Whole Foods Immersion

I recently returned from an immersion program in California presented by Dr. John McDougall. This program and others like it are offered to Whole Foods employees and the public to allow them a chance to learn about and experience healthy eating, how foods we are not really meant to eat can affect our bodies and our health, and to give them the tools they need to change their health simply be eating the right foods. The program I attended was aimed directly at how what we eat affects disease in the body, and as it turns out, how disease is affected by what we eat.

The program teaches a starch-based diet, based on potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, rice and starchy vegetables, with fruit and green vegetables added to balance the dietary needs. Now, I thought, as most other people do, that starches are bad and make us fat. The information, based on science and clinical trials,  that Dr. McDougall and his staff laid out shows dramatically different results. It turns out that for 60 years we have been the products of bad science and really good marketing. We have been taught for decades that a balanced diet includes meats, dairy and fats, as well as the grains and vegetables. But if we look at all of the long-livning groups of people throughout history, their diets are based on starches like rice and beans. The most obvious example of this lies in many Asian cultures. As it turns out, our bodies burn the starches and the sugars that result from digesting those starches, much easier and more efficiently than fats or proteins. That’s why there are far fewer Asians suffering from diseases like diabetes, coronary disease, and most notably, obesity. Another interesting thing about eating a lot of meat and dairy products, a la the Atkins or Paleo diets, is that those foods don’t fill up the stomach. Starches, on the other hand, tend to swell when mixed with water. This means that when we eat starches like rice, beans or potatoes, the fluids in the stomach make the them swell and cause us to feel full. Remember how your mom always said not to eat too much of the bread the waiter would bring before your entree at a restaurant? That you would “fill up on the bread” before the main course of the meal? That’s starch.

How does this apply to me? The immersion was exactly that, an immersion. We were kept busy 15 hours a day with lectures by doctors, nutritionists, psychologists and chefs teaching us the ins and outs of eating a starch based diet. We also had three exercise sessions a day (although they were optional) and were fed this starch based diet three times a day. We were free to eat as much as we wanted and I never left the table hungry. We ate things like bean burritos, country potatoes with salsa, oatmeal, fresh fruits and melons and even had treats like brownies and pudding, although they were made with soy and no added oils, fats or dairy products. In short, we walked the walk as we learned to talk the talk.

The results were astounding for me. I lost six pounds in as many days, lowered my blood pressure and dropped my triglycerides by 147 points. In just six days! There are no drugs available today that can have such a profound impact in such a little time. Blood tests were taken on our first and last days to monitor the changes in these and other factors, and mine showed that my liver enzymes were elevated when entering the program. The blood tests the last day showed that they were even higher. I had a chance to consult with the doctor on three occasions during the week and share my medical history. I was told that I was an “interesting case”. This, apparently, is a doctor’s euphemism for “we have no idea what’s wrong with you” and on our last visit he told me that he does not know what to call it, but that my body is very sick. He also said that even a diet plan like this cannot always fix what is wrong with the body and that sometimes once it is broken it will always be broken. The upside of that is that this way of eating will help the parts that are well get even better and will allow me to better deal with what’s still broken.

I feel that I have said to my close family for a number of months now that I feel a radical change has to be made to achieve radical results. I also feel that this may be that change. I prayed every day that God would open my mind to what I needed to learn and to show me what could happen through my experience. Now that I have gotten a taste of it, I’m really looking forward to what the next few months hold.



We are halfway through the week of Joel at the clinic in California and me playing Mrs. Dad. I have only survived with the help of friends and family – special thanks to my cousin Cory coming all the way from Minnesota to help. The boys LOVE playing (and especially wrestling) with him. It is so much less stress on me to have extra hands to help. Not to mention he’s doing some fix-it things around the house and landscaping.

Joel is doing well at the program in California. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s basically a wellness program that Whole Foods sponsors for their employees, really sick ones like Joel, but also ones that just need to adjust their lifestyle to be healthier. They meet with doctors, run tests, go to lectures, change their eating habits, and exercise. In fact, they have three exercise breaks a day and their day begins at 6:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm. Thankfully, they’ve let Joel only do what he can as there is no way he can exercise that many times a day and some days, not at all. Although they are running tests, we don’t expect any new results to show up because they aren’t as advanced as what Joel would need. However, he has met with the doctor a couple of times and he believes Joel’s case is definitely an auto-immune related one and we just haven’t found the right type of one or medicine to treat it. He did give Joel some ideas on what to do about the fevers as well. The first couple of days while he was there, Joel sounded great and energized, but I can tell now that he is tired and the fevers are going up and down again. Right now, all roads are pointing to the sinus surgery Joel has on November 14. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re going to do some biopsies from that and hopefully that will give us some answers on how to treat or where to go from there.

Unfortunately we were denied long-term disability with the company who we have a policy with and based on my research of them, it’s pretty normal for them to do. So this morning I’m meeting with a lawyer to discuss our options. I find it completely ridiculous that they think Joel can work. The other day I was driving and I asked Joel to put my vitamins in my pill box, you know the Monday thru Sunday ones, and he tried but couldn’t. His hands are so swollen that he can’t bend his fingers enough to do that. Yet they think he can go to work and butcher meat! Or the week before he left for California, he was so sick, he couldn’t get out of bed or the house for days. They are seriously insane. Anyway, we would appreciate your prayers for this area as well. But for the most part, we just pray for Joel’s health to be restored and an answer of a diagnosis so they can find the right treatment. The “this is our best guess” game plan isn’t really working out too well.

Monday update

We saw the specialist last Tuesday and unfortunately there’s no real new news to report. Joel is officially off all medications and the doctor says it will be just a few more days until it is out of system. The “pure evil” process the Mayo doctor mentioned has really kicked in as Joel has been more miserable by the day. He hasn’t been able to get up or out for days. We could call the doctor, but they want to see what will happen off the medicine and he said that the worse he is going into surgery on November 14, the better (for them and the tests). Also, his fevers are staying low grade right now and they want to see if while off the medication, they go higher again. That will give us some more answers.

The doctor also mentioned the possibility of an autoimmune disease that is related to the sinuses, so they are going to do some biopsies then. But we are trying not to think about it since it is just a possibility right now. Regardless, he thinks the next step after surgery is chemo. But again, the surgery will tell us for sure.

Joel leaves for California this Saturday to go to a nutrition clinic for eight days that Whole Foods sponsors for their employees. The doctors and nurses there look at a patient’s overall health and help them stop unnecessary medications, avoid surgery and regain their health. We’re hoping this will help. While he’s gone (October 20-28), my cousin Cory is coming to help me with the boys. We’re very excited to see him and the boys can’t wait to wrestle and play with him.

November should be quite busy for us (just the way I like it). Joel’s birthday is the 1st, Malachi’s is the 10th, Joel’s surgery is the 14th and his Mom is coming to help us that week (thank goodness!). Then there’s Joel’s benefit ride on the 17th and we have the Wiley’s coming to visit on the 19th.  I am super thankful for family here. It gives me peace of mind to know I have some extra helping hands around.

Other than Joel’s health of course, one prayer request we have is for our long-term disability insurance. The company said they would make a decision by October 18. They asked for a 30-day extension, but since they’ve already had 3 ½ months, I said no, but then gave them two weeks. Prayers for October 18th please!

Thanks so much for all your love and support. We feel it!

Register for the Benefit Ride Here

Click here to REGISTER

Wimp or Warrior Ride

Our dear friend Karen is organizing a benefit ride for Joel with the help of Aspen Creek Cycling…see flyer for details. Registration is up and running!

Wimp or Warrior flyer



Joel’s been having an extremely difficult time coming off his medications. His fevers have returned and so have his pain and inflammation. His hands and feet are so swollen, he can’t bend his fingers or toes. We see the rheumatologist on Tuesday and are interested to see what the new action plan is.

He is going to California October 20-28 to attend a clinic Whole Foods, his employer, sponsors. Thankfully my cousin, Cory Rolf, is coming to help me with the kids. I imagine they will wear Cory out, but he’s great with kids so we’re anxious to see him and have him here. Then, Joel’s scheduled to have surgery November 14. His mom, Connie, is coming out to help with that. We’re very thankful for all our supportive friends and family!

A good friend of mine, Karen Englert, is organizing a benefit ride for Joel. We’re looking at it being November 17. So if you’re local, put it on your calendar and come ride with us. Karen will be sending out more details soon.

I continue to fight our long term disability claim. I have to be honest and say I have never been more angered at any organization than this one. They continue to extend their evaluation of the claim, do not listen to the doctors who tell them Joel needs to be off work, and are even monitoring the web for information on Joel. Shoot, they are probably reading this for all I know. (Hey guess what? We just bought a Lexus!) Ha ha! Just kidding! Actually, I’ve learned I have to repeatedly give the whole thing over to God to handle because I certainly can’t. I did get them to say they’d make a decision by October 18, three months after short term disability ended. If you could say a prayer for that (and me), we’d greatly appreciate it.

I believe there was a movie not that long ago where Denzel Washington went into a hospital with a gun, making doctors do a surgery on his son because his insurance wouldn’t cover it. Not that I would ever do that, but I can certainly understand his point of view. I’d do anything to make Joel healthier. To not watch him suffer. And the same for our boys. It reminds me of the sacrifice God made on the cross. How excruciating it must have been for Him to watch Jesus be tortured to death. Thank you Father for your sacrifice.