I haven’t written a useful word in the past two weeks.
Why is that significant? Because I took an entire income-free two-week period to write. I promised myself that by the end of that period I’d have a basic website in place, with the basics of an eating program that I’d distilled from the writings of others.
The period ends today. Today there’s no website, and no distillation.
Among other things I did instead of writing was to be Grandpa Mike for a few days in Sacramento. I spent three days with my wonderful granddaughter, and with my much-loved son and his amazing wife. Yes, I’m at the time in my life when it’s clear that at some future moment of reckoning, I’m more likely to wish I’d spent time with my granddaughter than to wish I’d spent time writing down my thoughts about an increasingly complex set of issues that seem to defy solution.
And I moved. I moved from my bachelor condominium near the hospital to a house 20 minutes away, in the Wailua Homesteads. I moved to begin sharing a house and creating a home with the woman I will marry. I moved with some trepidation to a house that’s been her family home for 38 years, a house she bought and built with her husband, who died in 2007. I moved despite plenty of advice from relatives and friends warning me that it would be difficult to create “our” home in a house that’s been “her” home or “their” home. Three weeks into the process of living in the same house, I have a rapidly-deepening appreciation of her strength, her adaptability, her willingness to embrace change, and her love -- and an even-greater ability to listen to well-meaning advice without incorporating it into my life.
Lest it appear that I frittered away my research time entirely, I hasten to point out that I devoted the entire return flight from Sacramento to Honolulu to reading and taking notes on Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, a 2007 book from a science journalist who examines the [lack of] science behind the low-fat diet recommendations of the past 30 years, and the [overlooked] science suggesting that “carbohydrate-rich foods are inherently fattening, some more so than others, and that those of us predisposed to put on fat do so because of carbs in the diet.” (Taubes' account of his appearance on Dr. Oz's show in March) Moreover, he argues in his subsequent book Why We Get Fat, it’s almost certain that the same foods that make us fat are the foods that cause heart disease and diabetes and cancer – the diseases associated with obesity.
In short, Taubes says that much of what we think we know is wrong, or at least not proven, and the advice that we fatties should eat less and exercise more is at least inadequate and maybe completely misguided. He charges that organized medicine, the public health establishment, the food industry, and the government have succumbed to the urge to simplify a complex scientific situation so much that it’s no longer possible to meet the scientific obligation of presenting evidence with relentless honesty. We have created, he says, an enormous enterprise dedicated in theory to determining the relationship between obesity, diet, and disease. In practice, however, the enterprise is dedicated to convincing everyone involved, especially the lay public, that the answers are already known and always have been – “an enterprise, in other words, that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion.”
Taubes took five years to write this first book. Perhaps it’s not surprising that in two superficial weeks I wasn’t yet ready to write, especially when I spent most of that two weeks allowing myself to be distracted by other aspects of my life.
I’ve said that I love to take complex ideas, churn up and digest all the underlying information, and make a distillation of my own ideas – that’s why I enjoyed medical teaching so much. And I’m beginning to see here that I’ve bitten off a much bigger chunk than I imagined. The more I learn, the more I see that I don’t know.
If I’m to make a difference in the food conversation, I’ll have to get busy churning and digesting. I hadn’t planned to be overtaken by such an irresistible inquiry while still working full time and in the midst of profound life change, and I don’t have in place a structure that accommodates that sort of intense work on top of everything else. This will be an interesting challenge…