Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'The Slow Down Diet' by Marc David

2015 Reading Challenge, Week 38 - A book you should have read at school but didn't.
Let me explain my rationale behind this weeks choice, especially since the first edition was only published ten years ago, long after I left school.

At first I thought nothing would fit this category. I used to read all the books we were set at school, even if I hated them. We had to complete work based around them, so I could see no point in not reading them. Once, I even plowed through 'Sons and Lovers' over the school holidays, only to return to hear the teacher say, 'We decided not to do D.H. Lawrence after all.'

As I was such a conscientious student, I choose to interpret this a different way. I've changed the reading from 'A book you were supposed to have read at school' to 'A book you should have read at school.' I'm choosing a book which, in my opinion, should be on school curriculum, but isn't (as far as I know). The sensible health advice within these pages should be presented to people from a young age to make up their own minds about, and I'm sure students would enjoy it too.

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Our modern culture revolves around fitting as much as possible into the least amount of time. As a result, most people propel themselves through life at a dizzying pace that is contrary to a healthy lifestyle. We eat fast, on the run, and often under stress, not only removing most of the pleasure we might derive from our food and creating digestive upset but also wreaking havoc on our metabolism. Many of us come to the end of a day feeling undernourished, uninspired, and overweight.

In this 10th anniversary edition, Marc David presents a new way to understand our relationship to food, focusing on quality and the pleasure of eating to transform and improve metabolism. Citing cutting-edge research on body biochemistry as well as success stories from his own nutritional counseling practice, he shows that we are creatures of body, mind, and spirit and that when we attend to these levels simultaneously we can shed excess pounds, increase energy, and enhance digestion to feel rejuvenated and inspired.

This is one of the most unusual books about managing our eating habits I've come across. The author doesn't separate body and soul but shows how they are two sides of the same coin. And he does it in a beautifully written and lyrical way. Far from being another dry health book, this often reads like a poem. Many diet books try to convince us to make the effort of  rationing carbs and proteins, etc. I'm tired of having to wrap my mind around something like a mini science/nutrition course to get healthier!Thankfully, Marc David doesn't do that. He separates his dietary advice into eight interesting aspects, one for each week of his two month course, which I'll do my best to summarise below.

1) Relaxation.
This is the importance of eating slowly, with your full attention, while you're relaxed and happy.

2) Quality.
Instead of stressing about which of the myriad diets we should try, simply elevating the quality of our food may be the way to go. David explains how the food we ingest actually speaks to the cells of our bodies. I like his advice that instead of going flat out fanatical about it, we should aim for an 80% quality food target each day. It's counter-productive when the stress of searching for the best quality food neutralises its good effects.

3) Awareness.
We should focus on the pleasure we take from the flavours and aromas of our food and drinks, rather than wolfing it down on auto-pilot. He convincingly argues something I've often heard dieters say as a joke. Would you believe our thoughts actually can be fattening? It seems that using self-denial while fantasising about forbidden foods may not be all its cracked up to be. We might as well eat the treats with mindful gratitude.

4) Rhythm
In this section, he looks at the human body temperature at different phases of the sun, when it comes to timing our meals. In particular, he explains why eating smallish portions during the day, followed by a large main meal at night when we're hungry, can create problems.

5) Pleasure.
Science has shown that when the pleasure factor is taken away, the nutritional value of a meal plummets. So this is a good chapter for those of us who deny our taste buds by eating spartan, non-tasty food.

6) Thoughts.
Each eater metabolises an identical meal quite differently from others at the table, according to our unique thoughts. It's handy to know that digestion is limited by toxic thoughts of any kind. We should stop labeling different foods 'good' or 'bad' for a start. David talks about our 'inner pharmacies' secreting chemicals to our bodies based on positive and negative thoughts. Even junk food eaten with a happy mind set may give us more benefit than superfoods with a negative mind set.

7) Story.
The stories we tell ourselves are like powerful drugs that ignite our metabolism and create our biochemistry, so we should tell ourselves good ones. He makes some fascinating quotes, such as, 'Our DNA is the biochemical equivalent of a story.'

8) The Sacred.
In this chapter, he sets out to show that what people sometimes call miraculous phenomenon may actually be latent biological traits which are activated when we're touched by the divine. The eight sacred metabolisers he mentions sound similar to the fruits of the spirit mentioned in the Bible. As we create our body chemistry instantly, we might as well be sure it's what we want. Just as God said, 'Let there be light,' we often don't stop to consider that we may be saying, 'Let there be anger,' or 'Let there be fear,' or 'Let there be discord.' According to Marc David, even partial negativity may undernourish the soul and rob the body of nutrition.

He winds up with an eloquent plea for us to allow the language of the soul and sacred things back into science and medicine. Although I haven't put this book to the test yet as a weight loss program, it rings true and convinces me not to focus on superficial aspects such as calories and personal appearance anyway. I'm sure I'll use it as a reference often. I hope you'll take my brief sentences or paragraphs above as an invitation to read something far more profound and original. And if I do lose a bit of weight by embracing all this, I'll be recommending it all the more.

Thanks to the publisher, Inner Traditions, for providing me with a review copy.

5 stars.

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