I learned a new concept last night. I thought I knew a lot about nutrition but this one really clicked in for me. I attended a lecture by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the nutrition-based MD who wrote Eat to Live and is behind the comprehensive nutrition plan Eat Right America. The epiphany: there is a difference between true hunger and the detox symptoms most of us experience a few hours after eating. It all comes down to 2 phases of digestion: anabolic and catabolic. Anabolic for building (anabolic steroids, anyone?) and catabolic for breaking down.
As a self-proclaimed hungry lady, I can eat a lot for my size and I like to keep snacks on hand at all times. Like most Americans, I am addicted to the anabolic phase of digestion. I like being full and sated. I don't like feeling shaky, weak, or headache-y. I actually always thought I was mildly hypoglycemic and I've tried to balance my need for constant food intake with healthy choices. Dr. Fuhrman explained that the catabolic phase is when your body goes into detox and repair mode. It's important to fully go through catabolism so your body can repair and heal before you experience "true hunger" which Dr. Fuhrman described as a feeling in the mouth and throat and a heightening of the senses. Catabolism is experienced at night when we sleep - part of what makes sleeping a time of healing is the lack of food for eight hours.
Catabolism isn't supposed to be painful. It's only when we eat toxic (processed, refined, overcooked, sugary, etc.) food that we have more dramatic detoxification symptoms upon entering catabolism. We feel bad and weak and we think it's because we need to eat more. Or worse, we need candy or coffee to give us a quick pick up. But according to Fuhrman, if we eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, this important catabolic phase need not be unpleasant.
Nutrient density is another cornerstone of Eat Right America that I love. The idea is you want to eat as many foods as possible that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. As in vegetables. He has a nutrient density scoring index called "ANDI" (aggregate nutrient density index) that places kale at the top of the heap at 1000 points. Broccoli scores 376, chicken breast a measly 27, and Coca Cola barely squeaks in at .6 (I would have thought it to have negative nutrient value).
So I'm starting a little fall cleansing. I've done more radical cleanses like the Master Cleanse in the past, but this time I'm just going to take a few weeks to eat more kale, drink less alcohol, and accept the catabolism that is life.