Here’s what I want: some kind of constantly-updating site or app that can tell you EXACTLY WHAT TO EAT IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM SOME PARTICULAR PROBLEM. Is that really too much to ask?
Take my issue, for example: I’ve got bad LDL cholesterol numbers (between 130-150) and my insulin number is way too high. Adult diabetes runs on my mother’s side of the family, and they control it with diet and being Mormon. High cholesterol is all around them as well, but as far as I know, nobody’s ever died of a heart attack, and some of them are… well, let’s call them “roomy”.
In essence, my problem is boring. High cholesterol and high sugar issues, just like half the planet, despite being relatively “in shape” and “still sporty” and “not having let myself go”. So what’s a motherfucker like me supposed to eat now?
I got a bunch of books, and I watched a bunch of documentaries about the subject, and now I’m letting everyone chime in with their advice. And you would not believe the level of controversy, paradox, misinformation, and contradiction involved in a simple perusal of your options.
Here’s a sampling: I watched Forks Over Knives on the ol’ Apple TV, which basically says that eliminating meat protein (in favor of plant protein) can do miraculous things with your health. There are lots of testimonials, and by the end, you look at America’s basic diet with profound disgust.
If you think it should end peacefully there, I don’t recommend any further journey into the online world of raw food, veganism, paleo-diets, or anything sounding like the opposite of humor. But I’ll give you a taste: blogs popped up dedicated to defeat “the cholesterol skeptics, in particular Denise Minger”, prompting others to rush to her defense.
That’s totally fine. Everyone’s got their fiefdom to protect. But I do wish there was some way to find out, via the latest studies, what the overall general recommendations are. Like…
• EGGS. Good in moderation? Bad anytime?
• OILS. Tropical oil bad except for coconut? Even canola oil terrible for you?
• SWEETENERS. Okay, no white sugar, but brown seems just as bad. Switching to honey? Not if you’re pre-diabetic. Okay, then how about Agave nectar, with its lower glycemic index? Well, okay… if you believe in glycemic indices.
The only theory that has made sense to me so far – at least in concept – is Mark Bittman’s VB6 book, which means being a vegan before 6pm, then eating what you want – in intelligent moderation – for dinner. Whether or not it will work seems oddly secondary; what I do know is that I can actually pull that one off.
I mean, you can say “eat way more plants, eat way less meat, don’t eat processed food and get exercise”, but some of us need more granular directions than that. And of course, there’s the doctor over dinner last night, who said, “the recommendation for LDL cholesterol levels simply aren’t achievable by diet and exercise. You can’t do it.”
That’s pretty sobering – you can’t do it – and it makes you think, fuck, I’ll just go on Lipitor for the rest of my life, and it’ll be just one more goddamn drug. But beware the ease with which you can slip into the forever pill, even as all methods ultimately nudge you closer.
Somehow it’s always confusing enough, always too much data or not enough, to narrow your vision to the one pill that can make it go away. I’ve taken that road so many times; instead, I think I’ll take the one Stephen Crane described, with each weed a singular knife. Doubtless there are other roads, but the directions are terrible.