Friday, November 15, 2019

The Clever Guts Diet: How to Revolutionize Your Body from the Inside Out (2017), Book Review


The Clever Guts Diet: How to Revolutionize Your Body from the Inside Out (2017) by Dr Michael Mosley

"All disease begins in the gut," says Hippocrates of Kos (460-370 BC), Greek physician, the father of Western medicine. Based on Dr Michael Mosley's book, Hippocrates was right! Gut, the not-so-glamorous organ of the human body, plays important role in extracting energy from our food, accounts for most of our immune system and produces lots of essential hormones that influence everything from our appetite to our mood. Not only all (I think, most) disease begins in the gut, but good health also somewhat begins in the gut. Deep buried in our intestines, the gut is "made up of the same cells, neurons, which are found in the brain" and "there are over 100 million neurons [in it], as many as you would find in the brain of a cat," write Dr Michael. Technically, the gut is our 'second brain’ (I have a 'gut feeling' about this). Whenever I see a cat now, I imagine its brain is neurotically almost the same numbers as my gut!

The heroes inside our gut are called microbes. Dr Michael explains: "Until recently the world of the microbiome was a dark, dank and private one. Down there live creatures that have never seen the light of day, more than 50 trillion of them, at least 1000 different species, a richer diversity of life than you would find in a rainforest." Astounding! (this fact reminds me of Giulia Enders' Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ). If you study the gut and microbes inside our body and how it influences our decisions in some ways, you will wonder, as human beings do we really have free-will? That's a good philosophical question, right? …for another time. By the way, microbes are called "Old Friends" because they are always with us since the beginning and are essential for our health. In this book, Dr Michael explores the kingdom of the microbiome first by self-experimentations, find the reliable and latest scientific researches, share stories and end with how to improve, heal and 'help' our good "Old Friends" in the most practical ways.

It is said that junk foods and overuse of antibiotics (in the animal meats, especially. Probably in Malaysia we are slightly safer than that of the Western countries like America and British. But we never know for sure) have wiped our many 'good' gut bacteria, leading to a very modern phenomenon of allergies, coeliac diseases, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity. We need to nurture and create good conditions in our gut to make sure that 'good' bacteria (hard to pronoun names I tell you) are always available and lively in our body for optimum health. How to do it? There are lots of suggestions in the book, but basically:

1) Make Your Biome More Diverse. The more different types of plants you eat, the more diverse your microbiome. In short, eat more plants. Avoid junk foods and anything to do with antibiotics (as I said, this we can't be sure. So, minimize your intake of meats). Get your hands dirty like gardening or exercise outdoor can expose you to good bacteria. Just don’t be overexposed…

2) Nourish the Gut with Food Boosters. To borrow Dr Mike Dow's Diet Rehab term, 'booster', is referring to food (and activity) that is good for you. Here Dr Michael outlines such as olive oil, oily fish, fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, home-made yogurt and fermented foods. These will put a smile on our “Old Friends.” All of these foods, I think, must be taken in moderation and based on your body needs. I suggest you experiment with it and read more about it because as you know, information can differ. Other ways to nourish your biome are intermittent fasting, exercise regularly and have a good sleep.

3) Avoid Gut-Killers Foods. Top of Michael's list is sugar and processed food. Besides sugar in general, artificial sweeteners also must be avoided or reduced drastically. As for my own personal practice, I avoid fast foods and snacks. High-fat, trans-oil, high-sugar and bad-carbs are a no-no game. Not only they will kill 'good' bacteria, but they also can promote the growth of 'bad' bacteria in our gut. Resulted in what? Bad health and excessive weight (let's be honest here, once in a while, I eat at the fast-food restaurants and chew some snacks. I don't make it a habit though).

I'm familiar with the works of Dr Michael Mosley, doctor and medical journalist, because I watched some of his TV documentaries especially my favourite The Story of Science: Power, Proof and Passion (2010) Documentary. He is curious, clever and a good storyteller. I'm interested in the realm of health only recently this year especially after I read Spartan Up! I share Dr Michael's hope and dream that the future of eating healthy is bright even though there are lots of counterfeits at the moment. He concludes, "Keeping your biome properly fed and cared for is definitely worthwhile. If you look after all those friendly microbes then they will look after you. We are at the start of what I am convinced is a whole new way of approaching and understanding nutrition, one that could change the way we treat a wide range of diseases, from obesity to depression. This is just the beginning – there is so much more to come." Gut feeling tells me that this can be true. 


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
Blog: https://www.richardangelus.me/                  

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Diet Rehab: 28 Days to Finally Stop Craving the Foods That Make You Fat (2011), Book Review


Diet Rehab: 28 Days to Finally Stop Craving the Foods That Make You Fat (2011) 

by Dr Mike Dow

In March 2010, the Scripps Research Institute release a ground-breaking study (read page 15-16) that find rats who were fed high-fat, high-sugar diets such as bacon and chocolate (lucky rats!) developed full-brown food addictions such as drug addictions. Oh ya, they gave cocaine to the rats too. Amazingly, the food had altered their brain chemistry. Because of this, these rats – overweight and food-addicted – desire for more and more 'junk' food to experience pleasure or at least, just to feel normal. "Now here's the even scarier part," writes Dr Mike, a psychology expert on addictive behaviours, disordered eating and food addictions, "After cocaine-addicted rats stopped taking the drug, it took only 2 days for their brain chemistry to return to normal. For the food-addicted rats in the food study, though, their brain chemistry took 2 weeks to return to normal. In other words, food habits affected their brain MORE than drugs in some ways!" Now, that is scary!

Let me repeat: Food addictions alter brain chemistry the same as cocaine addictions but it took longer for food addictions to recover. Mind-blowing! In this book, Dr Mike focuses on two main brain chemicals that affect our food intakes, body weight and wellbeing, namely - dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is the pleasure, excitement, 'fall in love' and energizer chemical. If you're low in dopamine, you'll be listless, sad and feel lonely. Concerning food addictions, the more you eat high-fat foods, the more doses of dopamine you'll get to get 'high.' But the more you feed yourself with extra fat, neurons that release, receive and keep your dopamine moving become overloaded, then damaged. Thus, you need greater and greater quantities of dopamine 'junk' foods to feel normal again. This will create a downward spiral cycle of your food addictions. "The more you eat, the more you want." Serotonin, on the other hand, is feeling calm, peaceful and positive chemical. If you're low in serotonin, you'll feel anxious, fearful and perhaps depressed. You'll crave for high-sugary and sweet foods and the vicious cycle of the downward spiral will happen. Your craving for foods is the response of your craving for dopamine and serotonin boosts (among other important brain chemicals). You eat to feel calm when you're nervous, sad or depressed. Weight gain is the by-product.

There are two hallmarks of addiction: 1) Tolerance. "When you keep needing more to get the same high", and 2) Withdrawal. "The pain of giving up an addictive substance that the body has come to rely on." Any diet programs will have to face these two obstacles. And so, Dr Mike introduces his Diet Rehab program. His approach to addiction is based on 'gradual detox' in which "you begin by adding foods that will boost your serotonin and dopamine levels before you even cut back on anything." This is well illustrated in The Dr Oz Show (watch YouTube Dr Mike Dow's 28-Day Plan to Kick Cravings). Gradual detox is based on the understanding that it takes a month (about 28 days) for the human brain to create a habit. So, during Diet Rehab, you need to gradually replace "pitfall" foods, activities and thought patterns with "boosters." There are lots of examples of pitfalls and boosters listed in the book. I love the secret of Diet Rehab because it deals with not only the food that you eat, but also the activities that you do, and the thought patterns that you keep. It can be summed up in two-sentence, says Dr Mike:

1) First add booster foods (more greens and healthy foods) and booster activities (take a walk, exercise, sing, etc.) to your life

2) Then gradually reduce pitfall foods (saturated/trans- fat, high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, etc.) and pitfall thoughts ("I'm not good enough", "I'm always a failure", etc.)

What I love about this book is that Dr Mike gives good suggestions and science-based reasons for what, why and went we behave in certain ways that are stealing our lives. My favourite is Part 3 entitled Free Yourself from Food Addiction where he talks about obsessive eating, emotional eating and binge eating. This part alone is worth your money and time reading it. I bought this book for only RM10 (on sale) and I learned a great deal about the psychology of food addictions and behaviours and how to overcome them. To be honest, I didn't follow the 28-Day Diet Rehab Programme but I watch carefully what I eat, adding more booster activities and keep my thought patterns in check. If you have an eating disorder or eating emotionally (if chronic, check with your doctor), I highly recommend this book. Dr Mike has dozens of exercises that can help you to understand yourself better and how to deal with it.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
Blog: https://www.richardangelus.me/                                                                                                                 
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

As A Man Thinketh #6 How to Overcome Doubt and Fear


"Thoughts of doubt and fear can never accomplish anything. They always lead to failure"
(James Allen, As A Man Thinketh)

I think it's Napoleon Hill who said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." When we spend inordinate amounts of time fearing something or event in the future (not happened yet), many times that which we fear comes upon us. When it does, we wonder why it happens to us, when in reality, we are responsible for the most part for our troubles. It all started with a thought of doubt. Then it causes an emotion of fear, which manifests itself physically as anxiety. Anxiety robs us of our power, energy, and focus. Severe anxiety will not only mess our minds but also undermine our health – and it's all brought on by a thought of doubt. It "can never accomplish anything."

There are three (3) basic ways that help me overcome thoughts of doubt. First, I change my mind about doubt and keep it changed. If I doubt whether I'm going to have enough money to make it to the end of the month, I change my mind about it. When doubt knocks, I pray and affirm to myself that: "God will always provide for me. He is good. And I always find a way to have enough of what I need." Dan Brule advised, "If you are going to doubt anything in life, doubt your limitations."

Secondly, overcome doubt and fear with massive actions. Do the thing you fear and fear will disappear (rhyming, huh?). "Inaction breeds doubt and fear," writes Dale Carnegie, "Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. go out and get busy." This action-oriented mindset will always work! Trust me. Thirdly, replace fear with faith. Some people say fear and faith cannot co-exist. I disagree. They can co-exist. What's important is which one is greater? If my fear is greater than my faith, it will eventually fail. But if my faith is greater than my fear, success is my inevitable future. Bob Proctor puts it nicely: "Faith and fear demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose." Think about it!


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

What's So Amazing About Grace? (1997) by Philip Yancey, BOOK REVIEW



What's So Amazing About Grace?
(1997) by Philip Yancey

What's so good about this book? Yancey ignites my understanding of God's grace and challenges me to be a dispenser of grace in my life and faith. When my friend died due to cancer, I was very frustrated but God helps me through Yancey's writing to "wrestle with God" as Jacob did when I read Where Is God When It Hurts? When I was having the crisis of faith regarding the historicity of Jesus' and the Bible, one of the books that helped me was The Jesus I Never Knew. I'm not a Yancey fan or have read every book by him, but when I do, it is timely. The same goes with What's So Amazing About Grace? When I read it, I reflect on myself and there were times (recently) when I'm un-graceful toward others. I called myself Christian, that means I'm the recipient of God's grace for the Scripture says "by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8) and yet, I'm behaving like morally-righteous believer. This book is easy to read, but hard to swallow. It is old yet still urgent. It is intellectually satisfying but with a cost: by God's Spirit, I can and must reveal the grace the world is searching for!

When Nicky Gumbel asked "What is grace?" during an interview, Philip Yancey said that he tries to explain it throughout the book, but if he were to give a definition, he said and wrote in this book: "Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God loves me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God's family." I love this definition. Grace doesn't depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us. We can read about this truth all over the New Testament. It's not new! "In Christian theology," explains Yancey, "Jesus reversed [the] ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished. Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost." Grace, the last best word, is so desperately needed in the world today.

The church, of all places, has abused this truth. Sadly, some (if not, most) churches communicate un-grace by how we treat sinners (of different kinds), apply laws and moral legalism, judgmental and by its lack of unity. In the book, Yancey points out about his childhood church (I recommend reading his shorter book entitled Church: Why Bother?) was very racist, and other heart-breaking stories that people who have been and are in the church today reading this book would agree to some degree. I'm part of the church and so, I too, act in un-grace ways. Christians are more concern (rightly so) about homosexuality than divorce; attending religious activities than attend to AIDS patients; and quick to judge with open eyes than to listen with open ears. There are times for everything – love and hate, justice and mercy, forgiveness and punishment – but the church must remember that "dispensing God's grace is the Christian's main contribution." “…The world can do anything the church can do except one thing – it cannot show grace.”

Yancey also shares great examples of Christian ministers and churches that have the Jesus' distinguishing mark – not political correctness or moral superiority but – LOVE. I believe homosexuality is sin and so does divorce which is very prevalent in Christianity today. Abortion is another issue. Woman preaching in the church issue recently where John MacArthur, a Bible teacher, told Beth Moore, a Bible Study author, to "go home." What is this? As Yancey advice in the book and so here I say: we Christians can have firm views about ethical behavior or bold stand about the theological matter but we MUST demonstrate love foremost. Love allows us to be compassionate, vulnerable and empathy. When the church displays God's love and grace first without discounting justice and sin, we show the world: the real Jesus. The One who the world hate and at the same time attracted to. This statement by Yancey is so powerful: "The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it." Amen!

There are so many lessons that I learned from this book. I've underlined and made notes. I will reread it (together with the newer book, 2014, Vanishing Grace). Yancey is such a good story-teller. Although he is a journalist, I see him as a theologian. Usually, when I read a book, I research it: read articles, reviews, listen to podcast interviews and YouTube videos. Some people disagree with Yancey and some of his writings are controversial. No write is flawless. With that said, I want to recommend fully this book especially to Christian leaders who have greater influence in shaping the way people think about the Church and Christianity in general. If you've been hurt by the un-grace believers, read this book too. In fact, come back to God or draw near to Him. Remember this: "There is nothing [you] can do to make God love [you] more. There is nothing [you] can do to make God loves [you] less." 

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
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Monday, November 4, 2019

As A Man Thinketh #5 No Victimized Mindset, Take Responsibility


A person is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions
(James Allen, As A Man Thinketh)

One of the great weaknesses of our society today is the growing attitude of victimization. Many people claim themselves to be victims of some outside force. “I don’t know the story of the Bible because my pastor doesn’t teach me…”; “If that driver hadn’t pulled out in front of me…”; “I am like this because of my parents…”

When we are victims of circumstances, or as James Allen says, a “creature of outside conditions,” we have no power. We have given over the power in our life to the circumstances. The longer we give power to our circumstances the worst our circumstances become. In his other book, Above Life’s Turmoil, Allen writes, “You imagine your circumstances as being separate from yourself, but they are intimately related to your thought world. Nothing appears without an adequate cause.”

To get control of our circumstances we must first acknowledge personal responsibility for being where we are. That was the hardest part for me because the ‘victim’ in all of us doesn’t want to take that responsibility.

When we take responsibility, we must then take control of our thoughts. And, yes, in the beginning, that can be hard. It seems sometimes that it’s our nature to first think negatively. But that’s just because it’s the habit we’ve developed. And like any habit, it can change by replacing it with the habit of thinking the right way.

Emmet Fox once writes: “You are not happy because you are well. You are well because you are happy. You are not depressed because the trouble has come to you, but trouble has come because you are depressed. You can change your thoughts and feelings, and then the outer things will change to correspond, and indeed there is no other way of working.” Think about it!

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
References:
1. As A Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen


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As A Man Thinketh #4 The Most Basic and Logical Principle



Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles
(James Allen, As A Man Thinketh)

Most everyone understands the biblical concept of sowing and reaping because we can grasp the simplicity of logic. If we were to plant durian on our farm, we wouldn’t expect apple to come up. But even though we can grasp the logic, we don’t always act as if we understand the power of this principle. And we certainly don’t act as if this principle will affect us.

An example: For many years my morning ritual began with video games (or PSP to be exact). Most mornings spending an hour or more on games and morning news before dashing off the office. I haven't realized then that our minds are most impressionable immediately upon rising in the morning and just before sleep in the evening. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that my sowing of these thoughts would reap an ‘attitude’ at my workplace (impatient, demanding, shouting, etc.).

I gave up my morning ritual seven years ago and replaced it with a habit of reading. I read my Bible or book of the week and on the way to work, I listened to motivational or self-development audiobooks. When I sow “good thoughts” and thus I’ll reap “good results.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8, The Message).

We always reap what we sow and that is especially true with our thoughts. As Emmet Fox writes, “The secret of life then is to control your mental states, for if you will do this the rest will follow. To accept sickness, trouble, and failure as unavoidable, and perhaps inevitable, is folly because it is this very acceptance by you that keeps these evils in existence. Man is not limited by his environment. He creates his environments with his beliefs and feelings. To suppose otherwise is like thinking that the tail can wag the dog.” Think about it!

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
References:
1. As A Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen


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As A Man Thinketh #3 Don't Dwell Upon the Mistakes of Yesterday (Move On)



Do not dwell upon the sins and mistakes of yesterday so exclusively as to have no energy and mind left for living rightly today, and do not think that the sins of yesterday can prevent you from living purely today
(James Allen, As A Man Thinketh)

It’s been said that the majority of conversations by men over forty are about the past. Sometimes it’s about the ‘good old days’ and sometimes it’s about the deals gone bad, the ‘if I only had’ stories, the missed opportunities, etc.

Letting our “sins and mistakes of yesterday” dominate our thinking today robs us of our present joy and our future happiness. It causes us to miss the opportunity of today! John C. Maxwell, in his outstanding best-seller Failing Forward, gives some great practical advice: “To move forward today, you must learn to say goodbye to yesterday’s hurts, tragedies, and baggage. You can’t build a monument to past problems and fail forward.”

Take time right now to list the negative events from your past that may still be holding you hostage. For each item you list, go through the following exercise:

1)    Acknowledge the pain
2)    Grieve the loss
3)    Forgive the person
4)    Forgive yourself
5)    Determine to release the event and move on

Your best days are definitely ahead of you if you treat your “mistakes” as necessary lessons to be learned. If you understand that each lesson brings with it a certain amount of wisdom, you can understand how truly enhanced your life is becoming. Many people can’t achieve the success of their dreams because they won’t leave their past behind. They won’t tear down the monuments they’ve built to their old hurts and problems. “Don’t dwell upon the sins and mistakes of yesterday.” Think about it!

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
 
References:
1. As A Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen


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