Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Done with it ... not

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.
~ John Lennon

Thought i had finished writing about health issues but the universe seems to have other ideas. I had planned to write about the lead-up to my momentous decision to relocate as folks seem to be interested in hearing about that.

There i was continuing exploration of my new abode, walking 3 km in the broiling sun to find Organic Home Farmers Market, only to find it closed - they open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was Wednesday - when i was subsequently laid low, as it were, by "bad feelings" as we say in Jamaica. I'd had slight intimations the previous week or so but this time i had to lie down.

The old familiar symptoms had returned insisting they not be so easily forgotten: the tightness in the left breast, twinges in the left armpit, uneven breathing, irregular heartbeat. When i can feel my heart working, i know there is a problem. An MRI 6 years ago had shown blockage of the coronary arteries more severe than 85% of men my age based on calcium score. That's the indirect way they state the results. Normally the heart works away quietly and imperceptibly in the background. 3 years ago i embarked on a no-added fat diet (coined the word 'nafvegan' to describe it) and my symptoms went away. This intervention had been inspired by the work of Drs. Ornish, McDougall and Esselstyn. (See also The China Study and Forks Over Knives.)

Since quitting DC i've tried to stick to vegan fare, difficult at that is when travelling, acquiescing to the unavoidably ubiquitous larding of cooking oil, sort of a holiday from discipline. I was savoring all the new taste sensations, flavor combinations and subtleties.

Thai vegan street food 

Fresh, tasty ingredients with flavors of coconut,
holy basil, galangal, keffir lime leaves.
Take-away containers
The oil content made visible

I had gotten away with it up to now but 6 weeks of subsisting on what invariably oil-cooked vegan food i could find had finally caught up with me.

So it's back to the kitchen. One of the reasons i came to Thailand was for what i anticipated was the abundance of fresh, delicious vegan food available on every street corner, but i had not counted on the amount of oil used in its preparation. I was intending to spend less time at the stove and more at the computer working on the 3 projects i have in mind. The best laid plans of mice and men ...  


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Healthy back story

Some have remarked on how courageous I am to have picked up and moved half-way across the world. It does take some courage but the alternative stagnation, is a fate worse than death. And memento mori did have a critical part to play. Despite dragging my self to the gym 3 days a week, sitting all day at the computer, I felt the life force ebbing away. Aches and cramps, loss of flexibility, slight dizziness, and losing my balance, compounded by symptoms of BPH (enlarged prostate) were undeniable signs of aging.

An EMI test showed severe blockage of the coronary arteries, an alarming surprise since I have adhered assiduously to a healthy lifestyle, being vegetarian for over 30 years, and vegan the last five (clarification here: I coined the term domestic vegan to describe being vegan at home, but relaxing restrictions when traveling or on the few occasions I ate out). My cholesterol readings were not excessively high but I had been having bouts of tightening of the chest, palpitations, shortness of breath, and low energy. The cardiologist prescribed statins. Not favoring drugs of any kind, I declined, determined to find alternative means of alleviating the symptoms, if not reversing the condition. I reacquainted myself with the work of Dr. Dean Ornish whose book “Reversing and Preventing Heart Disease,” I used to promote after I met one of his recovering patients. I also discovered Drs. Esselstyn, Fuhrman and McDonald. Ornish's most famous patient is perhaps Bill Clinton, interviewed in a CNN documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Esselstyn is also featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives, along with researcher Dr Colin Campbell whose book The China Study provides statistical support.

Having adhered strictly to the no-added oil regime, within two years I was symptom-free and, as an added benefit, my blood pressure which had been pre-hypertensive fell to normal levels. Another side-effect of the no-added fat diet is severe weight loss. My weight dropped from 142 to 120, the same I weighed when I was 18. To stem any further weight loss I added back avocados and nuts to my diet with no adverse effects, concluding that perhaps only those with severe heart disease need adhere strictly to the no-added fat rule. I add minimal amounts of coconut or olive oil for flavor at the end of making certain dishes, being careful not to heat them as that changes their molecular structure, turning them into inflammatories. I have regained my energy and vigor and realized that instead of an early death alone in my apartment in DC, I had been given a new lease on life. What to do with it?

My hermeneutic response (subject of another piece) was that I had further work to do and though i'm probably good for another 20 years, I should waste no time winding down but get up and go. The challenge was how to stretch my limited financial resources to cover this extended life. The answer was to move someplace with a lower cost of living.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Life changes have prompted me to resume writing merely to record and share my thoughts with any that may be interested in a somewhat different take/tack.

Being practical and self-serving, i've accepted the reality that the monetary system is not going away any time soon. My limited financial resources are inadequate to sustain me at even my current frugality in Washington DC. Moving to another location in the US would be marginally better, best candidates from what i gather, being Mississippi, Alabama, or Detroit, but these places hold no appeal for me; perhaps Detroit, were i younger with the requisite energy and stamina for the phoenical challenge it holds for rebuilding from the ground up.

So i've decided to pull up roots and leave DC for a setting which requires less monetary tokens to survive. I had considered Costa Rica and Panama, and was drawn to Ecuador for its progressive policies, but Thailand won the day simply because i had a connection there.

Sidewalk sale to unload stuff accumulated over 15 years despite attempting to live simply
Seeing that my studio apartment in DC was part of a rapidly dwindling stock of affordable housing, i had wanted to extend that benefit to someone in need by sub-letting the unit. There were four prospective applicants but for one reason or another, none came through. Rather than prolong the process, i surrendered my lease, disposed of most of my stuff, putting the balance, mostly books, in storage. I have to confess i was very touched at the expressions of regret at my departure from friends and from some i barely knew. Disrupting the few real connections i made saddens me but i am consoled that i'm still as connected by means of the internet.

Off i flew to Thailand, mostly on blind faith, or depending on your point of view, on a mere whim.