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Articles > Back to Basics

by Peter Holleran, DC

   This article hopes to simplify a mass of health information and glean a few basic principles that are true regardless of specific diet or lifestyle. But the reader is forewarned, there is no substitute for self-education. There exists no authority to tell it like it is or tell us what to do. We must each take up the challenge of finding out what makes sense. We must make an experiment of our own body-mind to determine what works for us individually. To those who say, ”that’s not my job, I trust my doctor and just leave it up to him,” be reminded that the average medical school education provides three hours or less nutritional instruction. This should be sufficient reason for ones own study instead of relying solely on the experts - whose sources of information often come from “industry funding”.

   A handful of books CAN answer most of our questions, while perhaps raising others never considered before. What we want and need is a broad understanding that will set us up FOR LIFE and not just a remedy for this or that problem that is likely just a symptom of something else lying uncovered. If we follow the basics most problems go away in time. The few that are left can then more easily be dealt with. But we need to start somewhere, and as good a place as any, with the most bang for the buck, is with Diet for a New America by John Robbins, Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, The Zone by Barry Spears, Food Combining Made Easy by Herbert Shelton, and In Fitness and Health by Phil Maffetone. These five books cover alot of ground in a relatively short amount of time and are well worth the effort to get through. I am truly sorry for this boring advice, but it is really the best I have to offer! There is just no substitute for understanding. We sooner or later forget what someone else says anyway! Personally, I rarely give out nutritional advice in my office anymore. The true purpose of a doctor is to “educate, not medicate”, and I will instead say, “here, read this” or “read that.” Then we can have a conversation - and perhaps I will learn something! That is also one of the primary reason I created this website.

   Having SAID that, I WILL begin by answering one question, a very big question: WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT DIETARY PRINCIPLE WHICH IF FOLLOWED LEADS TO BOTH HEALTH AND LONGEVITY? Whether low carb, high carb, low protein, high protein, omnivore or vegetarian, a primary factor for robust health and energy is SYSTEMATIC UNDEREATING. This is NOT starvation, just eating LESS. Of course, caloric adjustments must be made for athletes who require more than sedentary individuals. In fact, such lucky people can often eat as much as they want, for exercise covers many dietary sins (and is an essential key to the success of any health plan). In any case, either fewer meals, or more frequent smaller meals, the end result is less stress placed on all bodily systems. The guiding principle is LESS QUANTITY, but HIGH QUALITY. This is extremely important. For example, rats fed animal protein do grow faster, but live shorter lives compared to those fed vegetable protein. A simple 30% caloric reduction, however, extends their lifespan as much as TWO times. One theory is that the body, responding to the environmental stress of less food, activates enzymes called sirtuins that boost the rate of cell repair, thus slowing the natural cellular deterioration at the crux of aging. It now appears that much of the nutritional benefit of the diet of the French is attributable to the smaller portions served. Smaller meals (whether carbohydrate OR protein) moderate the body’s insulin response, providing many beneficial hormonal results (the chief merit of the zone diet). Less digestive work also frees the body’s enzymes to scavenge foreign proteins, reducing toxicity and disease. An untaxed stomach at bedtime promotes the release of growth hormone, a major rebuilder and rejuvenant during sleep. Smaller portions at mealtime make bad food combinations less debilitating. The overall benefits of eating less are numerous. Remember the key is HIGH QUALITY. As they said in the old days, "Never eat anything that won't go bad, but never eat it after it goes bad."

   Mother’s milk with only 5 % protein provides all a child needs during its period of most rapid growth, so isn’t it reasonable we might not need as much as we think we need, so long as we absorb what is consumed and it has superior nutritional content?

   In Okinawa they repeat, “Hari Hachi Bu,” supposedly attributed to Confucius, and which roughly translates as, “eat only until you are 90% full." This advice has scientific merit. It takes twenty minutes for the body to tell the brain that you are satiated, and if you eat until you feel totally full it is too late - you have already overeaten by at least 10%. Better to wait and have a little more later if you feel you need it.

   Of course, there IS the other option. Gandhi said, “we dig our graves with our teeth.” This seems to have been the case with trader and speculator “Diamond” Jim Brady. “Once consuming 45 ears of corn at one sitting - on top of an already heavy meal - Brady was as infamous for his eating habits as his diamond fetish. And because he routinely downed 14-course meals, with four helpings of each rich main dish, Brady received few dinner invitations! When one daring hostess asked him how he knew he was satiated, Brady stoically stated, “Whenever I sit down to a meal, I always make it a point to leave just four inches between my stummick and the edge of the table. And then, when I can feel ‘em rubbin together pretty hard, I know I’ve had enough!” No wonder that at 56, a man who faithfully kept a five-pound box of chocolate-covered nuts and coconut cremes within reach was diagnosed as having unusually large gallstones - and at 61, he was dead, from diabetes and other illnesses. (100 Minds That Made the Market, by Kenneth Fischer, 1993, p. 337)