We’re living longer, but our quality of life isn’t necessarily any better. With equal measure of easy-to-read physiology, wit, and practicality, Mind, Body and Spirit veers away from unhealthy conventional dietary and lifestyle wisdoms and shows how to unite these for long-term vitality.
The author provides a series of straightforward, no-nonsense guidelines that show you how to take control of your health. This comprehensive programme addresses topics such as accelerated aging and how to avoid it, how to properly care for and nourish your brain, managing insomnia, practicing self-compassion, and the appropriate exercise levels for all ages.
Whether you are a twenty-year old who can’t wake up without four cups of tea and a cigarette, a depressed thirty-five-year old with no sex drive, or someone later in life free-falling into old age, Mind Body and Spirit shows you how to redefine your sense of well-being in a toxic world.
In 1968, I had just left Japan where I was living as a “Navy brat”, modeling in Tokyo and otherwise being a typical 18-year old American teenager. After high school I decided to meet my new boyfriend, a Swiss German hippie, in Europe and go to India with him. We traveled across the Middle East on foot, ferry, hitchhiking, by train, and on windowless Mercedes buses that dated back to WWII, and then we arrived in India, on eighteenth century coal fueled trains. It was, in the parlance of the day, “a trip.” My life changed on that journey in more ways than I can relay in short note here. But one very significant change was my attitude about food.
I was raised on factory-produced food as you’ll read shortly. Forty years ago in India, you could buy a Coke but that was the only American product on the market. After several months of eating curry I would lie awake on my rope bed in the hostel garden where I was living in New Delhi and gaze at the stars thinking cheeseburger, French fries, cheeseburger, French fries. It would go on for hours.
I returned to Europe and a few years later to the US. By then I had no taste for factory-produced food, and would much rather eat curry and rice than a cheeseburger and fries. I was lucky to have lived outside of the US at a time when other cultures are real good. Today, no one really has that luxury because American corporations have invaded the entire planet. The American factory food diet, as well as toxic drugs, self and home care products have caused a worldwide epidemic of accelerated aging: obesity, disease and the outward signs of aging like wrinkles, cellulite, hair loss and so on.
My beloved India has not been exempt. Even though India is a mere 15per cent of the world’s population, 60 per cent of the heart disease patients in the world are in India. India has the most diabetics worldwide with one million Indians dying every year from this disease. Eighty to 90 per cent of Indians have suffered from depression. Morbid obesity has reached 5 per cent of the population. In short, Indians are aging in an accelerated way.
Now that we live in a global village, though we may stem from different cultures we are all in danger of accelerated aging, largely due to the American corporate invaders. The reason people are aging faster than they have to is because their bodies are breaking down faster than they are building back up again. My Mind Body and Spirit program can be summed up simply as building up more than you break down.
In India you know a lot about building up. India is exploding in exciting ways. I’d like to see your bodies building up too, and Indians getting off the accelerated aging track. From what I know about Indians, I have no doubt that when you get the correct information, you will waste no time putting it to good use. It’s my honor and privilege to stand in front of the American corporate invaders and hand you that information.
When I reviewed Nancy Deville’s previous book, Death by Supermarket, I realized she is a person who understands what many physicians and highly educated professionals do not understand, and that is that our diets are killing us. This is not an exaggeration. It is something that is increasingly recognized by those who have spent their lives carefully researching nutrition and toxicology.
During my medical training and neurosurgery residency, few of my colleagues understood the relationship between what we eat and our health. They looked upon nutrition as something that was just a matter of balancing calories with a proper mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Such matters, in their view, was relegated to the dieticians, the women who noted this intake on patients’ progress sheets.
Like Nancy, it has taken me decades to come to a full understanding of the relationship among good nutrition, avoiding environmental toxins, and health. We hear a lot of talk about lifespan and ways to extend it, but not enough about healthspan, the number of years we spend in good health.
People often ask me, “If our diets are so poor and we are exposed to so many toxins, why are people living longer than ever?” It’s a good question and one that illustrates that sometimes what we see is an illusion. Yes, people are living longer, but they are sicker than ever. What modern medicine has learned to do is to keep people alive, often barely alive, with an array of medications, surgical techniques, and medical technology. Pacemakers and medications, for example, force worn-out heart muscles to keep from failing in the first place or to protect the brain from degenerating.
Our nursing homes are filled with frail, debilitated elderly residents who can barely see, are either wheelchair bound or using walkers, and who struggle to perform the simplest tasks. Worse still, diseases that were once confined to the elderly are now appearing in the young, even children. The “metabolic syndrome” (insulin resistance/obesity/type 2diabetes, hypertension, and abnormal blood lipids), for instance, was a disease of middle age, and now we are seeing an epidemic rise in this devastating syndrome in children. Many children are grossly obese, weak, sick, and getting sicker. They are in essence aging faster than ever before.
People living in developed countries, the United States being one of the worst, are exposed to a growing number of toxins and environmental hazards, such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, industrial solvents, microwave radiation, toxic metals, and vaccinations that are responsible for a growing number of sick and dying people. All of these stresses require a body that is healthy and able to deal with this unprecedented toxic load.
Instead, we are eating processed foods that are deficient in nutrients and contain a vast array of toxins, including toxic metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, excitotoxins, and metabolic poisons. We eat fats known to promote inflammation, stimulate cancer development and growth, interfere with brain function, weaken our pulmonary and immune systems, and impair detoxification. Incredibly, our diets, designed by the medical establishment, actually promote heart disease and atherosclerosis.
We feed our children an array of food dyes, brain toxic metals, inflammatory fats, harmful sugars, and excitotoxic food additives and wonder why so many have behavioral problems, learning difficulties, and impaired language skills. When they are stressed by excessive vaccinations, infections, injuries, or the stresses of life, they fall apart. The medical establishment’s answer is to put them on mind-altering drugs, tranquilizers, and other harmful pharmaceuticals that lead to increased mental problems, suicides, homicides, and a rise in chronic depression. As a result, we hear cries for more medical intervention and more drugs.
Recently, researchers have disclosed that our children are sicker than ever and the rising life expectancy discussed earlier is now reversing. We can expect the next generation to live shorter lives and experience diseases of aging earlier in life. Ironically this is all occurring at a time when our nutritional science is showing, in dramatic ways, that nutrition plays a critical part in health and longevity.
We know more now about how diet, exercise, and stress affect us than at any time in history. Yet, it’s as if we live in two worlds. One in which we are learning that diet and eliminating toxins play the most critical part in our health and another in which the answer to health is more surgery, pharmaceutical combinations, and medical technology. The two groups ignore each other. You would think that nutritional science was voodoo. Ironically, nutritional science is significantly more scientific than medical “science.” We now know, down to a molecular and cellular level, how nutrition affects our health. Today, scientists better understand why nutrition affects the way we develop, resist disease, and protect ourselves from environmental toxins than ever before.
The science of nutrition now understands the complex way nutraceuticals affect cures of many disorders. It is no longer a mystery why curcumin, for example, inhibits the development of cancer, protects the brain against neurodegeneration, and relieves inflammation. We know that it directly affects the signaling mechanisms in cells that are responsible for inflammation, and unlike chemotherapy, affects numerous mechanisms cancers use to grow and invade and does so selectively, that is, it has no harmful effects on normal cells. Likewise, we know on a molecular level how silymarin improves detoxification.
Despite mountains of new evidence concerning the beneficial effects of nutrition, exercise, and stress relief, the medical profession remains in the dark. Therefore, people must take protecting their health into their own hands. Books such as Mind Body and Spirit allow you to benefit from what we now know about nutrition and health. Practicing good nutrition is really not that hard-it just takes discipline and dedication. This book shows you how to reach your goal of good health by following some well-demonstrated techniques that are backed up by centuries of experience and good science. Nancy Deville has done the hard work by researching this technique; all you have to do is follow her advice.
While working on Mind Body and Spirit, I spent the summer in a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of southern Massachusetts. There I finished writing the manuscript and celebrated my birthday with friends from Santa Barbara, Ojai, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, New York, Sao Paulo, and Prague. Before my guests arrived, I went into town to have a mani-pedi. As I talked about my birthday party, a women seated next to me said sympathetically, “I’m going to turn forty pretty soon, too.” I was flattered to say the least.
The truth is I’ve lived through sixty revolutions around the sun. “Sixty” conjures up images of old age, but that’s not me, my life, or my daily experience. I don’t feel much different than I ever have. In fact I feel healthier than I have in my entire life. I’m still planning trips to India and far away places like I always have. I’m into yoga, hiking, and biking. I wear a size two to four. And when I walk down the street, I still get compliments. Of course I love it. What woman wouldn’t?
I’m not a medical professional. I’m also not a celebrity with a staff of personal trainers, cooks, researchers, and ghostwriters at my beck and call. Initially, I was lucky to have had several significant positive influences that helped define the way I eat and live. Beyond that, everything I’ve accomplished in my health, fitness, and career as a health-book writer and real-food advocate I’ve done on my own.
My career writing health books began in 1996. My latest, an expose, Death by Supermarket: The Fattening, Dumbing Down, and Poisoning of America, triggered a landslide of questions, the most prevalent being, “What do you do to look like you do?” At first I was confused. I thought, Didn’t you just say you read my book? You should know what to do. After a while, I realized that it took me fourteen years of research, not to mention my own personal journey of struggle, experimentation, and discovery to develop my personal program. Getting educated is the first step, but then you need to pull all the pieces together. We live in a toxic wasteland of factory food, chemicals, scams, and bad medicine, and so accelerated aging (obesity, outward signs of aging, and disease) could have been my legacy, but it’s not. I feel so grateful that I wrote Mind Body and Spirit to share what I’ve learned.
I was born in 1950 at the dawn of the age of factory-produced food and chemicals. Like everyone else, I have a story that’s not all fun. Mine begins in utero. Like other women of her era, my mother smoked when she was pregnant. She didn’t quit smoking until I was twelve. It was normal to ride in a car with the windows closed in what was essentially an iron lung of tobacco smoke. We were a cat family and consequently existed in a cloud of Raid Flea Foggers. My childhood was saturated in chemicals. It was no big deal to sit down at a picnic table that was dusted with DDT. My mother was on a tight budget as a military widow, and one of her hobbies was redecorating by repainting our asbestos insulated house with lead-based paint. In the summer we’d run screaming out to a truck that sold candy and buy little wax bottles of “Coca Cola” that were filled with gooey colored syrup. We’d drink the blue and green fluids and then chew on the wax bottles. Candy cigarettes were the rage, but the be-all and end-all were the big wax red lips that we’d hold between our teeth until they got too melty, and then we’d chew and swallow the wax even though it tasted like sugary chemicals. Growing up in the 50s and 60s “Better living through chemistry” was introduced, and my family warmly embraced the concept in every way.
My mother hated to cook, but she loved that food could be purchased ready to eat. She wasn’t concerned that the food had been made in a factory. She went grocery shopping once a month at the Navy commissary, so you can imagine the artificial foodstuffs we were served. I ate Trix for breakfast, baloney on Wonder Bread, Kool-Aid and chips, margarine, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I never ate a green vegetable at home during my entire childhood, unless you count iceberg lettuce. Ironically, we only ate Hostess Twinkies on occasion as they were too expensive for my mother’s budget.
I guess it’s no surprise that I was chronically sick with tonsillitis. In the fourth grade I morphed overnight. One day I was a cute little kid of normal weight, the next I was ballooning. Although that period only lasted two years, it established a self-image that stuck in my head for many decades. And when I look at old photos I feel for that little girl in the dirndl dresses with the tieback bows and chopped off hair, just like I feel for overweight kids today.
My paternal grandma Stella was my first influence on health. Her family emigrated from Poland in 1911, escaping an unavoidable future as impoverished farmers. Stella suffered from malnutrition and ended up losing all her teeth as a young woman. In 1942, at age thirty-nine, she accidentally wandered into a “health” lecture and was converted. From then on she had a very strong point of view about health matters, in particular the perils of processed food, going so far as to accuse a friend of murdering her husband by feeding him nothing but hot dogs.
She was regarded as a “health nut” and a “kook” in our family, but she ignored the slights and went about her business staying healthy and dispensing advice. After her night shifts cleaning offices at General Motors ended, she came home and juiced and canned homegrown vegetables. She’d lie in the basement in the darkness on her slant board, blood rushing to her brain to improve circulation as she meditated. She regularly guzzled olive oil from the bottle to “Fix herself up,” and she knew how to deal with myriad conditions using various supplements and foods. Unfortunately my grandma was only a part of my childhood until age eight when my widowed mother remarried and moved my brother and sister and me from Michigan to California. So I missed a lot of the direct influence she could have had on my early health.
My family moved to Japan when I was fifteen, and by sixteen I was modeling in Tokyo. Being skinny was crucial to my success as a model and to my self-esteem. I’d chain smoke cigarettes and eat a chocolate chip cookie before going to bed, feeling virtuous for starving all day. But still, my grandma’s voice stuck in my head when I saw that the Japanese ate only real food-sushi and veggies. I couldn’t help but think she was right about food, because most Japanese were thin.
After graduating from high school I went back to the states for a few weeks to wait for my eighteenth birthday. There Grandma introduced me to the books of Adelle Davis, who was the very first real-food advocate: Let’s Get Well, Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, and Let’s Cook It Right.
After my birthday, I left the states and flew to Europe. I toted Adelle Davis’s books with me to India for ten months. While I pondered my newly hatching philosophies about healthy eating, I smoked a lot of hashish and even more cigarettes. With less than one dollar a day to live on, I had very little choice about food, so my diet was the same subsistent diet of the street-vending untouchables, India’s poorest caste. When I returned to Europe I was malnourished and my hair was thin and brittle. But I was young and recovered quickly by eating the real-food diet Europeans ate. My Swiss-German boyfriend taught me about real food: “This is asparagus,” and “This is yogurt,” and so on. His mother showed me how to make my first recipe-olive oil, vinegar, and mustard salad dressing. I lived in Switzerland for two and a half years and learned how to eat the way Europeans ate.
When I returned to the United States at age twenty-one, factory food made my mouth burn. It was a shock to be back in a culture where people put anything into their mouths, dousing the consequences with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
When I was twenty-four, I stopped smoking, which was a major milestone. Like many who quit smoking, I gained ten pounds. That instigated another turning point for me. I remember the moment I looked at my butt in a mirror and thought, Ohhh no, that is not going to work for me! Then I started jogging. I still remember the agony of running after a lifetime of being sedentary. It actually felt like my lungs were going to burst into flames and explode. But I kept at it, and lo and behold my body transformed. I was a runner for twenty years, six miles a day.
Because of Grandma’s influence and having lived out of the country all those years, I’d learned that eating real food equaled good health. Even back then I understood that being far was a symptom of bad health and that one of the benefits of good health was an attractive body. I wanted that. So I rarely ate sugar and ate mostly real food. I didn’t have one cold or flu for that entire twenty years. I was healthy. My body was fit and toned, and my hair was thick and shiny.
By the time I was in my midforties my knees were giving me clear signals that running on asphalt for two decades had consequences. I had to quit running. It was traumatic because it was a big part of my identity. To make matters worse, a little bit of fast food had crept into my diet. I put on a few pounds and couldn’t get them off. I was feeling frantic about it all when a doctor I trusted told me I was experiencing sex hormone decline and pitched bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHART) to me. It all sounded plausible-staving off aging by beginning early BHRT-but instead of feeling better and losing those few pounds, I crashed and burned into a hormonal tailspin, gaining twenty-five pounds (going from size 4 to size 10) and suffering numerous health problems.
From then on, I was on an obsessive journey. I hadn’t been overweight since my chubby elementary school years, and I literally felt trapped in someone else’s body. Twenty-five pounds might not seem like that much, but the problem was that I couldn’t lose it no matter what I did. It took me years of research to finally put it together. Although bioidentical hormone replacement is one component of antiaging I’m going to share with you, estrogen, like any other hormone, needs to be replaced in physiologic doses-that is, only the equivalent of what your body has stopped producing should be replaced. Abnormally high levels of estrogen can damage the thyroid gland, and that’s what happened to me.
Because my thyroid was down-regulated, so was my metabolism, and I couldn’t shed the weight. plus, I had other health issues related to hormonal imbalance, like insomnia. I was determined to find the answers. I went all out seeing the crème de la crème of specialists in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, and Brussels, as well as on labs, hair and other analyses, food allergy testing, heavy metal testing, chelation, neurofeedback therapy, Chinese medicine, supplements, and hormone replacement. I took up yoga, learned how to cook, and became a humble student of Buddhist Metta meditation. You name it, I did it. I read, read, read, and researched, researched, researched. I connected the dots. I learned the facts about nutrition. I learned how to determine which BHRT doctors and practitioners were trustworthy, thoughtful, and knowledgeable, and those to avoid. I learned how to distinguish between truths and fads, and I learned a lot about bad medicine.
Like my grandma, I’ve experienced disdain and eye rolling over my views about health and wellness. I’ve also had an avalanche of requests from people who want to know about my personal program. My book differs from other how to books on the market because I’m not going to promise eternal youth, unreal weight loss per week, or instant happiness. Anyone who knows me knows that I only sell the truth. Many people read self-help books to find out the magic secret to weight loss. The secret is Mind Body and Spirit. It’s about total health. By achieving optimal health something magical is going to occur. Just like I did, you’re going to recapture your unique physical and mental gifts and propensities, shrink to your optimal body weight, be sexy, and increase your chances of living a long, healthy, happy life. It won’t happen in a week or two. You have a choice to keep buying into the quick-fix promises or to reframe your life so that you actually do become healthy. How you act on the state of your health now will define the rest of your life. And when you arrive at optimal health, you’ll know, just like I knew when people began complimenting me on my appearance.
Obesity, chronic illness, disease, and outward manifestations of aging are symptoms of accelerated aging. There is no way we can stop aging because we are all headed to the same end: death. After living a healthy, sexy, happy life, dying peacefully is important to me. People are dying in droves from cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions. Modern death means dying drugged up in impersonal hospital rooms, tethered to monitors with beepers going off, with strangers walking in and out. If I do nothing more in my career than to bring awareness to the way we’re dying and effect even a small shift, I’ll be happy. I’d like to see more people healthy enough to die of old age peacefully in a celebratory experience at home, surrounded by loved ones. That’s the way we are meant to leave this world.
We’re living way below our health ideals and then dying cold and ugly deaths because we’ve been duped into eating and living in ways that have been extremely destructive to our health. My program centers on taking care of what I call our “big dumb pets” –our brains-as brain health is the linchpin of optimal health. With a healthy, happy brain, you can do anything in life. You’re more likely to be thin and healthy, have better relationships, and enjoy all the benefits in life that come to happy people, including dying a peaceful death. My program also focuses on the GI tract because that is where all nutrition enters, and right now our GI tracts are taking a major beating. I also place a lot of emphasis on adrenal healthy, as adrenal fatigue is the unhappy companion to all other conditions. Accelerated aging can be slowed way down, and you can live a happy life and increase your chances of dying a peaceful death by honing these twelve Ultimate You Skills:
1. Get educated about weight loss and aging.
2. Stop eating all factory-produced food.
3. Eat a balanced diet of real, whole, living food.
4. Properly care for and feed your big dumb pet-your brain.
5. Quit addictions.
6. Supplement your diet.
7. Live a detox lifestyle.
8. Flush, rinse, and nourish.
9. Use bioidentical hormone replacement if you need it.
10. Sleep eight hours a night.
11. Practice self-compassion meditation.
12. Exercise regularly.
From the many conversations I’ve had over the years with people of all ages about health, fitness, and appearance, it’s clear that everyone experiences moments when they realize something about themselves has changed. It’s always an unpleasant revelation. Health, fitness, and appearance do change with age, especially with accelerated aging. But you don’t have to age in an accelerated way.
No matter if you’re twenty and physically fit and want to stay that way, or you’re thirty and you’re scratching your head about that fat roll that you want to get rid of, or you’re forty, sixty, or seventy or older and have gotten to the point where you feel that recovery is beyond your capabilities. It’s all possible. I believe that the human body, mind, and spirit desire equanimity and that you can have those forces working with you.
I said earlier that I’m not a Ph.D. or an M.D., nor am I a Buddhist scholar. Even though my mantra is “get educated”, I’m not formally educated. Actually, I skipped school so much to spend my days in Tokyo that when graduation rolled around I didn’t have enough attendance days to graduate. I have my mother to thank for my diploma, since she begged the counselors to allow me to graduate. I completed one year of college at age thirty-nine before I started my writing career. Mind Body and Spirit is the result of my own life experience, study, and research. I also said that everything I’ve accomplished I’ve done on my own. I want to emphasize that, because I want you to understand that even if you’re not a celebrity with a personal trainer and a cook, you can still achieve health.
If a child of a smoker, raised on sugar and chemicals, who smoked for ten years, and whose endocrine and immune systems were trashed by irresponsible hormone replacement can recover to be healthy, sexy, and happy at age sixty, you can too. Of course, it takes sacrifice, determination, and persistence just like any other major life accomplishment.
People have the idea that living a healthy lifestyle is drudgery and that the food you are required to eat is dull and unappetizing. On the contrary, healthy eating is likely the polar opposite of what you think it is, and the journey to the ultimate you is going to be the most enjoyable, most incredible, most addicting journey you will ever embark on. Getting healthy is such a fun ride.
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