Bread and carbs. For all my natural food ideas, my dedication to eating Michael-Pollan-style—”Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”—I am a pariah. Obviously, vegetarians think I’m Doing A Terrible Thing by eating meat. That, I’m used to. But to have the carnivores think I’m a traitor, too—that’s just too much.
For me the absurdity of the situation became inescapable in the fall of 2002, when one of the most ancient and venerable staples of human life abruptly disappeared from the American dinner table. I’m talking of course about bread. Virtually overnight, Americans changed the way the way they eat. A collective spasm of what can only be described as carbophobia seized the country, supplanting an era of national lipophobia dating to the Carter administration. The latter was when, in 1977, a Senate committee had issued a set of “dietary goals” warning beef loving Americans to lay off the red meat. And so we dutifully had, until now.—Michael Pollan
A Canary in a Coal Mine
It’s said that coal miners would keep a canary in the mine with them, because the canary would react to dangerous situations (gasses in the air) before the miners could detect them. If the canary keeled over dead, the miners knew to get out of there!
I think I — and people like me — are just like those canaries. I’ve spend a lifetime eating industrial food, culminating in a couple of decades of high-fructose corn syrup in everything from salty snacks to spaghetti sauce to… yes, bread. The result? A condition that runs in my family, variously known as Metabolic Syndrome, Syndrome X, Dysmetabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, or pre-diabetes.
And “normal” people all seem to think they’re immune. I want to say “People! Stop doing this! Your body will rebel too, eventually.” You might think you’ve escaped it, but did you know that 20% of people aged 60 or older have diabetes? Twenty percent! Obesity rates have soared over the last 20 years. Is that because our characters have become weaker and weaker? Or maybe because we’re eating junk?
It’s not bread’s fault
I’m pretty sure that real wheat, ground whole, and mixed with water and allowed to grow yeasty, then baked, isn’t the murderous villain that it’s cousins are. (By cousins, of course, I mean everything from Wonder Bread, made of styrofoam, I think, to the “100% Whole Wheat” bread available at the local grocery.)
But my body doesn’t work anymore. I’m afraid it might be too late for me to give up industrial food.
Industrial Low Carb Bread from Hell
Some times when I’m sick of not eating bread, I get this lovely stuff from Great Harvest. It’s pretty good. Not heirloom wheat allowed to rise slowly, without sweetners to rush the yeast, but it’s still good.
Other times, though, when I know that bread is making my insulin levels soar, and wearing out my pancreas, or whatever, I break down and buy — and eat — crap like this “5 Net Carbs” bread. Sad, but true.
I’ve talked about sugar-free chocolate, and the mix of xylitol and stevia I use. I’ll even admit to the occasional diet soda. Until you’ve had to give up your own home-made jams, most bread and grains, and every single sweet thing you’ve ever eaten, don’t judge me for the soda pop, ok?
Real hippies eat grains
I want to eat a lovely, sustainable, grain-based diet. I also don’t want to die early, having achieved full-blown diabetes and a weight over 300 lbs by my 50th birthday, blindness by 60, soon followed by amputated limbs, and, eventually, death. What’s a hippy to do?
For now, I’m aiming for some balance, however frustrating. I have a few industrial food-like substances that serve as crutches. And I’m gambling that a real food diet, with a reasonable amount of whole, real grains (and I don’t mean this stuff) will help me recover before it kills me. I allow myself one slice of Great Harvest bread with my local, delicious eggs in the morning, even though I shouldn’t, and I eat brown rice or millet with dinner.
Come back and ask me in a few years, and I’ll tell you whether it worked or not.