Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Nutrition Debate #172: “Everybody knows that…”

Have you seen the Geico insurance commercial that starts off with two people and one reads aloud an ad on a billboard: “Did you know that you can save 15% or more in 15 minutes by calling Geico?” And then the other person says, “Everybody knows that.” This comment implies that the tag line is ubiquitous and that the message is oversold.

(In one of the iterations, the guy who was “put down” with the “everybody knows that” quip replies, “Well, did you know that the pyramids were a mistake?” The camera then cuts to the pharaoh’s architect gazing at the pyramids of Giza and comparing them to plans he is looking at showing cubes, not pyramids. He turns to his hapless helper, who just shrugs his shoulders; then the architect says, “Ohhhhh…”)

Well, “Everybody knows that” is what the waitress told me in a lunch place in New Orleans recently when I told her I was diabetic and wanted to know if there was any breading on the Oysters Bienville I was ordering. It turns out there was, and I changed my order to raw oysters; but it made me wonder, if everybody who is diabetic, or pre-diabetic, or even overweight, knows that they are “carbohydrate intolerant,” why do people ignore this simple precept of healthy eating?

 I know, this is the holiday season, and I don’t want to be a hard ass about this -- but eating what “everybody knows” is unhealthy is not going to make you feel good. In fact, it might even make you feel physically bad and it certainly will come with a guilt trip. You’ll pay the price and you know that.

Of course, it is the season for some indulgences, and even those of us who are totally “carbohydrate intolerant” will allow ourselves some. My wife bakes a double batch of about a dozen types of cookies for gifts and for the Christmas table. I will wait until Christmas Eve to have a few, making sure the plates are outside my reach on the table. And I’ll have enough cheese (no crackers) to “count” as an entire meal. My stepdaughter and her husband bring a very nice cheese board up from NYC. Another stepdaughter and her husband from Atlanta will bring homemade aquavit and pâté, and I’ll drink and eat more than my share. My third stepdaughter and her husband host with a true smorgasbord (their Swedish heritage).

So, how can anybody be a Grinch during the holiday season? It’s just that… everybody knows what “healthy eating” means. To be sure, it means different things to different people. People with healthy metabolisms can indulge without much ado. As David Mendoza, a type 2 blogger, advised in a column last January, he just skips dinner for a day or two when he needs to lose a few pounds. Kids will turn a sugar high into hyperactivity and maybe a growth spurt (hopefully a vertical one). Old folks will take a nap when their blood sugar crashes. And people like me will return to normal blood sugars in a few days.

But I am haunted by the man in Louisiana I met last month whose doctor told him it was okay to eat bread with breakfast and who ate spaghetti for lunch and takes oral diabetes meds and basal and mealtime insulin and walks with a limp from the complications of diabetes. I can’t help but think of what lies ahead for him.

I am haunted by the 52 year old 30-year registered nurse (!) whose obituary I read this week and whose family suggested memorial donations be made to the American Diabetes Association.

And I am haunted by the memory of my pharmacist whom I had known for many years when he sold me my first blood glucose meter. That’s when he told me that he was an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic. We were the same age, and when he died an early death a few years ago from one of diabetes complications or one of its many co-morbidities, his death shocked and saddened me. It was the impetus for me to write about my type 2 diabetes and my weight loss/health benefits experience.  My low-carb WOE lifestyle change produced, besides the intended effect of weight loss, the added unintended and unanticipated salutary effects of vastly improved lipid health and blood pressure. It “cured” my Metabolic Syndrome.

These people – even the man in Louisiana, and certainly the registered nurse and the pharmacist – knew better, or should have known better. Everybody knows, or should now know, that carbohydrates, when you are insulin resistant, are what make your blood sugar go up and stay up. This damages your body, invariably and inexorably leading to chronic conditions and premature death.

Everybody knows that…so please eat responsibly. Do not be self-destructive. If you have to “indulge,” choose to eat too much fat and protein, or wine even, on special occasions, rather than the starchy and sugary treats. That’s what I plan to do. You should have a plan too. Try to anticipate what temptations will be present, then make a plan in advance and resolve to stick to it. It then becomes a matter of personal integrity; you are accountable to yourself for keeping your resolution. Be reasonable, though. Allow yourself some indulgences, with a plan, in advance to limit them, and then stick to your plan.  

It’s worth a try, anyway. January 1st will come soon enough and you can reset your resolve to “fly straight” thereafter. I will. I will set a goal to “not cheat” (mostly) and to lose the weight I will have put on over the holidays. January represents a fresh start. You might like to try Mendoza's approach of skipping dinner. And the super bowl doesn’t come until February 2nd, almost 5 weeks from New Year’s Day. So, there’s plenty of time to lose it. Good luck and thanks to my readers (and especially my editor). Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a Happy Holiday Season to all.


  1. Replies
    1. Tell me more, Jan. I like bacon, especially the kind you buy in the supermarket. We cook our eggs in bacon fat too, and I have used the extra bacon fat we keep in the freezer to add flavor when cooking onions, etc. But I now eat only one strip of bacon with 3 fried eggs for breakfast (vs. 2 & 2 before), to get the extra choline. See #176 coming up in about 10 days for more on that.

      I like the store bought bacon for price and taste. I like the saltiness and find I need only one slice to get my taste 'fix.' The artisinal bacons I have tried, besides being 2-3 times more expensive, have less taste. I had some recently that were tasteless (sorry kids).

      Anyway, tell me, Jan, how bacon is your salvation.

    2. Totally agree on the bacon Dan. The supermarket ones, especially hickory smoked, are the best. Love the taste.

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