No 'I' in DETOX - but it spells DIET all the same

Alex Jamieson, author of the new book "The Great American Detox Diet," wants the world to know that what we choose to eat matters on many different levels. Food choices affect our physical body, mental health, the human rights of others and our personal impact on the environment.

"Morgan likes to say that every time you eat, you vote with your fork," says Jamieson during a phone interview from Los Angeles, reinforcing her point and quoting her fiancé, Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the hit documentary "Super Size Me."

If eating is truly voting with your fork, then "The Great American Detox Diet" is a powerful voters guide.

On Thanksgiving Day 2002, Spurlock and Jamieson watched a news report about two overweight and sick girls who were suing McDonald's for misleading them about the supposed healthiness of their food. McDonald's attorneys argued that you couldn't link Mcfood to the fact that the girls were sick and overweight. Jamieson remembers yelling obscenities at the TV, disagreeing with McDonald's argument while a light bulb went off in Spurlock's brain.

It was the beginning of a frightening and revealing journey for both of them.

Spurlock began filming "Super Size Me" and embarked on a 30-day, McDonald's-only diet. He gained 25 pounds in one month, developed chest pains and compromised his liver in much the same way that alcoholics do. While Spurlock risked his life eating McDonald's, Jamieson began designing a plan to bring him back to health when the monthlong experiment was over.

"The Great American Detox Diet" is a straightforward, accessible version of the same program that helped Spurlock lose 14 pounds in eight weeks, cleanse his liver and stop the chest pains. The book is broken down into chapters that address such popular "nutritional issues" as caffeine, sugar, carbohydrates, dietary fat and protein quantity. Each chapter is filled with well-researched facts and personal stories from Alex's clients about the role that these foods play in our diet.

Detoxification is a way of life, not just a diet, writes Jamieson. What we eat builds up over time within our bodies, and how we interact with the world around us can either fill us with toxins or open us to healing.

The book includes a candid look at the typical American diet and offers nutritional, political and 100 mouth-watering recipe-reasons to remove toxic foods from your diet.

Jamieson, who grew up in Portland, Ore., and graduated from the University of Oregon, shares her own food history and paves the way for others to take the first step to a healthier lifestyle.

"I moved to New York, had knee surgery and everything fell apart," she says. Her own detox story began in 1999 during the first corporate jog of her career.

At the time, Jamieson had a diet rich with coffee, chocolate and cheese, and after knee surgery she was forced to take heavy antibiotics and painkillers. The combination of poor eating habits, some hefty drugs and a desk job spiraled into a health breakdown. She developed frequent migraine headaches, gained weight and experienced low energy and depression.

Things began to turn around when she visited an osteopath and learned about her food allergies. The osteopath suggested removing certain foods from her diet, and Jamieson decided to immediately adopt a vegan regimen: no caffeine, dairy, butter, cheese, yogurt - and absolutely no meat or processed foods.

"It was difficult," she admits. "But it was easier than feeling so terrible."

By the end of the first week Jamieson realized that she was wak-ing up in the morning with more energy. The weight fell off immediately, and her headaches and depression quickly subsided. It was the beginning of a new life with new food.

There was only one problem.

"I had to learn to eat all over again," she remembers.

Jamieson had entered into a world without eggs, butter or cheese, and she enrolled in the professional training program at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School in New York to learn how to feed herself and others. She studied health-supportive culinary arts and today is a holistic health counselor and personal chef. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she has worked as the pastry chef at Other Foods, a renowned New York organic restaurant. In 2002, she served as the vegetarian chef for Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp for children with life-threatening illnesses.

"Alex lives the lifestyle that she preaches," says Annabeth Jamieson, the proud mother of Alex and owner of Natural Fiber Clothing - wearable art on top of Queen Anne. "She is absolutely genuine."

Much of the lifestyle Alex "preaches" is derived from her family roots. Annabeth, who learned to grow food and flowers from her grandparents, hosted "Eve's Organic Garden," a live radio show on KBOO community radio in Portland, for 10 years.

Today, Annabeth has added on to her knowledge about fresh food and healthy eating by incorporating tips from her daughter's book. She recently went on an anti-inflammatory diet in preparation for knee surgery and excluded dairy, wheat and vegetables from the nightshade family known to cause inflammation: eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.

"Diets are very individualized, not just for the person but also the situation," says Annabeth. Reading Alex's "Detox" book helped her realize that it is possible to improve on your lifestyle, and that changing your diet has different effects at different times.

How does someone take the first step?

"Begin to educate yourself," offers Alex. "Everything that you eat has meaning. Everything that you eat has an effect on your body."

Invite a diet of seasonal, nutrient-dense food into your life.

Alex Jamieson points out that locally produced food serves a number of purposes. You are getting something that is incredibly fresh, supporting local farmers and eliminating transportation costs and pollution.

"It also just tastes better," she adds with a laugh.

Local produce also allows consumers to stay in touch with the seasonality of their food.

"If you are eating salad in the middle of winter, what affect does that have on your psyche?" asks Jamieson. "Salad is a cold food."

She recommends root vegetables during the winter. They are hearty and more in line with our needs during the frigid months.

"When you eat a food, it becomes your body," concludes Jamieson. "How that food is produced creates a different energy within you."

How that food is produced creates a different energy around you as well. "The Great American Detox Diet" is a powerful book that looks at the role our food choices play in our bodies and the planet that we inhabit.

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