Editor’s Note: The article below by Co-Line owner Dale “Rail” Brand appeared in the Mar. 3, 2016, issue of the Hometown Press.
By Rail Brand
When the Hometown Press asked me to share my story and some principles of my journey back to good health, I gladly agreed. My motivation and hope is that, by sharing, I can help just one person who is struggling as I was and also maybe prevent others from health decline.
After decades of improper eating, drink, and self-imposed stress from my overzealous, competitive, type-A personality, my health began to rapidly deteriorate. About three years ago when I was 55 years old, I was pre-diabetic with high cholesterol, had full-body systemic inflammation, had received 50-plus shots in my neck, and been to two neck surgeons as I was absolutely desperate for relief from devastating headaches and more. On top of that, I was taking way too many prescription meds for pain, anxiety, heartburn, inflammation, and more. I was in trouble, and I did not know what to do.
Around that time, a friend of mine suggested I read the book “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I definitely recommend it to others! The book outlines a clear, sustainable plan to transform the way you eat. I have given the book to several other people, some of which are also experiencing spectacular improvements.
Eager to see improvements in my life (and true to my extremist nature), I began to make drastic changes in what I was eating. The foods and drinks that I now avoid are:
• Processed and fast foods;
• Refined sugar and all artificial sweeteners;
• White flour and refined GMO grains;
• Foods with added coloring, fillers, and preservatives;
• Vegetable oils and soy;
• Caffeine and alcohol; and
• Poor cuts of meat from confinement-raised animals treated with antibiotics and growth hormones.
The results I have seen personally in the last three years have made the changes in my eating habits more than worth it. I lost 45 pounds in the first six months and have kept it off since. I no longer take any prescription medications, just an occasional over-the-counter anti-inflammatory. I’m able to sleep soundly for seven to eight hours each night, and headaches are now the exception, rather than the norm. Other improvements, like incredible flexibility gains as well as strength and endurance improvements, came back more slowly over time. My mid-afternoon low energy and "brain fog” are gone, and my mental clarity and decision-making skills are back. To put it simply, life is wonderful again!
Through this process, I’ve learned good nutrition, detoxification, and digestive system health are the foundation for full-body health, endurance, and strength. The foods I eat now are organic grass-fed meats, wild-caught seafood, cage-free eggs, nuts, seeds, almond and coconut milk, and organic fruits and vegetables from nutrient-dense soils. Cooking should be with as low of heat as possible, meaning using the Crock-Pot more and the microwave less. I also prefer glass-bottled natural spring water because it has nothing added to it and none of nature's goodness taken out.
The basic question I ask when reading the ingredients of all foods is: Is this a good thing, and I want more of it? Or is it a bad thing, and I want less of it? Any ingredient my grandmother wouldn't recognize, I don't want! I simply try to eat more good things and less bad things for my body to deal with. Less pesticides, herbicides, chlorine, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor, colors, and preservatives, for example – and more micronutrient-dense natural foods. No fad diets, no pills, no quick, unsustainable fixes, no celebrities’ marketing hype – just good, natural food.
There are other ways we as a society are being misled as well. Some people believe they can exercise their way out of bad nutrition or exercise their way to health. If a person is under too much of a stress load from bad food or a health condition, exercise (in some cases) may literally be counter-productive until health is restored. In addition to my normal active workday, I do daily relaxation and flexibility exercises and some weekly strength training. I have set an objective to run a 5K this year. It will be my first running competition since high school in 1976!
In my particular situation, I believe that sauna, massage, and chiropractic are also helpful complements to the foundation of good nutrition. However, choose your provider carefully, as there are a very wide range of knowledge and skills represented in these professions.
I do want to emphasize that in the traditional understanding of the word, I do not “diet.” I rarely limit my amount of food, and I NEVER count calories. When I am hungry, I eat! I have three very healthy meals each day with a couple of healthy snacks between meals. Then, when properly nourished, the human body will find its natural healthy weight and stay there.
It’s very important to note my lifestyle change would have been impossible without the help of my wife, Tana. She has completely restocked our kitchen and pantry with all healthy choices. This change was very difficult for her at first as much more planning is required. Tana keeps a wonderful garden on virgin timber soils and also purchases fresh produce and fruits twice weekly. We purchase most of our meats from an organic, grass-fed producer. Now, over three years into our lifestyle change, eating natural is getting easier and fun! We’re learning about and trying different foods from all around the world.
Living in this fast-paced world increases the level of determination required to eat clean. We do have to make exceptions when we are out and about as sometimes there’s really nothing else to eat. Other exceptions we make are for family birthday parties where we eat cake and ice cream. And if we go out to eat at a nice restaurant, we do have an occasional glass or two of white wine. Or if the waitress brings out a warm, fresh loaf of bread, I devour it!
Overall, though, I’m very committed to our new way of eating. I fully understand most people will call me an extremist. In fact, I’m sharing my story in the Hometown Press knowing some people may ridicule me for it or make a joke out of it. And that’s okay, I am a big boy. :) I’m not forcing this on anybody. I just know these changes were something I needed to do, and I’d like to help other people who are in need of change as well. For those with willpower of any age and in any physical condition wanting to be healthier, stronger, or happier, try eating this way.
Though we made most of our diet changes very quickly three years ago, since then, I have read dozens of additional books and am continuing on in my learning journey. I encourage all those reading this, particularly those with health problems, to take a close look at what you are putting into your body. I do not know that proper nutrition will help your particular health issue, but I am absolutely sure it will not hurt!
If anyone at Co-Line has comments, specific questions, or wants to learn more about anything I’ve shared, please feel free to talk to me about it.