A 360 Degree Diet Odyssey

My parents, probably much like your own, considered that a meal should consist of three basic food groups: the chicken group, the salad group and the boiled vegetable group. The chicken group might see the substitution of fish but none of that Dr. Dean Ornish high carb grain and bean dining for my mom and no desserts ever.

However My Mother was not a 'healthfooder' or vegetarian. Unless she wasn't sharing the fact with me. The first mention of healthfoods  I ever heard, back in the late 1940's, came from my much more Cosmopolitan father, a fan of writer, Gaylord Hauser, Greta Garbo's nutritionist. One day when I begged for money for the Good Humor Ice Cream truck, Daddy said scornfully, 'don't eat ice cream. It contains mucus.' I accepted Pop's word as gospel but for the longest time, whenever I ate ice cream, I wondered why the ice cream company would put such a lousy ingredient into their great product. I am not joking. I was literal and I DID interpret the mucus remark that way.

The next word on healthful eating fell on my ears in the late 50's, from writer Adelle Davis. Eat l00 grams of protein a day. Choose from vitamin dense liver, sweetbreads, clams and red meat. Put brewer's yeast blackstrap molasses and wheat germ on everything. Make yourself elaborate protein drinks. All this I did. I flourished on Tiger's milk and was creative and energetic....Who doesn't flourish at age l8? Obviously not poor Adelle who died of bone cancer. And by mid twenties, I had sinusitus and had to quit Adelle's dried milk product!

The next tip on eating healthy came early psychedelic sixties from Jules, a thin Vegetarian guy in beads. "You gotta dump milk, grains and cooked foods; they're lifeless and clog the colon. Worst of all is animal flesh". Jules said. "Cancerville. Gotta quit. You don't need it." Predictably, he was thin as a rod. "Eat carrots. Juice carrots. Steam carrots. Put pumpkin seeds on your green salad. Use Bragg's amino broth on everything." This I did, munching a carrot diet, religiously for a half decade, growing quite thin and brick-skinned in hue. Parenthetically, the two children born with Mom on that diet are thin and tan, with no sign of a weight problem.

My next lesson came in the mid-sixties, from a 60 year old macrobiotic New Yorker with a long white beard who wore shorts and zoris in winter and claimed to feel no cold. He said 'Oshawa's way of judgement is to use fire. Cook your tofu and vegies and chase them down with a lot of brown grains, bread and rice." So I used fire. I added carbs to my diet, I ate brown, brown brown and I plumpened. The third child was born husky, yang, with wide bones. This chubber was immune to cold while Mom had chills which I attributed to my love of the macrobiotic's most forbidden scourge: dairy.

But in my fashion, I maintained the California Fruit and Nut diet and simultaneously, the New York Macrobiotic diet combined, mostly because bi-coastality gave me beaucoup food groups to choose from! My fashion was to add a few fillips like black coffee and whole milk but I told myself I was sooo healthy, what's a little variation here and there going to do? And the fourth child, born on the bi-coastal diet with caffeine is a perky little barrel of steam resembling an expresso machine.

During the last thirty years, there have been no amendments to the basic California fruit nut and Macrobiotic diet. I ate my carrots and greens but I also ate my browns ---the whole grains. Boy, did I ever. But I also forced myself to eat purples, oranges, yellows and reds, as the California fruit and nut people said that sunshine colors were good for you. I avoided salt and red meat as much as I could, catching my own fish as most commercial fish was a week old and in advanced decay. I avoided white flour and sweets just like the diet gurus had told me but maintained one dietary twist all my own. Columbian black coffee. As long as I had a few cups a day I felt I'd had my favorite food group. Black.

The years rolled by and that's when we see what any diet will do to you. My adrenals and pancreas became enflamed. When my pancreas saw morning whole grain with coffee, or a sugar snack, it went into an insulin fit rivalling Old Faithful. Breakfast left me faint an hour later. I found I was very hungry all the time ---perpetual MUNCHIES. Hypoglycemia was a doctor's opinion. Eat more often, he said. Whoppee I said. That's my kind of disease!

Looking back, I realize it was convenient to believe that I could attenuate the syndrome by eating 6 meals a day and 3 during my sleep period when hunger woke me, because on one sick level, the munchies were FUN but mega munchies are not its own cure; I just got plump, gray, menopausal and then arthritic. My raging pancreas had me in its grip. I felt like a cross between the elephant in Fantasia and Moira Shearer in The Red shoes, forced to eat, eat eat, dance, dance dance then eat some more.

And then I stumbled across the first NEW dietary school of thinking I've seen since the mid-sixties, "Enter The Zone" by Dr. Barry Sears, a book that says 25% of Americans react to starches with insulin fireworks but more seriously, that insulin later leads to overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

Sometimes you bump into rap that convinces and motivates at once. Sears does this easily. He convinced me that he has discovered the secret of existence: carbs and sugars are addictive. If you have a little, you need and want more which wouldn't be a problem if you didn't care about being fat, I'm not vain---but all that fat does something else to 25% of us---carbs cause hyperinsulinism which in turn causes diabetes and heart disease. Suicidal I am not!

Sear's was a motivated researcher. His relatives tended to die of heart disease in their 40's, so his career in science had one focus: to figure out what caused veins to clog, heart muscles to THIN and the grave to rise up and snatch one.

Since developing my rampant hypoglycemia, inklings of mortality have also been mine, along with fast patter of heart and a very faint, thin pulse.

An old Chinese herbalist told me that my liver chi was too yin and I needed some exotic herbs. I think the old guy wanted more money. Sears' research indicates that we "yin-liver-no-chi' people should just shun carbs and sugars, whether as starches or sweet fruits. There are plenty of tasty grains permitted that are lowcarbish, (oats, barley, rye) and tasty fruits that were low-sugar, (grapefruit, cherries) so there is a way for my educated, addicted palate to stay away from the extremes that make insulin flow. Myself, I switched to a bread that RALPHS market has, so do all healthfood stores, SPROUTED GRAIN bread like Ezekiel 4:9 (taken from the Bible passage that says 'sprout your grains before you eat them.'

In Sear's book, I read that I must avoid carrots, sweet squash, corn, peas, mango, papaya and (eek) coffee. The list went on. Red meat, egg yolks, gland meats were absolutely out; why supply the veinclogger with any ammunition, but most other proteins, even high cholesterol shrimp, were OK. I got out my pencil and took notes on Sears' 'Most Unwanted' list. It was most of what I ate day in, day out! Brown rice and watermelon. It all had to go. I was practically back to the basic Fruit and Nut diet only without the fruit---to the basic Macrobiotic diet of tofu without the rice. If anything, the diet recalled the one I'd had in my home back in the 40's. Chicken and salad with all the nuts and broccoli I could eat, Yogurt, fish were OK too. In fact, there was a short list of delicious OK foods that wouldn't have raised eyebrows in San Luis Obispo.

The OK zone meant no hard fat, no sugar and absolutely no starch. I figured I could side-skirt the evil three. After all, Sears said that heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, low blood sugar, even arthritis were a result of high insulin foods. I decided his resume of being a bio-technologist scientist and doctor, who invented cures for cancer and heart patients, who had trained Olympic athletes to get an additional 30% performance was impressive. I saw the non-carb light.

I instantly ran out and got a loaf of whole grain rye and ate a slice that next morning with tea. 14 Gms of carb in a single slice, but not a deal breaker. You don't expand in girth with 14 grams a day. I had chicken for lunch, with buttered zucchini and yogurt and a tofu Zone burger on whole grain rye toast, for dinner. For the first time since l945 I was in the Zone. And in the zone I will stay until my hypoglycemia an arthritis pass away or I do.

Whether Zone Burgers will dramatically change my life, remains to be seen. But hey, my old diet gurus, ---forget your carrots and brown rice. Haven't you heard? They aren't healthfoods at all!

I've come full circle. My provincial Mom had provided the right diet back in the 40's. I didn't need Adelle, Jules, Oshawa or the China man.

As I skirt carbs and munch proteins in bliss, I sure hope there are no more dietary full circles to make---or, that as Woody Allen said in some futuristic movie ---we 20th century people were so weird, we didn't know that chocolate fudge and rare beef steak were actually good for us!

Anita Sands Hernandez astrology at earthlink.net