Make Food your Medicine! About my personal journey of discovery
I used to follow the official dietary guidelines promoted by the Heart Foundation and other respectable sources. As I entered my 40s, my health and performance declined. By 45 years, I had gone from a 2:42 marathon runner in my late 20s to barely walking (I passed out a couple of times in the street and had such low blood pressure that I could not give a blood sample without gaining). My blood pressure ranged from high to very low: It was all over the place. I was seeing a cardiologist for an irregular heartbeat and extreme exhaustion. I could no longer run, and there were times at work when I had to ask people to leave my office so I could lie down and rest. It was a distressing time for me.
Since my cholesterol was creeping up while the official guidelines were going down, I took measures to reduce salt, meat, eggs and dairy as per the official dietary advice. Of course, I oft-repeated and followed what I had learned at university: dietary supplements are expensive urine, and we can get all we need from three meals a day.
By default, when reducing or eliminating these unhealthy foods, foods like "cholesterol-lowering" oils, margarine and carbohydrates went proportionately up. Being a health professional dishing our health advice to patients, I was comfortably applying this health advice to myself. How wrong it was!
By the time I turned 50, I was so exhausted I dreaded going to work, and I was the boss! So, I offered the business to my senior employee for a peppercorn price and went home to rest and be house-husband, caring for our youngest boy while my partner, Alofa, went back to work. That was the Friday before 9/11, 2001, when all hell broke loose! What a time to be without a job! However, it was not quite the end of the world, and things have worked well for us.
People who have known me well and for a long time will have noticed that I disappeared from the sporting scene in about 1990, after being quite well-known in running, kayaking, mountain biking and multisport triathlon. As an athlete, I was finished. I'd also had two operations on my left knee, which still hurt every morning. I accepted a knee replacement might be on the menu come my sixth decade of life. I was toast. I'll confess that I felt so exhausted I shed a tear or two on my 50th birthday.
Around five years after selling my business, I was introduced to hair tissue mineral analysis while rebuilding my health-related career. Intrigued, I headed offshore to attend a course or two in HTMA and began experimenting on myself and willing family members. Following what the testing indicated, I began taking a few supplements and eating more eggs, meat, whole cream dairy and salt - the forbidden foods. To my delight and a degree of disbelief, I began to feel better, and I even began to get my competition mojo back again - wow! In contrast to my 50th birthday, I had so much fun on my 60th and drank far too much!
Would you ever run a business without having a set of accounts? Much like having an accounting system for my body, the HTMA testing, especially the repeat tests, made a massive difference to my health because it took much of the guessing about what nutrients I needed and which ones I would be better to avoid or reduce. The testing also showed if any toxic elements were present that might interfere with my health. In my case, I had toxic levels of mercury, most likely from fish consumption. Until then, I blindly followed generalised, one-size-fits-all population guidelines derived from advice from panels of experts who probably knew less than me about human nutrition.
This journey dates back over two decades. My recovery began with several years of rest, beginning in 2001. The lesson here is that restoring and retaining excellent health is not an overnight journey but more a 20-year one and a journey that never ends - not until the day you die - to be exact. I like the idea of staying 20 years ahead of any disease by testing, thus anticipating what might come our way and then taking preventive action. That is what I have been doing, and it seems to work a treat!
Take mountain biking as evidence of this fabulous turnaround in health and performance. Let's look at the 50 km Karapoti race that has been going on for about 30 years. Before my crash and burn, my personal best for this race was 3:12. I accepted years ago that I'd never do any better than that. Several years ago, I smashed the 60-plus record twice, with a personal best of 2:45! And here's the thing: I am in my 70th year and reckon I can reduce that time to 2:42 or less. I predict I'll knock close to an hour off the course's 70-plus record - on a good day - if I give it a go. Furthermore, I am running well, my heart is strong, and my left knee, miraculously, is 100% pain-free. Sometimes, I can barely believe it, but it is for real because the stopwatch does not lie.
Read this and enjoy the photos:
Further evidence of my health renaissance is winning the UCI Masters Mountain Bike World Championships twice and by healthy margins, plus being 2nd in the UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships. Convincing, if you ask me!