For about five years, we have followed the eating and lifestyle plan of Dr. Diana Schwarzbein. Usually when I say that to people, their eyes glaze over or they say "Huh?" Her name itself is kind of a mouthful. But the truth is, her eating plan is awesome! It would be impossible to explain all the intricacies of her plan in one post. That's what her books are for. But I wanted to give a brief overview.
In her newest book The Program, she begins by saying "You need to be healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to be healthy." What a statement in a world where people want a quick fix. People (including me) don't usually like to change. We'd rather have an easy way out of health or weight problems rather than actually having to do something. It took me a long time to come to this realization. I struggled with weight beginning in high school. Eventually I tried Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers does work if you follow it correctly. You will most certainly lose weight. And I do think it encourages people to look at their portions and think about how they can have more control over the amount of food they eat. However, I have never met a single person who has done Weight Watchers who hasn't eventually gained all their weight back again. This was true for me. The plan works for as long as you do it, but no one wants to starve for their entire life, and they eventually fall off the plan.
This is why I love Dr. Schwarzbein's program so much. It's not a quick-fix plan. It is truly a life-changing program. It's not just about losing weight, either. It's about having a healthy lifestyle, and healing the damage that has been done to the body from poor eating and lifestyle habits.
In a nutshell, Dr. Schwarzbein's program focuses on Healthy Nutrition, Stress Management, Eliminating Toxins, and Smart Exercise.
Healthy Nutrition means eating with balance. You don't have to count calories with this plan. You don't have to feel hungry. She encourages meals and snacks throughout the day. One misconception many people have about this is plan is that it is a low-carb plan. I would say that it is a "healthy carb" plan. You eat plenty of carbs, along with a balance of proteins, fats and vegetables, but the carbs are good carbs. Schwarzbein calls these "real carbohydrates." She defines real carbohydrates as ones that can be grown, picked or harvested.
Stress Management is part of her plan because stress can affect our hormones in significant ways. She encourages adults to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. This is one of the most difficult parts of her plan for me at this time in my life. But she does address the fact that parents with young children and new babies will probably not be able to achieve uninterrupted sleep! Even though I can't follow this part of her plan perfectly right now, I still know it's important to have downtime and to try to relax and breathe deeply and find a way to deal with stress.
Eliminating Toxins may be the hardest part of the plan, especially when you first start. The toxins she's referring to are refined sugars, artificial sugars, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and medicines. For most people this is very difficult, and definitely doesn't happen overnight. It probably took us 2-3 years to eliminate sugar completely. I would tell anyone beginning this plan to take baby steps. Over time it will get easier!
Smart Exercise means a moderate plan of resistance and flexibility exercises. Cardiovascular exercise, when done to the extreme, can actually cause serious health problems and breaks down the body. She recommends cardiovascular exercise only for fun if you plan to do it at all. I love her exercise plan, and when I actually do it, I feel so great. This is the most difficult part of the plan for me while pregnant. But the nice thing about her exercises is that they are great for easing into after pregnancy, and have helped me after my last two pregnancies to obtain a healthy body composition afterwards.
There are many, many more details that make up Dr. Schwarzbein's plan. As I said, this is just a brief overview. I highly recommend her latest book The Program. It contains everything you need to get on the healing track for your body. She provides lists of all the staple foods you should have in your kitchen and pantry, how to balance your meals properly, and even several meal-plan options to get you started. She also includes a section with easy exercises you can follow to strengthen your body.
People who are resistant to the way my family eats will say things like "I could never do that because I like to enjoy what I eat." I've had people look at my plate, often filled with vegetables, with disdain, or with "I feel so sorry for you" looks and comments.
Well, if you know me personally, you know that I am quite the food-lover! Baking and cooking and food appreciation are hobbies of mine. I wouldn't stick with a plan if I didn't enjoy the food I was eating, believe me. Something DH and I have found is that over time, our palates have actually changed. Once, they were tainted by artificial flavors and sugar addictions, making more natural foods seem bland and unappealing. Now that sugar is gone from our diets, we taste the true flavors of the wonderful, natural things God has created. I don't think I would have said green beans tasted sweet when I was younger, but now when we eat steamed green beans, we both marvel at how they sweet they are! Or what about sweet potatoes? In the past I only liked them if they were covered in marshmallows and a sugary sauce. I have discovered that they are called "sweet" potatoes for a reason. They really are sweet, all by themselves, if your tongue isn't tainted by the addictive need for more sugar!
I believe if you follow Schwarzbein's plan and truly eliminate toxins from your diet, you will come to enjoy real, natural foods just as much as we have. It will open up a whole new world of food for you. You may think that a life of eating processed, sugary foods is so much more enjoyable, but when you put that behind you, you could be pleasantly surprised at what you find!