Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: There is a Cure for Diabetes

book coverGabriel Cousens’ book There is a Cure for Diabetes: The Tree of Life 21-Day+ Program is a comprehensive guide – not to living with diabetes but for learning how to live without it.  It is, as the author explains, about embracing a culture of life rather than a culture of death.  In reading this book, do not expect an approach of moderate changes to your lifestyle – adding this, or subtracting that – this is about total physical and spiritual transformation.  Are you ready?

The first half of the book looks at the medical science of diabetes to establish the basis for the Tree of Life 21 Day protocol.  It is rich in information to help you understand the why and how of this method.  This scientific grounding will no doubt also assist you later when you need justify to the world around you why you are taking such a radical approach, eliminating most, if not all, cooked foods and thereby seizing control of your own wellbeing.  The second half of the book shows you how to do it.

If you are skeptical that this method works, I urge you to watch the movie Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.  The movie takes place at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona and follows six individuals with type one and type two diabetes under Dr. Cousens’ care.  By the end of 30 days, all who stuck with the program have either eliminated medications and insulin use completely or dramatically reduced them.  This book is a further refinement of the treatment these individuals underwent, enabling you to take charge of your health at home.

The program itself can be daunting to tackle on your own without the support of the Tree of Life’s medical and culinary staff, but if you begin by implementing even a few of the changes recommended (some of the easiest are on pages 285-288), you will see such a dramatic improvement it will no doubt inspire you to begin the journey, which as all journeys do, begins with the first step.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Life by the numbers

It's amazing how much my perception of myself has to do with external factors -- a lesson driven home in the last week by the failure of technology.

The first thing to go wacky was my scale: remember how I said I'd lost 20 pounds? Well I'm not sure I have: in the course of one day last week the scale was reading anywhere from 122 to 135. That's when I realized my scale was broken, or maybe it was just a manifestation of cosmic consciousness with a wicked sense of humor. So how much do I weigh? I have no idea. I do know I've lost lots of weight since becoming raw but I have no idea how much, because if the recent numbers are wrong, who's to say my starting numbers weren't in error too?

The next thing to go berserk was my glucose monitor. This morning my reading seemed oddly high: my fasting blood sugar was 109 -- which seemed off since I've been soundly in the 74-85 range for quite a while. So I immediately retested, twice, and the readings came out 187 and 117. What the?

That's when I realized that I have been letting these numbers determine my perception of myself without paying enough attention to how I actually feel. If I examine myself more closely, I know that since going raw I feel so much better: lighter (physically and mentally) and clearer, and that I haven't had a single hypoglycemic episode since I began. I also realized that given how happy I was when the scale numbers seemed down, I do really want to release more weight -- something I think I was afraid to admit to myself because some part of me felt it wasn't possible after being heavier than my college weight for so long. Somewhere within I was afraid I was setting myself up for disappointment. So I come away from this with a determination to become more aware of what I am experiencing physically and emotionally rather than waiting for external numbers to determine that for me, to be more honest with myself, and to not put any limitations on what I can achieve.


On another note, my husband just bought me my own juicer. It's not something I would have ever thought to buy right now given we're trying to save money on my reduced sabbatical income, but bless him, he saw how much I was juicing and how I was having trouble juicing leafy greens in the borrowed centrifugal juicer, so when he got in some ad revenue on one of his sites, he offered to buy me one. I got the Omega 8003, and it's utterly wonderful.

Not only does it do leafy greens, it's even easier to clean than the centrifugal juicer! Even more amazing, yesterday I discovered that I can put frozen bananas in it with a blank plate and get out an ice cream that is to die for out the other end. It's so much better than making ice cream in my ancient Vitamix: instead of coming out like melty ice cream, it stays frozen and has the consistency of premium gelato: dense and smooth. Even if I should grow to hate juice (unfathomable), this was worth the price alone. Thanks so much honey!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Take a Load Off

While I didn't adopt a raw regimen to lose weight, that I have has definitely been a bonus. When I began at the first of the year, I weighed 148 lbs. at 5' 7 1/2" tall. I wasn't thrilled with this weight, but it was a marked improvement over my high point of 160. That was before my pregnancy. By now you're tired of me blaming the tenure process for everything, but the stress of that (and the bowl of candy bars on the department secretary's desk) really threw my eating out of whack. Mid- to late thirties metabolism wasn't my friend either. At the end of my pregnancy (and the midwife mandated low glycemic diet that went with it), I was at 140, but in the three years since I'd inched up 8 more pounds.

During the first month of being raw, I lost ten pounds. Then in February my weight loss slowed down and I think I only lost a few pounds, down to about 135. I was thinking, well maybe 135 is it, but this morning I weighed myself and I was 128! That's 20 lbs. since becoming raw! There are several things that have changed in my regimen recently that might account for it: I borrowed a friend's juicer and have been juicing. My tastes are also becoming a little simpler -- I'm still preparing some fancy dehydrated dishes, but I'm craving them less and eating more salads, smoothies and juices. Thank goodness it's also had an effect on our grocery bill: In January our food costs leapt up considerably (dining out went down but groceries went sky high -- I think it was all the superfoods I was indulging in). In February, costs went down to normal levels -- groceries are still a bit higher, but dining out is lower.

128 lbs. is what I call "graduate school weight." The amazing thing is that while I was in graduate school (also a stressful experience though nothing like tenure), it took diet pills to keep it there. If I lose a few more lbs. I'll be at college weight -- you know, that blissful time in your late teens and early twenties when it takes no effort at all to be naturally thin. The difference now is that I'll actually be healthy and thin! I don't think I've ever been that!

Still, as much as I've wanted to lose weight over the years, I've never been able to do it without diet pills except in two cases: when I was pregnant (and my baby's health depended on it) and now. Which brings me to something Karen Knowler says in her Free 7 day "So You Want to Go Raw" e-course: To successfully go raw and stay raw, "You need a big enough why." She says "Going raw, I have found, is about something much deeper, ultimately, than simply choosing to eat more healthily (a mind thing). If you really want to get the juice from the experience you need to enquire within your heart and soul to find out what will take you there and keep you there."

For me, the releasing of all this weight seems like an unexpected gift: an outward sign of changes to the essential vitality of my body and soul. I don't think I would have been able to make the transition to this healthier way of life without that big why, which for me was the specter of my mother's failing health. I saw her lack of health as my own future in material form before me. Her diabetes is essentially a mirror of what my pre-diabetes can become if I don't do something. Anytime I've faltered in my commitment, her picture appears before my mind's eye. And yet, while I can tell you that it took the big why to get me there, in truth, the journey hasn't been that difficult, and it gets more joyous everyday: food tastes better, my head feels clearer, my heart feels freer.

The "big why" as Karen calls it may have begun with my mother, but my why is becoming bigger everyday: now it is not only a way to escape a fate that seems to me worse than death but a journey toward something so much greater. It's a journey toward life's potential.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sunday Morning

My chrome and glass french press pot, brought out of storage for guests who'd brought their own grounds, sat gleaming on the table, catching the light. There was a Sunday Times folded haphazardly on the corner. I'd made pancakes for C & D even though I wouldn't be eating any. The kids played boisterously in the other room, but the kitchen nook where we sat still seemed quiet, radiating soft sunshine through the shades that illuminated the green room with warmth and ease.

Warmth and ease wasn't something we'd been used to. C & I were on sabbatical. For six and a half years we had been struggling with the tenure process and it had worn us down. Of the four of us in our cohort, C had gotten Lupus, I had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and another had gotten divorced. Those were the big signposts -- there were other more minor symptoms, from sleeplessness to recurrent colds. In some ways that isn't anything about tenure, but about life in your 30s and 40s. In other ways, while the whole process of tenure couldn't be called a cause of any of these things, the stress it put on our bodies and souls certainly didn't help.

C and I have chatted before about how most people don't understand what it means to be a faculty member. It's one of those jobs that invades every area of your life. Teaching, Research, Service -- get it done, do more of it, or lose your job and your reputation at the end of six years. I'm certain there are more stressful jobs, but the difference I think is that from the outside it seems so peachy: most people think we wander onto campus a few days out of the week, babble on to our classes, and go home.

So this sabbatical is more than about having the time to do projects put on hold for six years, it is about having the time to refresh our bodies and souls from the inside out. For me, that means cleansing with whole, raw vegan foods. It means juicing with the juicer C&D brought me that weekend. It means being creative again -- returning to a side of my professional life that I'd all but forgotten. It means, just maybe, feeling the light and ease return.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

DVD Review: Simply Raw, Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 DaysSimply Raw begins with a quote:

“Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure.”  -- American Diabetes Association

This is a dismal statement, and one consistent with the kind of information most diabetics and pre-diabetics (including myself) are given by their doctors.  But is it true?  The people at Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona have set out to disprove that claim.   The film tells the story of six individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who go to Tree of Life to find out if these medical rebels are right and their own doctors are wrong. 

I’ll get to their stories, but I’ll begin by telling you my own: When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had gestational diabetes.  With a controlled diet, I was able to keep it in check but the diet was difficult.  My sweet indulgence during those months? Half a grapefruit.  Really.  This wasn’t easy for someone who was known to order dessert before or even instead of the entrĂ©e.  Still, I did it.  My daughter was worth it.  After the pregnancy, the condition ceased, but about a year later I found myself experiencing frequent hypoglycemic spells:  I’d break out into a sweat, get shaky, have to sit down and immediately eat something.  I went to my doctor, and after sending me to get a glucose tolerance test she determined I was pre-diabetic.  She referred me to an endocrinologist who informed me that once you are pre-diabetic you could postpone the onset of diabetes with diet and exercise but you could not avoid it entirely.  

My mother had gestational diabetes when she was pregnant with me, and she developed diabetes later in life.  She did not control it at all and she eventually suffered a stroke.  That was the first of innumerable other problems: difficulty walking (sometimes she managed with a cane, other times she needed us to carry her), balance issues (how many times did I pick her off the floor?), incontinence, dry skin, mental changes,  etc. etc. etc.  I took one look at my mother and knew that could not be me. It was time to decide if I was worth it.

I began exercising and restricting my sugar.  I also went to a homeopathist.  Between the two, within months my blood was coming back normal on the A1C test (which tests your glucose control over 3 months).  Nonetheless, I was still experiencing periodic hypoglycemic spells.  The specter of the doctor’s statement “Diabetes is inevitable” rang through my consciousness.  

At some point I stumbled across the trailer for the movie, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes for 30 days.  It was inspiring enough for me to try introducing raw foods into my life.  For several weeks I ate two meals a day raw and one meal each day of my regular ovo-lacto vegetarian diet.  Then I caught the stomach flu from my daughter.  You might be familiar with the phenomenon where you can’t look at whatever you were eating immediately prior to vomiting, no matter what the actual cause.  Bye-bye raw foods.  But those hypoglycemic spells continued.  About six months later I decided to try again.  I got more serious. This time I went mostly raw with the occasional cooked vegan meal but with no processed sugar or fried food.  A month and a half later I noticed I hadn’t had a single hypoglycemic episode since I began.  And this while eating fabulous raw vegan desserts regularly!  The changes I’m experiencing are so dramatic I’ve since decided to eliminate even the occasional cooked vegan meal.  Living, and eating, this way feels too good and tastes too good.

All this life change began because I watched a single 5 minute trailer!  It was clearly time I saw the whole movie, but I hesitated buying it only because I was now on sabbatical and making 75% of my normal income.  As fate would have it, the film company offered review copies to those with websites.    

Upon watching the full-length film, I was moved almost to tears by the stories of the six individuals documented.  All of them were experiencing significant health problems due to diabetes, much more severe than my own.  Four had Type 2, two had Type 1.  Some were young and some were old.  They came from all walks of life.  They arrived at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center hoping, like me, that their doctors were wrong.  Diabetes doesn’t have to be forever.

Here I have to pause to give credit to the filmmakers.  While the film does have an agenda – to convince the viewer of the health benefits of the raw diet, especially for diabetics – they are remarkably unbiased in their depictions of the patients’ reactions.   At their first meal, one patient says of the food,  “This is different. You could get used to it.  If you grew up eating it you could like it.”  Not a ringing endorsement for what are billed as “gourmet raw vegan meals”!  One man doesn’t make it through the entire month because of the food, even though he experiences dramatic changes after just two and a half weeks. When he arrived at Tree of Life his blood sugar was at 450 on medications, and on the day he left it was at 200 without them. His blood pressure was normal, he’d lost 30 pounds, and he went from taking 17 medications a day to none at all.  But he couldn’t stomach the food:  “My brain don’t want the food,” he told them, “It just rejects it. Literally. I look at it and I just want to scream.”  When the day is done, this is simply a good documentary, whether you are diabetic or not, whether you are interested in eating raw or not.  The story is simply compelling and the production values are high.  This is a PBS-worthy film.

In fact, the film is so unbiased, on one level it may hurt its own agenda: the food seems so unappealing in the eyes of most of the participants, unless your motivation to cure yourself of diabetes is high, you might watch this and abandon all hope.   I am almost certain that when I show this movie to my mother she will say “You have willpower and can do this.  I can’t.” I hope I’m wrong, and this is too important not to show her so I will.  In fact, this film is too important not to show everyone who is diabetic, pre-diabetic, or genetically pre-disposed to diabetes, and to the doctors who treat them.  

The doctor who told me “Diabetes is inevitable” sprang back into my memory as I watched the young man in the film who used his own doctors’ words as an excuse not to believe in the regimen and sabotage himself.  He repeats over and over to anyone who will listen that every doctor he has ever had has told him he will be on insulin the rest of his life. Yet despite a mid-retreat unauthorized field trip across the border to Mexico where he gorged on enchiladas and alcohol, by the end of the film he had gone from injecting 70 units of insulin a day to just 5.  The other type 1 diabetic is off insulin and medication entirely.  Doctors think they are doing a service by letting us know the “reality” of our chronic conditions, but what they are doing is planting the seeds of disaster.  As the movie tells us, it was Hippocrates who said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  We can heal ourselves, but first we have to undo the power of disbelief planted within in us by the very doctors who we went to for advice.  We have to undo the damage done to us by lifetimes of eating S.A.D (Standard American Diet).  We have to be willing to take that first step toward wholeness.

In the months since I first learned about raw foods, I’ve read so many personal testimonies about how becoming raw has changed people’s health in innumerable ways, curing all sorts of supposedly irreversible or chronic conditions.  I hope there will be other films that document their stories.

Purchase Simply Raw from the Filmmakers

Purchase Simply Raw from