Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Health and Well-being Comes First

Health means more than physical health, it must first mean spiritual and psychological health and well-being, the example of which is perhaps best seen in Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning, about spiritual health and how it helped him survive the Nazi death camps. Cindy Lora-Renard, in her book A Course in Health and Well-being, frames the issue in a modern way, with practical advice on how to put inner health, inner peace central in your life.

During my visit at Plantstock in August of 2017, I listened to many of the personal stories of people who were finding health through the Whole Foods Plant-Based nutritional paradigm, and two in particular really drove the message home to me of how much this transition is part of a spiritual growth process for many.

Health and Well-being is First Spiritual

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, spoke about this dimension explicitly. He was well aware of the fundamental change in his life of going from abusing food, almost like a drug, to enjoying the empowerment of taking control of your health with the Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle.

Another presenter who stood out for me was Tim Kaufman from Atlanta, who blew me away by his realization that as a trial lawyer all of his life his business had been to catch people in a lie, but that his unhealthy relationship with food had made his own life a lie. His description of his turnaround was truly a cathartic moment.

I have encountered many who at some point in their spiritual journeys actively pursued a change in their relationship to food as part of that journey. There is something about becoming conscious about all of your relationships, with people as well as things, including food. Around us, the awareness of the health problems resulting from the Standard American Diet is growing to the point that the fast food industry, and really the whole food industry is fast finding itself in the place of the tobacco industry. Particularly the recent book by Dr. Neal Barnard, The Cheese Trap, makes it very clear how junk food is not just psychologically addictive, but in some cases - cheese obviously - may be physically addictive as well. No wonder people abuse food as a pacifier.

Before anything else, psychological and spiritual well-being means an equanimity with the physical, for we know it is not the be-all and end-all of who we are, but certainly the body is our vehicle in this world and being reasonable about the upkeep makes sense. In the end the old saying holds:

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Or, just be normal, but being normal in this case includes stopping self-destructive behaviors. One thing I know from experience now and that is that, since I consciously committed myself to the Whole Foods Plant-Based paradigm, this has opened up a whole new level of enjoyment of food. This does not mean in any sense that you would never get sick, but still it produces a tremendous new level of empowerment to feel how you can take responsibility for your own health.

Particularly important is the message from the work of T. Colin Caldwell, which says that never mind the genetic predispositions (or other challenges) you may have, it always holds that, all else being equal, the Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutritional approach produces superior results. In short, you can take responsibility by doing your part, and if you do have to deal with disease of any sort, you will deal with it that much better if you've taken care of your body as best you can.

Let food be thy medicine

Hippocrates said that. The whole Whole Foods Plant-Based revolution falls in line with this notion. The truth is that 75% of healthcare spending is in fact sick-care, related to the growing list of chronic, degenerative diseases that all result from the Western diet. The economic incentives in our system are to provide ever more sick care, for that's where the money is. On the ground, people are feeling sicker and sicker as they get more sick care, until they finally realize that they can take charge, and growing numbers of people are dumping hands full of medications almost as soon as they get on a #WFPB diet. In fact, for diabetics the results are often so dramatic that they need regular medical attention to adjust their insulin doses, and often their insulin needs can be drastically reduced, or even eliminated altogether within weeks or months. In cardiology the results tend to be equally dramatic.
Here are some interesting videos:

Here is a brief list of some of the best literature in this area. It is rapidly growing.
  • Ivan Illich, Limits to Medicine: Medical Nemesis: the expropriation of health. The updated edition of his 1975 paper. This remains one of the seminal papers on the health threat posed by our modern Western medical model.
    The results cited by T. Colin Campbell (above) merely confirm it: with growing "healthcare" expenditure from 5 to 18% of GDP we have fallen to 37th on the global list of health outcomes. As we now understand, the fact that doctors do not learn anything about nutrition has something to do with this outcome. The currently proposed solutions to our healthcare crisis are counterproductive for making dysfunctional care cheaper makes the dysfunction worse, not better.
    Illich's frame of reference may seem "too Roman Catholic" for some, but once you adjust to that, and put his findings in your own words, you know that he has nailed the problem better than almost anybody has to this day.
  • E. Richard Brown, Rockefeller Medicine Men: Medicine and Capitalism in America, which is the perfect corollary to Ivan Illich's points.
  • Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-based Cure.
  • Neal Barnard and Bryanna Clark Grogan, Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven Program for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The End of Diabetes.
I could go on, but this is a blog post, not a book. The gist of it is that we are in a dysfunctional medical model, which is perfectly characterized by Illich with the words "expropriation of health." Recently, we seem to be regaining an understanding of the role of nutrition in health, as per the work of Campbell, Esselstyn, Barnard, Fuhrman, McDougall, Greger, Ornish and many other leaders in this field. 

The gist of it is the new sense of liberation that goes with the realization that the Whole Foods Plant-Based nutritional paradigm empowers us to take responsibility for our health in a major way. And, while it is definitely a transition that takes some effort, once you are used to it, it turns out it all is simplicity itself, you just eat mostly whole foods plant based nutrition, cooked or raw, and watch your SOS: No added Sugar, Oil or Salt. Staying within that paradigm, you can eat as much as you want since this diet burns more calories than it gives you, and you will automatically arrive at a homeostatic weight and a BMI below 25.

In short if the majority of the leading causes of death can be prevented or reversed with diet, the implication also is that the 3rd leading cause of death, iatrogernic illness, can also be massively reduced with the Whole Foods Plant-Based diet, because prevention over pills is the sound version of the old saw that an apple a day keeps the doctor away... we just need to add some kale, whole grains, and legumes to the list - an apple alone won't do.

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