by Thomas Day
Some of you might know I had a heart attack right after Thanksgiving (Ironic, I know.) in 2012. You’d think there is no upside to that story, but you might be wrong. There was plenty of downside, for sure. I experienced the joy of the world’s most expensive, least efficient, “health care” system and will be paying off my debt to that industry until I die. That is a definite downside. There was a brief moment in my 4 days of hospitalization where I was operated on by an incredibly efficient, upbeat and motivated surgical crew who epitomized the tiny core of the best our retroactive medical system has produced. Outside of that 20 minutes, what “cared for” me was a bureaucracy that is obsessed with drug and device sales, expense and income management, procedural and legal paranoia, and obedience to years of poor science and misinterpreted data.
So, a hip replacement (Classic “old guy” surgery.) in 2011 and a heart attack in 2012 has made for two depressing years and overwhelming evidence that I have earned the “geezer” title. No motorcycle content here, at all, I know.
As much as I realize I should be a motorcycling homer, I tend to read only two motorcycle magazines semi-cover-to-cover, MMM and Motorcycle Consumer News. Even in those favorite rags, there are things I just don’t care about and can’t find the motivation to read: cruiser reviews, road race bike reviews, rich guy custom bike articles, and farkle previews for those sorts of machines. I’m old, I only have so much time left and I don’t waste it on crap I don’t care about; that includes most of the television shows my wife watches in the morning. (I soundproofed my “man cave” attic studio to be able to avoid the slightest bit of noise from that stuff.) Two of the MCN semi-motorcycle related columns I read religiously are Mark Barnes’ “Mental Motorcycling” and Dr. John Alevizos’ “Medical Motorcycling.” The reason for that focus is that unlike the majority of the medical practitioners, these two guys are unrelentingly scientific. Because of that, their data is credible and their opinions are unconventional.
In other words, they are never boring. Not boring is a big deal. If I could manage it, I would.
So, with that in mind, this GWAG is about something other than old guys stories or wildly unpopular political opinions. It’s about a classic old American guy thing; getting fat and being pissed off about it. Post-surgery, I read everything I could find on cardiac and respiratory disease. What I learned was that if you have enough time you can find a book that will justify any damn opinion you might have about diet, exercise, drugs and surgery, and all related subjects. In otherwords, hardly anyone agrees with hardly anyone else.
In my first follow-up with my cardiologist, I got a collection of drugs added to my already mile-long collection of prescribed poisons, some 1960’s dietary advice, a book recommendation (How We Get Fat by Gary Taubes), and an odd comment: “About 40 years ago, American doctors and European doctors got into a war about diet and the Americans won. And we were wrong.” He added,”Everything we know about diet is in Taubes’ book.” I went from the cardiologist’s office to the library.
I’ve read How We Get Fat three times in the last two months. I’ll probably read it again. I might even buy a copy, since the library seems to have a constant demand for the book. The thing that I’m having a hard time coming to grips with is the fact that physics and biology are only loosely connected. My old “calories are calories” belief in diet and weight management is pretty much the American medicine mantra, but the fact is there are “good calories” and “bad calories” and my diet has consisted of way too many “bad” calories for 65 years.
Close to the end of Taubes’ relentless argument that we’ve been fed a steady diet of bad information, he says, “We are told to eat less fat and more carbohydrates, and rather than avoid heart disease and get thinner, as the authorities had hoped we would, we’ve had as much heart disease as ever, and dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes . . . A more insidious problem is that all involved–the researchers, the physicians, the public-health authorities, the health associations–commit themselves to a belief early in the evolution of the science, arguably at the stage at which they know the least about it, and then they become so invested in their belief that no amount of evidence to the contrary can convince them that they’re wrong.”
Even the ones who know they are wrong can’t change directions. My doctor aimed me in one direction, but his clinic tried to send me in another. Unfortunately, I don’t take direction well. I may not know much, but I do know old information when I hear it. My memory is still pretty good. So, I went the low carb, no sugar, no drugs, “if it’s not leafy and green or protein don’t eat it” route and I have lost 20 pounds since January and 34 since the previous January. More importantly, I have gone down 4” in belt size. The doc and I are still arguing about which numbers I’m supposed to care about; HDL, LDL, triglycerides, cholesterol in general, blood sugar, and a variety of things I think he should be measuring but isn’t and the usual list of stuff the clinic monitors that doesn’t mean crap. Lucky for me, it’s my life we’re gambling with and if anyone gets to decide how that die is tossed it’s going to be me. If I have to start carrying a .32 in my pocket like my old cowboy hero, Karl, I will.
For now, the goal is 180 pounds by August and I’d like to be able to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I’m still working on the theory that being shot out of a cannon is better than being squeezed from a tube.