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The first book on the topic of health and nutrition that I ever read was The Food Revolution by John Robbins. For those not familiar with ole? Johnny boy, he is the son of the co-founder of Baskin-Robbins. He was inspired to write his first book, Diet for a New America, an edgy wad of ethical, environmental, and health reasons to go vegetarian, by growing up on a steady diet of ice cream and watching his family drop dead from massive, ice cream-induced heart attacks.

Robbins was quick to jump on the government-sponsored idea that fats are bad, animal fats being the worst kind, and animal products in general are unhealthy. His books are filled with mountains of references to the ADA, AMA, AHA, and other acronyms synonymous with mainstream thought on the topic of diet and health. At the time I found The Food Revolution to be quite convincing and inspiring. The man was clearly on a mission and had a lot of good points (particularly environmental which I had quite the soft spot for back then). At least they sounded good in theory and it was terribly hard at the time to argue with the mega-authorities on health. So yeah, I did the vegetarian thing for a while.

But as many who follow along on this site know, my adventures in vegetarian eating didn’t go so well. I had plenty of health problems going into the affair no doubt ? a little asthma that had come out of nowhere, drastically-worsening allergies, and a degenerating disc in my spine (something more common among 50 year-olds, but very rarely seen in 20 year-olds). But my increasingly unbalanced diet coupled with my level of physical activity really put the icing on the cake. Bike rides over 100 miles and 10-hour hikes through rugged terrain were not uncommon. Beans, rice, salsa, fruit, and a splash of olive oil just doesn’t give a psychotic exerciser with health problems the necessary fuel to move forward without doing damage.

This stage in my life was best summarized, in all the books I’ve come across, by T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby in Lights Out:

?Most young people today were born into a low-fat/heavy exercise world. More than a third of them are self-declared vegetarians and bikers and hikers? These young adults, when asked why they’re vegetarians, predominantly say it’s for their health; the rest just think it’s cool. They have no idea what they’re doing to themselves.

But I guess in a nation full of overweight people, it’s only logical to think that the skinnier a person is, the healthier they are, and John Robbins looks like he’s starving to death in the photo that’s included in The Food Revolution.

But a vegetarian diet is more or less a general thing, and it wouldn’t be for years that I would begin experimenting with very specific diets.

I’ve always known that without sugar in my diet I’d be healthier. I think everybody instinctually knows this no matter what they hear or read. It’s obvious. So many years later, desperate to find a route to eradicate my health problems, I became instantly fired up to try Donna Gates? Body Ecology Diet, a candida-cleansing no sugar diet that stresses food combining, pH balancing, eastern philosophy, and blood type ? all fringe concepts ? none of which are granted much merit by mainstream science.

This diet is perhaps the most difficult diet in the world. I made it two weeks. Everyone I know who has tried it has made it about two weeks on the diet except for one brave soul, who made it for three weeks. Now that’s some mind over matter! Water-fasting is far easier because your body slips into ketosis and starts burning fat for energy. The Body Ecology diet merely dissolves pure muscle tissue, brings metabolism to a screeching halt, and intensifies the opiate withdrawal symptoms of sudden sugar abstinence. After only two weeks I started to get the John Robbins look. I looked like I was 12 again. My digestion was good. My skin was clear. I felt clean, but damn! The last thing most people in the fattest nation in the history of the world need is to evaporate their lean body mass, lowering the base metabolic rate. The person I know who made it three weeks on the diet lost, if I recall, 23 pounds!

It is virtually impossible to lose more than 3 pounds of bodyfat per week, especially if you aren’t exercising. By my calculations, out of those 23 pounds lost at least 14 pounds were precious lean body mass. Punk?d!

In actuality, this person actually met personally with Donna Gates, who was loopy and spaced out during the consultation and talked about some magical water filtration system that was going to just heal everyone man. Far out. I bring this up because I suggested to this person that ?when spacey emaciated people are talking about health, put your fingers in your ears. The response I got to this suggestion was, ?now that is classic! This mantra also applies to Dr. Schulze, Andrew Weil, Bikram, and others who are FB&G (fat, bald, and gray).

I got to see Donna speak in person myself for the first time at the 2007 Weston A. Price Annual Conference. She had some good points, but overall she said some pretty retarded things that only someone with a brain that is starving could come up with. Seriously. She spoke with grave concern about how boys aren’t producing enough testosterone and that’s why they like video games more than they like girls now. Nice one. She was also apparently very upset that young white girls were attracted to males of African descent, which she also attributed to testosterone levels. In a sense perhaps that could be slightly valid, and being a Caucasian male I too am concerned whenever I hear of any ethnic group of women becoming less interested in Caucasian males. But like, come on Donna. You’re killing me.

But you’re not just killing me Donna, you’re obviously killing yourself. In fact, one reason that you might be having trouble with that whole making logical sense thing may be attributed to the fact that you may already be dead. Seriously, the sight of Donna Gates was frightening. Karen Carpenter could have gone over the top and slammed Donna’s nickel-sized wrists to the table in a grueling arm wrestling battle. In fact, the very plausible hypothesis that you might already be dead, a result of food combining and the inability to properly utilize protein that has caused your body to wither beyond the likes of anything I’ve ever seen, has granted you a nickname here: ?The Crypt Keeper.

Well, at least one of the Crypt Keepers. The other is John Robbins. Together you guys are like that scene at the end of Beetlejuice, where Gina Davis and Alec Baldwin are rapidly decomposing. You know, where Baldwin tries to say ?Beetlejuice? but his jaw falls off somewhere between ?beetle? and ?juice. You two should totally hook up. Plus, Robbins eats fish now so you guys could eat fish with salad one meal, and quinoa with salad for the next, alternating back and forth, forever and ever amen.

Okay, now that I’ve thoroughly entertained myself it’s time to get real. Gates and Robbins have both helped far more people improve their health than I have (so far). Donna works with Autistic children, and her program which does provide digestive ease and eliminates sugars and gluten have helped countless sick children and expectant mothers improve their altered gut flora. Food combining is a viable possibility for those who simply have screwed up their digestion to a point where combining the dynamic duo of starch and protein is too much of a burden.

And Gates in particular has had a profound influence on my life. Her book was one of my portals into this exploration of health which is the most predominant focus of my existence. When I saw her at the Weston A. Price annual conference I wanted to approach her and thank her personally, because her work truly was one of the primary catalysts to me becoming who I currently am. Every time I started playing out the words that I wanted to say in my mind; however, I got tears in my eyes and decided to forget it. The tears came from being so moved by being in the presence of a person who, from thousands of miles away, was able to have such a strong personal influence over me. So thank you Donna, I am truly grateful.

And thanks to John Robbins as well, who isn’t preaching strict vegetarianism anymore but is all aboard the ?let’s eat fish like the Okinawans do? bandwagon. Can we also cook our food in lard and eat pork like the Okinawans? Robbins of course has also helped to bring tremendous awareness to how our animal products are produced (something that needs some serious revision), and has gotten people to think about the food they put in their bodies, to think about improving their health through food, and to be conscientious about how food production methods influence the environment. Yes, he’s saintly in many regards.

But that’s what a roast is. You take someone you appreciate, admire, and are thankful for how they’ve affected your life, and then you relentlessly jab them in the ribs (which are visible in both Gates and Robbins!).