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The other day, I responded to a comment on a conservative American website with regard to diet.

The context was in regard to the reform of Obamacare in the Trump administration. The initial comment referred to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) possible approval of a health auditor, a stranger, to visit someone’s house to assess a family’s lifestyle prior to their obtaining health insurance. Apparently, this is one health insurance idea that has been discussed before.

Ryan’s father died at an unexpectedly early age from heart disease. Consequently, Ryan focussed on diet and exercise to ensure he himself didn’t end up that way. It is thought that he also might well consider that a stranger going into someone’s home to assess their lifestyle — perhaps to check cupboards for snacks or alcohol and sniff walls for evidence of smoking — is entirely acceptable.

That is every bit as frightening as the Vault 7 Year Zero CIA document dump by WikiLeaks on March 7.

There are two things here.

The first is that, as a legislator, Paul Ryan will never have to be part of Obamacare or Trumpcare. He and his colleagues get a traditional health insurance plan.

The next thing is obesity, which Paul Ryan — a thin man — desperately opposes.

As I told the person on this particular conservative website, this notion of a healthcare audit is a plan for the ‘little people’. (They, in Ryan’s estimation, do not understand what their betters do. This, by the way, is Ryan’s ‘magnificent home’ in Janesville, Wisconsin. It has an extensive border fence around it.)

I further commented (same link):

To counter Ryan’s dictating to Americans on their health: my father also died of heart disease at an early age. So did his father, whom I never met. So have some of my friends in the present day. That doesn’t give the right to go around snooping in people’s homes as a precursor to getting health insurance!

Then, I discussed obesity:

Re obesity: severely limit or stop eating starch and sugar, eat more fat (including animal fat) and less protein. Watch the pounds roll off. It’s called the ketogenic diet, which is a permanent eating plan, not a fad diet. I’ve been on it for three years. I lost weight and stabilised. Cholesterol and triglycerides go down with keto.

As we know, there is a particular association between Americans and obesity. It is unclear whether this can be connected with the increase of obesity in other Western countries, because who knows how much corn syrup — rather than sugar — is in their food? Emphases mine below, not in the original comment:

Someone on here was talking about corn. It’s all the corn syrup used in place of sugar which also leads to obesity. Sugar makes you feel more sated than corn syrup. We owe the proliferation of corn syrup to the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Corn farmers, IIRC, had a glut of crop then, so were bailed out with companies producing corn syrup for commercial cake, cookie and candy manufacturers.

Note when obesity started to climb: the late 1970s to early 1980s. It was no big deal at the time. Most people attributed it to Americans giving up smoking. Although that was a factor, I would posit that the increase of sweet snacks and cakes made with corn syrup were a greater contributor — and continue to be today.

Yes, I know I should have said ‘was’ instead of ‘were’ in the last sentence, but only caught it now.

Regardless, that message got through. My sincere thanks to the moderators. I didn’t think anything of it until later. Now read on.

The commenter, with whom I was corresponding, replied:

Salty snacks like crackers and chips also contribute, along with soft drinks and the rest of our favorites (fast food, etc). Eat at home family meals with vegetables and salads have diminished with women working, divorces, unwed mothers with no Dad in the home, increase of addictions, etc.

I’m not in favor of a one-food group diet (animal fat/low carb) diet. Whole grains and vegetables/fruit contain important phytonutrients. Did you know heart attacks diminished in Britain, in WWII, despite the stress of the bombings, when sugar was rationed?

So, appreciating this reply, but differing because of my keto experience — and that of thousands of others — wrote back.

I retyped my reply twice. Both immediately went into spam. A subsequent message, on a different topic, went through, by the way.

The text below is similar to what was spammed. Once again, emphases mine below, not in the original comment. For the overweight:

All starch — whether salty or sweet, from carbohydrate to sugar — should be sharply curtailed or eliminated.

It should be noted that the ketogenic diet — a way of eating and not a fad diet — is not a one-food group diet. It works with a proportion (depending on the individual) of 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% carbohydrate per day. Vegetables should provide most of the 15% carbohydrate. The more you weigh, the more you lose.

Starch comprises bread, cereal, cakes, oatmeal, salty snacks (etc.). Sugars, including those in fruit, are also starches.

Corn syrup has replaced sugar in most sweet snacks. Corn syrup is less satisfying than pure sugar. Americans are eating more corn syrup in cakes, cookies and candies. Therefore, they are getting fatter because the corn syrup is less satisfying.

Eating more fat — including fat from cheese, eggs and dairy products, especially butter — will be more satisfying than eating starches or sugar.

I agree very much with your point on ready-made meals, however, another problem is that Americans — along with many other Westerners — eat five times a day.

I take your point that, during the Second World War, Britons got their nutrients from whole grain bread. However, they needed all the sustenance they could receive. They also had no central heating. They had to walk or ride bicycles to and from work. Rationing in the UK did not end until 1954.

Westerners live an entirely different lifestyle in the 21st century. They eat too many carbohydrates, including sugars — especially corn syrup products, which leave them less full than sugar would. They have heated homes and offices. They drive nearly everywhere.

Low fat foods are another problem. For a decent flavour profile, low fat needs to be offset with high sugar content, most often corn syrup.

My message must have had wording or syntax that instantly caused it to end up in spam — twice.

There is a political point about corn syrup that I want to make concerning the law of unintended consequences. No one could foresee in the Nixon administration that corn syrup would result in a national weight problem.

I know from experience. In the early 1960s, when I was five years old, I was a guest of a young friend at her house for Saturday dinner — pancake night. My mother always bought maple-flavoured syrup made with sugar. This family always bought corn syrup. I still remember eating a plateful of pancakes with syrup and feeling hungry before I went to bed that night. The hosts even told my parents that I had an incredible appetite for such a little tyke. Yet, that was the only time I was ever hungry after eating twice as many pancakes as I would have done at home. The only difference was the type of syrup.

Conclusion

If Americans were still eating sweets of any kind made with sugar, they would be of normal weight.

Corn syrup is making people fat. So are other starches. Anyone who wants to lose weight should try a low-carb high-fat — LCHF — eating plan.

For more information on the ketogenic diet, please read the following. If you are in any doubt or under regular care of a physician, seek medical advice first:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Low carb high fat diet primer

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

Whilst I cannot guarantee that my original correspondent on the conservative website will see this, I hope that others might find this of interest.

Having seen the Warrior Games in the United States, Prince Harry wanted to create an international version in London’s Olympic Village.

Thanks to sponsorship from The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Jaguar Land Rover, his vision became reality between September 11 and 14, 2014.

Like the Warrior Games, his Invictus Games were open to disabled former servicemen. This was the original target group for Britain’s Paralympic Games.

Fortunately, the BBC broadcast the Games in the afternoon with an hour-long highlights programme in the evening. They also showed a documentary on some of the British participants as well, revealing horrific episodes of bravery and courage in Afghanistan and the long road to recovery which ensued once the injured servicemen were transported back to the UK.

After release from a specialist unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, the servicemen often go for rehabilitation at Headley Court in Surrey. Their therapy is physical and psychological. Headley Court’s sports programme forms a big part of their recovery.

Many of the British veterans participating in the Invictus Games met at Headley Court. They got to know each other and were known to give each other a psychogical kick now and then to prevent mental stumbling blocks in their journeys towards a new life.

One Briton who was in a spot of stasis was confronted by another at Headley Court who said, ‘You’ve been here for six months. By that time, I was walking. Why aren’t you?’ The former serviceman said that was the brief talk he needed to get going.

As with Paralympians, the Invictus Games participants — men and women from the UK, US, Afghanistan and several European countries — had no time for self pity and navel gazing. The Games even had a special category for those who are able-bodied but suffering from PTSD, clinical depression and other psychological disabilities which competitive sports can help them to overcome.

The Invictus Games and the documentary were inspiring and humbling. Inspiring, because they show the triumph of the human spirit: mind over matter. Humbling, because most of us able-bodied people couldn’t accomplish what a determined group of amputees can, whether on the track, swimming pool, cycling course or basketball/rugby court.

SpouseMouse was moved to say that no other sports fixture should have been televised last weekend. The Invictus Games should have been the only sports programme available on television.

I wonder what it would be like if some of these men and women became professional counsellors not only for fellow disabled people but also for people suffering from clinical depression. They could do our society a lot of good and stop some from being too self-absorbed. Sport is a great distraction and contributes not only to well-being but also gives a sense of self-accomplishment.

The name Invictus for these Games is inspired by a poem by William Ernest Henley, a Victorian poet, critic and editor. He, too, was an amputee, suffering from tuberculosis of the bone since the age of 12. His left leg was amputated just before he turned 20 years old. He was able to avoid amputation of part of his right leg by seeking the pioneering treatment of Scottish surgeon Joseph Lister at the Edinburgh Infirmary. He spent three years there and, during that time, wrote his famous poem Invictus (‘unconquered’) in 1875:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

The last two lines were printed on banners hung around the stadia. The words ‘I AM’ were highlighted.

Believers might point out that it is only through God’s grace that we can achieve anything positive in this life. Whilst a number of the Invictus Games participants might not be Christian, their triumph over adversity and disability points to merciful common grace at work in the world.

I hope the Invictus Games will continue. Although, not surprisingly, Great Britain won the vast majority of medals, more importantly, the Games give purpose and encouragement to ex-servicemen and women learning to live with disability.

hiding thebreakthroughorgI have two longstanding offline friends in their mid-60s who were both diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago.

Since then, one of them has had ECT — the 21st century version of the lobotomy — and the other has been on various sleeping pills or antidepressants which have left her groggy or physically ill.

It does beg the question, since Big Pharma has been spending its money carefully over the past two decades on new drugs and associated R&D, whether their desire to aggressively market drugs is an attempt to quickly recoup their losses on research and development.

Thankfully, we do not receive these in the UK, but almost every American channel relies on Big Pharma for advertising. Even after a week in the US, my ears ring with the nasal ‘Ask your doctor!’

When I was growing up in the second half of the 20th century, it was a big deal for people to get prescriptions. Around the 1970s, this began to change. By the 1980s, it seemed, people of all ages were ‘on something’ for heart, cancer or mental conditions. In the 1990s, behavioural medication for youngsters became the rage. Some schools would not accept pupils or students unless they were medicated (e.g. Ritalin), based on physicians’ reports on their mental health.

Excitable? Take a pill. Depressed? Take a pill. ADHD? Take a pill.

As my friends are pleasantly reserved individuals with a good network of friends (family is dying off), I don’t know what their issues are. One is an atheist, the other a Protestant clergyperson. It could be that the answers to life which they thought they had are no longer as valid as they once were. Perhaps the intimation of mortality is creeping up on both, neither of whom knows each other. Sadly, one has lost some of her memory from the ECT and the other is having serious physical health problems which I privately attribute to her medication.

Both had a relative who was clinically depressed. This seems to be the only common denominator. I find this automatic, almost mediaeval, association from the medical world to them somewhat off-putting: ‘Because your ancestor was depressed, you will be, too’. That sounds so superstitious. Everyone’s life is different. They are certainly not living out their parents’ lives. Yet, one of my neighbours also has had some ‘depression’, for which she sought medication: ‘It runs in my family. They told me I would get it, too. Our son is similarly affected’. Sadly, the young man is also taking some sort of pill.

What a load of rubbish. I’m not discounting that depression runs in families, although I would be very sceptical if anyone pulled that line on me then pushed a prescription under my nose. (Depression does not run in my family, by the way.) We’re all a combination of two different families with different genes, backgrounds and experiences.

I wrote in a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that no one fully knows what each of us has been through in life. Anyone reading this right now could have been molested or abused as a child, suicidal or clinically depressed (properly diagnosed). With God’s grace, many can pull through. I pray that they do.

Others have moved from one continent to another — half a world away — when they were youngsters. That, too, can be traumatic. Different mores, cultures, attire and habits can require some acclimation.

I lived and travelled through most of the US because of my father’s job transfers within the same company. I’ve known others who did the same internationally because their fathers were in the military. Whilst a whole world opens up to children like us — as we were at the time — it can also cause reactions which people who live within a 15-mile radius of where they grew up don’t have and will never understand. We sometimes lack the coping mechanisms to deal with certain situations, although, with His grace, we learn to acquire them gradually, even as adults.

A large part of dealing with rejection and isolation as a youngster — e.g. ‘the new kid in class’ — involves these coping mechanisms. I couldn’t expect my parents, both of whom had grown up in the same city and knew many of the same families, to help me with that. They would not have known how. It would be a lie to say that I was never lonely or that I never dreaded the first day in a new school where everyone else already knew each other. There are times even today when I really have to talk myself up for certain situations involving strangers, especially if they have lived in my neighbourhood for many years. Do we — will we — understand each other after several months or a year, even if it’s only working together on a committee? For me, it is a gamble. Always. Normally, it has a 50-50 result. Maybe everyone else has the same result. I don’t know. I’ve never dared ask.

So it makes me think that as parents, extended family, teachers and mentors — wherever we find ourselves — it would be a good thing to help the younger generation find their feet and give some solid advice.  Sometimes people who lack coping mechanisms get defensive — I’m finding this with the aforementioned friends. Maybe someone in close proximity to them might want to say, ‘Hey, this person is really concerned about you. You don’t need to reveal everything, but check in a bit more often and let them know how you’re really doing. They can handle it. You might feel better, too.’

It’s a bit like the way someone could have said in my childhood, ‘Just relax a bit. Yes, it’s intimidating being the new kid on the block, but you’ll get through it. You always do.’ Happily, our generation wasn’t so pill-crazy in those days. Situations resolved themselves, eventually.

It just seems to me that our common sense is failing us in the West. Perhaps we are looking for quick results. Perhaps we should be seeking patience and prayer. We look for solace in a pill or another type of brain rewiring instead (e.g. ECT). In the worst cases, it’s suicide, sadly. I cannot help but feel that our search for answers in psychiatry and pharmacology, barring everything else, isn’t doing us much good as a society. This isn’t to say that certain people really need medication; some do, but many probably do not. Cognitive behavioural therapy or even encouraging oneself to adapt to life changes would suffice; yes, they take time. There is no easy fix. For the Christian, faith, prayer and solid Bible study (no revisionism!) can help a lot.

I’ll have more on this in the next few days. First, however, to pharmacology.

As we go on, you’ll see the links with these mass murders, many of which are related to behavioural disorders and psychotropic medication which could have been nipped in the bud in childhood with proper adult support and grounding in faith.

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