My 3 month challenge. No caffeine, no alcohol, no added sugar, gluten free…..

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You have probably read this headline and said, “kill me now!”

This is not going to be some tale of this Brisbane Personal Trainer being holier than thou either btw, but I can tell you that walking away from a party wanting only to wee myself silly because of all the soda water (and not beer) I drank does give a sense of slightly  ‘justified’ superiority because your mind, is so just so damn clear….if nothing else.

Well, no there really is something else and I want to talk about that today. And look before I start ranting about how hard this has been and woe is me, let me just give a minutes silence for a mate of mine who has been alcohol free for the past 3 years – Good on you Damo who did the amazing Jog out of Fog and ran from Brisbane to Sydney to raise money for Cambodia Vision. I don’t imagine this has always been easy for him even though he now looks like someone who never drank in his life. He is also caffeine and gluten free I believe, but not so sure about the sugar. The upshot of it is, that he is the ultimate picture of health compared to how he used to be and he is the happiest I have seen him and I mean genuinely happy, not the temporary ‘happy’ you get from a couple of schooners.

This blog is about my journey with a diet approach that does not come naturally, but is having some unexpected benefits.

Firstly, let me just tell you it’s only been 3 weeks (at the time of starting this article, it is now 10 weeks) but having done a 10 week stint last year I am determined and rather confident to make good on the 3 month pledge. End date of the challenge is June 12 but who’s counting huh? Who knows what happens AFTER this time, but if the results I am beginning to experience continue, I would be pretty stupid to continue the “I can get away with eating or drinking pretty much anything I want” attitude I have sported for many years.

What I am about to share will be no big surprise to any of the nutritional medicine/naturopath/holistic health afficionados out there and may even get a collective “Derrrrrr!” But you know what, not everyone in the mainstream knows or has heard of this stuff, especially from someone else from the main stream. Actually I am probably not mainstream because I exercise regularly, but when it comes to reactive medicine, I was firmly in the camp of the average Jo until only recently, but the truth be known, I never needed to ‘react’ that much because I didn’t  get sick (I’m putting that down to exercise!). But this is not to say I haven’t carried around ‘issues’. I have lived on and off with a low level and sometimes higher level of pain for a lot of years. It is a legacy of an active life now and a sport filled youth. Everything has a price and all that. My problems have centred around musculo-skeletal stuff mostly and there have been quite a few ‘musculo’s’ involved just quietly. If it isn’t my lower back tweaking a little for no apparent reason, it will be my upper back hurting ( a ‘caught’ rib type feeling) each time I take a breath, which makes it a little hard to avoid. Then, I might have weeks of my neck not feeling right, meaning I can’t fully turn in one direction or the other, without restriction and pain. I will play golf and then have a majorly sore inner right forearm for about 5 days after, thanks to an old torn muscle that never quite got better – ”medial epicondylitis” for the anatomy nerds out there. If I play some tennis, I will have a reminder of another torn muscle in my abdominal region on the left side, again for about 5 days. Let’s not forget the lower half of my body either. Just last year I was beginning to get a bursitis in my left hip and in a area called ”pes anserine” located on my right medial side just below the knee.

I can hear more than just a few of you, still not convinced about the joys of regular exercise, screaming in unison, “See, see, I told you that exercise thing was bad for you”. I am not going to sit here and tell you that there aren’t risks and sometimes indeed problems, but for me the upside of great energy and for the most part, no restrictions on what I will have a go at, is far superior to the alternative. Besides, I have been able to manage the above issues quite well with trigger pointing, foam rolling, regular massage and chiropractic treatment, which I consider all to be preventative strategies that pretty much everyone should do. It is true I don’t always nail this routine and yes wait a little bit too long sometimes to be truly preventative. It is just that sometimes the questions I ask of my body, in terms of exercise challenges I take on, are a little complex for it to answer with out the odd splutter and complaint. I’m in my 50’s now I have to keep reminding myself!

But okay back to what I am noticing about my new diet. I will say, just quickly that I am drinking a hell of a lot more water (even if it is soda water a lot of the time) which in itself is going to have a very favourable hydration effect on musculo-skeletal problems but it is my feeling that my current diet challenge is reducing inflammation in my body.

There should have been a drum roll there.

So where do I get off suggesting that something, if not all the items I am forgoing right now, are responsible for my seemingly continual battle with pain? As it turns out there is a bunch of research pointing us towards that very conclusion right now. So mainstreamers, prepare now for a new normal in the coming years, if the masses (and the numbers are growing all the time) from the ubiquitous ‘wellness’ industry build their influence exponentially at the current rate. In a Nostradamus type vein, I see medical centres being replaced with holistic health centres in the not so far off future. It makes far more sense in my mind, as it is far easier and cheaper to prevent, rather than treat, despite what you think about your non-health covered naturopath’s consultation fees. The minefield we all have to navigate I guess is sorting the truth from the false and profit motive driven craziness. But remember one person’s crazy is sometimes another person’s common sense and what works, works regardless of the reason, even if it is placebo. Results are results after all.

So let’s look at some of the research and mechanisms that might be at work in my improving body right now. So when I say ‘improving’ I mean both from a reduced pain point of view, a better physiologically performing angle and also body composition (my body fat has dropped significantly). An extra point worth making here is that not all stuff that works is going to have piles of the highly revered and ‘gold standard’ considered, ‘peer review double blind placebo controlled’ studies done. It is perhaps too early days and given the nature of some of the things we are testing, a very difficult thing to study in a highly controlled way.

I say don’t dismiss your own experience which is what I am doing here and now.

There is something I haven’t shared about my “why” on this whole new 3 month diet thing. No it is not because I am some crazy ego driven Brisbane personal trainer ‘type’ wanting to be known as the best, who likes nothing more than the publicity around the discipline of the ‘challenge’ and the perverse joy of experimenting on myself Instagram style. It’s not a bad thought though, this whole social media navel gazing thing and the marketing opportunity is represents. It is getting harder and harder to stand out these days amongst an absolute smorgasboard of personal training “legends”, often self professed champs with rippling abs on board. I have faced facts though, I am a 51 year old ordinary Aussie bloke who pushes the health and fitness bandwagon like a lot of others because I happen to think it is in fact the holy grail for myself personal then as true convert, yes those around me. I have my stand out points though of course which you may have already noticed :), but I don’t look like Arnie nor do I look great in a bikini. I certainly haven’t trained Obama or put some famous Victoria’s Secret super-model through my trademarked and patented workout. So no, celebrity trainer I am not…yet –  Okay, I’m bit off topic and it was a long winded point too, but I am in fact writing this to explain my support for my wife on her troubled digestive journey and also to see if it can help us both, on what has been a 10 year, heartbreaking and at times excruciatingly painful fertility campaign.

My ‘warrior’ wife has had 5 miscarriages, there is no other word to describe someone who has endured so many losses and continues to get back up and dust herself off for more another attempt. We are pretty much in the territory of unexplained infertility now after also identifying some genetic issues that weren’t helping. We have an hypothesis supported by some of our research that her body  is rejecting, like an immune response, anything it perceives as foreign including the embryos that have implanted both naturally and via IVF. She has strong evidence that both gluten and caffeine are not her friend either from various ailments including a fissure, stomach pain and reflux. Even though she has not been diagnosed as a Celiac, her health is much better gluten and caffeine free, with clearly identifiably and immediate benefits by being off both. If you have read the “Grain Brain” you will see some pretty potent research pointing towards gluten causing all kinds of  problems including infertility. I have never really experienced obvious issues consuming gluten myself nor has coffee done too much bad as far as I can tell. I noticed my heart rate a few weeks back, on our screen in the studio (I was wearing my My Zone heart rate monitoring belt) AND this was after having a pretty strong coffee, at 44 beats per minute. THAT is a pretty low and relaxed heart rate, in fact in the realms of  “bradycardia” which is not actually a good but hoping it is the other possibility, an extremely healthy and fit heart. I am erring on the optimistic side. I would hate to see my resting heart rate if I meditated and didn’t drink coffee. Oh yeah, I have that opportunity now actually. Geez I miss my coffee, at times quite badly. Anyway my perception has always been that I can eat and drink pretty much anything. It didn’t help that a gene test I ran on myself said that I had a liver that was ‘excellent’ at detoxification. If that wasn’t a green light on having a few too many drinks on the odd occasion then I don’t know what was. If you are looking for that green light on drinking don’t. There are too many other negative consequences to over-drinking no matter what the gene test tells you. So forget about that idea right now I tell you! Okay, again a little side tracked….

But what if something I was doing was causing the infertility or setting her up for mis-carriage??

Okay enter the new diet and this self experimentation. Fair warning here too as I am going to get a little personal.

Could my gluten, caffeine, sugar and alcohol laden (might be an overstatement, I don’t usually drink that much!) sperm be the problem and triggering an immune response in her body? We feel that she may have been pregnant even more than the miscarriages suggest, late periods etc. If it is an immune response then potentially I could make myself less foreign by changing my diet to the pure side? It has to be worth a shot. Just 3 months of restriction (the cycle of time needed to produce new sperm) seems like a small sacrifice, especially when I realise how little I have done in the journey and think of the times my wife needed painful needles on a daily basis  and an incredible number of tablets, drugs and other body insulting actions and let’s not forget her gluten, caffeine, lactose, sugar, onion and garlic free diet, which she has been on for over a year. Tough gig no?

Will my little diet experiment work? Who knows? Will I be healthier because of it? 100%

It’s amazing how much good food and drink you can have with these ‘modifications’ shall we call them, rather than restrictions. You just need to remember that modern food has been designed and indeed, engineered to make us want more. It is pretty much drug like, by nature and there is so much evidence that all the preservatives and chemicals are slowly killing us by triggering the big western world diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. I am not going to sit here and tell you that donuts and cadbury’s chocolate taste terrible because we all know they don’t. But if you are the type of person who has little self control (and that is most of us), keep yourself out of harms way and find all natural and body friendly alternatives instead. We are what we eat and your future body and mind will thank you for it I am absolutely convinced, if my experience with pristine eating and living is any indication. Okay maybe not ‘pristine’ but pretty darn healthy!And the possibility of  bringing a healthy new baby to our family may have improved a little because of it.

Who knows? I might even staying eating and living this way. But I am not a big fan, of none of this ever and none of that. Moderation for most things is a good model to live by unless you truly know that some of one particular thing just does not work and unfortunately there are a lot of people in this category these days.

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