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The Beast in Me

Elvis said it best in Jailhouse Rock. ‘That ain’t tactics, baby. That’s just the beast in me.’ And seriously, nothing brings it out faster than the chance to nosh on a big juicy burger or a chili cheese dog. But now…food. The grocery store is my pharmacy.

It’s such a little word shouldn’t pack so much meaning into something so prosaic. It’s food. But food is what’s hauling my ashes out of this predicament. Food and drugs. Not the FDA. Not the USDA. The agencies that should be helping us seem to be throwing clouds of dust in the air and complicating issues rather than clearing them up. They don’t even talk about food anymore. They talk about nutrition. And, to me, that’s ridiculous. The nutrients are in the food. It’s not a separate issue. You can’t just add fiber to a big, greasy sausage and say ‘Et Voila! It’s got fiber. It’s good for you.’ ‘This cookie has extra vitamins. It’s healthy! It’s full of nutrients.’ ‘We’ve made a lampshade chock full of nutrition…eat this!’ Well, I’m not buying it. I’m all indignant, but we actually do need a pair of lampshades in the living room and the dogs would eat them if they were edible.

There have been moments when the US gov’t seemed to be on the right track. There was a time back in the 70’s-I know I know, me and the 70’s again-but for a quick, don’t blink or you’ll miss it moment, it looked like someone was paying attention. And who, you ask, was this person? George McGovern. The same guy who ran for president in 1972 and lost. No fault of mine. I tried and I was only 12! We got Nixon and Watergate instead. (It’s become fashionable to like Nixon. But that’s another post.) I won’t go into the whole history of the McGovern Committee. You can read about it if you want to, it’s no secret.

According to Wikipedia, (what would we do without it?, how did I get by without Wiki? All those trips to the library…) In January 1977, after having held hearings on the national diet, the McGovern committee issued a new set of nutritional guidelines for Americans that sought to combat leading killer conditions such as heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and arteriosclerosis. Titled Dietary Goals for the United States, but also known as the “McGovern Report”, they suggested that Americans eat less fat, less cholesterol, less refined and processed sugars, and more complex carbohydrates and fiber. In fact, it was the McGovern report that first used the term complex carbohydrate. The recommended way of accomplishing this was to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less high-fat meat, egg, and dairy products. (Can you imagine the reaction of the Meat and Dairy, Big Sugar and Egg Industry? Can you?) To say that the
committee’s “eat less” recommendations triggered strong negative reactions from the cattle, dairy, egg, and sugar industries, including from McGovern’s home state, is an understatement. (Hah! Strong negative reactions! Lets just say they shit a brick.) The American Medical Association protested as well, reflecting its long-espoused belief that people should see their doctor for individual advice rather than follow guidance for the public as a whole.(I have to just say HAH! What a load of hooie. We’re all human type people here. We would all benefit.) Some scientists also thought the committee’s conclusions needed further expert review. (Probably by Monsanto.) Under heavy pressure, the committee held further hearings, and issued a revised set of guidelines in late 1977 (talk about getting down to business FAST. Late ’77! Incredible) which adjusted some of the advice regarding salt and cholesterol and watered down the wording regarding meat consumption. Of course.

Escabeche. Escabeche.

I made these pickled peppers. Using David Leibowitz’s recipe. So easy & delicious.
And I LOVE his blog…

And it’s just gotten sillier and sillier. Products on grocery shelves CAN SPEAK. They speak FOR you, in what you purchase and they speak TO YOU in what you believe you are purchasing. More than anything else, it was probably the McGovern committee that sparked the change in public thinking about the American diet. For although it set out to investigate the causes of hunger in the United States, the committee quickly found that malnutrition in this country covers not diseases of deficiency, but also diseases of excess. The whole process of shopping has become unnecessarily weird. Products that claim to be ‘smart’? Wtf…there are no guidelines for what is a ‘smart’ product. It’s the companies themselves who decide. So suddenly Frosted Flakes are ‘smart’? What? No they are NOT! There are breakfast drinks out there full of sugar and watered down dairy that claim they have antioxidants. Anything alive in this product was killed in the pasteurization process, as it should be. That’s what it’s for. So adding it back in is lame. It doesn’t work either. I’m not going to start going on and on about nutrition and health…oops, too late. But what I’m saying is…don’t be a fool. Buy whole food. Make dinner and breakfast. Make a lunch. All those food blogs I follow, DANG! Those people know how to cook. They make it easy to be healthy. I’m going to try and post some links…mmmmmm, links. Like sausage links….HEY! Wait…don’t get me wrong. Consistency is great. It’s even important. But don’t think you’re going to keel over dead if you decide to have nachos and beer for dinner, followed by tequila shots. I’m living proof you’ll survive. Even if you wish you hadn’t. Ahhhh Tequila…anyway, once you get down off the tables and your friends drive you home and your lying in bed with your Motrin and lemonade the next morning, just get back on board. Don’t start over. You never stopped being healthy. You just had some fun. Good clean tequila based fun. It happens. No ‘healthy diet’ is ever going to make you feel isolated and deprived. As my hero, Kris Karr says ‘Do what you can and know that any change is better than nothing.’

...and not ONE cookie damn it!

…and not ONE cookie damn it!

That said, it seems to me as if cells are acting stranger these days, dividing and conquering more and more people just like me. If eating well isn’t enough, if exercising and juicing and organics aren’t going to protect me…at least I’ll look fabulous. I’ll feel wonderful. My skin will be clear, my lungs will be pink, my heart will be pumping pure oxygen into my red red blood. Oh yes…I’ll be healthy. In a way. I just have to stop those god damned cells. Somehow. And I think I know how. It’s what I believe. To prevent cancer, to increase my chances, to prevent a reoccurrence, I am moving towards a plant based diet. Vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. It’s important because body fat makes estrogen. You make it too guys! These hormones can stimulate cancer growth. There have been studies of post menopausal women who had previously been treated for cancer that showed that cutting down on fatty foods reduced the odds that the cancer would come back. Great news-except I really love hamburgers and sausages. Oh well. I like being cancer free even more. So I’ll give it up. I’ll do my very best to limit my meat, fat & dairy to condiment portions. As flavoring rather than as the main course. Mind you giving up Tillamook White Chocolate Raspberry ice cream, that’s hard. It’s real hard. That might be the last 1/2 gallon I buy in the fridge. Sigh…but I’m doing it. A little at a time.

Right next to the frozen veggie burgers.

Right next to the frozen veggie burgers.

The plant based diet. The regular exercise. The stress management (gotta be the hardest thing of all for me right now. Obviously.) Because I want to survive. I want everyone to survive this. Increase their odds, improve their chances and STOP THIS!

I wish I knew the answer. I wish I could take it away from those young people, those mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. I feel as if I’ve done so much, lived so long, laughed so hard, it doesn’t seem fair that they should die. I would give any of them my next 20 years, I swear I would, I’ve lived and loved so easily and so well. But it’s not about fair. Or deserving it or right or wrong. It’s senseless. The way it chooses its victims. And I use that word conciously. I value my former life more now. Peace and quiet has always been my reward to myself. It’s hard sometimes to feel its worth it. I could have been skydiving or been Michael Jackson’s back up dancer or…or something. But when I look around, at my books and my art and my happy dogs and cats, sometimes, for a minute, I think I’ve made all the right choices. Even when I’m in that chair.



3 thoughts on “The Beast in Me

  1. Thank you. You make my head swell up. I’m all, like, gee. But seriously, this took some HEAVY editing because I tend to rant and rave about food lately. Probably because its the only frickin’ thing I can control about my body. But I’m just going to get some ice cream sooooo….I’ll make it up by not giving the dogs any. At least THEY can be healthy…hah! They won’t even appreciate it. Animals.


There is no sin except stupidity.

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