In the modern era of technological brilliance to coincide maybe not so ironically with rampant levels of autoimmune diseases and depression, we have more aspiring saviors and dogmatic nutritionists offering options for the ideal diet than ever before. “The paradox of choice,” as it seems the stress of having to choose which approach to take and how to proceed can cause more bodily harm than even the subsequently perfect foods could ever correct. Life is suffering.
There’s vegetarianism and veganism, on the opposite end of the spectrum the Atkins and/or Paleo diet, there’s eating right for your Ayurvedic body type or your blood type, or your blood type from the paradigm of Chinese Medicine. Supposedly the Mediterranean diet is really good, right? I dunno. Spicy food is healthy from one perspective – from others it is the opposite of healthy. The same goes for raw foods, green juicing, blue juicing and fruit juicing. At least we can all agree that water’s healthy, right? Well, sort of. Some think cold water boosts the metabolism, while Chinese Medicine thinks the opposite. The latest fad is adding cucumbers or lemon to the water supposedly for nutritional benefits, but in my opinion it’s just an excuse to add flavor so that our over-stimulated palettes can find reprieve from water’s blandness. But water. Is supposed to be. Bland. Dickheads. Grow up.
All I can offer is that which I’m educated in, which is the Chinese Medical perspective, which has helped many of my patients lose weight and/or reduce their ailments. It doesn’t mean it’s the only way. I do recommend sticking to one approach for 100 days, three months, and see how you feel. If you’re unsatisfied try something else. No big loss. 100 days is nothing compared to the decades we’ve spent shoveling fast food, processed meat, and sugar into our faces, and look – we’re still here to tell the tale! You’ll be fine. Or you won’t. Either way you will. I’m sorry. I hate it when people talk to me like that too. Instead I offer five basic principles of the Chinese Medical diet, which is somewhat similar to Atkins, with a few obvious differences.
WARMTH: Warm or hot water and cooked foods only. We don’t believe nutrients get “cooked out” of the foods, nor that ice water boosts the metabolism. Instead, our belief is that since our bodies are 99 degrees it is easier for them to assimilate warm substances, which are more invigorating and supportive. At least once a week, if not once a day, I have to break some poor soul’s heart in telling her not to eat salad, especially in the winter and especially on its own without hot food juxtaposed. The reason you feel full from a salad is because it is cold. It’s just sitting in your stomach, stagnantly creating fluid accumulation and inflammation in spite of its nutrients that are not being absorbed. And no, it’s not okay if you let your salad or sandwich sit out to room temperature. Cook 90% of your food in the winter, 75% in summer. As for fruit, it’s okay in moderation, but better in the warm seasons and consumed separate from other meals. When combined with other foods fruit can create a globule of fructose that just sits in the gut, immobile, killing us slowly. Better to have…
VEGETABLES: Not eating some green vegetables every day and expecting to not be sick or fat or tired or depressed is like not showing up to work and expecting a paycheck. I know, I know, you know someone who “eats whatever he wants, and he’s fine.” Well, one of two things is the case: Either grave illness is simmering deep within him waiting to destroy him in old age, or it’s not, and hey, that’s life. Look who just get elected President. The world sucks. Eat preferably leaves: spinach, kale, swiss chard or collard greens, but broccoli, mushrooms and everything else is fine too. Steam or sautee with garlic or ginger or nothing - I don’t care - just has to be every day.
FATS: One of the funniest ideas in the history of western health has been that “fat” in food equals “fat” in the body. A moronic misunderstanding in semantics, and no wonder other countries are so much healthier than ours, as their languages just don’t use the same word to refer to both. Fat does not make us fat, but instead does the opposite, its job being to metabolize fat. The “healthy fats” that you read about in health magazines are fine: almonds, avocado, olive oil, etc., but you should eat animal fat as well. Grass fed and organic is preferable, and the occasional steak is encouraged, especially for women. America’s attitude regarding most things has always been very “feast or famine,” no pun intended. We are either mindless couch potatoes, shoveling low quality beef into our mouths for every meal of the day or we become raw vegan triathletes, lacking in iron and healthy cholesterol, withering away before the eyes of the idiots we tried so hard to not become. Neither one is correct. Before yin and yang became some hipster’s tattoo or decor on your yoga studio wall it was the principle of balance. Fat is especially important for breakfast, the day’s most important meal, as without it we tap into our reserves for energy, which weakens our organs. Anyone not having cooked protein for breakfast: prognosis negative. As for the ethical argument of killing animals or “eating death,” umm… plants are alive. There’s proof that they communicate with each other. Depriving ourselves of nutrients is not the way to fix the world.
NO SUGAR, DAIRY OR GLUTEN: Okay, I admit that last one is all me. There’s nothing in the ancient Chinese scriptures about gluten allergies, but you know why? Because they hadn’t been pounding white bread into their gene pool on a daily basis for decades on end. I don’t care what studies say about Celiac disease being real or fabricated, or an objective thing which if inapplicable is just that. The (scientific) fact is that gluten is inflammatory, hence slow through the metabolism, which impairs our ability to absorb other nutrients, which causes disease. This domino effect shouldn’t be difficult to understand. As for dairy, in spite of the Greek yogurt craze, dairy is an allergenic and inflammatory substance, cold and slow in our guts, hence encumbering on the metabolism. Do you ever see cheese or salad in Chinese restaurants? No. You see plenty of white rice, dead animals and cooked vegetables. Do you ever see overweight Chinese people? Okay, fine, there are a few, but they’re as rare as the steak on their plates. Finally, and finally, western doctors have come to the realization that sugar is probably as evil as cigarettes… only about one century late to the party.
WATER: If you don’t drink (warm) water all day every day there’s no hope for you. Don’t get me wrong. There are people who drink too much, like the workout freaks I used to see walking around West Hollywood wielding their gallon jug in hand, the feast or famine metaphor personified in one California douche bag. 8-12 cups a day is fine. Water should be sipped, not chugged, but it should be with you at all times, except for in the middle of meals. Water dissolves the stomach acid, which boosts digestion. Wait to the end of the meal and sip hot water (like the Chinese). And don’t tell me you get plenty of water from fruits or tea, or God help us, from the most famous diuretic in society, coffee! Calling back to our metabolism’s innate requisite for gentle substances, we need clear, warm water to dissolve inflammation and nourish our organs. From the Chinese Medical perspective the reason some people are “never thirsty” is because of all the pathogenic fluid accumulation inside them. The body doesn’t know the difference between healthy fluids and negative ones, thus does not send the thirst signal to the brain. This is a good example of, “fake it ‘til you make it,” as once I got my mom to start drinking water she began to feel thirsty. The healthy fluids resolved her bad ones. It should be the first thing in our body in the morning and the last before bed.
Finally, believe it or not, enjoy your food! Cook as often as possible, microwave as rarely as possible and eat slowly while seated. I love every meal I eat, as they are warm and flavorful and nourishing and diverse. I understand things like kale can be bitter at first, but as your palette grows more refined I’m sure you’ll come to genuinely like it as did I. Chinese Medicine views the bitter flavor as having an invaluable downward draining action, which is logically important for things like weight loss, arthritis or hypertension, all expressions of substances moving pathologically upward. As I often request that my patients keep a five-day journal of everything they eat I felt I owed it to do the same. Here are my past few days:
Breakfast: 2 eggs over easy, a baked sweet potato with coconut oil and sea salt, coffee… Lunch: Tomato based okra stew with spinach and white rice… Dinner: Mediterranean grilled octopus and Greek salad, and sea bass.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with almond butter, coffee… Lunch: Mexican chicken burrito with no dairy… Dinner: Sautéed broccoli with white rice & avocado.
Breakfast: 2 eggs over easy, baked sweet potato with garlic and olive oil, avocado, green tea… Lunch: Gluten free chicken dosa sandwich with arugula… Dinner: Steak fajita and black bean soup.
Breakfast: Congee (rice porridge) in bone broth, green tea… Lunch: Dominican rice and beans, sweet plantain and avocado, more green tea… Dinner: Pan-seared salmon with lemon and sautéed leafy greens, garlic.
Breakfast: 2 hard boiled eggs and baked sweet potato with coconut oil, cup of bone broth, coffee… Lunch: Pork Pad Thai and side of soup… Dinner: sautéed swiss chard with white rice and kidney beans.