This morning there's a certain liquid noticeably absent from my oatmeal. It's called soy milk, and the reason for its disappearance is a woman named Brigitte Britton, a petite, wiry, fifty-something-year-old holistic nutrition guru who's promoting natural wellness in Miami this month. I invited her into my home to see what insight the 30-year healthy living veteran and creator of The Mega Way nutritional shakes could offer on how to make my already awesome vegan diet work better for me.
Her nutritional philosophy is inspired by books like Fit for Life and Diet for a New America, an apprenticeship with a Chinese medicine practitioner, her experience as an organic chef, and her work in an anti-aging clinic in Palm Beach. But she wasn't born a beacon of health and wellness. "I can't even tell you the amount of crap I've eaten in my life," Britton confessed. "Sweets? I'm like the sugar freak. That's how I developed all this. I became hypoglycemic, I got really really sick. I died twice. I didn't get it the first time! I've gained seventy pounds and lost it. I've gone through all the trials and tribulations. I know what it's like firsthand."
Her own brush(es) with death brought her to the health world out of desperation. Now it's her life's mission to help other people make similar changes with the help of her shakes and her individualized approach to nutrition (and to make a living at it, of course). "I've worked with almost 8,000 people now, in the last 25 years," Britton said. "The bottom line is there really is no exact right for everybody, because everybody is different. When you trust how you feel, and you listen to your body, your body tells you what you need and how much you need of it. Forget all the stuff you've heard and listen to your body, because how you feel is key."
When I hear about weight loss and wellness programs based around shakes, my eyes usually do a couple loopty-loops in their sockets. My initial response to Britton's program was no different, until I took a look at the ingredients label on her shakes: goji berries, organic alfalfa leaf powder, maca powder, ashwagandha, organic raw cacao, organic wheatgrass, organic black chia seeds, luo han guo, organic cinnamon powder, organic turmeric, and hemp protein powder. (Her standard shakes contain milk-derived organic whey protein concentrate instead of the hemp protein, but I got the vegan version.) It read like a hippie raw foodist's wet dream.
Compare that to the ingredients list of a Slim Fast shake (sugar, guar arabic, calcium caseinate, cellulose gel, artificial flavor, canola oil, soybean lecithin, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, and dextrose are among the first on the long list - that's four different types of sugar!) and it's easy to see that these concoctions are from a whole different nutritional galaxy. (See how you can try a week's worth of Britton's shakes for free at the bottom of this article.)
The concept behind the shakes is that each ingredient is supposed to "balance the the ten body systems: the digestive, intestinal, circulatory, respiratory, urinary, glandular, nervous, structural, immune, and emotional/mental systems." Her starter kit comes with a booklet that explains each ingredient and its function. You also get a bottle of Health Direct "Optimal Nutrition" liquid vitamins, which you're supposed to throw in with each shake. The plan is to drink one shake every weekday as soon as you wake up, and then follow a strict nutrition plan uniquely tailored to your blood and body type. You eat what you want on weekends.
The eating for your blood and body type thing is not a new concept. Homeopathy, naturopathy, and Ayurveda have inspired many nutritionists and holistic healers to advocate certain foods, liquids, and herbs be consumed or avoided based on a person's blood or body type. Some contend that because certain blood types contain certain antigens, they recognize food sources that are composed of similar molecules to be "self," and others to be "alien." When we eat foods ill-suited for our "type," the alien food particles produce an adverse immune response, and our body systems get all out of whack. Therefore, blood-type "A" people should eat a primarily vegetarian diet, while "B" people should avoid nuts and seeds, etc.
Most scientists and traditional medical practitioners call it malarky, but I suggest you do your own reading and experimentation and judge for yourself. The worst thing that could happen is you start to think more about your food choices and how they affect the way you feel. Similarly, Britton advises that people give her personalized "type-based" diet plans a shot and then adjust according to their bodies' reactions.
During my personal consultation with Brigitte, I got to hash out a few of my lingering nutritional concerns, and I enjoyed the suggestions she gave. For example, I've felt that my water weight fluctuates pretty wildly at unpredictable intervals throughout the month. She advised that I cut out the Gardein veggie meats I've been scarfing (composed primarily of soy and wheat gluten), and switch from soy to almond and coconut milk. Her reasoning is that soy has been shown to cause erratic fluctuations in estrogen production. She said this hormone flux could cause water retention and even breast cancer (the medical jury is still out on whether soy prevents or promotes breast and other cancers). "Ninety-nine percent of soy is genetically altered," she added, "so who even knows what you're getting. When I decided to cut soy out, not only did I drop eleven pounds, but I had no more sweats."
She also said the body doesn't digest wheat gluten properly and that this might be a source of inflammation. Finally, she pointed out something that's bothered me about many fake meats throughout my vegetarian and vegan life: they're highly processed and full of fillers and additives. She suggested I flush my system out by eating lots of asparagus for a few days. I'm going to give it a try. I'm preparing myself for the weird asparagus-pee smell.
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When Britton showed up at my door, she brought two weeks' worth of her organic shakes and liquid vitamins - one set for vegans and one of her original formulas, for people who don't mind eating whey. I'm willing to re-gift the original set to a reader who's interested in giving his or her health lifestyle a kick in the ass. Send me an email with a few sentences telling me why you'd like to try the Mega Way, and if you sound sincere, I'll give you the goods
Otherwise, you can personally employ Britton as your guide to The Mega Way. For $400, you get a 1.5 hour face-to-face consultation, three days'-worth of shakes and vitamins, a personalized diet plan and recipes, plus email and phone consultations every week for two months. Go to her site for more info.