Once again and as always, my blogs are aimed at those folks with chronic illness and eating issues – not you everyday folks humming along eating whatever and feeling great. But no matter which category you fall into feel free to read on. It’s just that those with the more serious, life threatening chronic illnesses and obesity/eating disorders will be more apt to relate with something that could sound extreme to the rest of you. And this is a particularly sensitive topic. Because it’s part of the fabric of the current American dream (or nightmare, depending on how you look at it).
Live a Little.
It’s one of the deadliest slogans of all time for those of us facing life-threatening illness or obesity-related conditions. It’s also deadly for those of us simply stuck in the pleasure trap and living lives of quiet desperation and not sure how to get out.
And yet it sounds so innocent. Come on! Live a little. You only live once!
Today I wrote this blog based on a message I sent earlier in the day to two of my group coaching clients, women who are buddying up to do my alkaline plant-based program, the same program that keeps me in remission from late-stage neurological Lyme. (I do a raw version but it can be raw or high raw). We have all found that we felt better almost instantaneously by systematically packing more greens into every part of our day – no matter what kind of plant-based diet we were eating. So if this information is not helpful to you on your journey, then please ignore it. These women are warriors. So if you are a warrior too you might like it. (If not go see the new Wonder Woman movie STAT and become a warrior! Wonder Woman can change your life!)
I’m dropping the vision of myself as someone who screws up from time to time and makes it ok. It’s no longer ok. (Only took me 52 years to figure it out). I see everyone who is successful at meeting their goals NOT having the mindset of “live a little” and “it’s ok to fail.” For me it’s no longer ok. It’s life and death. I must succeed. For myself. For my kids. In order to live the life I want to live.
This is what I have observed over the years. People who are not meeting their goals tend to have somewhere in their psyche the mindset of “I’m human” and therefore it’s ok to “live a little.” When they fall they hear again and again from well meaning people in groups: “Hey, we’re only human. It’s ok. We all need to live a little.” Sounds so sweet. People like you when you say that to them. But for me it’s a form of seduction toward my baser instincts. It is not the mindset of overcomers and the people I see winning. (There was even one raw group that seemed to have “live a little” as its foundational premise. People in there were very busy living a little and finding lots of friendly company as they got sicker and larger).
We often hear it from others. But mostly, we tell ourselves to live a little. Before each lapse we tell ourselves in some way or another to “just live a little.” And I understand that mindset because I’ve had it come and go over the years in my battle with late-stage neurologic Lyme disease. Food is comforting, after all, and like many Americans it was one of my greatest sources of comfort throughout most of my life. It was a drug. And that’s how I found myself in this pickle called Lyme.
(Yet another subject for a blog: chronic Lyme is the result of lifestyle choices and toxicity levels more than it is the result of a bug bite. Notice I said “chronic” Lyme not “acute” Lyme. Look up “acidosis”).
Live a little is the great American excuse. However, it’s not one I want to use any more.
I did the live a little mindset and got 90-95 percent well from Lyme and co-infections. Mostly, I would eat a raw or high raw low-fat vegan diet and then veer off into “healthy” high fat vegan eating that could quickly spiral into not-so-healthy vegan eating. I had just enough relapses to keep me a few inches from the finish line.
Today I want to live a lot by no longer living a little and veering off plan just because friends or family are encouraging me or I’ve got some excuse in my head.
The older you are the harder it is to not fall off into live-a-little land. We’ve got the deep grooves in our behavior patterns. There’s that place you always go with your husband on Friday nights (the little oasis that you look forward to, your reward, your safe place each week), that Thai restaurant where I meet my best friend once a month that has the best pad thai in town, our girls-night-out Gardenburgers and fries at the brew pub. The best onion rings at that place on the coast. Live a little. Everyone at that table will say it to you if you give them the cue. Forget about what happens the next day when you can barely move and the scale went up a few pounds. And you have to start over. Again. Your friends who told you to live a little don’t have chronic illness so they don’t know the extreme pain we can get into by jumping in and joining the party. They may not know the hopelessness of the weeklong binge that that night out triggered. But we do.
At True North Health we learned that all restaurants essentially serve the same thing: fat, sugar and salt, which amounts to a big dopamine hit. It’s a drug! But if we are willing to learn and execute some new behaviors we will replace that dopamine with serotonin, the joy drug in our brain that comes with eating a healthy diet – and soon the the dopamine high is replaced with serotonin bliss. But most of us never get to that point. We can’t give up the fix because we don’t realize there is something better. We tell ourselves our social food gatherings are about connection but really, for many of us, they are about the hit. There are so many other ways to connect that don’t involve harming ourselves. But most of us never enter into that paradise so we can’t imagine such a life. So we carry on.
Yes, it’s counterintuitive to prepare your own food or bring extra produce into a restaurant to fatten up those too-small salads. But after about a week it’s just a fact of life and the pay off is that you get to start living a lot by feeling energetic, vibrant and happy rather than fat, sick and nearly dead like everyone else hitting middle age.
Where does live a little get us as a society? Too all the places most Americans go every day. It gets us tired in the afternoon, fatigued “because we are getting old and that’s just what old is,” cranky, achy and itchy (you wouldn’t believe the rashes that are sent to me via Lava Love channels, the eczema, dermatitis and acne, all the result of living a little and not quite sticking to plan).
Live a little is the menopause symptoms (heat flashes and fatigue) that women my age are certain they have to endure because someone who had never experienced the freedom of a well executed plant-based diet told them they had to go through it. It’s just part of your life as a woman. (No it’s not!) Live a little is inflammation. And inflammation is at the root of every human dis-ease, from cancer and heart disease to depression and anxiety.
You are welcome to hold onto live a little and use it some more. But I want to be free today because I know what freedom is and I want to stay there.
Focus on the solution and the solution gets bigger. That has always been my slogan for healing. If we focus on the problem the problem gets bigger. But if we focus on the solution the solution gets bigger. So I had to take a close look at the people rocking it in terms of health (it’s all in the eyes, the clear bright white eyes) on social media. One of the things they have in common is they no longer have the live a little mentality. That’s how they became the people rocking it. You will not hear videos telling you to live a little from Melissa Raimondi, Tanny Raw, Ted Carr, Chef A.J. or Dr. Alan Goldhamer.
At the other end of the spectrum there are vegan and raw vegan ketogenic folks using that diet to heal Lyme (very nicely I might add) and they are also not telling you to go live a little. If you listen closely they are all telling you to stay on plan without mistakes (Matt Monarch repeats that) and to have patience if you want to achieve the results they are getting. By the way, I have gone into ketosis during many water fasts and know the incredible power it has to heal Lyme – so I don’t put down those who swear by vegan ketogenisis. Learn more before you slam something. Ketogenisis literally eats the pathogens and parasites that cause Lyme. We can’t live on a water fast and care for the kids. But we can drink green juice and eat avocados from time to time and heal deeply. I honor everyone trying to be healthy at all ends of the vegan spectrum. For me it’s not a lifestyle but it is a great cleanse and I respect its merits.
By giving up oh-so-American “live a little” mindset you get to live a lot. I heard it framed that way by Robert Lockhart and it stuck. When you give up live a little you get to live a lot.
Living a lot means having the body of your dreams inside and out, having the energy to take care of your family and get to the gym, seeing your businesses and careers grow, following through on your volunteer commitments and experiencing happy, balanced emotions and self love most of the time. (It’s hard to truly love yourself when you are disgusted with yourself thanks to your “live a little” lapses over and over and over).
The “live a little” mindset kills.
All of those people clogging up our ER’s, ICUs and hospital rooms would have told you to live a little. They were living a little every day. And maybe dieting in between. Until they decided to live a little again.
Live a little is the deep fried stuff, the cheese and crackers, the processed foods, muffins and cookies and ice cream cheats. It’s the all you can eat vegan Indian buffet and the Chipoltles fuck ups and the lard filled beans at your favorite Mexican place that you keep forgetting to ask the server about because you know the reality is not good. It’s the vegan eggrolls and the justified chips that may or may not be deep fried. (They are always deep fried). It’s being shamed by your favorite aunt because you won’t try her stuffed mushrooms and she wants you to live a little! And you do it and die a little bit.
We live a little at restaurants, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. And usually sooner than later we pay the price as these lapses become a habit. And if we are chronically ill we cannot begin to heal at the deepest levels and achieve real freedom and health until we stop all this living a little nonsense.
Nobody tells you this part when you start. Or maybe you block it out. These people who achieved greatness stopped cheating at some point. Not once during my stay at True North Health in Santa Rosa eight years ago did Goldhamer and his pals tell me to remember to “live a little and don’t take this so seriously. Food isn’t the real issue.” With the chronically ill patients they are seeing every day food is, in fact, the foundation for the new lives they are trying to give them. They knew that half-baked mentality would lead to my demise. And it did. Eventually I had to go all the way. Abstinence.
Again, this blog is for those among us who are fat, sick and nearly dead and who want to change. (The rest of you, I beg you, please don’t ask me in the comments what I eat in a day. I eat plants. I eat raw and I’m not always able to answer every question so let’s skip that one. And like the rest of you I’m still trying to figure everything out. But this morning, once and for all, I decided to chuck this niggling little concept that lives in my brain like a little evil cupcake-addicted troll).
It’s for those of you who woke up this morning knowing in your heart you must change.
It’s for those who do not want the next decade to be the same as the last decade.
It’s for the “last gaspers” as we call them in 12 step circles, those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Don’t get me wrong. You can use live a little in the early days – those first few years – and still lose those first 100 pounds, still heal a lot of stuff. But if live a little is part of your permanent emotional reality, pretty soon it will bite you in the ass. Eventually, you’ll either get stuck or reverse. You’ll have the same body next year as you do today or you will grow even bigger, even sicker. Another New Year will come and go.
With Lyme you can stop the seizures and stabbing nerve pain and go back to work on the high raw live a little plan. But if you’ve done the real work and caught a glimpse of true health you come to realize you can’t stay there without saying goodbye to that live a little/die a lot deal.
So today, rather than choosing to live a little I choose to live in the solution. (All of the good stuff comes from Alcoholics Anonymous, I swear). So to paraphrase Lockhart again, “When you live a little you live…a little.” Meaning both the length of your life and your quality of life are cut short.
But when you live in the solution you live a lot. And you do this by giving up live a little. In return you get a whole new life, the “keys to the kingdom” as they say in AA. Without our health we have nothing. And conversely, when you have health you have everything, the greatest wealth there is, and outer conditions become less important.
My whole world is my health.
And we haven’t even talked about the spiritual benefits. That’s for another blog.
I want to live a lot. How about you?
If you would like to learn more about my very affordable alkaline plant based group and buddy-system programs (or individual programs) for reversing disease and losing weight visit www.elisabethdunhamhealth.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Elisabeth Dunham is a certified nutrition coach and founder of Lava Love a vegan and organic line of bath product made from Oregon volcanoes. To purchase her line of detoxifying and pain relieving spa products and CBD hemp oils visit www.lavaloveusa.com
Or call/text 503-926-4654
If you would like to try our new CBD oil (which helped me get through detox on a raw diet and helped alleviate many of my symptoms over time, visit: Lava Love USA!