2011: Shaped by San Francisco. Eat to Live.

Both December and Dreamforce 2010 feels distant now. A conference that drew me to San Francisco as one of the 30,000 delegates but one of the few from Europe. I had a brilliant time and left a Salesforce.com evangelist excited about the opportunities it presents my business. Yet this post isn’t about the cloud, technology or how this conference will shape my curiosity in 2011, it’s about something different and even more exciting and empowering.

It all started when Marc Benioff the founder of Salesforce.com opened his second day keynote introducing the enormous contribution that he and the company he leads is making to the Pioneering field of research medicine and he concluded by inviting us to attend a lecture track of “Unusual Thinkers” during the day’s itinerary.

The speakers (all leaders in their medical field) spoke on various subjects. The presentation I chose to attend was entitled “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” by Prof Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology

The essence of Prof Lustig’s talk convinced me that the strain placed on our world’s health systems by obesity was a result of the impact that our increased consumption of Fructose Corn Syrup was having on our lives and that obesity isn’t generally a result of Gluttony and Sloth. I really encourage you to watch the Youtube Video – it’s only 30 minutes.

The crux of my understanding: the trouble with processed foods is that the fibre is stripped away from the foodstuff. Take fruit juice for example. I’ve always thought that drinking fresh juice couldn’t possibly be bad for me. But what does a juicer do? A glass of apple juice is produced from a bag of apples and all the fibre is left in the waste disposal process.

There are two problems with drinking juice: firstly fibre is needed because it slows down the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream. Secondly you end up consuming the sugar out of a dozen apples in a single glass. Before the advent of the juicer we wouldn’t eat a dozen apples in a sitting.  Lustig reminds us that one of the principal reasons food is processed is it to make it freezable. Fibre doesn’t freeze well so it’s stripped from modern food stuffs.

I left illuminated by the damage that an overdose of fructose has on our health – I resolved to cut out juices both from my diet and our childrens’.

That evening I met up with Mike, an ex-colleague and friend who ran the San Francisco branch of a digital business in which I was involved. When we greeted each other I was blown away by how healthy he looked and how much weight he had lost. After hearing President Clinton’s keynote address we grabbed a meal together. The last time we’d done that was in 2007 in San Fancisco in a real American diner consuming the (then) typical american diet. This time Mike sought a vegetarian restaurant and so unfolds the story of how he had transformed himself to the picture of health. It’s all argued in a book called “Eat to Live” by Dr Joel Fuhrman and Mike suggested I read it and persuaded me that it was the only way and that I at least owed it to my children.

It was sold out at Borders on Union Square and I flew back to the UK before I was able to track down a copy. Frustratingly it wasn’t available in the UK on Amazon until a month later but I preordered it and it arrived the day before we left for our holiday in the sun in Egypt: perfect reading material especially because I’ve never been a great fan of fiction.

The book solidly destroys several myths which formed so much of my educational upbringing. Being backed up by comprehensive research, case studies and practical and identifiable interpretation and explanation I found the book gripping.

Here’s a little test: Which has more protein 100g of steak or 100g of broccoli? Wrong! 100g of broccoli has! Dr Fuhrman convinces the reader to be a nutritarian, a title he coined. In an equation that measures the worthiness of food by its magnitude of nutrients as a proportion of callories he convinces us to avoid empty calories – those that leave us feeling empty and  devoid of nutrients. You see: 100g of Brocolli is more than we’d usually contemplate eating in a sitting but it leaves us feeling full having all the nutrients and protein we need but with measurably less calories.

His arguments steer us away from the consumption of animal, dairy and processed foods and he explains why a vegan diet is optimal and that a vegan diet is not lacking in any nutrient even dispelling the common misunderstanding that we need calcium from milk to avoid osteoporosis.

The research and argument is one hundred percent compatible with what I heard in the Sugar The Bitter Truth (above)  and I am sold completely. EAT TO LIVE isn’t a diet it’s a framework for health and disease avoidance.

He makes no bones about the first 6 weeks being a cruel adjustment in which your body needs to cure you of the addiction to toxic hunger and he’s pretty convinced that after the six weeks I’ll not want to go back to my previously errant ways explaining that the taste of low nutrient foods will abhor me.

As I write this I am obese – no better way to put it. I weigh 125kg and have been struggling with my health and finding it impossible to escape the continuing spiral of weight gain. Week before last, one of our daughters friends at school’s dad was taken tragically after seemingly a long fight against cancer and there are far too many people within our circle whose lives are tragically impacted by Cancer.

Convinced of Dr Fuhrman’s case I begin my conversion on Tuesday when I return from holiday – I know I’m converted by its argument just by the way in which it has shaped my holiday food consumption. I’ve avoided the foods that I’d normally be eating in a buffet style menu and I’m already feeling a difference.

This is my fourtieth year and have so much to be grateful for and live for so I’m going to eat to live. I’ll keep you posted!

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