I was an undiscriminating foodie – fond of cooking as well as of eating out at every new restaurant that came up in town. Thinking of my body’s intelligence or understanding its nutritional needs never occurred to me – until I was stopped in my tracks by excruciating body pain and general weakness. Blood tests showed my triglycerides reading was 495, while my cholesterol reading was almost 300.
I started popping tablets and going to the gym and this certainly helped. But I also began my journey in search of health and wellness. From more than one source of alternative health, I heard of the importance of eating fruits in the morning – and switched to fruits for breakfast. Coming across “Fit for Life” by Harvey and Marylin Diamond was just what I needed to fit more pieces into the jigsaw puzzle that health was. Even today, though I do not follow the programme totally, I continue eating fruits everyday and focus on what I eat and how I eat. Doing all of these and understanding my body’s natural cycles, has helped me manage with minimum medication. The recipes in the book by Marylin Harvey are mainly for the western palate – I have not really used them. But I have learnt to be a foodie of a different kind – of delicious wellness foods. I have begun conducting food programmes using Indian recipes I keep learning and improvising!
Fit for Life has been immensely useful to me as a resource – I like it because it is an easy read. The great thing about the book and the program is that it appeals to one’s common sense, which makes it easy to have faith in trying out the programme. The world today has put too much faith in technology that we have forgotten that certain basic functions of our body are of a purely natural order. Nutritional science is incredibly complex at one level if we try to understand it fully. Yet, it is easier to live in a way such that we get excellent nutrition, contrary to what the scientists make it out to be.
The authors have briefly acknowledged gratitude to “the teachers of Siddha Yoga whose combined efforts helped make this information available to the public” and mention a mysterious person who initiatedlifestyle and a way of thinking, which helped him become more healthy and vibrant. More elaboration of these sources – and others such as Naturopathy, which work on similar principles – would have given more depth to the book
Harvey introduces the Fit for Life programme not as a diet (eating less) or a dogmatic regimen but as a way of eating well and a way of life. Those who are tired of working hard to manage their weight can learn to eat and enjoy food, feel satisfied, and maintain their body weight. The promise is a shift from “living to eat” to “eating to live”, made credible by the fact that the authors themselves practice the principles they talk about. In fact, Harvey says he was himself obese when in 1970 he learnt of the simple but amazing basics of losing weight; he lost 50 lbs (over 22 kgs) in the first month and began his journey of well-being. Fascinated with the simplicity of this approach to staying healthy, he worked with his mentor for three years and began creating the ‘Fit for Life’ programme.
Harvey believes that it is not what you eat that makes the difference but it is when you eat and in what combination - the When and How of eating. The principles outlined are based on the Natural Hygiene approach (similar to Naturopathy) which works in harmony with Nature, congruent with a vital, organic existence. The focus is understanding our bodies’ enormous healing powers in becoming well and staying healthy; its credo is ‘Health is produced only by healthful living’.
Some of the basic principles of the Fit for Life programme are given below:
The Natural Body Cycles
Our bodies are controlled by the sun as is the whole of life. The basic bodily functions follow a natural daily cycle, which has three aspects:
Appropriation: Time during which we should take food – Noon to 8.pm
Assimilation: When we extract and absorb nutrients from the food – 8.pm to 4.am
Elimination: When we get rid of what we don’t use – 4.am to noon
A proper understanding of these cycles helps to know when to eat and what to eat.
Through the elimination cycle, from 4 am to noon, eating fruits and fruit juices is beneficial for the body as fruits demand the least amount of energy for digestion. Eating anything else during this time interferes with the elimination process since energy has to be diverted for the digestive process, and this adds to the toxicity and excess weight in the body.
The appropriation cycle from noon to 8 pm is our eating time. It is best that we eat our heaviest meal at noon and the lightest in the evening. Since the assimilation cycle happens between 8 pm and 4 am, an early meal is recommended so that the food leaves the stomach before one retires to bed. The assimilation process takes place best when we are at rest after which the body is ready once more
for the elimination cycle which starts from 4 am.
In modern science, metabolic imbalance is the term used for what Natural Hygiene calls Toxemia. Toxins are produced naturally in the normal course of the digestive cycle and eliminated through the bowels, bladder, skin or lungs. They can also be produced as by-products of unsuitable foods / badly combined foods or foods not properly digested, appropriated or assimilated by the cells of the body.
How do we get toxins removed from the body? Three easy-to-follow tools to cleanse the body and maintain a good environment for cell health are outlined in three separate chapters.
1. The principle of high water content –This is to maintain metabolic balance and eliminate toxins from the body on a daily basis. Our bodies have 70% water, and digestion of a diet, which has approximately 70% water content, is easier: which means fruits and vegetables should predominate in our diets. Fruits and vegetables that are high in water content contain all the nutritional requirements of the body and are naturally suited to cleanse the inside of the bodies because they can wash the toxic waste from inside the body instead of clogging it. We need to be conscious of the need for cleansing “inside of our bodies”
Drinking water doesn’t help in the removal of toxic wastes because water does not carry the enzymes that the water in fruits and vegetables do in our bodies. To stay healthy and be vibrantly alive, we have to eat food that is “ALIVE.”
2. Principle of Proper food combining:: This is ancient Indian wisdom. It is based on an empirical understanding that the human digestive system is designed in such a way that it can more easily digest one concentrated food in the stomach at a time. Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats are the concentrated foods, while only fruits and vegetables can really be considered live, low-density foods.
For instance, meat and potatoes, eggs and toast, bread and cheese, or chicken and noodles are a combination of two ‘concentrated’ foods combined and hence take more energy to digest. Properly combined food will eliminated from the stomach in three hours to be absorbed and assimilated in the small intestine, while an improperly combined meal can remain in the stomach from eight to twelve hours. According to Natural Hygiene, Naturopathy etc., improper food combining is the top contributing factor for creating toxemia and almost all diseases in the system, including heart diseases, diabetes and cancer.
The principle suggests: that the food going through the stomach should remain in the stomach for a maximum of about three hours with no putrefaction or fermentation in the intestines. Eating two concentrated foods will cause the food to rot, thus drastically affecting the elimination and assimilation cycles. Harvey says that animals in nature don’t combine their foods improperly; they eat only one food at a time. Therefore, they are more likely to experience a higher level of health than us.
3. The principle of correct fruit combination: The authors of ‘Fit for Life’ consider fruits to be the most important food one can possibly eat. From the time you wake up in the morning until about noon, consume nothing but fresh fruits and fresh juice. It is essential to eat fruits on an empty stomach. It helps in losing weight and detoxifying your system. Fruits are to be consumed separately because the instant fruit meets the food and digestive juices in the stomach, it begins to rot. Fruit allows the digestive tract to rest, thereby freeing up the energy that can be used in cleansing, repair and weight loss.
Finally, about what not to eat – the authors passionately argue against the eating of dairy and meats of all kinds since they are prime creators of toxins in our body, and hence the source of various diseases as well as obesity. Meats and dairy mostly come from sick animals kept alive in factory farms with antibiotics and other chemicals and are to be avoided as much as processed foods whose shelf life and taste are improved using chemical additives.
Just the principle of eating three to four servings of fruits until noon can work miracles with your sense of health and well-being. Try it if you are not already hooked on Nature’s best gift to us!
Tips: Eating fruit the right way...
Eating fruits everyday can make a big difference to our health, complexion and if needed, can help us lose weight
1. Eat only fresh fruit or freshly made fruit juice, not tinned or canned fruits/ juice.
2. Eat fruits on an empty stomach or at least three hours after eating anything else.
3. How much fruit to eat? It is ideal to eat about one kilogram of fruits every day divided into 3 to 4 servings; papaya, guava and bananas are great - exotic fruits do not make a great difference, although eating a variety of seasonal.
4. After eating fruits, wait for half an hour before you eat anything else, so that the fruit does not mix with anything else and putrefy.
5. As far as possible, eat each kind of fruit separately, especially melons which digest faster than other fruits.