2018 he we come!
Photo by Miguel Bruna / Unsplash

Assuming you have access to and can afford decent food, that is... you can do this.

Recently I wrote a story about sugar, and how insidiously it is inserted into our diets. How it's everywhere and in everything processed. The effects both short and long term on us and our bodies and health, and the devastating prices we pay for ingesting so much of it. That story is here:

Sweetest Ending of All
Fair warning to Dear Reader. This is a lengthy read about getting over sugar and what that can do for you. It’s about a better life, not just a long one. If you want a better long life, bear with me…

If you're anything like me, you love your sweets, or at least your carbs: bread, rice, that kind of thing. Most of us were brought up on some kind of comfort food, something affordable and cheap. For families struggling to stay fed, such foods are easy, accessible, and deadly. They're often full of sugar. That's part of why they're considered comfort foods: they hit the brain's pleasure centers.

So while I am going to share a success story, I must also acknowledge the heartbreaking truth that decent food, the fresh vegetable and fresh fruit kind of decent food, can be devilishly hard to secure for many American families of color living in food deserts. Where grocery stores have fled the inner city and blighted neighborhoods, those families are forced to live on what they can get from the shelves of an all night bodega or 7-11 shop, mostly packaged junk. Certainly not the kind of body-essential fresh foods that help us thrive.

That said, for those of us who have options but choose to not exercise them, at least for now, this is for you. People who claim they simply can't do what it takes to eat healthier, I beg to differ.

To that, a kind reader shared her personal success.

Here's Linda's story:

I am a Type 2 diabetic, and while I am not a big partaker of cakes, cookies and the like, bread used to have my heart. Fresh baked or grocery bought sliced bread, it was comforting, delicious and easier to make a quick sandwich than chop copious amounts of vegetables.

Just over two months ago, I embarked on a journey to eat whole foods, no packaged stuff. I eat no bread, no rice, pasta or white potatoes. I’ve dropped three pant sizes, and lost my triple chin. Yes, triple. My blood sugar levels are normal, like non-diabetic normal. I have vim and vigour. The bloated gut is gone.

Linda got this done under quarantine, when many of the rest of us are packing it on. I did for a little while too, then reversed it, but that's another story.

Now look. Linda doesn't go into what she means by whole foods, but here is  WebMD's version:

The Whole Foods Diet
Why it is better to eat less processed foods.

From the article:

Many health experts believe that eating more whole foods is our best bet for improving health and preventing disease. Whole foods – like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes -- retain their fiber as well as the whole portfolio of beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that are often removed in processed foods.

You and I have the responsibility to do the research and better understand our unique physical needs. Some of us can't have wheat products due to celiac, or we get migraines from certain chemicals in food. What works for you doesn't work for me.

For example, for many years I ate what most would consider a very healthy diet rich with spinach salads, almonds, cashews, tomatoes and the like. In the last few years I've been diagnosed with Intersitial Cystitis and oxalate kidney stones, which meant that the very so-called healthy foods I was eating were causing me grave harm. This is why you and I must be more effective stewards of the magnificently unique body we inhabit. There is no "best diet" for all of us. There is only a best diet for you and me, for this age, this weight, this activity level, and what's up with us right now. That is likely to change over time, just as it has with me.

There are some excellent books about the dangers of modern grains by Dr. David Perlmutter (Grain Brain and others in the series). I've read most of them, and have used them as part of my own guidance. Nobody loves bread more than I do, and it's a real loss of comfort not to be able to grab a hot, chewy loaf full of butter and chow down. The pain from that just isn't worth it any more.

I keep reading weight loss stories from folks who use Keto as their mainstay. With all respect to those who have been able to create a better body temporarily using the Keto eating plans, it is simply not sustainable. Keto can kill:

Low-Carb Diets Weight Loss, Health Risks
Recent studies show that low-carb diets may increase your risk of dying at a younger age. Plant-based diets may be better.

If you're perfectly happy dying younger but with a gorgeous corpse, have at it. However if the plan is to stick around longer and to be happier AND healthier while doing it, Keto is no way to go. Kindly the diet is a prescription of food as medicine for otherwise untreatable kids with epilepsy.

Keto Diet: What It Is, How It Works and Why It May Not Be Safe
The latest diet craze among celebrities promises weight loss without sacrificing bacon. Dieticians say the keto diet doesn’t work long-term.

From the article:

Keto diets "can help us lose weight, but compared to other diet strategies, they're not more helpful," said Melissa Majumdar, a dietitian at the Brigham and Women's Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Much of the weight lost in the initial stages of a keto diet is water weight, because carbohydrate stores in the body carry water molecules with them, Majumdar told Live Science. That can move the scale an exciting amount initially, but weight loss inevitably slows with time.

...."I do not promote the ketogenic diet for patients, because it's generally not sustainable, and anytime we're taking out whole food groups we're missing whole nutrients," Majumdar said. In the case of keto diets, putting the kibosh on fruits, many veggies and whole grains means that people don't end up consuming much fiber.

You and I have to consume dietary fiber. If there is one thing that the American diet is shy on, that's it. To that, there's this:

Why Is Fiber Important in Digestive Health? | Everyday Health
You know you’re supposed to eat lots of fiber — but why? And can you get too much of a good thing?

From the article:

"A high-fiber diet can contribute greatly to gastrointestinal health as well as to a general healthy lifestyle. Fiber helps to regulate bowel movements so they are not too loose or too hard and may decrease the risk of diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Most high-fiber foods tend to be low in calories, sugar, and fat, so they are generally healthy. When eating high-fiber foods one may feel fuller and thereby less inclined to overeat."

There's increasing evidence that our gut is the body's second brain. By eating plenty of fiber we keep our guts healthy, support the development of healthy bacteria and also, if you will, move the mail. To that, there's this:

Concerned About Constipation?
Could you be constipated? Find out about possible causes, such as diet, exercise, and medications, and treatment for constipation.

We are a constipated nation, and with all due respect to my Keto-loving readers, that's not a diet designed to help our bodies work efficiently.  Some folks may be able to adjust to the Keto diet's limitations of high fiber foods which are essential to gut health and proper movement of stool through our bodies. However, the fact is that you and I have to be active, drink plenty of fluids, and not have a sedentary lifestyle. That of course describes most Americans of all ages, especially under quarantine.

You see where I'm going with this.  Here's another piece of reading which might help:

Keto Diet and Constipation: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
The keto diet may help you reduce your carb intake and lose weight, but it does have side effects, including constipation. Find out what causes constipation on this diet and what you can do to help prevent it.

Just because some celebrity or influencer lost weight on a diet is meaningless. They don't have your body, nor do you or I have access to their team of cooks and nutritionists. They likely also have trainers and a house big enough to house their own personal gym, while ours have closed up due to Covid. It's ridiculous to assume that what works for Halle Berry is going to work for you and me. We don't have her beauty pageant, super star body, her money, time or resources, or access to the best foods money can buy and the celebrity chef to cook them.

Linda Erskine, whose story I shared above, is a bit more like you and me. An everyday person with everyday issues and a non-Hollywood star body and budget. Her story interests me far more than what a fake influencer writes (and with respect, they are all fake, it's the nature of the beast). She switched to whole foods, and got results.

For most of us, my bet is that the simplest answers are usually the ones that will work the best. The work to slog through all the crap that is out there about diet and exercise is, well, hard work. Ultimately, though, the basics nearly always apply to most of us.

Good whole foods. Skip the processed. Limit the sweets. Stuff like that. All of it simple common sense, information that is readily available, usually or most often free. Free. All due respect, I say that again, FREE.

Any library's internet.

Can't be bothered? I did it for you. Here you go:

Weight loss advice to steal from the world’s best diets
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Maya Feller tells Hoda and Jenna about the five obstacles people face when trying to eat healthier. She recommends eating more plant-based foods and substituting fruit for candy.

Can't be bothered to read the article? Here you go:

  • Up your water intake
  • Say "no" to added sugar
  • Eat your calories, don’t count 'em
  • Load up on whole foods
  • Focus on complex carbohydrates
  • Be choosy about fat
  • Stay lean with protein
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Get plenty of vitamins and minerals (from whole foods, not supplements)

You really do not have any excuses.

Kindly remember. It's about healthy, not thin. Fit, not skinny. Healthy and fit for some of us means that we're big. Big isn't what's bad. Some folks were born to be big, and it's not a moral depravity for them to be so. It IS moral depravity to heap scorn on folks who a) can't get access to decent food, places to safely walk in nature and be in life and b) can't get access to or afford decent healthcare. Many of us  can, and look at how we take care of ourselves. Most of us don't. Just saying.

The rest, as with Linda, as with me or anyone else, is simply a matter of regular tweaking for unique body types, our individual responses to certain foods (such as allergies and sensitivities), age, activity level and personal preference. For my part you cannot get me into the same room as a Brussels Sprout.

Or you can sign up to some damned fool influencer's Magic Diet, pay untold treasure to get no results, possibly get seriously ill and find yourself out of money and out of time and in the hospital due to dumb choices.

I'm with Linda.

And because that's where I lean, at 67 I am in ridiculously vibrant health, endlessly and annoyingly energetic, look some twenty years younger. Two days after abdominal surgery I was carrying big baskets of laundry up and down my stairs. My doctor said six weeks.

Six weeks.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

I can't speak for you. I can't speak for anyone else. But results like these are available to many if not most, if you and I are willing to behave responsibly in the skin suits we own.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to head to the grocery store for a week's supply of whole foods.

Healthy Harvest
Photo by Brooke Cagle / Unsplash