No Phony, No Bologna

“What seems to be the problem?” I ask “Rin” the nurse. She fumbles with equipment. She attaches, un-attaches and reattaches my leads. Her worry-face squints at the screen. Rin admits my heart rate is too slow. Too slow? How slow? I’m as anxious as a dog at the vet. I dislike medical procedures, especially routine thoughtless ones. I hate being statistic. I yearn for a doctor who knows me. That would bring down the cost of health care fo’ sure. Here I am having colonoscopy because I’m in my 50s and I’m covered. Weird. Health insurance with no chance of having my hip fracture-pre-existing-condition recalibrated. Health insurance treats for the common expectancy of my generation. Nothing better.

Insurance is a numbers game, care is a different animal altogether.

Colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut? They’re common. Common in my age group because a lifetime of eating high fat, high salt, fiber-free, processed foods causes these problems. Problems that grow invisibly for decades then wham – present at 50, 60 or 70. The long gestation period fuels people to believe “it can’t happen to me.” Or worse, fatalistically believing poor health is a normal part of aging. Not. Lucky me I’m too broke to eat out in my 20s. I’m busy eating WIC foods. Learning to cook beans and rice, lentils to dahl, whole wheat pizza and stuff l’dat. Living in Hawai’i “two scoops rice” shows up on any commercial plate lunch. White rice. I’m driven to cook. For anything I make is less processed than everything found eating “out.” Thirty years later I resent being treated like a dumb-ass who knows nothing about keeping a gut healthy, happy and wise.

The expense of one routine colonoscopy could be spent teaching 30 people how to cook real food.

Vegetables aid gastric health too. Why do consumers eschew ruffage? My non-clients complain salads are tasteless. Non-Clients? You know, those people who won’t do yoga because they can’t touch their toes. Those people who imagine they have to chant sutras to eat healthy, wear spandex or find their inner child. Not. Most of the world lives on plant food. What’s different about Americans? Access to inexpensive meat has made us savor the flavor of high fat, high salt, juicy greasy fast food. It’s an addiction. Yes it is. Fast food companies know exactly what they’re doing. They seek to overwhelm natural palate. Overstimulation ruins my taste for simple, plain food. Treat an addiction as an addiction. Eliminate fast food, prepared food and processed food. And do what? Anything. Anything I make myself will be monosodium glutamate free, red dye #4 free, high fructose corn syrup free.

Worry about the details later.

Because yes, once I abstain from processed food my palate lightens up. I enjoy the subtle taste of foods. Whole grain breads are hearty, filling and protein rich. Whole grain pasta takes longer to get used to – I slather it with cheese and butter. Cheese and butter? I know, you may have heard that’s the devil’s death food. In moderation, my body needs fat. Cheese and butter is better than cheese-food and margarine. Don’t eat foods with partially hydrogenated solids. Your gut will thank me for it. I also quit smoking. Surprised? The yoga teacher used to smoke? I smoke unapologetically when I smoke, I quit when smoking no longer serves. How about you? Do the benefits of smoking outweigh the risks?

Quitting is easier with an exercise program.

Try running as a smoker. I do. I run and immediately notice my lungs are compromised. ouch. My breath is shallow. I have to walk. My desire to smoke evaporates with my exercise program. When I run I can’t smoke. It’s too counterproductive. I smoke my last cigarette on Thanksgiving day 2007, the year my husband left. Not a runner? Even yoga can help curb cravings. Yoga’s a pretty tame exercise. Practice pranayama. Learn to feel the energy of your body. Smoking cigarettes depletes energy. Quitting is easier when I define quitting as a direction not a punishment. Re-frame “quitting.” Re-name it “starting something new.”

You don’t have to experience an expensive divorce to start something new.

Change is thrust upon me in 2007 because my husband choses to leave. For the record I like being married. Maybe after two divorces I should admit I suck at marriage. I still like the idea, philosophically speaking. Loyalty is a virtue. Howard is not loyal. Though I wait patiently for longer than the two years I promise to wait – Howard does not repair. For many years I dwell on all I have lost. The losses are tremendous: My health, my home, my social circle, my belief system, my world view, my sense of security all gone for good! After I contemplate all I have lost – only then can I consider what I have gained.” I gain a yoga practice/lifestyle. Yoga starts out as physical therapy for my stress fracture to my hip. Yoga ends up a real life saver.

A complete yoga practice includes a yoga world view.

You don’t have to take yoga as a religion. I don’t. I don’t even follow the vegetarian diet. I do embrace mindful living. I am thoughtful in choices. Yes, I have a judgement. In all the years I was married, the Christian religion taught abdication, submission let others do the thinking. Being an automaton for God is the height of feminine perfection. No more. Checking-out aids the evil-doers, ensures the bad guys win. Wolves dominate the sheep fold when sheep acquiesce. I prefer to tune in not out. Take responsibility. Be accountable. How many times did we pray for miracles only to have them appear in the form of someone else’s actions? The right doctor/lawyer/physical therapist often saves our friends. Why not strive to BE the right teacher/guide/friend ? Why not do the right thing?

Passivity is for chumps.

Here’s where I opened: my heart rate is too low. A message from God? Punishment for sin? Isn’t there a reason? Yes there is reason. Sometimes the reason is poor judgement or stupidity or meanness, brutishness, or cold calculation. In this case my heart rate is an anxious 44. Rin asks what my resting heart rate is. I am sure I don’t know. I do know this much: the yogis believe a person is born with a predetermined number of beats. Slowing the heart rate, in their philosophy, elongates a life. I never said I believe. I only know 44 is elevated-normal for me, charts and averages be damned. OK. The staff agrees we’re good to go. Twilight drug drips. I pass out.

That evening I’m recovered well enough to teach.

No phony, no bologna. I have no desire for additional medication. Feeling slightly groggy in the afternoon my regular yoga sobers me. For some people a nip of twilight leaves ’em craving more. One sip is too little, a gallon of narcotic is not enough. Whether the addiction is to narcotics, alcohol, cigarettes or processed food the psychological process is the same. They’re coping mechanisms, replacement behaviors. Cold turkey reveals the hidden feeling in relief. The hardest part about food addiction is ya gotta eat something – there’s no excising food completely, only excising bad food, non-food and highly processed food.

Digging deeper can help.

In lieu of fighting addiction as if it occurs in a vacuum, strive to discover what drives the uncomfortable feeling, loneliness, anxiety, depression or whatever precedes the substance. Uncover root cause. Stay openminded. Maybe the answer is as simple as somebody slipped you a happy meal as a kid. You were hooked. Why question? Food adverts are ubiquitous and food models are routinely beautiful, cheerful and charismatic. McDonalds sells homeyness and family fun. We’ve been had. Normal food tastes bland because often it is picked before ripe, transported huge distances and stored long periods. Yuk.

It’s not all in our heads.

Nobody made finding better food easy. There’s too much money at stake. Masses are fed like masses. Cut loose from the herd. Treat yourself nice. Remove the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Re-frame the project as “eating really, really well.” You deserve it. Eat right. Then when you’re my age your colonoscopy will probably turn out fine. Live well.

Now y’all play nice!

Sat Nam