It’s not what you eat, it’s what’s eating you.
I haven’t talked much about food here on this blog because — well — I don’t consider my food consumption to be anything to brag about. I do not eat perfect by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. I also feel terribly uncomfortable discussing what is “good” and what is “bad” in regards to diet. But I do want to speak about how and why we eat what we eat, as well as what is going on behind the scenes, which could be extremely helpful to those who are seeking better health and more happiness.
When I was younger and still in my active addiction, I began having indigestion problems. I know, hard to believe that a person drinking himself into oblivion every day would have an upset stomach every now and then, but I digress. My heartburn was pretty severe, and I was convinced to go see a doctor to have it looked at. His words were very simple and have stuck with me to this day: “Kevin, it’s not what you eat, it is what is eating you.”
At that time in my life, I didn’t think about what I ate or why I was even eating. The only thoughts I had were “I’m hungry” and “what is available?” The truth be told, it has only been a few years that I have placed much consideration into what my diet was and how it could be affecting my health. The results of my looking into the connection between food I was eating and my health could not be denied.
My diet prior to this awareness is quite startling when it is seen in black and white. In the morning, I would have a huge cup of coffee, sweetened with the “pink stuff” (Sweet ‘n Low), and diluted with half-and-half. I followed the coffee up with two everything bagels. Mind you, this was an everyday meal of mine for 20-plus years! There were random variations from this breakfast, but not much.
Lunch was either a whole sub sandwich or fast food, preferably from Mcdonald’s as I had found that Burger King didn’t sit well in my stomach (go figure!) Either of the choices would have included a large Diet Coke and chips or fries (large, please!)
Now, somewhere between lunch and dinner would be a mandatory stop and a 7-Eleven for a Super Big Gulp of Diet Coke and 1 or maybe 2 packages of Twinkies or the equivalent Hostess-type snack. Dinner would typically be a meat and potatoes variety meal with the occasional substitution of fish or pasta. Most days a nice big bowl of ice cream would conclude this daily battering of my body.
Please note that water was not part of any of the above meal plans.
You would think with a diet like that I was most likely obese. Think again. I was about 20 pounds overweight, but I carried it fairly well. You see, I was really active. My job was physically demanding. I live in a hot tropical climate so I would burn a lot of calories. This kept my weight pretty consistent.
What didn’t stay consistent was my health. In 2007, I started to have trouble with tingling fingers on my right hand. I lived with it for a while, and then my left hand started to go numb as well. I started seeing a specialist, who would give me steroid shots. These worked at first for a few months. Then I would slowly start losing the feeling again. The diagnosis was carpal tunnel syndrome. I dealt with this the best I could for a few years, and the doctor finally told me that the only thing to do moving forward would be surgery. I didn’t elect that option as I was worried that I may lose the function of my hands. I was a trim carpenter, and without the use of my hands, would find myself out of a job. So I decided to just live with it.
In March of 2011, I developed a new problem. From what seemed like out of the blue, I couldn’t raise my right arm up and hold it level to the ground. If I lifted up with my left arm, it would fall right down as soon as I let it go. I was urged to go to a neurologist to get it checked out, and the resulting diagnosis was three herniated discs in my neck. I was devastated, afraid, and depressed.
Just three months earlier my wife had convinced me to go to yoga with her. Yoga, for me, was love at first try. I felt at home in the yoga room and went to class no less than 5 times a week. I was feeling good about myself and my diet had drastically changed from what it was above.
I was drinking roughly a gallon of water a day and rarely had diet soda anymore. I was incorporating more salads into my diet and red meats virtually vanished from our meals. My sweet tooth had gone into remission and I had melted off 35 pounds in those 3 months of yoga. I continued to use the “pink stuff” in my coffee and didn’t think too much about it.
The damage from my unhealthy diet was done prior to the herniated discs. My MRI showed bone degeneration in my C3 thru C5 vertebra. All was not lost, though, and this was just the beginning of a very cool journey for me.
The day I was told of my herniated disks, I drove to my yoga studio to let my teacher know I wouldn’t be able to do yoga anymore. I was an emotional mess and felt my joy and passion were taken from me. My yoga teacher then told me of this doctor who was literally right across the street and how he had helped her get through a similar issue. My despair was turned to hope in the blink of an eye!
This injury turned out to be the biggest turning point in my life since I had become sober. I began to see the signs that my soul was sending me. I not only saw them now, I paid attention, I listened, I asked for more signs, and learned to express gratitude for them.
Within 3 months, I not only had regained full strength and range of motion in my right arm but my hands were also completely healed of the numb, tingly sensation that had plagued me for the last 4 years. I had eliminated the “pink stuff,” “yellow stuff,” and any other harmful chemicals completely from my diet. I replaced sweeteners with raw honey or Stevia. My morning breakfast was a giant serving of fresh fruit smoothies blended right in my own kitchen. This way I had full control of all the ingredients.
Health and nutrition for me become synonymous. I also caught on to one other thing about eating. When I was conscious about my food choice, I felt really good about myself. Is it raw or organic? Does it contain artificial sweeteners? Does the food I am eating contain words I could never even pronounce? I have become aware, conscious, and full of intent with my eating. Be it “good” or “bad,” I am aware. I make the conscious choice and I remind myself of the consequences.
I am the last person to judge someone on what they are eating. I will never do that. I will be the first person to share everything I have come to know with those who seek the knowledge. I believe we are what we eat and I no longer feel like I have Twinkies for fingers! There is a connection between consciously choosing our food and a happy, joyous, and free life. My body told me for many years in a variety of different ways that what I was putting into it was harming myself. It took a big scare for me to wake up and listen.
In our Path to Peace Recovery Retreats we look at nutrition very deeply and examine healthier ways to eat without sacrificing fun and flavor. As a matter of fact, the food I eat now and the manner in which I eat is extremely satisfying on all levels.
You see, I am a recovering addict. My disease does not know the difference between alcohol, pot, cocaine, heroin, meth, food, sex, power, or victimhood. The disease of addiction is a brain disease that runs rampant when left unchecked. The results are always the same: negative consequences or recovery. With support, recovery is a path to peace, joy, and freedom like no other.
In June we kicked off our first in a series of CWG on recovery retreats. A small group of people all shared a life-changing event. If you are in recovery and not experiencing great joy and freedom or are still suffering with addictions, please consider giving yourself this experience. Our next retreat will held in San Jose, California, Sept 19 -22nd, 2013. On October 24 – 27th, 2013, we will have another retreat in Orlando Florida. Click here for more information on these life-changing retreats.
(Kevin McCormack, C.A.d ,is a certified addictions professional. He is a recovering addict with 26 years of sobriety. Kevin is a practicing auriculotherapist, life coach, and interventionist specializing in individual and family recovery and also co-facilitates spiritual recovery retreats for the CWG foundation with JR Westen. You can visit his website here for more information at To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@TheGlobalConversation.com)