocates who also advocate for veganism might say that it doesn't fit with the diet. However, veganism isn't my goal so much as obtaining a high nutrient/calorie density with the foods I eat. Veganism just eliminates a lot of the foods that seem to trigger an inflammatory response for me. By 90%, I'm attempting to eat mostly green colored plant foods. That's the goal anyway. In actuality, my diet is usually not that high in green foods, but it is that high in fruits and vegetables. I try to have 10% or less of my daily daily in beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.

  2. I think it’s great that you’re sharing your journey through this lifestyle change. It serves as a great way to encourage other people to make changes in their lives to lead more healthier and positive lives. What’s also great is that you can express what problems or challenges you face along the way and can give a tip or two for how to do better the next time. We know that not all diets are designed for everyone. We all have different chemistries that affect what foods we can and should eat, still though it’s good to use this as a basic guide for what can be done. I sort of agree with what you say regarding giving yourself a cheat day. I think that while you shouldn’t be automatically given a cheat day or meal, I do think that you should realize that mistakes are bound to happen. Instead of allowing cheat days I would focus more on what tips to follow to get back on track, so that the person doesn’t feel too much guilt about having stumbled.
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