Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Fountain of Youth: A Mild Rant

Humankind has been seeking it for centuries, that eternal spring of long life and good health. Most of us learned  in elementary school about Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fabled fountain. His travels led him south to Florida and a pool of water which, he was sure, was the source of eternal youth. He was just one in a long line of seekers all over the world who searched for the healing waters extolled in legends and old stories.

We are still seeking, it seems. A casual conversation on the telephone led to a suggestion of meeting for dinner. "Well, we're on this juice regimen so we're not eating out these days," my friend said. A lengthy dissertation on the program they had adopted, all the benefits they have reaped and how terrible all other foods followed.

"Uh hunh. Really? That's amazing." My end of the conversation was limited to a few short comments. We never did get together for dinner.

In the grocery store the other day we ran into a friend who has lost a lot of weight over the past two year,s probably eighty pounds or more. He looks great. He was buying salad stuff to take to work for his lunch.

"You're looking awesome!" I told him. He beamed.

"Well,  we made a big change in our diet, stopped eating out so much, burgers and pizza, you know. I feel a lot better but you know my cholesterol and stuff just keeps going up. I told my doctor I'm going to go back to drinking Noni and quit taking all these meds. I used to drink Noni and I felt great and my numbers were fantastic." Noni is made from these small evergreen trees that grow in the Pacific and claims that it can cure almost everything are prevalent. "That stuff is better than any medicine," my friend said. "I never felt younger than when I was taking it."

Still other friends have suddenly turned vegetarian or vegan, sure that animal proteins and fat are the cause of their health problems. Others have sworn off gluten, lactose, processed sugars, caffeine, soft drinks--you name it, someone is on a diet that excludes it, certain that they have found the fountain of health, if not youth. Vegetables seem to be the only universally acceptable food on all diets, but I am sure there is a diet out there that prohibits them too.

I am sure that there are valid arguments for all of these diets and miracle foods. Certainly no one will argue that processed sugars and soft drinks are good for us (but I might be surprised there too!) and many people's digestive systems have a proven intolerance for certain kinds of foods. I avoid beans (except green beans) and other foods because they make my stomach unhappy. But I do not try to convince others that avoidance of these foods will lead to a healthier life. I simply know that for me, they're a no-no.

Why is it that when someone finds a product or regimen that works for them they automatically assume everyone else will benefit from the same change? What is it that makes diets an evangelical cause for so many people? I am happy for my friends that feel better through changes in their eating habits, but I am realistic enough to know that in the end good health and long life depends on many factors: diet is only one of them. There is no holy grail, no Fountain of Youth. We all do what we can or are willing to do and hope that our choices will lead at the best to a healthier and more fit old age and a reduced chance of disease and disability.

So here's to all who have made positive changes! But please, spare me your exhortations for miracle cures and magic elixirs, your juice diets, gluten-free and vegan diatribes. I will make my choices as you have yours, and may we all live long and prosper!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

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