Health advice to make you sick is a response to Zoe Sadler's article in Times Live.
First enjoy no cake or wine and more kale. It is quite entertaining, and worth a four-minute read. Alas this link has sunk below the waves, leaving just a few ripples; read on in any case.
Zoe outlines the dilemma faced by us all; wanting to enjoy a long and vigorous life without pain and pills, but also the desire to indulge in the pleasures of the moment.
Two little phrases did worry me a little that she might actually be serious. That word yawn, and the healthy life is absolutely also boring and puritanical.
Zoe bemoans the fact that every time she eats nice food, she experiences a cascade of self-recrimination, regret and fear.
To avoid a grisly early death, apparently I need to join the plant and fitness brigade - yawn.
- Zoe Sadler
Her pen delightfully goes on, perhaps cynically, about how weekly sex might help fend off illness in a blissful marriage; do they exist, one might well ask?
Or should we rather indulge in binge-watching of romantic comedies?
My own thoughts are that Zoe underestimates the power of the mind to alter the sweet desires of the tongue. To cast us as victims of our lusts, helplessly unable to fend for ourselves is just not the whole truth.
But it is a rocky road that we all walk and the temptations to indulge in Pinocchio's Pleasureland lie at every corner.
Re-educating the tongue came slowly for me; perhaps too slowly.
Having a dislike for pain got me started on the health kick. That meant
back exercises, walking and making a start with the
foods that help prevent inflammation.
But slow and sure is perhaps better than impetuous turning over a new leaf each and every New Year's day, lasting rarely more than a week or two.
Watching those around me suffering the indignity of breast amputation, the impotence of prostate treatment and the painful surgical intervention required after many long hours spent lounging about in the sun in my distant past, made me painfully aware that metastatic disease didn't only happen to others. I too was in the firing line and would become sick if I refused to consider health advice.
So we bought a wheat mill and started baking our own bread every day using 100 percent wholemeal, rich in lignans; they are the phyto-estrogens that help prevent breast tumours. Flaxseeds are another rich source.
Personally I feel that it is going to be many years before there is certainty about the association of GMO foods, Roundup and lymphoma but having lost one family member to the disease, nearly two others and recently buried a dog with non-Hodgkin's disease, I am ready to look for the organic alternatives.
There is plenty of health advice, some probably wrong, to help keep us from getting sick.
For so many medical conditions the treatment often seems worse than the disease; prevention no longer seems quite so daft.
As a DC, having witnessed the ravages of obesity in those patients I was unable to convince of the necessity of getting those pounds off, it did not take me long to realise that the frustration that comes from the disability that prevents us from doing what we want to do, is even worse than the pain.
That soon placed a damper on the scoffing of cakes of former times, and refined carbohydrate in general.
Suddenly, becoming a sugar-shunning and sun-avoiding fitness nut was not so difficult; a good hat became an imperative. Like caffeine, half the researchers seem to be saying there are benefits from alcohol in moderation, so swilling a few pints of beer, and necking a good wine has not at this stage come into question.
Seeing the 7-day large pill box container at the breakfast table at the home of a friend caught my attention, especially when he started to complain about the side effects. Blood pressure medication made him cough, and all his joints ache and drastically lowered his sodium making him feel weak and trembly. A life without medication was a pipe-dream for him.
Then came the discovery that I was pre-diabetic and would soon be jabbing myself four times a day with insulin if I did not cut the refined carbohydrate out of my diet; and take a walk after any meal rich in starch. So far it is working; pricking my finger before a meal, and three times at 30 minute intervals thereafter revealed that for the present that medical advice was not making me sick, but stronger.
All these thoughts gradually had their effect; no cake, less wine and more kale began to look more attractive.
A friend who has for years eschewed her greens, and smoked without concern, finds she now has advanced macular degeneration, the ultimate disabling disease.
Two phytochemicals, zeaxanthin, and another called lutein that is found in our greens, are in very high concentration in the macula of the eye where they absorbe the damaging high frequency light.
Researchers have found that smoking together with a deficiency of the these two phytochemicals greatly raises the chances of getting macular degeneration; it is estimated the at least five million Americans are needlessly blind.
Guess what, Zoe; the richest source of lutein by far is kale; so I have re-educated my tongue so what may once have seemed like health advice to make you sick, is no longer so.
But kale from the greengrocer generally is awful; so we grow it ourselves; fresh young leaves like these from four different varieties are only to be had from your own garden; and they grow like weeds; easy peasy, Zoe.
Peppers too are a good source of these phytochemicals.
Health advice to make you sick wonders whether Zoe writes tongue in cheek, or is she serious?
The tongue is described in the Bible as a fire and a world of wickedness that sets great forests ablaze. Most of this, of course, is as an organ of speech used to flatter, mock, gossip and threaten.
But the tongue is also a sensory organ and equally vulnerable to the flattery of soft-baked chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake and colas.
So, where are we, Zoe? You forgot to mention that the tongue can be retrained. It is perhaps in large measure a spiritual process, recognising that for the Christian anyway, the body is the temple of God, rather than any church or cathedral.
But equally, having witnessed the effects of loss of well-being and the encroachment of pain and disability of those around us, we are not helpless victims, at the mercy of our lustful tongues; it can be retrained.
Zoe bemoans boring and dull but virtuous kale. She has got a point; I have never seen it at the greengrocer where it would tempt me to purchase it and even less likely to pass my lips. But freshly-picked, deveined young kale leaves have become a delight in our lives.
Likewise, beans have been a horror in my life since being exposed to old, badly cooked broad beans as a child. For fifty years I eschewed them, until dished up a delightful plate of fresh, young favas, as they are called, beautifully prepared; they are now my favourite legume along with chickpeas and limas.
For me personally, it has been the discovery of the taste of fresh food, and often that means from the garden, or at least a farmers' market, so the time from harvest to the pot and plate is greatly reduced.
Blessed are the balanced and there are not many of us around, except for you and me that is!
Overbearing health advice can certainly make you sick; by making you neurotic. A cascade of self-recrimination, regret and fear after enjoying a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate, or a cookie, or not going out for a jog does no one any good.
Orthorexia is a serious disease where we become overly concerned and anxious about our food; first cousin to anorexia. It is typified by the person who refuses an invitation to dinner, because of concern about the fare, or insists on bringing their own nosh with phytochemicals.
Some of the stuff typically fed to humans cannot in all honesty be called food. Take wheat or corn for example; we strip out the bran and germ and feed them to the pigs, the remaining highly refined starch, empty calories, we keep for our children to consume.
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Health advice to make you sick may greatly irritate you, but these issues need to be addressed.
And secondly, our tongues can be retrained to love whole, unrefined foods; thoughtful cooking and the healthy life in general need certainly not be boring and puritanical.
Even to the extent that a soft-baked chocolate chip cookie loses its appeal, though a bar of chocolate and a glass of beer still have their allure for me.
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