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Author Biography: Adele Puhn, M.S., C.N.S., a nutritional consultant with twenty-four years of experience, has a thriving practice in New York City and Long Island. She holds an M.S. in medical biology and clinical nutrition as well as the title Certified Nutrition Specialist from the American College of Nutrition. She is also the author of The New York Times bestseller The 5-Day Miracle Diet.
Meet Your Metabolic Mix-Up
STOPPING DISEASE IN ITS TRACKS
I don't usually resort to scare tactics to encourage people to get healthy; however, in this case the news is so frightening and significant that I feel it is my responsibility to spread the word.
Over the past several years I have listened to client after client describe the same set of problems-a chronic lack of energy, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stubborn overweight that won't budge. I became more and more concerned. What was going on? All of these symptoms are the same as those that accompany type 2 diabetes. And recently, the mainstream media has delivered a blitz of information about a growing diabetes epidemic in America-just one of several health conditions that can be addressed by the Midlife Miracle Diet!
Consider some of the headlines: Newsweek announced "An American Epidemic: Diabetes" and The New York Times warns "Diabetes as Looking Epidemic." An even more recent New York Times article entitled "As Diabetes Strikes Younger, Children Get Lessons in Defense" points out the increase in the occurrence of diabetes type 2 cases-this time in children. The media has also begun to highlight our casual disregard for other life-threatening diseases. Another New York Times article entitled "A Devastating Lack of Awareness: Why Women Don't Believe Heart Disease, Their No. 1 Killer, Really Affects Them" is self-explanatory.
Working on the front lines of nutrition, I am not surprised by this increase in diabetes and many people's lack of awareness of the state of their overall health. I see a direct link between these diseases and a disorder of metabolism every day in my office, and I am concerned, very concerned. What concerns me most is that many people-millions in fact-are walking around like accidents waiting to happen, completely unaware that they have already developed what I call the Metabolic Mix-Up.
This disorder of metabolism was first identified as Syndrome X by Dr. George Reaven of Stanford University when he discovered the link between insulin resistance and serious disease, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The syndrome is characterized by six traits: insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, abnormally high insulin levels, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol), and hypertension.
I soon was able to see that many of my clients were actually suffering from symptoms of this Metabolic Mix-Up, a disorder of metabolism so profound, so life impacting that it literally controls our body chemistry and can shorten our lives unless we stop it. I became determined to find not only a solution but also the reason behind this metabolic disorder that has become so prevalent. The Midlife Miracle Diet is the result of my search for these answers.
THE MENACING METABOLIC MIX-UP
Let me ask you a few questions: 1. Do you attend cultural events and become more annoyed and distracted by the noise than uplifted by the performance?
2. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol climbed every year?
3. Do you wake up in the morning, already sighing as the alarm tries to jump-start you?
4. Have you recently put on weight around your middle that you are unable to shed?
5. Do new challenges at work make you feel overwhelmed instead of creative?
6. Does planning a last-minute pleasure trip become a nightmare?
7. Do you feel so lethargic that you can barely last through your son's baseball game?
8. Has your doctor warned you to lose some weight because your blood sugar is testing too high?
9. At the end of most days does your bed seem the only place you want to be?
10. Do you feel older than your age?
11. Are you so exhausted after getting through the work week that by Friday, you can't even imagine going out for the evening?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, then you more than likely have the Metabolic Mix-Up. This disorder works so devilishly behind the curtain of your life that you may not even know you are developing serious symptoms. It could be the player behind your frequent headaches, malaise, and your recent inability to lose weight. It could also be the cause of your recent increase in blood pressure and cholesterol. The Metabolic Mix-Up is so powerful, so crafty, that it can impact on your minute-to-minute life.
Men and women with the mix-up feel just this way: They can get through the week, but that's about it. They have no energy left to enjoy life. In fact they can't even begin to imagine how they should feel. They have literally become hostages of their own bodies, unable to connect to their health potential.
We are not surprised when we develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol; after all, these are two very common ailments that don't make us think twice. We accept them as natural by-products of aging. They certainly don't sound off alarm bells, but they should. This cluster of symptoms may not look alarming at first glance, but think about this: They are connected to the three most common causes of death in this country-heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
You may not yet have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but you might just have the genetic wiring or lifestyle habits that lead directly to the Metabolic Mix-Up. Make no mistake: This is not an excessive warning. The millions of people who are fast developing type 2 diabetes and other degenerative diseases are just like the men and women who arrive at my doorstep, bringing with them all the signs that the Metabolic Mix-Up is at play.
TYPE 1 OR TYPE 2? THERE IS A DIFFERENCE
There are two major types of diabetes, and insulin is the protagonist in both diseases. The majority (about 90 percent of cases) of people who have diabetes have type 2 diabetes, which can be caused by insulin resistance: the cell's inability to use or let insulin into the cell to convert the food we eat into cellular energy. Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) accounts for only 10 percent of diabetes cases and usually appears in children. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the attack of the immune system on the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, resulting in an inability to produce insulin. Unlike type 2 diabetics (or noninsulin-dependent diabetics), type 1 diabetics must take insulin injections for survival. However, most type 2 diabetics do not need to take insulin, and in many cases, taking insulin would only aggravate and worsen their condition.
The Metabolic Mix-Up can be so devastating that it has also been linked to some cancers. It's already been shown that women with high insulin levels who are receiving standard therapy for breast cancer were eight times more likely to experience cancer recurrence and die of the disease than were patients with normal insulin levels. I have considered the possibility of a link between this disorder of metabolism and cancer for a while and have wondered whether the high rates of breast cancer in pockets of the northeast could be linked not only to the high level of contaminants in the water and possible electromagnetic fields, as well as other environmental factors, but also to the high-carb, low-fat, pasta-is-king diet that began in the late 1970s. Remember when we first started hearing about a low-fat diet? With that revolution came pasta. I saw this latest approach overtake the American conscience. Given the green light, thousands of weight-conscious women and men began eating pasta and other starchy carbohydrates with abandon, believing that by simply staying away from fat they would be slimmer and healthier. Wanting to look good, lose weight, and enhance their health, they embraced a way of eating that in fact challenged their ability to process insulin, the hormonal instrument that metabolizes carbohydrates.
The 1970s and 1980s also saw vegetarianism gaining more attention as a way of life, not just moralistically but because people had suddenly become more interested in eating better and leaving behind the American meat-and-potatoes legacy. However, each of us has a biochemical individuality. For some, vegetarian eating is an improvement and a benefit for their health. But for others, those of us with the Metabolic Mix-Up, it's not okay. In fact, it's lethal.
It wasn't until fourteen years ago, after I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was recovering from a lumpectomy that I began to understand that something was not working. As you can imagine, I was shocked that I could get this disease. After all, I was a vegetarian who meditated, jogged, ate organic food, and drank gallons of bottled water. What had happened to my body? Fortunately, the lumpectomy was successful and I was safely in remission. But I had learned a very hard, very scary lesson.
In my search to understand, I began to suspect that something else was working behind the scenes of my health, something I had not known or thought about. During the sensitive recuperation period, as I worked hard to restore my health and regain my strength, I had switched from an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet to a macrobiotic diet, hoping to benefit from its special healing qualities. Yet after only ten days of following the macrobiotic diet, composed of 80 percent grains and beans (i.e., carbohydrates), I gained ten very puffy pounds. Gone was my sculpted body of which I had been so proud! My small waist (always my best feature) was no more as I began to take on an apple shape. Feeling very fatigued, I found myself craving sugar wildly, plotting to get my favorite cookies at eight o'clock in the morning. After years of freedom from my sugar addiction, I was feeling needier, more connected to cravings than ever. I tried to sort out what was happening to my body and began to feel that my reaction had to be connected to my increased intake of carbohydrates. That was all that had changed in my diet. I had been a vegetarian-this is true-but I had been a vegetarian who ate lots of tofu, vegetables, and small amounts of eggs, beans, and grains. Stunned by my instant reactiveness to the major increase in grains and beans, I wanted to understand what was going on.
When I followed the trail, it led me right back to where my reactiveness to carbohydrates had begun in the first place.
MY PARENTS CAME FIRST
As a Sugar Baby, I was both born to my parents and formed by them. And in their overreliance on bread with dinner and dessert after dinner, they set the stage not only for their own disordered metabolism but mine as well. Their attachment to sweets and starches not only left them in that familiar state of exhaustion and lethargy but it also had another significant effect: It made a huge impression on me as a child. I not only craved sugar (their constant companion) but as I grew older I also craved a solution to my parents' obvious distress. Through my child's wide eyes, they seemed unable to relax and enjoy themselves, even after a long week of working hard. My parents were also reliant on medications to treat their high blood pressure and cholesterol and to ease their aches and pains. Like a cozy hearth, the medicine chest in my parents' bathroom was central to our lives, a familiar gathering place where the family could feel its common bond. At any one time, I could open the door and see an array of different sized bottles and containers with all sorts of medications-for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, tranquilizers, insulin, and aspirin-all the popular fixings to treat their unnamed Metabolic Mix-Up!
Of course, as a child I had little idea of what these magical bottles contained or what they were for. It's only now, years later, that I wonder if this medication really warmed their hearts or merely kept their bodies functioning? They would go to the doctor complaining of shortness of breath, fatigue, or headaches, and the doctor would write them the recommended prescription, once again sending them down the path that could not lead to recovery. This was the way it was done and overdone-the standard approach-at the time. Now I know that my parents and their friends depended on these mysterious little glass containers and the magic potions inside as a way to manage all their physical and emotional problems. They didn't know (nor did their doctors nor anyone else in the health field) that what was causing their high cholesterol and out-of-control blood pressure, as well as their malaise, fatigue, and overweight were the very real side effects of their ordinary but destructive eating habits and sedentary lifestyles. They also didn't know that what was behind this cluster of conditions was the very destructive side effects of their insulin resistance.
Sadly, I did not connect the dots of my parents' lives soon enough. By his mature middle years, my father had full-blown type 2 diabetes that had to be treated with insulin injections, while my mother's days were filled with an ongoing struggle to lose weight and manage her hypertension. They continued to eat the sweets and starches that fed their out-of-control chemistry, while the increasing medications merely eased some of the pain but didn't address the problem.
Yet I know that my vision of the two of them seeking answers but finding none fueled my lifelong obsession to understand the relationship between eating habits and health. And though I was not able to help my parents tame their Metabolic Mix-Up, I can and do help thousands of the women and men who come to see me in my office and read my books, and now I want to help you and those you love.
MEDICATIONS CAN HAVE SIDE EFFECTS
Controlling the Metabolic Mix-Up can help to control disorders that create the need for powerful drugs.
THE SUGAR CONNECTION
My own story and that of my parents highlights an important feature of the Metabolic Mix-Up: a strong and passionate friendship with starchy foods and sweets. Do you see yourself in the questions below? How many would you answer yes to?
1. Is your diet comprised mostly of white flour and mushy, starchy foods?
2. Do you rely on diet soda or tea drinks as your main source of fluids?
3. Do you often meet your friends for a before-dinner drink, followed by another one or two after dinner?
4. Is the only green food on your plate or in your refrigerator a few grapes?
5. Are your four main food groups bread, bread, bread, and more bread?
6. Is it impossible for you to spend an evening that doesn't include a snack?
7. Do you never leave home without a fistful of hard candies or gum?
8. Is pasta your manna from heaven?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, then more than likely you fall into that familiar group that I call Sugar Babies, of which I am a starring member. These dietary tendencies are just a few of the signs that you may have the chemistry that misfires in the presence of sugar and other carbohydrates. This misfiring can cause powerful food connections and these cravings are one of the clearest indications that the Metabolic Mix-Up may be stamped into your genes. Sugar Babies from Sugar Baby Land, there are so many of us, whether from years of relying on starches and sugars as our major source of food or from some other genetic twist of fate.
But you don't have to awaken these sleeping genes. Some Europeans, specifically those people who live on or near the Mediterranean, don't demonstrate Sugar Baby characteristics. They grow up eating a diet totally different from the typical American fare. Instead of our meat and potatoes, they eat a lot of fish, raw and cooked vegetables, and fruit. The result? This Mediterranean training does not awaken or reinforce reactive chemistry.
Who said life was fair?
Essentially, if you have a diet that is high in sugar and carbs and you are already predisposed to be sensitive to them, then you are unwittingly reinforcing your insulin resistance.
LET THE MIDLIFE MIRACLE DIET BE YOUR ANSWER
Have you ever heard of the French expression joie de vivre? To me, it captures everything remarkable about being alive: living life with passion, resolve, clarity of mind, a full heart, and a body brimming with energy and health. The Midlife Miracle Diet not only leads you away from the perils of disease, it leads you toward a life filled with joie de vivre-joy in living!
Like many of my clients, you may be wondering if there is some kind of magic pill, a silver bullet, that will heal all your ills and make you feel great both inside and out. And even though this is not an instant cure, it can be magic. Find out for yourself. All you have to do is follow the four-step program that follows.
The Midlife Miracle Diet came to be named as such because most of the people with the Metabolic Mix-Up or who are fast developing its signs are also entering their middle years, our so-called midlife. But how we define midlife-as both a category and as a group of people-refers to an ever-widening range of people in their sixties, fifties, forties, and some even in their thirties. Though midlife can often feel like a reference to a loss of youth, and even a loss of health, it doesn't have to. Midlife can be the best years of your life.
The men and women in my practice are of varying ages and varying backgrounds. Some are businessmen and -women ready to retire, others have returned home to raise a family, and still others are just starting out in the fashion industry, work at a media company, manage a retail shop, or work on Wall Street. My clients represent an enormous range of people from busy New Yorkers to a woman who lives in a forest outside of Yosemite National Park. Many of these men and women were referred to me by their doctors for nutritional counseling because they needed more than medicine to help treat their high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and aches and pains. Some people came to see me wanting to lose five to ten pounds; others arrived seriously overweight, with at least one hundred pounds to lose. Still others came worried about their apparent need to go on medication for their cholesterol or high blood pressure. But very few of them knew to come because they have a disorder of metabolism that can lead to type 2 diabetes, stroke, or breast cancer.
—from The Midlife Miracle Diet: Save Your Life By Reversing Your Metabolic Mix-Up by Adele Puhn, Copyright © January 2003, Viking Press, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
Note to Readers, ix
PART ONE: YOUR BODY'S CHEMISTRY
Chapter 1. Meet Your Metabolic Mix-Up, 3
Chapter 2. What's Behind Your Metabolic Mix-Up?, 16
Chapter 3. Do You Have the Metabolic Mix-Up?, 31
PART TWO: WALKING THE STEPS
Chapter 4. Get Ready for Your Great Adventure, 51
Chapter 5. Step One: Creating Basic Balance, 73
Chapter 6. Step Two: Becoming Carb Careful, 105
Chapter 7. Step Three: The Supplement Solution, 124
Chapter 8. Step Four: Exercise Euphoria, 141
PART THREE: YOUR LIFE'S ENDLESS RAINBOW
Chapter 9. Mind Games: Transforming Attitudes That Shape Eating Habits,167
Chapter 10. Owning the Program, 177
Chapter 11. "Can I Ever Eat Bread Again?" and Other Questions, 193
A Final Note: Just One More Conversation, 201
Appendix 1: Sample Journal Entries, 205
Appendix 2: Blank Food Journal, 216
For Further Reading, 217
Posted March 16, 2004
For fifty years, I was over-weight but healthy...stats such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar were great! Then I had my blood sugar checked by a friend (recently diagnosed as diabetic) just to make her happy. My finding my blood sugar over 120 was a shock so I purchased this book to get a handle on the blood sugar and try to avoid diabetes. 6 months later, and 29 pounds lighter, I no longer crave white breads, potatoes, donuts, cookies. I eat much less and am aware of what I put in my mouth!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2003
I found this book both useful and inspiring. I recommend it for anyone who has ever had food cravings. Adele Puhn talks to you like a good frined who knows about the food traps that make you feel bad physically and mentally, and leave you with unwanted weight. She provides practical information that is organized in a way that is simple and fun to use. She had a depth of knowledge and spirited enthusiasm which make her suggestions compelling to read and easy to follow.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2003
I've been following the roadmap to better health laid out by the author, Adele Puhn, in this fabulous book for only a few weeks now, and already feel much better than I have in decades. Her guidance and straightforward explanations to the whys and wherefores of how to make changes in the ways we take care of ourselves is absolutely brillant in its understanding of how to avoid many common diseases and illnesses, get to and maintain our ideal weight, and feel and look better than ever before. This book should be required reading in every medical school to give doctors this same understanding so they can actually help their patients achieve optimum health. "The Midlife Miracle Diet" is really for any age...the earlier the better. I am so very grateful to the author for this "miracle"¿¿it's truly a lifesaver!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.