For the last year or more, in an attempt to make up for past excesses, I got fastidious about diet.
The excesses are a back-story for another time. Enough to say for now that apart from quaffing way too much, I’d been a smoker for years. So in addition to low-level neurosis, I was below-par physically. The ( even ) older version of me was in for Grim Times.
So when a friend loaned me a copy of T Colin Campbell’s The China Study it lit a spark. The back cover quotes The New York Times’ reaction – to the original study – which it says ” … can be considered the Grand Prix of Epidemiology…”.
My txt reaction was briefer.
The best-selling book, published in 2006, draws on Campbell’s 30 years studying nutrition and disease. It asks why America especially and most Western countries are health basket-cases compared with many parts of China. You know the roll-call; cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity.
Campbell holds a doctorate and once lobbied for the meat industry. The book uses screeds of research data to conclude that diet is the problem, and can be the solution. It advocates a whole-food plant-based diet to ensure against, and fight the above diseases.
The book is compelling reading, and the science and stats are hard to argue with. So, first I cut out dairy, then I cut meat – apart from fish. Would it kill me? No faster than smoking and drinking would have.
Making The Adjustment
My flatmates at the time were both pot-bellied habitual drinkers who’d grown up on farms. One is a 1950s Man, so trying to explain the caper to him was like talking to a bull. Chickpeas? – ‘harumph, stock-feed’. Or ‘heh heh – whats that green thing in there?’ The other’s major talents were finding, fetching, following, carrying, and mowing stuff. The ‘do anything for you’ type. We called him Radar.
So when these characters did a bacon fry-up, which happened most days, walking past it was an exercise in willpower at first.
But after refusing the offers for a while, then once or twice accepting them, I re-learned that short-term gratification soon leads to feeling like … shit afterward. I could feel that wad of fat swimming in there, along with brain-fog and fatigue. The same goes with dairy, although cheese is harder because of the taste.
But along with the stick, there’s a carrot, so to speak. It’s not rocket science. Eat good whole food ( unprocessed ), and your body rewards you. Most times, I felt light and vibrant after meals.
With the other changes, I continued eating what I though of as ‘healthy’ bread. The more high-fibre expensive stuff.
Problem was, I was soon embarrassing myself in company. More than usual. I’d had to stand at what I thought was a safe distance from a friendly chatty woman at a local store. At an informal dinner marking a daughter finishing a polytech catering course, another parent wasn’t fooled by my attempt to blame the cat for the foul air.
It was flatulence ( see below ). OK, yeah, tee-hee, but what caused it?
My daughter thought it might be down to the amount of prunes I routinely ate around breakfast and lunch. A friend thought it might be the coconut milk and cream. I cut back first one, then the other, but no improvement.
Now on to bread
Now I’m no scientist, but I can be a lab. Next to go was those breads. Et voilà! When I replaced them with chapatis and pita bread – both whole grain, surprisingly filling and really high in fibre – problem solved.
My theory is that previously, the breads hadn’t been a problem because all the other crap I ate alongside them disguised the issue. Maybe also, those breads that I assumed were good healthy options, aren’t really.
In keeping with that experimental spirit, both chapatis and pita bread are much more versatile than regulation sliced bread.
The first is usually thinner, but with more surface area, so you can stack it with any filling, and then wrap it over to ‘seal’. The second I cook in a toaster. Then cut around the side to create an inner pouch, and fill.
Without going all Jamie Oliver on it, avocado makes a really good base, like a butter. Add tomato and lettuce with that, and you have a start. I’m still experimenting, and that’s the idea. It means you can be a lot more adventurous than say peanut butter, vegemite, honey, Nutella ( more than 50% sugar! ), or fried eggs.
Try it, it won’t kill you, and you might like it. And so might your body, and those in your orbit.