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Unbecoming

I started thinking about alternative lifestyles years ago when I read a book on macrobiotics. Its eighteenth-century inventor, Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland, believed his grain-based regimen was, ‘a science aimed at prolonging and perfecting life.’ What attracted me was the book’s Japanese spin, for the unspoken rule of the early seventies was, ‘Eastern is authentic.’ My goal was to become Enlightened which, I assumed, meant changing who I was. Could macrobiotics guide me along that path?

Unfortunately not. The book called on me to quit dairy foods, and that wasn’t going to happen. I grew up in England’s best milk country. I delivered it in pint bottles before the sun rose. I worked in the cattle auction ring. I loved cheese. My family had a fine restaurant. Cooking was a skill I took pride in, and a sense of identity.

My first time abroad was with my father to the continent. We drove directly from the ferry dock in Calais to a boulangerie. Ten minutes later Dad spread a blanket in a farmer’s field and there we sat, scooping up creamy camembert with fragments of warm baguette. We washed it down with vin ordinaire while he grinned like a Cheshire cat.

This was a new Dad and a pleasant surprise. I was used to him being unhappy and demanding. Although the church consoled him, it had the opposite effect on me. Nevertheless, that July afternoon we broke bread and shared wine, and it was better than any mass I’d attended.

Like many Italian families, mine blurred the lines between food and religion. We were dogmatic about both. We self-identified as restaurateurs. A few years later I abandoned church with little regret, but my bond to the food I grew up on was sacred. Since reading that macrobiotic book I’ve developed arthritis and allergies, and often thought about quitting bread and cheese. Last week, forty years later, I did it: no more wheat; no dairy.

This diet is really for Caroline. I’m piggybacking on her motivation. Her MS has become unmanageable in recent months, and this is the only thing that offers hope. That may sound like a last resort for the desperate, but it’s actually encouraging. The physician who put it together has MS herself, and that sets her apart from run of the mill neurologists. She’s Terry Wahls and it’s the Wahls Diet. What she says sounds right, but the proof is in the pudding. We’re looking for results.

The first change is in perception. Looking back, it seems I was never really hungry before, just chronically unsatisfied. When I get it right, and my spaghetti aglio e olio is sublime, I can’t get enough. I stop eating because I have to, but the craving remains. It’s stressful.

Mind you, with this diet I’m eating all day. Tons of vegetables; lots of chewing. I used to run on empty for a while, then dose myself with carbs. It’s quick and convenient. It’s also over. Now I have a new sensation in my belly: satisfaction. It feels so natural. Sixty years I’ve lived without that feeling; wow.

It’s easier to change perspective when you’ve been dwelling in dark places and one day have a fresh chance. Caroline’s been looking at despair for a while; now there’s hope. Her body seems to be working with her for the first time in years. She’s holding her breath.

Some sort of desperation triggers every dramatic change in life. That’s why this blog asks you to expose yourself to doubt. If you’re picky about the change you want to embrace, your motivation will never reach critical mass.

I’m doing this with Caroline, but for myself too. The Wahls Diet takes over your life and your kitchen, so it’s a family effort. Also, entropy is more noticeable these days and I stand to benefit. I newly respect my body, and the feeling appears to be mutual. My tool as always is mindful reflection. It’s more than a technique; it’s a feedback loop too. The biggest obstacle isn’t distraction; it’s clinging to the familiar.

When circumstances, timing and personal momentum line up, change is effortless. Trouble is, you never know what’s lining up until it happens. How rarely we make a clear decision and accept all consequences.

 

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One response to “Unbecoming”

  1. Veronica Jensen

    Good Evening Stephen: How I appreciated this writing. It truly touched me….brought back a lot of personal memories. I remember Caroline saying once, correct me if I am wrong, that she doesn’t want pity….however, I can’t help but feel sad. Life is always throwing another curve ball….Thank you for your sharing. Veronica

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