On Sunday, we diverted to Whittier, three quarters of the way to Anchorage, to meet up with a couple of friends and spend most of the day on their boat in Prince William Sound.
Lately, however, I simply haven't been feeling drawn to go out much, let alone far out in the wilderness. Given that we're surrounded by semi-wilderness, and given that it's Phil's life-blood, I've been feeling some guilt around this. Shouldn't I be stoked and excited to go out and be in the midst of such gorgeous wilderness, with the best possible guide and companion too? I don't really know what to say about that, except that I just need to watch it, and that mostly, when Phil is going somewhere and it doesn't sound like 'too much,' I go too: I allow myself to be taken out there and exposed to it, and I keep the space open for the desire and delight to return.
Is it a defect and deficiency in me, this inward-lookingness, this lack of desire to be outside? Of course, it's cold out, but I'm learning to cope with that pretty well and not to feel emotional pain around the simple fact of cold/fatigue/hard going.
Some More Thoughts on The Great Health Debate
It's the fourth night of The Great Health Debate tonight--David Wolfe and Daniel Vitalis, two wonderfully engaging speakers, both of whom I know personally (although I haven't seen them for years). I haven't heard all of tonight's yet, so I'll talk about the last two night's offerings from Jonny Bowden and Joel Fuhrman on Monday and Donna Gates and Robert Young on Tuesday. For all kinds of logistic reasons, these were presented as individual lectures, rather than conversations like that between Cousens and Mercola, which was fine, as having each pair juxtaposed allows the listener to compare the approaches quite handily. For me, last night's pair of talks from Donna Gates and Robert Young was the most informative and also the most unsettling so far, largely because I was less familiar with their work than that of anyone else so far. Joel Fuhrman was a pleasant surprise too, though.
I've read books by Jonny Bowden and as a 'voice,' he was pretty much as I'd expected him to be--pleasant, personable, a mine of important if somewhat specious information. Before hearing Fuhrman speak, I'd had him pegged as a low-fat vegan zealot, but it turns out that he is much more open and balanced. He does not recommend super-low-fat diets but recommends a good amount of high-quality fats. He does recommend a vegan diet, so long as one is conscientious about it, but doesn't condemn other styles of eating. His suggestion that if one is going to eat animal products, one use them 'as a condiment,' sounds sensible and accessible even for die-hard meat-eaters. I found it interesting that although he said that eating a lot of raw vegetables is a good thing, he said that not eating things like cooked bean soups didn't gain you anything. That was an interesting way of putting it, that you don't accrue a benefit from omitting something. On this path, it's very easy to get into thinking that omitting things is a holy grail.
Donna Gates continued the balanced, compassionate, non-zealous espousal of what has worked for her and in her clinical practice, with a special emphasis on the importance of fermented foods traditionally for humans and in therapeutic settings, especially to do with the yeast epidemic. I found it a good reminder to eat my kim chee and drink my kombucha!
But then Robert Young came on and said that all fermented food is toxic. I'd have to say that he was the first genuine zealot in the series of speakers. Everyone else so far, even those espousing a strong position in favor of veganism or of omnivory, of low-glycemic diets or anything else, has emphasized the importance of individuality and the necessity that everyone experiment and find out what works best for them. It was quite humbling to hear these very eminent experts all acknowledge that human health and nutrition are so complex and compass so many factors that there is not a definitive black and white truth to be preached.
Well, Dr Young does believe that there is a truth, that he knows what it is, and that anyone who does anything different is going to an early grave. He puzzled me at the outset by saying that vegetarian and vegan diets 'don't work,' and then, moments later, saying that if you eat meat you're killing yourself. It turns out that the diet that he espouses is an 'alkalarian diet,' completely vegan and largely raw, but also predominantly 'green.' Everything should be alkaline, your poop should be green, you need fat for fuel but protein and carbohydrate are life-destroying. No middle ground, no exceptions.
It was striking to me that Dr Young was also the first speaker who did not in any way acknowledge the component of pleasure in food. Dr Fuhrman, (who thinks that salt is a killer), agrees with Dr Young (who thinks that salt is essential) that 'cravings' are not a good way to make food choices, that they are the product of addiction and deranged gut flora. But Dr Fuhrman still talks of making delicious salad dressings and other delicious foods. I didn't detect anything in Dr Young's talk to suggest that enjoyment was a worthwhile component of nutrition. There have been times in my life that I've found such an approach very attractive, but at this point, I think that enjoyment is an important piece.
I am really grateful to receive such a variety of perspectives (I'll say a little more about this when the series has ended). For someone like myself, with a tendency to extremism, it's especially welcome to have some of the more 'extreme' viewpoints and espousals juxtaposed with different others, as it curbs my tendency to fall into the latest most extreme most restrictive most austere... What if I can mend my metabolism and eat wholesome food without being afraid? What if I don't have to follow the most forthright and browbeating of the 'gurus'? I'll never be able to eat 'anything and everything' like Phil does: I don't think I'd want to. But to be able to transmute some of the gray areas and rough edges of perfection with grace and gratitude, to let pleasure and appreciation round out the nutrient levels? That sounds good to me. And meanwhile, it is important to me to learn as much as I can and to expose myself to the greatest possible variety of approaches: great therapy for an extremist.
I'm continuing to make that favorite cherry-almond smoothie I shared recently as an oft-chosen part of lunch.
Are you tuned into the Great Health Debate?
What's your most surprising addition to a smoothie?