Thursday, February 7, 2013

Does the Wahls diet actually help with MS?

Or is Dr. Wahls's incredible recovery a result of something else?

Having spent most of my time lately trying to learn about the Wahls MS diet, I've read a lot of criticism from people who tried the diet for a couple weeks, as well as criticism from others who claim to have been on the diet for months or years with no results. Some of these people reveal that they haven't followed the diet strictly, while others whine about how it's too hard to give up all the bad foods at once. Some attribute their hesitance to "gluten withdrawal."

Gluten withdrawal? Really?

All I ate for five months before starting the Wahls diet was deep dish pizza. I'm not exaggerating. Excluding Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, and the day of my aunt's funeral, I ate a pizza every day between mid-August 2012 and mid-January 2013. There were some days that I ate another small meal (that wasn't pizza), but for most of that five-month period I ate one meal each day, and that meal was a 9" deep dish pizza. So if there's such a thing as gluten withdrawal, I think it's safe to say that I should know all about it, because I'm one of the biggest gluten junkies there has ever been.

So it must have been really hard for me to stop chasing the gluten dragon, right?

No, it wasn't. I just flipped a switch in my mind, and I stopped eating pizza and almost everything else that's not part of the Wahls diet. And within a week of flipping that switch, I jumped fully into the diet. I haven't cheated yet, either. And if that's not enough, I now regularly eat several foods that totally disgusted me a week ago. And there are more of those foods on the way.

I had been thinking about trying the Wahls diet for a couple months before I actually started. During those couple months, I never tried to trick myself into believing I was actually on the diet when I wasn't. I didn't tell anyone I'm trying to change my diet, or even that I intended to change my diet. Rather, I just wasn't on the diet yet, and I wasn't sure if I'd really ever have the balls or discipline to actually start the diet, because I love pizza and because I love teaching myself how to make better pizza, which you can only do by making a lot of pizza and eating a lot of pizza.

Even after I stopped eating pizza and started eating mostly foods that are allowed on the Wahls diet, I still didn't trick myself into believing I had actually begun the diet. Because I hadn't. You're either on the diet or you're not, and if you eat a bowl of Corn Flakes with milk every couple nights after your stomach starts growling for a snack, you're not on the diet. And the way I see it, even if you never cheat, if you don't eat enough of the three or four specific kinds of food Dr. Wahls advises, you're not on the Wahls diet. You may be on a caveman diet, but the Wahls diet is different enough from the caveman diet that, to me, they are very different diets.

Truth is, like every junkie who wants to quit being a junkie, I wanted one more pizza fix. But unlike every prospective ex-junkie, I knew I was going to continue taking my full pizza dosage each day for a couple more months before I'd actually consider giving myself that final pizza fix. Not because I was physically addicted to gluten or any other component of pizza, but because sometimes you just need a little time to prepare yourself mentally for anticipated major lifestyle changes.

I said goodbye to pizza a couple weeks ago. It wasn't very hard to do because I was in misery, which was probably a direct result of my undying love for pizza. In fact, I intended to make three more pizzas before beginning the Wahls diet, since I still had enough mozzarella for three more pizzas. But I just didn't make them. For some reason, instead of continuing to eat what I love more than anything, I started eating more like humans are supposed to eat. Not completely, though.

Even after I started eating better, I never set a date to flip the switch and begin eating right full-time. Rather, I just realized one day that the time was right. In fact, I started the diet before I actually made the decision to start the diet. And that happened a few days earlier than I expected it to happen. I started the diet last Friday.

So after following the Wahls diet strictly for 6 days, is my MS cured? Of course not. Are any of my symptoms better? No, I can't say for sure that I'm physically any better yet.

But here's what I can say for sure: I can say that my brain started working much better after only a few days on the diet. I have much more motivation to do the things I should be doing, like researching this diet and preparing my own meals. A week ago I had to rely on my mom for my meals because I just didn't have the energy to cook and because my brain couldn't put everything together. A week ago I also looked several years older than I look right now.

A week ago I felt defeated. I was having major mood swings and I had a lot of obsessive thoughts about some girl who's been stuck in my head and my heart for over eight years. Not now.

Yes, I still think about her every day, but it's not the same. I don't feel crazy anymore, and I don't really care if she responds to my most recent email. Yes, I'd like her to respond and I'd like her to keep being friendly with me, but it's just not very important to me anymore, or at least right now. She knows how I feel, and she's known it for eight years. She knows she was my main inspiration for walking 3,500 miles across the United States. She knows more than she should be allowed to know, and the only explanation I can come up with for all of this is that I must love her. (She knows that, too.)

But like a healthy person, I'm starting not to care that she doesn't seem to feel the same about me. I'm starting not to care that she doesn't seem interested in my friendship, either. And it's all because I've started eating what people are suppposed to be made of.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

A lot of people seem to think this diet is supposed to be some kind of hit-or-miss magic trick or something that was discovered by accident. They seem to think you can just follow part of the diet (and ignore the rest), and everything's supposed to get better. They think if it doesn't cure you in two weeks, the diet must be a bunch of BS.

That's not how it works. This diet is merely implimentation of what should be common sense or even instinct. We are what we are specifically because of what our ancestors ate. Once upon a time, people who chose a different diet died young, without reproducing. Their genes and their genetic predispositions died with them. Because of how our ancestors ate, we are exactly what we're supposed to be. If we keep eating the kinds of things they ate, we will stay healthy and we will survive. Unfortunately, most of us don't eat the kinds of things our distant ancestors ate. Most of us eat almost entirely food that isn't actually food, and most of us are sick in one way or another precisely because our food is not food.

You are what you eat, and most of us eat shit.

Do you want to be made of shit, or do you want to be made of person? I'm already made of shit--or as doctors say, I have multiple sclerosis--but I want to start being made of person instead of shit. That's why I began this diet, that's why I started eating foods I've never wanted to eat, and that's why I haven't cheated on the diet. I'm not cured or even fixed yet, but I'm already seeing results.

It took me a lot more than a couple weeks to destroy my body, so naturally it's gonna take a lot more than a couple weeks to repair myself.

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