Please weigh in, agree or disagree, thoughtfully and respectfully. Ferocity and passion are encouraged; disrespect is not. Thank you for reading, and seeing this as a conversation rather than a monologue.

December 9, 2010

Lotophagi, Unite! We have Nothing to Lose but our Inertia

I confess. I found the word Lotophagus on Wikipedia when I checked to make sure I knew the story of the Lotus Eaters. Lotophagus is an inflated word for Lotus Eaters. I will be using it at cocktail parties soon.

The Lotus Eaters were a people who spent their days – and, to the point, months and years – in a swoon induced by their consumption of the lotus plants that were the main food staple where they lived. It was a narcotic, and it made them worthless lay-abouts. Any who ate the plant likewise ceased to care about anything. Odysseus is said to have had his crewmen who ate the fruit tied to benches on deck to keep them from returning to eat more. It's good stuff. But, you know, it steals your life out from under you.

There are lots of things for which I could use the Lotus as an archetype. Marx said religion was the opiate of the people. I and others have nominated television for that honor. Some have mentioned consumerism. Any addiction qualifies: alcohol, heroin, cigarettes, whatever. I'm going to talk about mine, but I hope you will take an opportunity to ask yourself if you are eating a Lotus of some type, and if so, what it is doing to you.

I'm lucky. My Lotus is maybe the most socially acceptable Lotus ever. There are probably genetic and environmental reasons why it has had such a hold on me for half a century. I had alcoholics on both sides of my family tree, and I am lucky as hell that alcohol is not my Lotus. But sugar is, and I have read that it is a common occurrence for the children of alcoholics to have "problems" with sugar.

I quit sugar a year or so ago. I had noticed, when I had whooping cough, that my arthritis no longer troubled me. I attributed that to either a lack of caloric intake or a lack of sugar, especially. (I lost 25 pounds in one month. You need a pertussis booster as an adult if you want to refresh your immunity to whooping cough. I recommend it.) So on September 27, 2009, I gave it up.

I decided not to be a "Sugar Nazi." I would accept 2 grams of sugar per serving of whatever I was buying, but no more. And I decided I would let myself indulge over the holidays. I did really, really well for two months before Thanksgiving. I'd say I eliminated 85-90% of the sugar from my daily diet. I even cut out coffee for a while, since I so often had it with a biscotti. It was not nearly so hard as I thought.

Then the holidays came, and went, and I never got back on the wagon. Recently, since my return from Germany, the effects of my sugar- and carbohydrate-heavy diet have become pronounced. My allergies were horrible when I got back. My arthritis has been a bit more insistent in its request for ibuprofen. My scalp is getting . . . well, crusty is probably the right word. But the most pronounced effect is this: I sleep like a 90 year old, all through the day. And my head is in a nearly constant haze. And, from time to time, I feel my blood pressure doing acrobatics, one time taking me to the brink of passing out. Also, what I have taken before to be back pain (since the pain was, actually, in my back) I have decided is more likely to be some internal organ protesting at the crud it is expected to process.

Tuesday, except for the time I spent at the Bosque del Apache and eating breakfast and dinner, I slept nearly the entire day. I also slept much of this afternoon.

But then angels appeared to warn me that I was on the wrong path, heading for the big sleep. (Ya like melodrama? I do. This is mundane stuff; it needs a little spicing up.)

My friend Andrea mentioned her ongoing battle with sugar a couple of days ago. And my friend Lauren, who is soon to visit, told me what she eats, in answer to my e-mail asking her how I should provision for her visit. She is gluten-free, and eats well, if idiosyncratically.

All of a sudden, I got the urge to go back on the wagon. Crackers went to the compost (sleep, little earthworms. Sleeeep.), and I went to Trader Joe's, where I bought soup, and fish, and veggies and nuts. I am so glad I didn't have to throw out any Klondike bars. I'm not sure I could have. Tonight I am going to go through my previous notes on sugar, the glycemic index, carbs, and nutrition. I will construct a shopping list of food that will feed me, energize me, and make my body go ahhhh. I expect to stay awake through the days until I am in my 80's. I expect I will lose some weight (I'm about 220 now). And I expect my arthritis and allergies will calm WAY down. I will probably lose some weight, too – especially since I will have more energy for exercise.

So, I'm marking my calendar. December 9, 2010: the day I grew up, took charge of my diet, and didn't look back. One day, as they say, at a time. Dinner tonight was butternut squash soup with herbs and spices added in, and edamame for fiber and protein.

Maybe tomorrow I can get some work done.

If you think sugar or carbs may be a problem for you, check out this web site. It may give you some ideas about what the symptoms are of someone who is sugar sensitive. Then, you know: do your own research or talk to your doctor or nutritionist. Also, if you are interested in any other dietary or weight-related issues, I recommend The Philosopher's Diet. It is about dieting the same way Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is about motorcycle maintenance.

Got a Lotus? Or does a Lotus have you?

Coming in for a Landing at the Bosque del Apache

I went to the Bosque del Apache on Monday and Tuesday of this week. It was warmer than usual, about 30ยบ F just before sunrise. It is one of my favorite places in the world. Saw bald eagles, a pheasant, a skunk, and lots of deer, in addition to the usual, and magnificent, cranes and geese. If you live in New Mexico, I recommend visiting. If you live elsewhere, I recommend visiting, too: I'll be happy to be your driver and tour guide.
Because I Need to Know If McAndrew Is Full Of It