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The Body

Create Your 40-day, Brain Body Diet Book Club

This could be the healthiest group you’ll ever join.

Bookclub by Claire van Heukelom

If you’re worried about body weight, brain fog, memory lapses, addiction, anxiety, or depression, your real problem, says Brain Body Diet author Sara Gottfried MD, is likely a brain body problem—which is shorthand for saying your real problem is likely a “nutritional-gastrointestinal-microbial-toxicological-immunological-inflamatory-hormonal-mitochondrial-environmental-structural imbalance.” Now, repeat that three times.

The reason for repeating the long form is to make it clear that no single action, no pill, and no amount of willpower is going to bring your brain body back into balance. For example, Dr. Gottfried explains that if you decide to exercise to lose weight (which is great!), toxins stored in those fat cells can be released into your bloodstream, where they both tire out your mitochondria and block your insulin receptors—making you feel exhausted and hungry and causing you to store more fat than you burned. (Not so great!) To lose the weight and change your set point (and clear brain fog, anxiety, and the like), you need to change your diet, detox your life, sleep better, and get off the roller coaster of hyperarousal that causes not only inflammation but poor decisions like drinking too much wine (alcohol is a cell crusher) and eating foods that make you feel lousy. Got that?

The good news is that in 40 days you can improve all the symptoms you are experiencing in the body—and feel great! You can go it alone or—much better—gather a book club to support one another. Here’s one scenario for such a club that you can adjust to fit your life and your group.

The good news is that in 40 days you can improve all the symptoms you are experiencing in the body—and feel great!

Day 1:  INITIATION POTLUCK

Invite your group to a 6:00 p.m. potluck dinner by emailing them the material in this issue (also at Spiritualityhealth.com/40days). Give each person a recipe and ask them to bring a blank book and come prepared to share their “why?” (see page 63) and their protocol of choice. After dinner, have an opening ritual before sharing. Make this worth doing! Those who need to limit/forgo something (alcohol?) should come prepared to declare that, too (and write it in their book). Plan how you’ll each eat three organic meals per day and do at least four easy workouts each week. Another big goal for the coming week is to eat dinner around 6:00 and not eat again till 10 a.m. the next morning. Supplement with fish oil, a multivitamin, and probiotics. Create a group text support line and decide who will host and send recipes for next week’s potluck.

Day 8:  DETOX POTLUCK

Everyone brings a stainless water bottle (no more plastics!) and comes prepared to share the grossest things they’ve purged from the kitchen, bathroom, and car. How many endocrine disruptors lurked under your sink? Spill ’em (metaphorically). Have you been slathering your body in “obesogens” from your nonorganic skin cream? Switch to 100 percent clean products! If you added or replaced a water and/or air filter, go ahead and gloat! Keep in mind that a nonergonomic desk chair can be like a toxic waste dump! Get out of it. Plan your meals this week to support your good gut bugs, plus your four easy exercises. Choose someone to host next week’s potluck and someone to lead a 15-minute Kundalini yoga practice. You’ll also need to start using a sleep tracker.

Day 15:  DEEPER SLEEP POTLUCK

This is the dinner to share bedroom secrets. How much do you sleep and how well? Who is addicted to late-night screens? Can you turn them off? What can you do this week to make your bedroom more of a sanctuary? What lights can be hidden? What windows covered? Soundproofing or white noise? Supplements? Consider that it typically takes two years from the time a person decides a pillow is worn out to buying a new one. Make this week the time to act! After dinner, do the Kundalini practice and decide when you will schedule it into your day—as well as your four workouts and food plans.

Day 22: STEPPING BACKWARD POTLUCK

By now you all should be feeling great. You’ve been eating great foods, fasting overnight, detoxing, exercising, doing your Kundalini, and getting better sleep. Your body is coming into balance, and this potluck is to share notes on how good you feel—and plan some calculated steps backward armed with a glucose monitor and your notebook. You’ll start the coming week with several baseline measurements during days of good foods. Over the rest of the week, eat some of your old foods that you may love but suspect make you feel lousy. Go ahead and gorge! Wait two hours, then test your blood sugar. How high can you go! How do you feel? Write down your personal glycemic index. 

Day 29: YOU LOVE YOUR BODY!

This week’s gathering takes place at a local hot spring, sauna, or steam room—ideally one with a cold plunge. As you soak or steam, share your glycemic highs and lows—and how you felt. Then take a cold plunge! Be cautious with the plunge part if you have to, but get a feel for the euphoric, clear thinking that results. Repeat the hot and cold cycle three times as you remind yourself that intelligence and memory are all about blood flow to the brain. This will be the week to add some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—aka advanced brain cleaning—to your workouts. It’s also the week to add some bodywork/alignment therapy. Share your favorite practitioners with your group.

Day 36:  DO YOU STILL NEED HELP?

This meeting is with your health practitioners (where some people start). Remember: The goal is to achieve your “Why?” And now is a good time to do labs and assess what prescriptions you need and what can be cut back or tossed altogether. 

Day 40:  CELEBRATE POTLUCK!

You now have a group that knows you inside and out. This could be your last meeting to celebrate all you’ve accomplished. Or this could be the start of an ongoing health support network. Use your group to think up n=1 experiments for better health—as well as to be prepared when illness strikes. You may want to make a 40-day protocol an annual event.

Read Stephen's interview with Sara Gottfried MD in this issue.