I just read a fascinating piece in Acupuncture Today entitled The Curious Concept of Latency: The Luo Vessels. I found myself inspired by the thought and explanation into a deep and complicated part of the medicine. I think it’s one of the most intriguing theory pieces I have seen from Acupuncture Today in a long time. It’s a recommended read for any acupuncturist (but allow some time, it’s long and you’ll want to pause to digest the ideas).
We live in a world that’s hungry for a diet to end all diets. Two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals. Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.
Michael Snyder, MD
It’s amazing to me that the idea of being fat is worse than cancer or nuclear war. I think this says something about the emphasis we place on the way we look rather than how we feel. Snyder has a full article talking about his new book here.
This weekend I was out of town. I tried to minimize going off my GAPS diet but wasn’t able to be perfect. In fact, I was far from perfect and ate more stuff that I shouldn’t than I had hoped I would.
I’m surprised at how horrible I feel.
My question becomes, do I really feel worse than I did when I ate this all the time or am I just so used to feeling better than that? Are these new symptoms things I was just so used to that I ignored them or do I have new symptoms that I didn’t have before?
As I ask these questions, I realize that it doesn’t matter whether I really am worse than I was or if I just think I am due to feeling better in the last month, my reality is that I don’t feel well any longer. I wasn’t feeling perfect before but a lot of my low energy symptoms were easing. I knew I was on the right track. Now I have had a set back and I feel worse. Worse than I ever did or just worse than I had been. My perception is just that I don’t feel as good. I think that’s enough.
I am off to the kitchen to eat some more of my lovely Fab Ferments Kimchi, which I love! Maybe that will help me feel better. And maybe when Valentine’s Day rolls around and I go out to dinner with my husband I’ll remember this set back and make better choices (although I reserve the right to eat Creme Brulee!)
Mark O’Donnell, who is a professional health and fitness coach has a wonderful article over at the Fitness Spotlight called Speed Up Your Metabolism-Fatty Liver Disease.
The article is important because it shows the importance of the liver in weight loss. Additionally, even if you aren’t over weight but don’t feel your best, there’s a good chance, in our culture that the liver is involved.
One thing Mark does leave out in his article is the effect of emotional stress on the liver. Emotional stress is anything that causes a stressed feeling in the body. It can be worry about work, feeling overwhelmed or being frustrated that you aren’t where you are in your life. These are all stressful things. Moving is a stress, as is planning a wedding or getting a divorce. Change in general is stressful. These add to the burdens that the liver has to deal with in it’s daily life.
From the paradigm of an acupuncturist, one of the main functions of the liver is to keep the body’s energy system moving. Emotions are energy. We are all familiar with them. When we are constantly stuck with one emotion or desperately trying not to feel a particular emotion (often fear), we don’t allow our liver to function fully. Things come to a stop. We end up in endless frustration. We move from one worry to another and are never able to move through the spectrum of appropriate emotions.
Like our emotional state, our body finds it harder to move. Our metabolism slows down because nothing is moving. Our digestion might slow. We put on more weight.
Treating your liver well and keeping it moving, through detoxifying it when appropriate, or at least being aware of the work it is doing is a good place to start keeping the liver working. Next time you think that store purchased chocolate cake will make you feel better, consider what the high fructose corn syrup is dong to your liver. You might choose to have it anyway, but make a plan to work with your liver after to keep it happy.
If you need ideas on how to keep your liver happy or if you want to read more about fatty liver disease, check out the article linked above. It’s packed with a lot of excellent information.
As an acupuncture student we learned about the root and the branch of illness. The branch of illness generally included the symptom that brought your patient to you in the first place. The root was generally the underlying problem that caused the imbalance manifesting in the set of symptoms in the first place.
To use the example of a cold, the cold itself may be the branch “symptom” that I am treating. This is particularly true of those who always get a cold when the kids first go back to school. Certainly there are many factors going on but while the branch may be the cold, the root may require dealing with boosting the immune system so they are less likely to get sick (or as sick) when their kids go back to school and bring home their own colds and flus.
In such a case, in the first treatment I might focus 90% of my attention on the branch of the problem. In subsequent treatments I may focus as much as 90% of my treatment on the root of the problem. The symptoms after the first treatment are likely much reduced and treating the root will help the body as much as anything to rid the rest of the symptoms.
Each illness is different in terms of how the percentages break down.
In general it is often fairly easy to make short term changes in the branch of a problem and make people feel better. It takes longer to make changes in the root of the problem, which is what keeps the problem from returning again and again.
Lifestyle changes can be looked at in the same manner. Some changes are big and require a lot of effort to make those changes. These might be the ones that make the most profound difference in the long run. These changes might mean giving up all gluten or stopping smoking or exercising regularly.
Other changes may encourage us to work towards our larger changes. Cutting back on smoking may not offer the same long term benefits of giving it up but consciously cutting back and becoming aware of smoking may make a larger change easier in the long run. Cutting back on food allergies and eating lower on the totem pole even once a week can be a good step towards bigger lifestyle changes. They should be looked as a step towards better health and these steps shouldn’t be minimized, particularly when people who are sick are making changes.
No one loves making changes in their lives. It takes effort. Small changes can feel like running a marathon to someone who is sick. Stop minimizing the efforts. Everyone has a lot of pressure to be perfect. We need to step back from that perfection and realize that sometimes good enough is. As people heal, even one day away from food allergens may make a huge difference in energy and cascade into the ability to make bigger and farther reaching changes.
Life is not about the goal. It is the path to get there.
This last week was very hot. That meant eating out a lot more. Even as it cooled off, I found myself craving some ice cream, which meant eating something else I try and avoid. I was thinking about my 90% rule. I certainly wasn’t 90% this last week. I’m not sure how much closer I’ll be this week either, although I hope it’s at 90% or more.
However, there have been weeks when I’ve been able to stick to my food convictions 95% of the time rather than 90% of the time. I have to remind myself not to go around nit picking everything. Yes, I probably ate within my diet guidelines 40% of the time this time. I have this sense that I want to go and check up for the next few weeks until I work off that “drop” in my compliance. I am forcing myself not to think too much about it.
90% needs to be most of the time–for life. Not just today or this week or this month. It means that there will be weeks like this for me that I am not able to be so compliant. I am sure other weeks will challenge me as well. I need to understand that I should work at being as compliant as I can be as often as I can be and be content with being compliant, most of the time.
As a society, we really undervalue rest. Everyone must always be busy. This doesn’t matter if you are sick or well. This doesn’t matter who you are, you must always have something to do. Resting, really resting and just taking a break isn’t considered productive.
From a health care provider’s perspective, rest is one of the most important things you can do. Rest allows your body to heal after the assaults of a busy day or busy week. Rest can help heal stress. Rest is important. After a good diet, rest can be the most important and loving thing you can do for your body.
Find time to just do nothing for awhile. Read a book you’ve been thinking you wanted to read. Watch the birds. Enjoy.
One of the big issues as an acupuncturist is seeing a patient who is living a life that is contributing to their lack of well being. Discussing this issue with patients, they are often overwhelmed at the thought of making a change. A big change most patients could make is to eat better quality foods. However, most patients will tell me that they don’t have time to eat better or to eat at home more often than not.
There have been several posts around the blogosphere that discuss a study that shows that convenience foods save an average of ten minutes a day. For myself and for a number of my patients the bigger difficulty is not in finding those ten minutes a day, it’s in planning for cooking and eating.
The vast majority of people find that they are reacting to circumstances rather than planning for things. They constantly feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and planning ahead for eating or for exercise is just one more item. Additionally going out often feels like a treat because then you don’t even have to clean up the kitchen.
I would love to see more people out there who can help these same people with their planning skills. They can plan to exercise (and make note of those things that interfere with their plans or not). They can plan to eat at home and make sure they purchase their foods on other days. Making one larger meal with left overs is a great way to cook once and eat it twice.
While learning to cook may also be an issue for some people, learning planning may be a more important skill. Such a skill crosses over from the kitchen to daily life in a way that can create places for rest and relaxation that are sadly lacking for so many people.
I have recently been trying to eat all food cooked or baked in my own kitchen. I have a few exceptions and I haven’t quite gotten to making my own condiments (too many in the kitchen to just toss out). I find that I am constantly obsessed with food–planning when I can make this or that or thinking about what I have so that I can plan a good lunch or dinner for myself and my husband. I know on Saturday by the time I get back from the Farmer’s Market what I am going to be eating that week. We have a small kitchen garden that supplements vegetables to the items I purchase at the Market. I can also easily run to PCC (a large food cooperative in the Seattle area) or if I don’t want to go quite so far, Whole Foods.
All of these trips require planning in a way I never bothered with before, but I find that my health is better. I also find that there are far worse things to obsess about than what am I going to do with all those leftovers?
As I have gone in search of the what health means to many people I have come across many different ways of thinking. I was reintroduced to the Westin A Price Foundation and the concepts of eating locally.
Recently, I saw a post on Real Food is Soul Food over at a new favorite blog of mine. I was caught by this opening:
Real Food is old and traditional. It’s sustainably grown, organic, and local. And it nourishes the soul as well as the body.
That’s because finding, cooking, and eating Real Food is a craft. I once heard that cooking was the only art form that uses all five senses. It engages the whole person…
It’s beautifully said and I think there are some wonderful ideas put forth in this post. I urge everyone to go over and read and think about it. If you don’t eat real food, consider why. Also if the idea that cooking real food is a craft, consider why you don’t think you are able to do it. What stops you?
I loss my elderly cat the other night. In this process I have posted old photos of her on my cat blog. She was a bit plump for much of her life. The vet I took her to for a geriatric evaluation a few years ago commented on it. However she said not to worry too much for with an old cat, a sign that she could be fat was a sign of health.
In the past months, as her kidneys began to fail in earnest I noticed that she was loosing weight. This week, the week she died, I could feel every little bony knob that existed. There was almost no fat left on her at all. She was wasting away before she died. She was beyond thin. She was emaciated. While at the end she would have looked much like an anorexic, it has been over a year since she was at all plump.
I consider that I look back at those photos and think how much more beautiful and healthy she looked when she was plump. I have to ask myself why do I spend so much time and effort trying to look emaciated, thinking it is beautiful? If the ability to keep weight on is a sign of health in our pets, then why is it horrible if we keep an extra ten pounds? I am not advocating gross obesity, but perhaps we can consider being a weight that feels good on our frame without the reference to the fashion statements.