I’m pretty proud of myself for changing my whole diet, and sticking to it. I’ve never been someone who really struggled with weight, so to be honest, I didn’t know if I could do it. So I feel good about that, closing in on two years eating for “therapeutic ketosis”.
Sidebar – I recently listened to Dr. Thomas Seyfried’s interview on Jimmy Moore’s Livin La Vida Low Carb podcast, and Dr. Seyfried pointed out that he doesn’t think the word “diet” adequately describes what this is for people who are trying to use it to manage something like cancer. He considers it “metabolic therapy”. I love thinking about words and how we use them, and how that influences action, so I’ve been kicking that around. I’ve arrived at “therapeutic ketosis” as my preferred term, as opposed to “ketogenic diet” or “nutritional ketosis”. JICYMI.
Now, for my confession (see the Law and Order theme I’ve got going here?): one of the side-effects of this whole change has been a judgemental streak that I didn’t see in myself before, and I can’t seem to switch off. Maybe it was always there, but I saved it up for judging people who wear yoga pants to work or drive in the passing lane. Either way, I now find myself standing in line at the grocery store and looking at the cart in front of me, totaling up the sugar in it. Or I’m at one of my favourite local coffee bars, waiting for my double decaf breve, watching the blood sugar spikes walk past in the form of drinks and frappes and ubiquitous baked goods. Just a few days back, I observed two young women, both noticeably overweight, step up to the barista and order slushy blended drinks that were low fat, with no whip, and full of mocha chocolate flavouring. I thought “wow, they think they are making a healthy choice here”. I think the same thing when I drive past a local smoothie or frozen yogurt shop – everyone going in there probably thinks they are doing something good for their health.
I don’t like this in myself. It turns out I like it even less in others (now I’m judging the judgers – see? It’s an epidemic!). It jumps out at me in my social media, where the pervasive tone of my health related feeds is slightly (and sometimes utterly) superior, mocking the ignorance of the masses, or just despairing of ever “getting the message out”. I am conflicted, because I believe there are very real benefits to diet and lifestyle changes, not just in a therapeutic setting, but for actual prevention of disease. But I also cannot shake the sense that I am joining my voice with others in a chorus of the enlightened. We are desperate to drag humanity out of the darkness, and if this is not possible, then we will sit in the sunshine and eat avocadoes and watch those poor fools flounder in their self-inflicted bacon-less eternal night. And we’ll probably feel good about it. Because after all, we tried, right?
On the other side of the scales, I also feel a little judged. I see a lot of blamey talk out there, people sharing photos of “health food” (fruits and veggies) vs. “sick food” (prescription bottles), and imploring their friends and followers to take control before they GET SICK. For me, this conjures up a mental picture of an unwashed, barefoot doomsday foreseer with a robe and a sign twined to her chest, or the crazy haired guy with the crooked fingers and one bleary, milky eye who warns us to (FORESHADOWING) never, ever feed our new pets after midnight. I feel like there’s a strong message out there that if you have been diagnosed, it’s your fault. And you should be an example for others, lest they follow you down that one-way road of sickness. The signpost for that road says “This Way Lies A Path of Burdensome Drain on Your Loved Ones and Society As a Whole”.
Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I did everything right. I ate well, I exercised, I have never smoked, I’ve never been overweight or had a cholesterol reading or any other health test out of whack. I’ve never been able to drink more than a couple of glasses of wine at the best of times, and have never in my life touched anything like a drug of abuse. Fun date, right? People, sometimes that’s what the health profile of someone who gets cancer looks like. I didn’t choose to disregard my health and just expect someone to give me a pill to fix it when it got broken.
I do feel that there is a great difficulty in finding solid, accessible and easily understood health information. There is so much noise and so many conflicting messages out there in our 24/7 news cycle, that I despair for people who are honestly trying to find good information. But I don’t think preaching it is the answer. There is also good information out there, reliable information. I think blogs, healthcare professionals, journalists, and others who are helping people find it are to be commended. And to everyone else, stifle the judgey voice just a little, maybe. I know I’m trying to.
Finally, to patients, or people searching for this information: take responsibility for finding it. Ask for help. Start by learning how to determine the credibility of information or research. And ignore the judge-ifiers and health evangelists; they’ll find you, they’ll want to convert you, they’ll want to convince you, they’ll try to make you feel bad and threaten to kick you out of the tribe if you don’t think their cure-all berries are your “cup of tea”. Take action, take control, follow your own light. Be open, but be tough. You need to be.