Guest Blog Post by Regular Contributor Don Alley (Bio Below)
Eating healthy makes you better able to perform. Duh. Now that we have the obvious out of the way, I’d like to share my recent healthy eating experience. I am not in the best shape I could be. Between being a husband, dad, homeowner, full time employee, writer, instructor, and martial practitioner, I don’t have a lot of time to really consider my diet. I stay active and can still perform all the hiking, recreation, and martial activity I want, but lately age and bad habits have caught up as youth ebbs. The choices in foods and lifestyle start to have more pronounced consequences. More than once in the last couple months I was either too tired, or not feeling well enough to attend my regular martial training.
It was time for a change.
Some other members of my training group have recently started following a detox diet. In this particular diet, it goes for 7 days to start, and ideally a full 21 days for a full cleanse. In it, certain foods are excluded; most notably, sodas, breads and grains, dairy, and several other food groups. Additionally, certain foods are singled out for exclusion based on common characteristics. I didn’t realize that strawberries were about the most polluted food out there, and it is next to impossible to find pure, pesticide-free supplies of these. Foods that were hormone enhanced, GMO, or laden with pesticides were to be specifically avoided.
In addition to starting the detox diet, some other considerations were to use natural deodorants rather than aluminum based ones, exfoliate skin and try to sweat more often to cleanse the skin, and start drinking only pure, filtered water.
I particularly enjoy one brand of soda, and drink one in the morning as a pick me up. After that, lunch would be whatever I packed, or whatever I feel like if I go out to eat. Food was to be enjoyed, period, and I simply wasn’t getting enough nutrients. I’ll readily admit I have a caffeine dependency, and forgoing caffeine was sure to be disconcerting. I’ve quit caffeine before, only to have it infiltrate its way into my routine again. Adjusting my entire diet, caffeine included, was going to be momentous.
I had gotten some of the stuff to make the morning shakes they suggest, and just planned on hitting Panera at lunch. Their Fuji Apple Chicken Salad without the cheese actually adhered to the diet plan quite well. It was very odd skipping my soda in the morning, and by lunch time my head was in that weird swimmy feeling like when you get over a cold and try to get back into your routine. I was hungry.
When I went home from work, I had another of the shakes they detail in the plan. It wasn’t enough, but I knew the detox diet was important so convinced myself to give it a chance. Besides, I had 3 meals today, and even if they weren’t my normal fare, it wasn’t like I was going to starve.
The caffeine withdrawal was hitting hard. I was irritable. I even warned my 5 year old son the night before that I was likely going to be cranky today, and I was. I drank down the miserable shake, all the while bemoaning my aching head. I had the Fuji Salad again for lunch, and the side of French baguette was replaced by an apple
For the entire afternoon, I stayed in my cube at work to avoid interacting with people. I was actually starting to feel anxious about the whole thing, as if I was doing something risky. Never mind that my eating habits up until now were actually more risky. I was fiercely craving my old foods that got me into this mess. I convinced myself that I just had to get through a few more days (the initial diet is 7 days. Start small.).
By evening I was a wreck. I skipped jujutsu because I just was not in a place to deal with other people. I went home and limited my interaction with my family while my head sorted out this whole no-caffeine thing. I went to bed early figuring semi-consciousness was the better option than being miserable.
Wednesday hit me with a surprise. My caffeine headache was mostly gone. I still had that weird head swimmy feeling like I was not quite there, but for the most part I was not in any discomfort. I was able to function and had minimal cravings for my old foods.
For the remainder of the first week, the headaches were gone, and my body had decided to crave new things, it seemed. My soda longing still lingered in the back of my head, but it was just a whisper and not an overpowering command. A few things I noted:
- My stomach aches were gone.
- I wasn’t getting heartburn at night.
- I slept better than I can remember sleeping. Ever.
- I was losing weight at a reasonable clip.
- I had more energy.
- I wasn’t getting tired halfway through the work day.
- Cravings for most of my old staple foods were gone.
- I associated the shakes as good food, and look forward to healthier lunches.
On the 6th day, I went to my jujutsu class. Saturday mornings were hard classes for me. For some reason I just moved slower than usual. Not today. In the 1.5 hr class, I am generally dragging along the last 15-20 minutes. That day I made it through the entire class without issue. Sure, I was a bit winded, a bit sore, and older bones ached trying to keep up with younger people, but I was not fatigued the way I usually was. It was also a slightly more intense class than most Saturday classes, with lots of takedowns and getting back up to do it again.
Between the weight loss and actual real food intake, my body was better able to handle the action. At the time of this writing, I only have the one class to go on as far as gauging my experience with this diet and detox effort, but having done hundreds of Saturday classes and knowing how I handle them, this class was singularly my best one.
My interim conclusion is simple. I was previously eating in a way that was not only unhealthy but my body had to take measures to protect against. I was my own enemy. Once I changed to a healthier diet, my body started working for me again, and not against. This change was fast, and very noticeable. The weight reduction is an ancillary benefit. I lost significant weight sticking to the program, which has increased mobility and energy.
The right foods are just as important as the quantity of food. Purer is better. If you go to buy an item and the ingredients are anything other than that item, put it back on the shelf. There are purer versions available. In the long run these will pay off when your body doesn’t have to spend the nutrients gained in the detoxification process.
Donald Alley is a martial science practitioner with over 10 years’ experience. He is a black belt in Jujutsu and a brown belt in Aikido. He is an instructor with the ISBF and a Level 1 Instructor for the US-MTA as well as program coordinator / instructor with Martial Tactical Training of Michigan. He is a certified NRA instructor for Basic Pistol and Personal Protection in the Home. His product line, Bu Tactical, provides everyday carry options for martial devices.