I first heard of nutrition specialist Dr Libby Weaver (Ph.D) when I listened to a short radio interview with her a month or so back, promoting her national tour – ‘The Fundamentals of Food’. While she spoke good sense and came across very well, that probably would have been the end of it for me, had she not made reference to the China Study – well documented in Dr T Colin Campbell’s book of the same name. On the strength of that mention, I booked tickets to the seminar at Ellerslie Convention Centre.
It was interesting to note that of a rough estimate of around 250-300 people present, I counted only 12 men – and one of those was mine. Dr Libby leapt into gear with a succinct history of human eating habits over the last 149,900-odd years, leading up to the industrial revolution 180 years ago and the changes wrought by that. The biggest change she told us, has occurred over the last 30 years. It was interesting stuff – and a good lead up to this question: are we now living too short and dying too long? Is there a magic bullet that can turn our health around? Dr Libby tells us the closest thing to this is ‘real’ food.
We heard that we have 50 trillion cells in our bodies and that all these cells have a shelf life and therefore need to replicate – new cells being dependent on the nutrition we provide through our diet – so, we really are what we eat. Interestingly, to the question of ‘why do we eat?’, we were told that of all the answers usually suggested to that question, hunger is never mentioned. Nourishment is also usually at the bottom of the list. It’s a good question to reflect on I think, while pondering what our beliefs about food are, and whether these beliefs serve us well, or need updating. The effect of marketing on our perception of nutrition was touched on, and how nutritional information tends to move in cycles of about 30 years. Dr Libby’s advice on that? Nature gets it right.
Although the subject of weight loss was mentioned, Dr Libby was keen to stress that this should not be the primary focus of a healthy eating regime. Still, she gave some brilliant explanation on how the metabolism works, and the factors that can be detrimental by acting to slow down this intricate process. Calorie consumption was only one factor on a list of several others, which included stress factors, gut bacteria, thyroid, liver and sex hormones. It was a surprise to me to hear that NZ is now the second most obese nation on the planet – with USA at number one. Apparently the ‘average’ New Zealander consumes 27kg of refined sugar each year.
There was plenty of well-delivered advice and guidance on the good and bad food groups – such as choosing the right carbs, the amazing benefits of green leafy vegetables packed with amino acids, healthy fats and their importance in the diet, and a reminder that our stomach is only as big as our clenched fist. We were asked to consider what a gorilla eats – a diet of 55 percent green leaves goes into building up the strong musculature of one of the most powerful creatures on the planet.
The concept of alkalinity vs acidity was briefly addressed; how what we swallow has a net effect on our blood PH. Plant foods are virtually the only food that drives to alkalinity, with animal proteins contributing to acidity. The effect of acid conditions in the body on bone health was briefly explained – how this drags calcium and magnesium out of bones to counteract the acidity. (This was a subject I was very pleased to hear mentioned – when you consider the high levels of osteoporosis in the western world, and how this is not decreasing, despite the obsession many woman have with consuming enough dairy to ensure that they get ‘enough calcium’. How long will it take before that current logic is turned upside down, I wonder?)
Just before the promos kicked in (for Dr Libby’s books, retreats, and so forth), we heard mention of the China Study and how a high plant diet has been found to make the biggest difference to preventing and even reversing most of the diseases that plague our modern world. (In Dr T Colin Campbell’s words, these are the ‘diseases of affluence’, which certainly harks back to that question Dr Libby asked about why do we eat – if it’s not that we’re hungry…?)
In summing up, Dr Libby didn’t stand up tonight and tell her audience to go home and become vegans; I guess I knew she wasn’t going to say that. Instead, she eloquently and sensitively covered the subject of everyone finding their own way to better health in their own time, while still clearly delivering the message that a plant based diet is optimal. She inspired us with her message of how eating the right food can provide us with a level of energy we would not have otherwise, and how this energy impacts on our lives, our relationships and our ability to contribute to the lives of those around us. Several times tonight she challenged us to consider the question: ‘Why do you do what you do, when you know what you know?’
I could have listened to Dr Libby for longer. She covered lots of topics that I haven’t mentioned here, and I’m sure that if you visit her website (www.drlibby.com) you might find some interesting reading. I got the impression there were a lot of women in the room tonight who were hanging on her every word, and looking for the magic bullet. For those women, Dr Libby and her team have a wide array of services on tap. From my perspective, I certainly agreed with all that she had to say, and it provided me with further validation that I am on the right track.
Last of all tonight, as the 10-minute promo ended – we were shown the latest product from the ’Dr Libby marketplace’, a rose-fragranced candle stylishly packaged in a glass jar. It is being marketed under the name ‘Shine’. The thrust of the name is to remind us all about the ‘ripple effect’ of good change and how when we are ‘all lit up’ about something, it attracts other people. That’s very fitting actually, because Dr Libby is a stylish package herself – and she certainly shone tonight. CARRIE STEELE