…is consuming entirely too much of my time… bordering on obsession… perhaps crossing that line a little. My mind is devoting quite a bit of its resources to unraveling this Gordian knot, but I’m making very little actual progress other than to become more confounded. This entire business of nutrition and diet is ridiculously confusing. The simplicity of Paleo dietary practices is very attractive, but too simple and idyllic to believe whole-heartedly. The New York Times opinion piece I read a few days ago, I believe, put it in a way which is as close to reality as one can get while attempting to sort out this morass: there simply isn’t enough real scientific evidence to conclusively prove or disprove any of it… I’m paraphrasing, accurately I hope; I’ll have to look at the article again.
I still have difficulty believing that human dietary adaptation is incapable of drawing nutrition from grains… but I do believe that processed grains have little/no nutritional value. I believe the same about sugar, but that I attribute to my own personal experience — I’ve noticed a serious difference in my overall well-being ever since I quit eating sugar. Oh, I’m as addicted as the next guy, just like I’m addicted to nicotine… but I choose not to smoke (I know now how unhealthy that is for me), and I choose not to consume sugar (refined sugar, not the sort found in fruit… I now know how unhealthy that refined sugar is for me… the nicotine might actually, almost, be better…). I consume an occasional artificial sweetener due to my sugar addiction, I eat an occasional sugar free hard candy for the same reason, but that’s all about to stop… because that garbage is exactly that: garbage.
By comparison, I eat a much more healthful diet now than I did before, but the true difference makers for me (besides breaking up with sugar) are drinking a large quantity of water, a significantly lower calorie intake, and increased physical activity… that’s how I’m losing weight — no absurdly expensive fad diet necessary. I was offered, by my doctor, a very expensive diet which included a wonderful little hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, weekly office visits for injections (covered by my insurance, naturally), and the requirement to purchase an almost $500 kit (not covered by my insurance, so this would come out of pocket). This bullshit quackery really undermined my trust in my physician. I do agree, though, with what he was saying about my current eating practices not being sustainable (and he actually used the word correctly — “sustainable” has become a buzz word that makes me cringe the way I do when I hear finger nails applied to a black board): even the healthful foods I’m preferring right now are processed and genetically modified… the fruits and vegetables I’m consuming in large quantities are almost devoid of any nutritive value… junk food is too easily and readily available. Thus my quest for the right nutrition continues.
Now, I have to say that it’s not (nor ever has been) my goal to turn this blog into a diet/nutrition site… and I, sure as shit, am not a scientist or doctor… but I like sharing what I learn, and this whole episode has had a pretty profound affect on my ability to write and create… my anxiety about all of this nutrition stuff is dominating my attention and preventing me from using my head to make stories. The other side of the sword’s edge is that I just can’t simply ignore or dismiss it. I felt like total shit not that long ago… and, in one particularly nasty instance, I thought I might be on the verge of a heart attack or a stroke. The sedentary lifestyle is dangerous… and in order to accomplish one’s writing, one has to put his/her ass in the chair and write… For me, though, it was the other choices I made along the way… the better part of forty years worth of choices… wrong choices, I’ll admit… which got me where I was.
In true library worker fashion, I’m reading a number of books at the moment… Liz Wolfe’s Eat the Yolks, David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain, and Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat by Harvey Levenstein… books by a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, a Doctor, and a Historian — and I have to admit that I find the Historian’s perspective most in alignment with my own. What Levenstein is demonstrating in his book is that it’s extremely profitable to scare the living shit out of people, and that sounds about right… greed seems to underlie everything. Fortunately for me I have good friends who have my back and look out for me. One such friend forwarded to me a LifeHacker article on How to Quack-Proof Yourself Against Pseudoscience, and I think it bears consideration; especially since everyone is trying to make a fast buck off of health hysteria these days… EVERYONE! Eat bread: you’re fucked; eat meat: you’re fucked; eat vegetables: you’re fucked; eat fruits: you’re fucked; take medicines: you’re fucked; breathe air: you’re fucked; you fuck: you’re fucked… fuck, fuck, fuck!!!
So this is what my explorations have uncovered for me thus far: I’m fucked… we’re all fucked. I suspect what made me ill was my own torpor and excessive ingestion of shit I knew was no good for me. My cholesterol is high… Liz Wolfe says that’s a good thing , my doctor thinks that sucks (of course Liz Wolfe can tell me to eat a raw squirrel and I’d consider it because she’s a fox! What? Hey, I’m human… I’m not immune…). Many seem to think eating grains is like sucking on the devil’s pooper, but grains are a staple food upon which people around the world subsist. My brain is suffering, but I suspect this is not because I had toast this morning… I suspect that it’s because a vast amount of quackery is being hurled at me and it’s hard as hell to parse all this shit because everyone claims to be a definitive authority. Who’s right? Search me… I have no bloody idea. I refer back to the first article to which I linked in this post which I believe contains one of the few kernels of truth I’ve encountered on this quest (oh by the way, if you eat corn: you’re fucked).
The answer, the right answer for me anyway, lies in a balance of moderation and activity — those were the two things which were severely out of balance when I started to feel unwell: I had a terrible diet which I ate to excess and I participated in no exercise… none… zero… almost complete slug-hood… I was turning into one of those humans in Wall-E:
Perhaps the real source of our ills lies not in some external thing to which it’s easier for us to pass the buck or point the finger. Probably the real cause of our poor health is ourselves and the convenience we have at our disposal; our own shitty habits which we often carry to that point of excess — we are our own worst enemies, after all. Maybe our brains are decaying because we spend entirely too much time in front of the TV or the computer or engaged in pursuits which do not stimulate the brain… maybe our brains are decaying because we live a routine, unimaginative lifestyle largely free from challenge. Our brains are no longer devoted to trying to figure out ways to survive or to withstand the elements or to find shelter or to innovate something that will enable us to provide sustenance for ourselves. We file our reports, take our medications, spend our paychecks at the supermarket, obsess over material things, and then repeat the next day… and the day after that… and the day after that… and the day after that… Bleak. Fitter, happier, more productive… Maybe we need to demonize something to take the focus away from ourselves, so that we don’t have to make hard decisions and so we can continue to pretend that there is last minute salvation.
The punchline to the joke is still death. We all die… no one gets out of here alive. Probably we shouldn’t do anything to speed that eventuality along, but we probably shouldn’t allow our anxieties to consume us either because worrying too much is just as bad for us as eating the wrong sorts of foods… whatever those are. (Stressed? You’re fucked!) I wish I could say that in writing these words here I’m helping to alleviate my own obsession and anxiety… but I know myself too well. I’ll continue to obsess and worry about all of this even though the truth is I’ve lost a fair amount of weight and I feel a lot better. I’m miserable because I still associate my laziness and shitty diet with “enjoying myself.” The hardest part about changing a lifestyle is changing the way you think… especially when it’s thinking I’ve taken over forty years to cultivate. I’m no better or different than anyone else… I want to disbelieve the authorities; I want to tell my doctor, to his face, that I think he’s full of shit; I want to throw away the statin I’m taking because that shit is poison… but what if it’s not? I don’t know who to believe… but my skepticism sets off an alarm every time I encounter someone or something that claims to prove beyond a shadow of all doubt to have the right answer. Shenanigans!!! But what if..?
It’s a web of various agendas, but I don’t want to become that unwashed paranoid who hangs out at the main public library everyday and talks to himself about all of the various organizations who are out to get him. There is no right answer… except perhaps to have an alert trust in the world, to maintain a healthy level of skepticism, to make art and be creative, to enjoy oneself as much as possible, and to accept the inevitability: that we all die…