My friend Molly - AB - is probably 10 years older than I, and the other day she was explaining that the 20 lbs. she'd lost on Weight Watchers had "come back". She's headed to Florida soon for a family reunion where, she says, she expects to gain yet a bit more weight. She said something that struck me, echoing a thought I'd entertained before: "This is me. This is how I look. I'm no glutton, but I'm certainly not trying to look younger or like an athlete or actress".
People (women, in particular) often gain weight over the course of our adult lives, according to a genetic pattern. Life insurance company guidelines in fact allow for a certain amount of such weight gain, indicating a fairly broad range of accepted weights. Throughout history, people in their 50's and 60's were not (unlike us) working out in gyms or INCREASING their physical output, let alone appearing less and less aged.
Some sobriety is called for when we look at ourselves, and others, in midlife. We are a generation saturated and besotted with TV and movie images; we have artificial "ideals" and role models. Molly's physique is not her livelihood, so, unlike her peers in the public eye, she can be 100% honest-Molly-in-the-flesh and not lose her job, say. While the morbidly obese can be in grave medical danger, those of us grown-ups who are simply somewhat overweight, or just heavier than we were 20 years ago,may be extraordinarily well-occupied otherwise.
My readership is well aware of this pet peeve of mine, here on a health/diet-oriented website; I am convinced that good physical health is but one possible ingredient in a Life-Well-Lived. I've known people suffering from poor -even tragic- health who've been kind, generous, brilliant, courageous, and plenty of other things that, to my mind, make them memorable and important individuals, without whom the world would have been much poorer. And I know plenty of self-absorbed, uninspiring people who keep themselves utterly buff, not to mention "lifted", as if living to be featured on some vapid TV-makeover show. I usually don't remember their names... I'm actually of the opinion that later eras will look back on these obsessions, including that of celebrity/fame for mere TV sitcom actors, to find us seriously askew.
Me? I'm currently on the heavy side, but that's FAR from my most immediate or pressing concern. Yes, I could stand to lose 20 lbs, as can Molly. Nevertheless I'm spending myself in numerous other and important ways. (Often I work with a new mom who's a "fashionplate" and is yearning to "get her figure back" early in the postpartum, so she can look like she DIDN'T just have a baby?)
Genes? My grandmothers were both vital, active, attractive women with "great figures" in youth, more "full-figured" in midlife and later. I'm really glad they weren't weight-obsessed, as were the moms of some of my childhood friends, with calorie charts taped (pre-magnets) to the refrigerator. Indeed, some of my loveliest memories of both women include their excellent, and generous, cooking. They also had That Feeling of worth and peace, sourced in considerations other than slenderness, or even wellness! Both women lived into their mid-eighties.
I once had lunch with a lady who appeared to be only slightly my senior, when I was, oh, 40 or so. She confessed to being 62 and having had alot of --excellent-- plastic surgery. But she admitted she was unable to stop; she was single and had met men who'd guess (as did I) she was much younger, and so, in order to keep up the charade in light of her relationships'...progress... she'd run to the OR for tummy, thigh, and breast work. She looked vital --even fantastic--(clothed), but she sounded haggard, demoralized. Surgery is still surgery, and harder to recuperate from later in life; and living a lie was leading her to despair.
I think good health is important, insofar as it enables one to continue in good works. But, even there, it's not essential. Many of the world's greatest contributors didn't live very long. In fact, as longevity increases from century to century, we're not necessarily becoming better, finer human beings with a LESS socially troubled society.
For many, midlife is when we face mortality: Our friends have heart attacks and bypasses, cancer, diabetes and other increasingly-prevalent-with-age conditions, from varicose veins to cataracts. If we haven't learned What Matters by age 50 or so, if we're obsessed with Perfect Health just to achieve a greater number of years' longevity, then we're but hoarders of a commodity mislabeled "Life", frustrated "Ponce de Leon"s, mirage-chasers.
Do you want That Feeling? (Perfect health doesn't provide it! Nor does beauty.) Molly's looking forward to it when she sees her beloved family in Florida, over a number of meals, surely. She's being realistic: She could gain some weight there, weight she'll try, to some extent, to lose later. But Molly cuts herself slack, because (did I mention?) she's kicked cancer and alcohol; she "shouldn't" even be alive! And she's quite a dame, the kind no diet can deliver.
Remember to have priorities that transcend Health, which is just one means to a greater end, one tool in your God-given belt. If, in spite of all of your efforts and knowledge, you should lose your health, live in such a way that all is not lost, that you are not deemed a failure, especially of the moral kind; in such a way that, fit or not, your departure will be mourned by those you've served and known. If in your life you invest too heavily in cheating Death and Decay, your INEVITABLE defeat will appear all the more ironic or even pathetic. Having done your best at the grocery store, go and live your life.
Occasionally, through no fault of my own, I've eaten tomato products that were served to me outside my home. I remember one case, in which there was a light smear of ketchup already on my hamburger. Another involved a "Spinach Pesto Lasagna", chosen over the regular Tomato Meat Lasagna, that turned out to be a tomato-sauced meat-free lasagna with a spinach-pesto-marked "X" on its surface, squeezed from a pastry tube!
One does not expect to be handed a pre-sauced hamburger, or for Pesto Lasagna to be a marinara-sauced affair. I could have rejected either dish and demanded a tomato-free meal in its place, but I ate both. On these occasions, I'd say I took in about 1/2 teaspoon of ketchup and a tablespoon-and-a-half of marinara sauce, respectively. And I'm the wiser, should I ever again find myself in similar situations, to be alert to such possibilities. Simple, right?
Though I'm not alone in my liberality, I sense there are hypercompliant types who'd easily send back the burger or the lasagna, demanding the tomato-free expectation be met. These folks are willing to wait another 15 minutes or more for the replacement to be prepared and served them, as if that teaspoon or tablespoon might derail the trajectory of their health's improvement. It is this notion of the trajectory, I believe, that we find at the crux of the Compliance issue: Does a small bump in the road upset the whole journey?
It's a spiritual matter, actually. For some, it's as if permitting the teaspoon of ketchup to enter one's mouth were to be as concertedly avoided as some grievous sin that would seriously compromise one's entire life of faith! (And one would hope that their vigilance re: "Avoids" would indeed carry over to their moral life; likewise resilience in the face of failure.) It does have an almost "superstitious" quality, like the tennis player who is convinced he lost the match because, back in the 5th game of the first set, his second serve wasn't preceded by four bounces.
Did the ketchup distract and derail my general compliance? Not at all. A mere blip on the screen. Did it lead me to crave ketchup on all future burgers? No.
Sometimes perspective is called for. Laughter is good, too.
I am a serious book collector, and San Francisco used to be a serious town for the likes of me. I buy 'em used, sometimes by the carton-load, and upon occasion I resell to selected fair buyers.
Independent booksellers have taken a beating, first by the big national chains, and then by the Internet. Recently Powell's, the huge ("square block of a million books") used book store in Portland, Oregon, has been sending its agents down to San Francisco to offer PUNY lump sums for the entire inventories of targeted local used book sellers, to induce them to drop out of the increasingly difficult market, and thus increase Powell's share.
The San Francisco Chronicle article breaking the story behind two recent local shop closings, involving incentives offered by Powell's of Portland, was waved in my face by Tracy, the petite owner of Lifetime Books, a used book shop in town. She knew that I, of all people, would want/need to know.
The story broke this summer, just after one SF shop closed without warning, another announced its imminent closing, and yet another was winding down toward closing. I plopped down in the big naugahyde armchair by Tracy's bookpile-covered front counter, so that she and I could hash this out, after picking up dinner for us both, next door. I knew it'd be a long discussion, and that Tracy would be indignant and very vocal.
Tracy explained/ranted that she would NEVER sell out to Powell's. She was disgusted that her colleagues were doing so, rather than soliciting offers from herself and other struggling locals in the business. So committed, in fact, was Tracy to the Cause of Independent (local) Bookselling that she'd recently started up a second (unrelated) business, just so that she wouldn't be starved-out as a book retailer! This was, indeed, her consuming interest.
Tracy (O, age 50) was a tiny spitfire (5 feet tall, without the Harley helmet or spike heels), and her counter was a neighborhood hub. She knew titles, authors, editions, everything a bookseller needs to know, yet she was no intellectual: She was, rather, a very diligent hound, scouring the papers and Web for news of library sales, garage sales, etc. She'd regularly comb thrift shops and sniff through all sorts of charity bins. And then, at her counter while hobnobbing with her usual customers and friends, she'd mylar-cover the dust jacket of each hardcover she'd acquired.
I knew Tracy's buying preferences pretty well. Any bag of my outgoing tomes that I knew she'd want, she'd in fact want. She'd issue Store Credit in return (which I'd immediately use!). Kind of a symbiotic thing.
* * * * * * * *
A few weeks ago, I brought a bag of surefire titles to her store, but an employee was behind the counter, saying Tracy hadnt come in: She didn't feel well (was having a headache and a "pinched nerve in her neck"), so there'd be no purchases that day. I had a heavy load, so I left and sold the books immediately elsewhere.
A couple of days later, I passed by to say hello, but Tracy was still out sick. "What's wrong?" I asked, seeing that same (previously very part-time) employee. I was told she was still in pain, so she'd decided to ... go for a chiropractic adjustment.
"But what's the DIAGNOSIS?" I asked. "This isn't like Tracy, to be down for days on end. Has she seen a doctor?" "No", he replied, "And I know what you mean...But then, she says she THINKS the chiropractor MIGHT actually have helped".
"'THINKS'? 'MIGHT'? And helped WHAT?" I argued. "She doesn't even know what's wrong! She has a severe headache for DAYS? it came on SUDDENLY?" I was disgusted. I would have given her a piece of my mind -- I bought a book and left.
Four days later, I was passing Tracy's store and thought I'd go in and get the lowdown from Tracy herself. But there was that employee again (I've since become friendly with him)! "Still??!" I asked.
"Tracy died", he said softly. And then, "And this is her brother, in from Colorado...It WAS more than a pinched nerve...". The brother sat glassy-eyed in the big naugahyde chair. "I just cremated my sister", he said, gazing from some distant mental tundra. Long silence.
"Did she pop an aneurysm?" I asked. The two men looked at me, astonished. "How'd you know?" asked the brother, suddenly alert.
"Because of her sex and age, because of the abruptness of onset, the symptom of headache, but most of all, frankly, because of the outcome".
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Just a week previously, Tracy and I had discussed what the imminent (9/30/06) closing of a landmark bookstore a block away would mean for her own business. She was hoping to adopt some of those customers as her own. "We'll see", she said, ever the optimist. "I'm ready for 'em".
And she was. Her eye for titles had gotten better and better, with every year --- PLUS: She was on the upswing, having just started the 2nd business and moved to a new apartment, which she'd wanted me to help her decorate... But - DANG! - I could really read her the riot act here: She went to her CHIROPRACTOR, with a sudden, excruciating headache and neuro-deficit symptoms, thinking "pinched nerve", and "I need 'an adjustment'". She even told her boyfriend, after she'd come-to from a repeated faint: "Don't you DARE call 9-1-1!"
Look, folks, I can be as holistic as the next guy - sorta - but Tracy urgently needed medical attention: Specifically, an angiogram or MRI. She'd even had a few days' window to obtain it immediately: This isn't England or Canada, where such testing only comes after weeks or months on some waiting list; any San Francisco Emergency Room would have worked her up for Intracranial Hemorrhage. (As it turns out, that's what happened, when it was too late: Tracy was indeed admitted to the hospital, where she promptly lapsed into a coma, convulsed, and died.)
I'm continually amazed by people who choose Chiropractic over emergency medicine, especially for sudden-onset headache. And I'm positively vitriolic toward practitioners who DON'T say, "Y'know what? See a medical doctor first: Your life might depend on it".
My friend Shelley, also 50, also type O, had collapsed at her own store in 1999, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where her cerebral aneurysm was surgically repaired; she survived: Gradual but complete recovery, returned to work, etc.
But Tracy will not return to work, at this crucial time for her Pet Obsession. Tracy will not be a part of what becomes of her Cause or her store. (Powell's of Portland? "Over my dead body!" Tracy would have quipped, winking, and stomping in her inimitable clipped and bug-eyed way [Thyroid]. And then she'd give off a big burst of a laugh.)
* * * * * * * *
1. Go out today and support your local independent (used) bookseller. Browse those stacks, and make it a habit. Do it for Tracy! Take up the Cause!
2. Don't categorically write off Allopathic Medicine. As you can see, the stakes are just too high. Be definitively diagnosed; THEN make educated choices. Remember Tracy, who, a couple of weeks ago, had a new business, a new apartment, and more spunk and spark than any 5 women half her age. She was dying, and she went to the Chiropractor.
3. If you're a Chiropractor, remember Tracy. It's okay to suspect the worst and do the prudent thing. Otherwise, someone could lose a sister, a wife, a daughter...or a friend.
Essential oil of Tea Tree (occasionally spelled "Ti-Tree", to clearly distinguish it from the Tea bush -- Camellia sinensis -- lest there be any confusion) is now very popular and readily available, recognized by health practitioners all over the world. By "Tea Tree" is meant Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree indigenous and exclusive to Australia, especially New South Wales.
Other Melaleucas exist:
Melaleuca cajeputi ("CAJEPUT" or "CAJUPUT"): Grows wild in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Java, Australia and SE Asia.
Melaleuca quinquenervia viridiflora ("NIAOULI" or "MQV"): Native to Australia, New Caledonia, and the French Pacific Islands. Its essential oil is produced mostly in Australia and Tasmania.
TEA TREE has a long history with aboriginal Aussies. By WW2, Aussie soldiers and sailors were issued Tea Tree to self-treat numerous ailments of service, from wounds to tropical infections.
TEA TREE is usually used versus yeasts/fungi, viruses, sepsis, and, perhaps most uniquely, as a very strong immune-booster, favored for its versatility and tolerability (can be used topically, undiluted, as well as internally).
NIAOULI is an excellent expectorant with anti-allergy and anti-asthma properties. It is antiseptic (as are virtually all essential oils), an endocrine tonic, and a strengthener of asthenics, among its many, many applications. It synergizes with Tea Tree, Ravensara, and Calophyllum for use on all mucous membranes, and is usually used topically.
CAJEPUT is very effective against a slightly different bacterial spectrum and is used similarly to Niaouli as well as Tea Tree, but, unlike the above 2 Melaleucas, it can be a skin-irritant.
* * * * * * * *
We move to an entirely different Genus/species: MANUKA is, often mistakenly, called "Tea Tree" by some relatively unfamiliar with Aromamedicine. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is an important component of Maori natural medicine. This shrub's leaves were actually used as tea by Captain Cook when he arrived in New Zealand. Some say Manuka/Leptospermum was "The original Tea Tree". And for certain indications, it happens to be used similarly to the way Tea Tree is. However:
1. It is not predominantly Terpinene, as is Tea Tree.
2. It contains significant Geraniol and Linalol, giving it a sweet, gentle fragrance -- nice in the vaporisor -- as opposed to the more medicinal smell of the Melaleucas.
It's an entirely different plant.
Both Melaleuca and Leptospermum belong to the Myrtaceae family (as do Eucalyptus, Clove and Myrtle, for example). And some may call Leptospermum "New Zealand Tea Tree". But Leptospermum/Manuka can be quite drying to the skin and should therefore be highly diluted in carrier oil. The Maori use it for muscular pain and rheumatism. Also: Leptospermum lacks the amazing immunity-enhancing power of Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).
* * * * * * * *
Always check your "Tea Tree" products (and ALL botanical products!) for Latin classification. It's a pretty safe bet that "Tea Tree"-inclusive products such as mouthwashes, body washes, toothpicks, etc., contain Melaleuca, rather than Leptospermum: In the US, anyway. For stimulating immunity, especially, you want Melaleuca, i.e., Australian Tea Tree (safe to use straight from the bottle). In fact, look for "Manuka", NOT "Tea Tree", if it's Leptospermum (very hard to find in the US) you want, and remember to dilute it! My guess is that most who claim "Tea Tree" is a skin-irritant for them are using Leptospermum.
Recently on the dadamo Forum, the question was posed, "Are there any Beneficials you dislike?" And I responded, "Yes: Sardines".
Well, this afternoon I gave 'em the ol' college try. I took the advice of sardine-lovers on the Forum and made Sardine Patties in the frying pan. Here's how:
First, I was using pre-skinned and -boned sardines that had been tinned in olive oil. I drained off the oil, and mashed the sardines with sautéed onion and garlic, bread crumbs, raw egg, and minced parsley. I formed them into seven little patties and fried them in just a bit of olive oil. After cooking them on both sides, I tasted them and found them pretty vile, so I decided to add some lemon juice to the pan; when that didn't help, I added white wine.
I hate to tell you, folks, but I still didn't like them. I used a lemon mayonnaise as a dipping sauce, too, which over-lemonified the flavor. I managed to force down 2-1/2 of these patties because I was ravenous, but a few cubes of ice-cold watermelon were the necessary chaser here.
I'm reminded of a magazine cartoon a friend had affixed to the organic brown rice bin in her little grocery 20+ years ago: A Japanese family of Mom, Dad, little boy and little girl is seated on pillows, around a very low table laden with dinner. The Mom is sternly telling the children, "Eat your brown rice; think of all those children in the United States having to eat junk food!"
For my younger readers, that's a parody of what the picky eaters of my generation grew up hearing at table: "There are children starving in Europe" (Indeed, the friend of whose store and rice bin I write had been one of those starving children, in Germany. Grew up on potatoes; ate her first banana at age 16..., but I digress). Maybe a starving European child would go in for the sardine cakes I made this afternoon, but, I confess, they'll only be as good as their camouflage, as far as I'm concerned.
I really enjoy fish, as a rule. But there's a certain foulness about the smell and taste, constituting the difference, for me, between the clean aroma of grilling fresh wild-caught salmon and that of the "farmed" stuff which reeks royally, to my palate. Even the house stinks when this latter type of salmon sneaks its way into my pan, as it stinks this evening. People who like sardines also tend, it seems, to like other tinned fish with bones, as well as the skin of most fishes. I decidedly do not.
I might continue to fight the "Listen To Your Body" crowd, who'd state that my aversion to these little fishies is Right For Me, until I'm convinced there's just no way to do this; I have a feeling there might be one. I never liked anchovies per se, but Caesar salad dressing just isn't as good without a hint of their splendid essence informing it..."Avoid" though it be.
Before I entirely throw in the towel on this one, I have an idea or two for additional experiments. Yours are welcome, too.