From the Blog Journal, 20 March 2010
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The Blood Type Diet doesn't, for me, constitute an "ism". I don't follow it as a religion, nor do I feel the need to "go to confession" about my personal use of it. But vegetarianism frequently inspires that type of allegiance, and one wonders why.
People of blood type A seem to thrive on modified vegetarian diets. One would understand if it were such A's who were doing the proselytizing and genuflecting. On the contrary, I've known of O's who are obsessed with "Save the Animals" principles which they passionately extend to their own diets (though not to their shoe, belt, or purse selections!). Their health suffers, but No Doctor Is Going To Get Them To Kill Animals, dad-gummit!
An old O friend called today, telling me about her vegan cousin who espouses her diet religiously and has forced it on her ten-year-old daughter who is odd/spooky, fat, and friendless. Anything, it seems, to Save the Cattle, all the way to child-sacrifice! I told my friend (who actually lives in Philadelphia), the classic story of Benjamin Franklin who, as an animal-loving vegetarian went out on a friend's boat and watched him catch and eviscerate fish. Noting the presence of so many fish in the bellies of the caught fish, Franklin reported, "I figured that if they can eat each other, I can eat them, too," so ending Franklin's dietary religion.
My teenaged A niece eats fish and is otherwise a vegetarian. She's not a missionary about it; she's just, enviably, extraordinarily astute about her own health. She has no qualms about handling meat; in fact she enjoys cooking it for the rest of the family. She doesn't subscribe to Vegetarian Times or Yoga Journal, and it seems she's not exposed to any vegan-evangelism. Her O sister loves animals and eats meat.
I think about the archetypal O carnivore and his love for animals. After all, it was the prehistoric O hunter who first tamed dogs, using the latter as hunting assistants; if anyone developed close relationships with animals, it was those predatory O's. Historically, respect for animals has never required that one not eat them. The inconvenient truth is that we humans have four canine teeth that clearly demonstrate our equipment to eat meat.
Ironically, some of the strongest pro-animal-nature-habitat politics and money come from hunters. Profoundly inspiring books about the human/nature interface also emanate from that community (see titles below). If I'm going to revere Nature, I'll do so while honestly accepting food-chain reality.
A few hunting/nature books:
Eaton, Randall L., PhD, The Sacred Hunt: Hunting as a Sacred Path: An Anthology
Houston, Pam, ed., Women and Hunting
Martin, Calvin Luther, In the Spirit of the Earth
Swan, James A., In Defense of Hunting
Two of the distinctives of extreme dietary asceticism that stand out, over my many years of nutritional study, experimentation, and life-witness/association, are:
-- its inevitable nutrient deficiencies, sometimes partially ameliorated with "supplements"
-- its tendency to overstay its welcome versus temporary therapeutic implementation.
A short list of the serious nutritional deficiencies risked among strict vegans, for example, demonstrated in the literature, is as follows:
Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, Biotin, choline, folic acid, inositol, niacin, PABA, pantothenic acid, Vitamins C, D, E, Calcium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, vanadium, and zinc, not to mention amino acids and fatty acids.
Partakers of meat, fish, dairy and eggs are getting not only SOME of the above nutrients through their regular, unstudied diets alone, they're getting higher concentrations of them -- in milligrams -- than the amounts of many of the nutrients available in normal dietary (food-sourced) vegan sources.
So: Brewer's Yeast and Blackstrap Molasses for dinner? with rice, beans, veggies and soy? Sitting down to 18 dietary supplement pills with a bowl of sesame quinoa? Constituting the world's first Pill-Nutrition culture? It's obviously not a society that will endure and perpetuate itself en masse: Its diet is only half food!
Soy? Great for As and ABs in particular, but, alone, it doesn't stack up against meat and dairy and eggs and fish when it comes to fats, proteins, and most of the above vitamins and minerals.
Most vegans are normal persons, insofar as they'd choose to pursue lives that center around activities other than the endless measuring-out of the compensatory lecithin, yeast, wheat germ and molasses, etc., that would be required to keep them free of nutritional deficits. Therefore, these mentally normal vegans are USUALLY dietarily deficient in several of the above essential nutrients -- often gravely so.
But vegans aren't the only dietary fundamentalists missing the point of eating-to-live (in favor of living-to-supplement/eat). I adhered very briefly, in the mid 1980s, to a macrobiotic diet, and it was very good for my health, during that circumscribed period). The time came, however, when I'd met my health goals, to broaden my diet; as for its "lifestyle", Macrobiotics had never been my religion, but I did meet hundreds of macros with (similar to hard core vegans') long term dietary narrowness.
People of different blood types and subtypes may have good reason to avoid certain food groups wholesale, during times of addressing serious health crises (Dr. D'Adamo's guidelines stipulate for such crises, even to the point of recategorizing certain "avoid" foods as "beneficial" for short term therapeutic purposes.). Strict vegan parameters have, perhaps, usefulness in such a therapeutic context as well, but MOST people cannot thrive on that diet over the long haul. They become seriously deficient in several crucial nutrients, even if they use myriads of pills and potions, as these are NOT whole foods comprised of infinite intrinsic vital synergies. This is why it's so critical that strict temporary measure, such as detoxifying fasts, not be turned into long-term hair-shirt religions, and not only because of these biochemical consequences, but also because of the mental and spiritual health-risk it poses interpersonally, within the community as a whole.
Attention, Type A vegans and other "Tier Three'ers" (hyper-compliant adherents): Take very, very seriously your water retention, digestive ills, blood pressure hikes, skin eruptions, etc. Don't be tempted to treat each of these separately, so as to pinpoint its respective Band-Aid and participate in its respective chat-group. The same magnesium deficiency, for instance, that causes your insomnia could be related to your depression, kidney stones and dental caries, too! The same iron-deficiency anemia your OB addresses during your pregnancy could have been operative when you'd suffered from irregular periods before, or play its part in blood sugar or intestinal problems later ...
Hopping from one health issue to another, and/or from one supplement-mix to another, may make for a diligent and meticulous practice of measuring teaspoons of powders, soaking and counting and blending exotic ingredients, transforming you into your kitchen altar's High Priest, but that might all be instantly/"miraculously" dispensable - POOF! -- by eating a small piece of fish a couple of times a week, some eggs and/or poultry here and there, and an occasional yogurt. Presto-Change-O: Normal Blood values, shinier hair, bye-bye tremors, pimple-free complexion, etc. More time to enjoy life, less for the Internet?
Let your taste for general good health outstrip your taste for an over-deconstructed diet. If you prefer the 23 different pills for each of your "issues", own up to it as your personal idiosyncracy, not a requisite healthy practice. Beyond that, if you're ready to broaden your view to step back from an ascetic regime originally embarked upon as a temporary therapy, you'll enjoy the following story:
A friend, during my macro days, had raised her two daughters as strict macro's from birth. I'll never forget arriving at her house one day for a macro lecture and group lunch; the front door slowly opened, seemingly of itself, but I looked down to see her little 6-year-old daughter, whose hand held the knob as she grimly said to me, "You're late. And take off your shoes." It was positively macabre.
Only a year or so later, my friend's heart opened when she was bequeathed her grandmother's piano; she and her girls began taking lessons, and some floodgate burst in her soul. Later that year, her children, who'd never tasted turkey or butter or sugar before, fully, gustatorially participated in an extended family Thanksgiving dinner FOR THE FIRST TIME. Then, the girls began actually playing at friends' houses. My friend confided in me later, "When my daughters started eating some butter and sweets, I realized - Wow- they'd needed it all along. And they're, well, SWEETER! We're ALL happier people." And she had a tear in her eye.
What had POSSESSED them to deprive themselves of such pleasures? Well, my friend's husband had had a frightening deathly illness from which he'd "miraculously" recovered, through Macrobiotics, before the children were born. Thus this couple had associated "extreme yin" and "extreme yang"-labels with the foods he'd given up, and those foods with, yes, the Death he'd escaped.
It was, however, Death itself that met me at the door of their organically-perfect farmhouse that day and curtly demanded my shoeless entry.
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I think we associate Death with messiness and fight it with desperate structures. We strive to organize, measure, categorize and label components (vitamins, esoteric amino acids, e.g.) in a frantic attempt to keep the wild, unknowable wholeness of a threatening realm at bay.
But we can't. There's always another symptom. We no sooner soothe our cough than we find a pimple; we are freed from that as we investigate our heartburn and find out our HDL is low and our VLDL high. So we return to our laboratories/kitchens, where we add soaked flaxseeds to our kefir smoothies and subtract the almond butter -- or was it add soaked almonds and subtract the flaxseeds? And we return to our computers and start a New Thread about Fiber. We read this one's Diet and that one's theory. Why are we counting and weighing and pouring and poring?
Are you afraid to die?
I wonder if there's ever been anyone on a deathbed saying, "If only I'd used more Blackstrap Molasses and less Barley Malt", or "It must have been those poppy seeds", rather than, oh, you know, stuff about hugging your kids more or sharing your gifts with the world, stuff that seemed deathly-scarier at the time, when you found refuge, instead, in a "health-focus".
It's one thing to desire to properly establish a new and healthy regime, to take the time and devote the wholehearted energy to recovering from illness or founding a new and uninhibited way of eating/exercising. Just make sure that, if you're fleeing Death and seeking Life, you don't confound the two!
(Friend: If your escape from Death has tricked you, too, into escaping Life, you can still come back. The door is wide open...and you can leave your shoes on!)
In earlier columns I've demonstrated, with respect to food, my concern with both the distinction and interface between:
Physical Life: What we eat, how we exercise, where we go, our state of health, how we support ourselves, gestation-birth-maturity, unto death: That which in Greek would be signified by the word βιος (Bios), hence our word "biology": The study of physical life, and
Spiritual Life: That which infuses the heart, mind, and spirit of the human, rather than the animal, and which is granted through means other than physical, signified by the Greek word Ζωη (Zoé), whence our English word "zoology", actually erroneously signifying specifically animal, as opposed to more general life forms.
Let me state at the outset that the Blood Type Diet cannot bring you any closer to spiritual life (Zoé) than can any other diet, whether "kosher" or "halal" or vegan or raw or whatever else. Nor can fasting entirely, i.e., deliberately countering Bios, serve as one's "ticket to heaven". So if anyone following Dr. D'Adamo's teaching fancies him/herself a more "evolved" spiritual being than those outside this particular fold, s/he is in dire need of an understanding of this very distinction: What, for the sake of the English reader, I'm here calling Zoé vs. Bios.
In our Western tradition, we are familiar with some key Bible stories treating of diet:
1. The almost unrestricted diet permitted Adam
2. The fateful disobedient act of eating that brought about the Fall of humankind
3. The vegetarian diet prescribed Noah
4. The dietary guidelines delivered to the Hebrews via Moses on Mount Sinai and recorded in the Pentateuch
5. The miraculous bread (מנה "Manna": Hebrew for "What is it?") supplied from heaven to those Hebrews for their 40 years of desert sojourning (of which their later Levitical pre- and pro-scriptions said nothing)
6. Food offerings in the Jerusalem Temple, restricted to all but the priests (except for David and his men, as Type of the Messiah and His followers)
7. The food miracles of Jesus (5 loaves and 2 fishes feeding 5000 men plus women and children, and other events like it), as recorded in the Gospels, and
8. The True Bread from heaven, as Jesus called Himself in John 6 and as He explained more fully at the "Last Supper" and as the Apostle expounded later, etc.: The spiritual food to remove the curse that had fallen upon all descendants of Adam (partaker of the Forbidden Food) and to bestow Zoé, the life of the Spirit.
Jesus said, "Labour not for the food which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto Life (Zoé) of the Age, which the Son of Man shall give unto you." And, "The Bread of God is the One descended out of heaven and giving Life (Zoé) unto the world."
He explains, "I am the Bread of Life (Zoé): The one coming to Me will not hunger, and the one believing in Me will never thirst."
BOTTOM LINE: To the religious leaders, He said, "Your fathers ate Manna in the wilderness and died", and, "I am the Bread of Life (Zoé) giving Himself for the Life (Zoé) of the world."
The religious leaders couldn't understand: "How can this one give us [His] flesh to eat?" Such an earthy density of understanding was that also of a specific religious teacher named Nicodemus, who earlier had visited Jesus privately and who could not understand how someone could be "born a second time of his mother's womb". Christ had explained to him, "That born of the flesh is flesh, and that born of the Spirit is spirit...everyone believing in [the Son of Man] shall not perish but have Life (Zoé) of the Age." He spoke of a heavenly food - affording Zoé, Life of ANOTHER (non-Bios) ORDER entirely. The Bios-focussed could not, and cannot, taste of it!
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Ah, diets come and diets go.
Are we "majoring on minors" when it comes to reaching out to others and to judging ourselves? If others ask us questions specifically about diet or physical health, sure, we can share of what we believe and practice. If others mock our ways of eating, we need not retaliate or even respond. Why?
Because Diet pertains to the oh-so-fleeting Bios, the animal life and lifespan of that which returneth to the dust: Not a one of us will perfect a physical body that shall live more than, approximately and at best, one lousy century.
For my part, I would sooner, on a diet of DOG CHOW, uplift the spirits of others and help to turn one soul from cruelty or despair to the Light of Truth and Zoé, than live (Bios) to be 150 on a micro-compliant, Tier THREE, B-hypersecretor Diet at the top of my Ivory Tower. As I wrote last month in another column ("Vers Une Santé Totale: Les Maladies, Amies de l'Esprit", 2 January 2006)[Reprise on 23 November 2010]:
(English translation): "The knowledge of BTD science serves a purpose. And the health of all the world's population, were it possible, would serve this same purpose."
Think about that purpose! If everyone on earth "ate according to their type", we'd perhaps have a biologically healthier species: Better (and, dangerously, more prideful) Bios.-----------------------SO WHAT?
If we need to be healthy, WHY is that? To use our good health unto the goal of...a more just world? Well? Do it NOW! Be there NOW! or never. Perfectly healthy people perfectly proving their perfect health would not necessarily constitute that perfect, just and peaceful society: Do you see it? In fact, legal self-righteousness in hyper-refined Bio-dietary obedience ran absolutely counter to, and blinded many against, Zoé two millennia ago (Its very Temple was ground to dust!) BTD notwithstanding, it still does today.
"For the mind of the flesh is Death; but the mind of the Spirit is Life (Zoé) and Peace." (Romans 8:6)
"If there had been a law given which could have given Life (Zoé), verily righteousness should have been of the Law." (Gal. 3:21)
Remember the Manna: It temporarily ministered unto the needs of Bios, the physical organism, about which Christ had this to say: "Your fathers ate Manna in the wilderness and died." (John 6:49)
Is the BTD, or any Diet whatsoever, more evolved, more spiritual than the Manna sent from God? Will it bring you at all closer to Zoé, True Life?
Note: This blog originally published 10 Jan 2006 and, with about 25 other blogs from my archives, was wiped out a couple of years ago. As Dr. D'Adamo has suggested, I shall restore selected lost entries to the archives, beginning with this one.
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The importer of Zen monastic cookery-philosophy to the West adopted the name Georges Ohsawa. As Master of his American "macrobiotic" (he coined the term) disciples, his practice was to sit over them each morning and receive their well-considered questions.
One morning, a disciple asked him, "Master, what is the proper response when one who is following Diet #7 [nothing but brown rice] is invited to his family's biennial Reunion? Burgers 'n dogs are grilled, and there's cole slaw and potato salad and s'mores. Does one bring along some rice balls in Tupperware? or does he decline the invitation altogether, preserving his pure practice?" Whereupon the Master took a languourous drag from his Marlboro, held it ponderously, and let it out in a steady, controlled stream before, all eyes upon him, savoring a sip of black coffee.
"The macrobiotic way" he declared, "is that, ultimately, of Balance. If one is sufficiently adept to follow the Number 7 Path, he navigates the currents of life with a flowing and artless balance. Wherefore the Answer is this: One prepares one's body, well in advance, to receive the extreme dietary elements, and one knows how to restore its balance after having so indulged. But to refuse such a family invitation, especially in light of its traditional and infrequent nature, OR to evidence such pride as to abstain from full participation, bringing along, instead, one's own 'superior' dinner, is a sign of drastic Imbalance and thus makes plain the unreadiness of the disciple for Diet Number 7."
I love this story. It brings one's entire world into the Life Equation. Our dietary decisions are not isolated bytes; we "live and move and have our being" within a larger body. Family traditions and community interactions are mocked at great peril, if these constitute the very fabric, lining one's Path.
Likewise teaches the Western Tradition:
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify one another." - Romans 14:19
"For if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." - Galatians 6:3,4.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not Love, I am nothing." - I Corinthians 13:2.
No one will be considered spiritually superior for following any diet whatsoever, or for being tobacco- or caffeine-free.
And, brethren, let us love one another. Where there is Love, there's patience, forbearance, joy...Without love, your "excellent health" is, in fact, sickness; your "Tier Two compliance" [in 2010 I'd add SWAMI compliance] a mere smokescreen for arrogance. East or West, Love is what constitutes True Health. Amen.
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22 November 2010 ADDENDUM: Just came across this little story. Thought I'd throw it into the mix:
One day in the Vale of the Hermitages, when a feast was being celebrated, the brethren were eating together in their place of assembly. A certain brother said to those who were serving at table, 'I won't eat anything cooked, just a little salt on my bread.'
The one who was serving at table called to another brother and said in the presence of the whole gathering, 'This brother is not eating anything cooked. Bring him just a little salt.'
Then one of the elders rose and said to the brother who had asked for salt, 'It would have been better for you today to eat meat alone in your cell, rather than to publish what you are doing to so many of the brethren.'
--from Sayings of the Desert Fathers