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Changing Your Nutritional Habits
Author: Cleaves M. Bennett MD FACP
Monday, January 07, 2008

You've got to discover your own diet. That's the main thing. I'm not going to be very successful at telling you what to do. If I just gave you a list of things not to eat and told you, "You'd better keep to these rules or you'll die;" it wouldn't work. Your heart just wouldn't be in it. That's why there are so many diet books on the market—and why they don't work. Or at best they only work for a while. If you're going to treat high blood pressure nutritionally, it's a lifetime thing. We can't afford to have you go on some crash diet, and get fed up with it, and come crashing back off the diet and onto some wild eating binge. It's no use. Because as soon as you went back to your old ways, wham! Your blood pressure would rocket back up.

Good nutrition has to be something you choose—for yourself. Because you care enough about, yourself to try it out. And the only way you'll stay on it is that you'll find out by your own experience that it's more satisfying, it's more enjoyable this way. All that I'm asking from you is openness, a willingness to try a few things you maybe haven't tried before. This is an educational effort, and the most important educator around here is you, the reader—because you're going to learn from your own experience what works best and feels best for you.

I won't bully you. I can tell you right away that if you have high blood pressure you're probably doing something about food that doesn't work for you, and your body is just trying to let you know about it.

During the course of the program I have suggested that you check out any number of my ideas. But you'll always be free to form your own opinions. So have your own opinions and be skeptical if you must. But also be observant and notice how your body responds to these things. I'm interested in evolution, not revolution. So learn at your own pace. Twelve weeks or twelve months, it's really up to you to decide how quickly you want to change things. It's been more than twelve years in my case, and I'm still learning!

Over the course of the program you'll discover your own diet can be both nutritious and delicious. And you'll be a lot happier with it. You'll be inspired by it, in fact. And inspiration, not deprivation, is what we learn the most from. I know you can learn what your body wants—and the fact that you're even reading this book means that you want to learn as well.

My job as a teacher is very simple. I want to show you how you can learn best.

Pat was a lawyer, a good one, who had a knack for winning at whatever he tried his hand at. He was so soft–spoken and gentlemanly; I would have thought he was a Virginian, had it not been for a faint trace of a New York Irish accent. But he had a tough side, and he was a survivor too–including a big one, a nearly fatal battle trauma in the Korean War. I think he always felt just a little guilty about this and very appreciative of his miraculous recovery so long ago. So he seemed to go through life always wanting to pay someone back for the favor. We hit it off immediately. When I met him he wasn't winning against his blood pressure problem though. He'd read about our program on a flight back from New York and stopped in at the Center on his way home from the airport. After talking to me for a while, he just threw away his pills and decided to go for it.

He was as successful at this as at everything else, which meant that he had the best weight loss, the best drop in blood cholesterol, the best rise in endurance and fitness—everything was the best.

After he'd graduated from the program, on sort of a dare he took me to Perrino's, a fashionable French restaurant in Los Angeles, now long since closed. He wanted to see how I'd handle myself when knee–deep in rich sauces, butter; soufflés, and pastries… The waiters, always attentive, hovered nearby. Pat was a good customer, and a favorite, it seemed.

At my request the waiter brought some thin–sliced dark toast sans the usual garlic butter and cheese. It was delicious, with a subtle, nutty flavor. I looked over the multi–page menu and, seeing nothing even remotely "healthy," said to the waiter somewhat optimistically, "I'll bet your chef could make an absolutely exquisite steamed vegetable plate, no salt, no butter, and no cheese—am I right?"

"But of course."

And, you know, he did. It was beautiful, to the eye as well as to the palate. And I'd taught Pat, the "old survivor,” something about survival in the big city that day.

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