Friday, June 22, 2018

Red Pill Blue Pill

The last time I was here I was ranting about addiction, diet and brains. I will probably do more of that today. For Lorrie, who commented on my last post, there is a video at the bottom of this post that may help. I don't have a copy of the 2AAT book right by me at the moment, so don't remember what my exact directions were, but I believe this will help with twisted stitches questions.

Now on to the ranting. For Jacinda I may throw in a picture or two, although of what I do not know. Maybe lilies and cats. Just bear with, please. I do have a point here. Or maybe I have no point and am just ranting aimlessly again - but after a decade of menopausal brain stoppage, maybe this is a thing I need to do. VENT.

I have been eating "mostly vegetarian" for about three years which, combined with grief, resulted in a loss of about 12 pounds - not a lot, but remember I am 4'11". Recently I had re-gained some weight, and this upset me. Having been in what the author of Bright Line Eating calls a "right sized body" for the first time in three decades, I was displeased to see it changing back to the chubby-but-not-quite-obese body it had been in the middle bit of life. My body had disappeared from my daily thoughts - I didn't obsess, I didn't fuss and worry, I just WAS - and I was very displeased to lose that freedom. The gain began in response to work stress. Too much wine, too much chocolate, too many little cheats...and all the parts of my brain that demand the unhealthy woke right up and started jumping around like ranting, raging addicted toddlers.
(Chance bringing a plastic mouse to his clearly idiot humans who don't eat meat)
I was also increasingly concerned about Mr. Wonderful's various health/weight issues that seemed unresponsive to medication or exercise, and were really setting him (screw him - ME!!ME!! I DON'T LOOK GOOD IN BLACK, OK?!?) up for some unhappiness in the future. Enter Bright Line Eating but with a whole foods plant based diet at it's base. To update, we have been officially doing BLE for 12 days. I have lost 3.8 lbs. He has lost 6.4 lbs (Men. How do they do that. Every. frigging. time). More - MOST - importantly, his blood sugar is so normal that his medication has been halved, and at some point will likely go away entirely. I will never say that BLE, or any "diet" or "lifestyle change" not in line with the standard western diet (which we are liberally exporting around the globe with disastrous results) is easy. But I will say it is do-able. It has been my experience that things worth attaining are not would we really expect health to be any different?
 (Hawk Mountain stop in PA on our way home - would dearly love to return to do more of their trails)
As a result of reading the BLE book, I picked up a copy of The China Study, which is Thomas Campbell II's book on nutrition and health. About a chapter in I was recoiling and gasping at the idea that cancer could be turned on and off in rats by modifying the amount of animal protein in their diets. It just tumbles down from there - cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases...he confronts them all and with massive data (thousands of studies, not just his own, that clearly document a strong connection between animal protein in meat and dairy and negative outcomes on human health) proves just what our way of eating has done to us - and continues to do.

His recommendation, and his lifestyle of choice, is plant based, whole foods - low fat, lower protein - and that protein from plants. He cites doctors Esselstyn (well known cardiologist from The Cleveland Clinic who's groundbreaking studies in heart disease and diet SHOULD be explained to every cardiac patient on the planet) and Ornish (who allows much more dairy and egg whites, but still has amazing results), among others. They all come to the same conclusion. A plant based diet is preferred. Campbell is pretty specific, and his studies on those cancer rats indicates that keeping protein - plant based of course - to around 10% of our diet is ideal - this number is more in keeping with the diet of rural Chinese who, until we exported McDonald's and Starbucks and KFC all over their map, had remarkably low incidences of most of the disease that plague us here in the United States of Fast Food (God, Country, and Mickey D's!).

So why don't we eat this way, or tell people to eat this way? Why do most doctors hand their patients disjointed and conflicting handouts while making vague statements like "You should think more about diet and exercise..." with no real statements about what they KNOW from science WORKS? The most commonly cited reason: "These diets are too extreme. They are too complicated and difficult. Most people won't succeed."

Wow. Really? Because truth is hard to hear and takes work to follow, we should sugar (literally) coat it and prate about moderation? For my mother, moderation meant "I will, at dinner today, eat only a half a box of Mueller's angel hair pasta with a half a stick of butter and a half a jar of Ragu original and a little less shaker cheese, instead of the whole box, stick and jar." That totally worked. Not.
(Stairs - not always easy to climb but generally worth the effort to see the view)
What really got me yesterday was the connection, clearly made in multiple studies, that links consumption of cow's milk with a host of diseases that plague not just children but adults as well. Juvenile RA. Type 1 diabetes. Then on to a host of autoimmune problems that left me glad that I never really liked milk. I was the child who had to be harped at, and even then I would refuse to drink it. "Then you will have water!" Great, thank you. Pass the ice cubes. Pass all the plants. Maybe I can revere of control this Hashimoto nonsense, or maybe my Reynaud's will stop making winter painful. Or...maybe I can delay some other horror heading my way. Who knows. Just...plants, yes please!
(It is 'yeller squash' season - and Thank Troy, my tummy and freezer are FULL!)
So yeah, choosing healthy is not always easy, especially in a world where toxic marketing is aimed at getting us to do the easy things in order to line a few pockets. And I can see how this way of life might be viewed as "extreme". And in a very short sighted way it may appear complicated. Know what's more complicated? More extreme than a diet that will save your life, reduce environmental damage, make it so there's enough for everyone? Heart attacks. Strokes. Insulin injections. Losing a leg. Losing your vision. Premature death from a disease easily prevented or reversed with diet.  Per capita spending in the US on health care jumping from around $4800 in 2006 to over $10,000 in 2016. Five of the top ten causes of deaths in the US attributed to lifestyle choices and preventable illness. That's extreme. That's complicated. Eating plants is a fucking cake walk by comparison.
(It is also magnolia season, which smells citrus and spice and everything nice)
Things come together in my life in weird perfect storm ways. I am also reading The Master and His Emissary, a book about how our brain is divided, what the two sides do (or what we sort of think we know about what the two sides do based on research), and how our current culture favors left brain thought, and how damaging this can be to us culturally and socially - and individually. All that left brain literality, all that reliance on reason - some of which is very good, for example when it comes to NOT running out for a chocolate bar or a run through a drive through for a burger and fries. But at the same time, the other side of our brain, the right, needs to be allowed expression. If not, why we might find ourselves hyper-protectively ripping kids from their mothers and putting them in detention centers while we prepare to ship the adults back to...oh wait...that happened. Oops.
(Frankie strongly opposes the separating of families and incarceration of children under the current regime's "illegal alien" intolerance program)
All of this sounds extreme and depressing, right? The world is in turmoil, our president is a whack doodle surrounded by other whack doodles, we are eating ourselves into WALL*E's world (everyone in a scooter, bones melted, phones to faces, sucking down big gulps and throwing the trash to a hoard of specialized robots), we are inhumane, hyper protective, fearful, hiding behind the rule of law to cover our selfishness and on and on and on and on. DEAR GOD, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!

But...we are all gonna die anyway. Just think about this for a moment. And really, in the life of a universe - or even a planet - our time here is a fleck of dust. This too, shall pass. So then...what do we do? Cry? Hide? Run? Quit? Shop? Eat? Drink?
(Or just go kayak, which I highly recommend.)
I propose a happier alternative. Tolstoy, in The Kingdom of God is Within You, expounds on what he sees as the three conceptions of life that drive man's actions. In the first, the individual is embraced - he calls this the animal view of life. In the second, one embraces society - this he calls the pagan view of life. In the third, the whole world is embraced, and he calls this the divine view of life. From this view, it's all about love, man. He goes into this in greater detail than I care to here, but at the crux lies this kernel - in the first two, the scope is limited and the outcomes protective of self or of the immediate family, then larger community, then state, then country and so on in varying degrees of commitment and with willingness to sacrifice part of one to save one closer to one's self. But in the third worldview - the divine - life is not defined by "my" self, "my" family, "my" community (and so on) but by the idea that there is one underlying eternal factor - Christians would say God, Muslims Allah and so forth. "The motor power of his life is love". Uncle Leo has very, very few kind words for churches, orthodox clergy etc. ("It is terrible to think what the churches do to men").
(Dude has a point.)
This thinking aligns fairly neatly with thoughts expressed by Marcus Borg and others of emerging church thought. Borg speaks a great deal to the dichotomy facing Christianity in the modern world. We have, at the moment, two ways of seeing the Bible - the first is that the Bible is the literal word of God (you must believe in arks, virgin births, and the holding back of rivers, or you are damned!). In the second, the Bible is viewed in a historical and metaphorical manner. In the first, the literal understanding of the Bible, there is much to protect, much to insist, much to demand, much to feel shameful and guilty about. God is angry, and you better make sure you follow the rules or you are in deep shit. The core of the belief system is easily threatened, and must be protected at all costs. In the second...well, we are dust, and the Book - all the books - have some stuff in them that can help us to be better, nicer, kinder, gentler dust. There is nothing to defend, nothing to protect, nothing to war over. There is just a law of love, a global concern for humanity, for the planet, for everything. I feel like some notables may have mentioned this in their teachings...wait, what was that guy's name again? Oh yeah...JESUS (and others, but being reared Christian his teachings are the most well known to me).

This takes me back to right and left brain, maybe just for a second. Left brain - right hand; that kind of thought really enjoys the literal interpretation of the Bible. It loves the structure and rigidity, it defends rigorously, it squashes opposition. Right brain - left hand; this kind of thinking sees meaning in metaphor, embraces the creative, questions the need to defend at the expense of others. In general we tend to view left brain as "masculine" and right brain as "feminine", which really does a disservice to the brain, especially in our male-dominated society which values the masculine above the feminine; it mocks men who embrace their "feminine side", pays men more than women for the same work, dismisses social injustice with a wave of the hand because those injustices feed and protect that which is important to the left brain, etc. Left brain says "You don't look like me, worship like me, eat like me, act like me. You are other and must be assimilated, or destroyed." I envision left brain in a well-cut dark colored suit with a red tie. Right brain - who I see wearing tie-dye and cut-off's, with a joint in one hand and a peace sign in the other - says "Look at all these amazing and different ways of being! The world is truly a magical and awesome place". We are, according to this author, shutting off the right brain gradually over time and with ever increasing success.

I spent part of this morning looking at ways to increase right brain activity, which I think is a way to help in the process of healing what really is brain damage cause by food, environment, religion, etc. Here's a few ideas - because I think they are important and will make awareness and change easier to accomplish. Martha Beck has some ideas, most of which arose from a bit of writer's block she experienced. She calls it The Kitchen Sink method, and it really works. I know because I have used it myself without realizing that's what I was doing at the time. This Australian lady at the Memory Foundation has a video on ways to stimulate right brain. Actually they appear to have a couple. Livestrong has a nice list of right brain thinking activities. Meditation is a good start, really. Quieting the mind allows both sides more space. I sometimes visualize sunlight cascading down into the right side - NOT the left at first, and not evenly into the hemispheres...but into the right. Then it gets stopped up and cannot go further until the left side takes action (left brain likes action). The left must then open a series of locks, or floodgates, to allow the light to cascade into the left brain, and then down to my toes, gradually filling the body to the very top. But in the visualization, the left has to choose to allow communication with the right if it wants that sunlight - and it really wants it. I just want left brain to be active and participatory in encouraging connection between the hemispheres. I want it to have a choice.

I did say I had some happy news, or a happier alternative or whatever. So here's my happy news. We do have choices under all these layers of conflicting information, societal pressure, advertising mind-fucks, crappy parenting, traumatic events and so forth. Once you know these things, you can choose, even if it is tiny infinitesimal steps in a direction other than trapped. It won't be without complication, it will not be simple, it will not be without backsliding, failure and pain - although clearly we're all in pain already or we wouldn't be expressing our discomfort in our societal behaviors.

I choose to always keep looking for truth. I choose love. I choose health. I choose to think outside of myself. I choose to find ways to counter the negativity and fear we are endlessly fed. They may be small ways, but they are ways. I choose the red pill.

Oh, and Lorrie, here is your video. If this doesn't help, please comment below and I will try to get my hands on my own book. :)

No comments: